“Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
We dare not forget that Easter has happened. We dare not forget that the victory has been won.
Easter is not a 50 day season and then it’s over. Easter is the beginning of a whole, new, permanent reality. For Christ has “reconciled all things to God, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:20)
As for you, He has “canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. Setting it aside by nailing it to the cross, in His own body.” (Col. 2:14)
As for this fallen world, He has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.” (Col. 2:15)
As for Satan, He has “crushed the head of “Your adversary the devil, who prowls who around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:9)
We dare not forget that Easter has happened. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
But we do forget, don’t we? I KNOW that we forget that Easter happened because we worry and we’re afraid and we’re such cowards and we are so easily intimidated and we say, “what is this world coming to” AS IF we didn’t know, AS IF Easter had never happened, AS IF the victory had not already been won.
But if we only remembered that Easter has happened and that “even the gates of hell cannot prevail against us,” we would be so fearless and so courageous and so brave and so bold that nothing could shake us or cause us to worry or to doubt or despair.
There is a day that is yet to come called THE LAST DAY, when Christ our Lord will COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN with the holy angels – no doubt the same choir that was present when He CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, born of the virgin Mary. And on that day there will be no more forgetting and no more doubts and no more worry and no more despair. Only the NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH and the NEW JERUSALEM that that John saw and told us about in our Epistle reading – THE VICTORY OF EASTER.
We hear and read the Book of Revelation correctly when we hear it as a vision of THE PRESENT that is very real right now, even if we can’t see it like John saw it. But if we could only lift that silky thin veil that covers our eyes, this is what we would see, a whole, new, permanent reality, IN THE PRESENT!
But on the LAST DAY that veil will be lifted and we will see EVERYTHING – AS IT WAS, AS IT IS, AND AS IT ALWAYS SHALL BE! And on that day we will WEEP AND LAMENT that we ever worried, and ever doubted. What a waste of precious tears we shed when what we should have been shedding tears for is those who DON’T KNOW that EASTER HAS HAPPENED.
Our gospel reading picks up where we left off last Sunday. We’re in the Upper Room with Jesus and His apostles for the Passover meal. Either during or after the meal, He is preparing them for His departure from them, forewarning them that they will weep and lament while the world rejoices; assuring them that, because of the victory that He is going to accomplish in just three days, their sorrow will be converted to joy.
Today’s reading begins, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
He is about to return to His Father on the path that leads through death; and from death to the grave; and from the grave to resurrection; and from resurrection to the ascension where He will be seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
But just before His departure, He gives them a gift – a most precious gift. He gives them the precious gift of PRAYER, along with the command to USE IT, along with instruction on how to use it.
I did a pretty thorough search of the four gospels this week and I was surprised that I could not find one time in all of the gospels of the disciples praying. In the three years of His ministry with them, Jesus had done all of the praying.
It’s always Jesus praying for them, for others, for Himself. From the Upper Room they will follow Him to the Garden of Gethsemane where He will pray – but not them. They’ll sleep while He prays for them and for Himself.
So for the disciples, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, HE IS THEIR CONNECTION TO THE FATHER. Jesus takes all of their worries and fears and their pleas, both those expressed and those that are unexpressed but that He knows is on their hearts, to the Father on their behalf.
Now, if He is going to depart from them, as He says He is about to do, WHAT WILL THEY DO? How will the Father in heaven ever hear their cries for help and recue and? How will they ever reach the Father with their pleas and their thanksgivings? If their Lord, the Son of God is departing from them, will they be cut off from the Father in heaven?
So, what blessed words of incredible grace He speaks to them when He says, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Jesus is giving them HIS NAME – HIS IDENITY. Just as the curtain in the Temple that blocked access to God was torn in two, so Jesus would open the way for His disciples to approach the Father in His name. By His victory on Easter, Jesus will no longer be the ‘MIDDLE MAN’ standing between the Father and His dear children.
This is how the baptized in Christ celebrate the victory of Easter IN THE PRESENT. Our Lord has broken down the dividing wall and opened the kingdom of heaven to us. In the name of Jesus, we enter into the New Jerusalem, and come before the very throne of God, and we ask the Father for whatever we will. Never for more of the old world “that is passing away,” BUT FOR THE NEW, that is eternal, and that is our destiny.
One of the most remarkable things about this gift of coming to the Father in the name of His Son is that it completely eliminates any concern we have as to our own worthiness or acceptability. We come in the name of Jesus, based on His worthiness and His acceptability before the Father. And the Father hears us and listens to us AS THOUGH we were Jesus.
This is the reality of life in the New Creation into which we were reborn when we were baptized. Writing to the Galatians, Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have PUT ON Christ.” (Gal. 3:27)
Just as Jacob went into his father Isaac’s tent dressed in Esau’s clothes, and Isaac gave Jacob his blessing because he thought he was Esau, so we come to the throne of God the Father, clothed in Jesus, asking for His blessing – and He gives it to us.
This is why it is the normal practice to address our prayers to God the Father and conclude with “in the name of Jesus” or “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We must also be sure to hear the connection which our Lord makes between PRAYER AND JOY. “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus tells us that ‘JOY’ is the by-product of ‘PRAYER’ in the name of Jesus. “JOY” comes from receiving the blessings that our Lord has won for us by His death and resurrection – chief among them is the privilege of coming to OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN.
This is how the baptized in Christ, who are clothed in Christ, experience Christ’s own JOY even while we are still in this world where the victory of Easter is still NOW BUT NOT YET, even while we still experience our ‘little whiles’ of “weeping and lamenting.”
We enter into the New Creation, the New Jerusalem through prayer, and we ask the Father if He wouldn’t please bring some of the NOT YET INTO THE NOW, that we may have and experience some of our Lord’s JOY even NOW to sustain us in our ‘little whiles.’
• We ‘ask’ the Father that He might bring a foretaste of that perfect healing that Christ won for us by His crucified body, to our ill and diseased and broken bodies EVEN NOW.
• We ‘ask’ the Father that He might bring a foretaste of that perfect ‘peace’ that Christ won for us by His atoning sacrifice into our ‘restless’ and ‘troubled’ lives EVEN NOW.
• We ‘ask’ the Father that He might bring a foretaste of that perfect ‘justice’ that Christ accomplished for us when the full measure of ‘injustice’ was executed in Him upon us EVEN NOW.
• We ‘ask’ the Father that He might give us just a ‘foretaste of the perfect feast to come’ EVEN NOW, ‘in the holy Supper of His Son’s body and blood.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Christ our Lord, has ‘overcome the world.’ We dare not forget it. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed, alleluia!”