Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 16th chapter. (John 16:23-30)
Beloved in the Lord,
You will have Trials and Tribulations
Hearts are weak because hearts are broken. Hearts are broken because sin has broken them, corrupted them, and depraved them. Broken, corrupted and depraved hearts suffer and suffer our neighbors. Broken, corrupted and depraved hearts hurt and harm even as they are hurt and harmed by others. I have such a heart and so do you as do the disciples in our text. Despite the pious veneer we manifest to the world, the depths of our hearts are known all too well by the God who created us as scripture teaches; “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV) and again, “I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
That which is conceived in my depths all too often finds work in my world. That which works in my world brings trial and tribulation to me and the one’s I love. When trial and tribulation come upon the hearts of men, the hearts of men call upon their gods. Trials and tribulations draw out of our heart the gods we’ve attached ourselves too. That which is false is purged. That which is true is refined. That which is of Christ endures and that which is of the world burns. That which is of God gives answer. And that which is of the imagination of men remains silent.
Trusting in Chariots and Horses (Psalm 20:7a)
Jesus says, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give to you.” Suffering leads to asking. One’s asking is aimed toward one’s god. Disciples of Jesus are given to ask the Father in the Name of the Son. “Call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you will glorify me says the Lord” (Psalm 50:15). Only disciples of Jesus can approach the Father directly in Jesus’ Name. There is no need for a mediator, Jesus is the mediator. There is no need for means and modes and methods in order to bend the Father’s ear. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. All who approach the Father in the Name of the Son can expect to be heard in the day of trouble receive joy. “Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.”
Often our joy isn’t full because our heart isn’t right. When the heart isn’t right the idols of yesterday show themselves once more. Trials and tribulations – though the cause of sorrow – are often used by our Lord in order to work repentance, to show the depths of our hearts to ourselves and to call us to turn. We learn in the Large Catechism that “a god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need.” And again, “the trust and faith of the heart alone make both god and an idol. If your faith and trust are right then your God is the true God.” The same can be said if your faith and trust are wrong.
Faith and trust, if not disciplined by the Word, can be led astray. The psalmist declares that “some trust chariots and horses” (Psalm 20:7a) and to that list surely we can add a whole host of idols that plague us. For some trust in Chariots and horse but others trust in mammon and money. Some trust in wisdom and philosophy, but others turn inward and trust in love and emotions. Some trust in science and medicine, but others trust in powers and principalities, kings and governments. All trust in piety and people either their own or another’s. The pious veneer of men is alluring. The voice of reason is seductive. The flash of fame, the flexing of power, the wonders of discovery, the power of affection woo us when it seems the true God has forsaken us. Some trust in chariots and horses . . . they collapse and fall.
In that Day you will Ask in My Name
Jesus says, “in that day you will ask in my Name . . . for the Father loves you because you love me and have believed that I came from God.” The heart is tempted away from Jesus because Jesus does not appear like the idols of men. There is no form or majesty that we should look at Him, no beauty that we should desire Him. Looking at Jesus there is no reason for us to follow Him. Watching Jesus there is every reason to run away from Him. For Jesus looks like everyone else. Though being in the form of God, Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but humbled Himself. And in His humility Jesus obeys the Father. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and the Father sends the Son to save those whom He loves. God so loved the World that He gave His only-begotten Son. Giving His Son in the flesh, our Lord gives His Son into death. Who would follow Him there? The disciples do not. They run and they hide. Jesus isn’t big enough for them to be brave. They have other gods to hide behind and the follow them. But these other gods fail and so they also fail.
Jesus came from God and He is returning to God for you and me and the world. His heart is right. His God is true. His work is pure and His blood is holy. Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but He humbled Himself, set aside His divine power and glory and did not always and fully make use of it as man. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Who would follow this far? Would Peter? No! James? No! Thomas, Judas, Andrew, Batholomew, or Matthew? No! Would you? Who would follow Jesus into death? Who would take up their cross and go this far for love’s sake? Yet Jesus goes this far and further for you and me and for the world. He goes to the cross. He suffers its shame and horror. He bleeds! He dies. He is buried. And on the third day He is raised from the dead as victor over my sin, my death, and my hell. Why would I follow anyone else? Only Jesus has done this for me.
Trusting the Name of the Lord (Psalm 20:7b)
“Therefore at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). We who would be found bowing in adoration will be found wherever the Name of Jesus is for us. If, in the day of trouble we are to be asking the Father in the Name of Jesus we then need to be in the Name of Jesus. To be in the Name of Jesus is to be believing in Jesus, baptized into His name, hearing His Word and feasting upon His Supper. For these have been given by our heavenly Father to strengthen and secure our faith in Christ Jesus. These have been given that faith may be firm and loved right. These have been given that weak hearts, feeble knees and weary souls may find rest in the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us.
Thus trials and tribulation draw out the idols that tempt us away and the Word of God cleanses them from heart and soul fastening the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to us, for us, and in us. Thus our idols are exchanged for God’s Word. In Baptism we are given the water and the Word. We are cleansed and we are born again. In Absolution the Word quickens our heart with divine mercy, mercy that is new every morning and our joy is refreshed. And in the Supper weak and weary souls are given nourishment as we eat and drink the very resurrected body and blood of Jesus. These save us! Though some trust in chariots and horses we trust in the Name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall. We stand upright” (Psalm 20:7)
Yes, beloved we stand upright for our God has raised us up from the dead. We stand upright for our God has lifted us out of our failures. We stand upright for He has restored to us the joy of His salvation.
Take Heart! I have overcome the World!
Beloved in the Lord, these things Jesus has told us because in the world you will have trials and tribulations. Following Jesus will not be easier than not following Jesus. In fact it may even be more difficult for we will always then have the devil, the world and our own sinful nature about us. Following Jesus will mean suffering, suffering because of our broken, corrupt and depraved hearts that lead us to sin, suffering because of the broken, corrupt and depraved world we live in which imposes its sin upon us, and suffering because we believe that Jesus has come from God, has suffered in our placed, was crucified, dead and buried and is now, today, risen from the dead! Following Jesus means trials and tribulations in this world, But take courage, Jesus has overcome the world for us. This beloved is the cause of great joy, joy that spills over into praise, praise that exults the Father for His gifts, praise offered in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!