John 14:23-31 – “Jesus’ Word, Keeping and Kept!”

Come Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in Jesus’ name, and teach us all things and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus has said.

Members of Pioneer Lutheran Church, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, He was crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. And God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this Holy Spirit to you yourselves.

At Pentecost, the first fruits of the kingdom’s harvest (Christ’s Apostles) were empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the task for which they were commission and which commenced just days earlier when our Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father.  These first disciples had been sent by Jesus to proclaim His word – the Good News – to their neighbors and to the ends of the earth.  These two things, Jesus word and the Good News are one and the same.  The proclamation of the Good News is nothing other than the proclamation of victory over sin and death won by our Lord and King; the eternal peace that He alone won for us on the cross at Calvary.  So when one proclaims the Good News, they are proclaiming the peace won by Jesus and now entrusted to us.  We have been entrusted with the proclamation of peace to a world still alienated from its true Lord and King.  This is the word of Jesus that we have been charged with continuing to keep.

Imagine a world at war; people fighting hand to hand, only knowing hatred for the foe, while their leaders struggle to find peace.  The foe is defeated; the victory is won and yet the fighting goes on.  This pain and suffering continues until they receive the good news of victory and peace.  It is only when the fighters receive the news of the peace won that the peace is realized.  The king appoints apostles (sent ones) as evangelists (good news messengers) to share the good news of the peace that the king has won so that peace might be made real for his people.  He gives his peace to his apostles and he leaves to them the task of sharing the good news of that peace.  He gives them his word and in their love and fealty for the king they keep the word entrusted to them and pass it on.  The passing on of this word is essential to the charge to keep it.

But this is no ordinary word that Jesus charges His apostles to keep, and this is no simple peace worked and given by an earthly king.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave to you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  This word of peace we have been charged with keeping also keeps us.  Did you know that?  The word used here that we translate as keep can mean – in this form – two nearly opposite things.  It can mean to continue into the future keeping, observing, and preserving the word.  It can equally mean to be kept by or taken captive by the word.  To read it one way and not the other is a personal interpretation.  There is nothing in the text that would indicate which is the right interpretation.  One could interpret Jesus’ words as meaning that anyone who love Jesus will continue to keep, observe, preserve, and deliver His word of peace and anyone who does not continue to keep, observe, preserve, and deliver His word of peace, does not love Jesus.  This is the common way of interpreting these words and based on the text itself is completely legitimate.  But equally, Jesus’ words can be interpreted to mean that anyone who loves Jesus loves Him because His word of peace has taken Him captive and anyone who does not love Jesus loves Him not because His word of peace has not taken hold of him.  One interpretation places the proof of our love for Jesus in our hands – on whether we keep, observe, preserve, and deliver His word of peace.  In the other reading, we love Him only because His word of peace has taken ahold of us and holds us captive.  Either can be equally true, so perhaps we should consider both equally true.

Our Lord and King Jesus has defeated the power of sin and death, winning for us eternal peace with Him.  This word of peace, given freely by the Father seizes us with faith and hold us in the love of Jesus Christ.  This word of peace has been likewise entrusted to us.  Our Lord and King has appointed us as His apostles (His sent ones) and as His evangelists (His Good News messengers) to share the Good News of the peace that our Lord and King has won so that this peace might be made real for His people.  He has given His peace to us His apostles and He entrusts to us the task of sharing the Good News of that peace.  He gave us His word and in our love and fealty for our Lord and King we are called to keep the word entrusted to us and pass it on.  The passing on of this word is essential to our charge to keep it.  But as we remain fallen sinners – though through Him truly justified before the father – this charge exceeds our strength and will.  Jesus knows this and He – with the Father – has made provision for us. So that this peace won by Him might be kept and proclaimed through us, the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to help us fulfill what has been entrusted to us.  Just as Jesus’ word keeps us so that we might keep His word, so the Holy Spirit speaks His word of peace to the world through us so that we might fulfill our charge to proclaim the peace our Lord and King has left and entrusted to us.

Members of Pioneer Lutheran Church hear these words:  By the grace of the Father, we have been taken captive by the Word of God through faith in Jesus Christ, so go in the power of the Holy Spirit and do as our Lord and King has commanded us, so that the world may know the love of God through that same word of peace.  Amen.

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