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Boldness in Prayer and Preaching. Rogate 2019 The Sixth Sunday of Easter


Rogate, the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Memorial Day)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 16:23-30

May 26, 2019

Boldness in Preaching and Prayer

 

Iesu Iuva

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

In the temple in Jerusalem a curtain hung between the main part of the temple building and the Holy of Holies.

 

This curtain was there to protect the priests, not to protect God.  Externally the priests were clean and holy, and they had been given a high position among the people of God—to stand in the presence of God on behalf of the people.  But they could not look upon the glory of God, because no one can see God’s face and live—not even Moses, the greatest of the prophets in the Old Testament.  To see God’s face and live only belongs to those who are without any stain of sin, because God is holy, a jealous God.

 

But on Good Friday the layout of the temple changed.  Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His Spirit, and behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”  (Matt. 27:50-51)  The veil that was there to hide God’s glory from everyone but the High Priest—the protective covering—was torn open.  Why?  Because Jesus’ death had made it possible for those who believe in Him to go boldly into the presence of God’s glory.

 

In the 16th chapter of John Jesus tells His disciples that they will soon enter into the Father’s presence with this kind of boldness.  They will, so to speak, walk right up to God the Father on His throne, and ask Him for gifts.  And instead of destroying them for their brashness and boldness, the Father will give them whatever they ask in the name of Jesus.

 

If you think about this in light of the Scriptures, you will realize what a stupendous promise this is.  Consider how God appeared to the people of Israel when He brought them out of Egypt to Mt. Sinai.  He came in fire to the mountain and set it ablaze.  The mountain billowed with smoke.  And when God spoke the ten commandments out of the fire, the people were terrified and begged Moses to tell God not to speak to them anymore because His voice was so frightening.  Then Moses climbed up the mountain to meet God—into the fire and the deep darkness.

 

Do you think you would be bold to go up with Moses into the presence of God?  Imagine trying to be bold as the trumpet blared and you climbed into the fire and deep darkness where God was!

 

Who can be bold when they enter God’s presence, if this is what God is like?  You can’t come into God’s presence on your own initiative with boldness.  In fact, as a sinner, you really won’t come into God’s presence at all.  It is dangerous for sinners to come into God’s presence.  And even if you could be sure you could enter His presence safely, you can’t be sure in yourself whether you will pray in a way He will accept and listen to.

 

But in the Gospel reading Jesus tells the disciples: I have said these things to you in figures of speech.  The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly or boldly about the Father.  In that day you will ask in My Name… (John 16:25-26)

 

Jesus says the day is coming when He will take off the covering that is over God’s glory—not just the physical curtain in the temple, but the veil that lies over people’s hearts.  When that day comes, when He speaks boldly and plainly about the Father, then they will also pray boldly to the Father.  They will not go to Jesus with their prayers and then He will pray to the Father for them; but instead they will go with Jesus to the Father as sons of God who please the Father, with the same boldness with which Jesus enters His Father’s presence.

 

Now, this is risky on Jesus’ part, at least it seems so.  What happens if Jesus tells the disciples plainly about the Father, and doesn’t speak in figures of speech?  Won’t the disciples take this great treasure of the knowledge of God lightly?  Won’t they be tempted to misuse this knowledge for their own purposes?  And won’t many of the people they preach to misuse this bold preaching about the Father—either by ignoring it and treating it with contempt, or by using it as an excuse for sin?

 

Yes, these are all real possibilities.  This is why, in the Old Testament, the promise of Jesus was hidden under pictures—sacrifices, the worship of the temple.  The people were hard and wouldn’t listen, so God constantly had His law thundering in their ears, declaring their sin, and His requirement of a sacrifice to take their sin away.  Until a person is driven to despair of his own strength and goodness by the law, he can’t receive the plain and bold preaching that shows the grace of God the Father.

 

Nevertheless, Jesus made the Father known to His disciples with great boldness.  He made known the Father as the God who sent His Son into the world to fulfill all of God’s Law and to win the Father’s favor for us by suffering and dying for our sins on the cross.  He showed to His disciples how His Father lifted up His only Son on the pole of the cross and made Him to be sin for us, so that everyone who is bitten by the ancient serpent, and everyone who is suffering from the poison of sin, might do nothing else than look in faith to Jesus and have eternal life.  Jesus made it clear to the sinners in Israel that God the Father wanted them to come into His presence with boldness, like the prodigal son.  He has prepared everything.  The fatted calf has been slain, the prodigal has a ring on his finger and a robe placed on his back.  All there is for him to do is sit down as a son at the Father’s table.  Jesus revealed plainly that this is what the Father is like; then He sent His disciples to unveil the Father through their preaching.

 

When the grace and glory of the Father is preached with boldness and plainness, people believe that they are sons of God.  They don’t say, “I hope I’m good enough for God,” they say boldly, “I am God’s son and heir.  I am baptized into His Son.”

 

And with that same boldness we do what Jesus said we would do: we pray to the Father in Jesus’ name.

 

On our own initiative this would be totally impossible.  But Jesus brings us into the Father’s presence.  When we pray, we don’t come on our own.  We join Jesus in His prayer at the Father’s right hand.

 

We are already in the Father’s presence, wrapped up in Jesus’ righteousness in our Baptism.  Jesus brings us to the Father and Jesus joins our prayer to His.

 

This means: God receives you as a child and an heir.  He wants to hear you pray, just as a father wants his son to come to him.  And he wants to give you everything you ask in Christ.

 

And it means that, when you do not know how to pray correctly, your prayers are also wrapped up in Jesus’ prayers.  If you pray the wrong thing, if you fumble and don’t know what to say, Jesus is praying with you, and His prayer carries your prayer wrapped up in His into God’s ears, and He is pleased.

 

If you have tried to pray you may have noticed it isn’t easy for you.  Frankly, your flesh doesn’t want to pray at all.  And once you start praying, you often get tired of it pretty quickly (unless you have some huge problem weighing on you.)  You may feel awkward and don’t know what to say.  This is just like everything else in being a Christian.  It doesn’t come naturally to us to act like God’s sons and heir.

 

We have to learn to pray.  We have to grow in it, just as in every other part of being a Christian, from learning God’s Word to loving our neighbors, to faithful giving and service in the Church.  We learn to pray in Jesus’ name from learning His Word, and also from suffering and affliction.  There’s a reason why God keeps letting hardship come to us—it’s because without it, we often don’t pray.

 

But even while we are still learning to pray in Jesus’ name and to come with Him as sons into the presence of our Father, we know God hears us.  Jesus gives us the very words to pray in His prayer, beginning with the first words, where we call God the Father “Our Father.”

 

Since the covering is taken away, let us then with boldness draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

 

Amen.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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