Based on: John 17:1-11
One of the questions presented to our confirmands last Friday evening was to name the three offices of Christ. The the three offices of Christ are prophet, high priest, and king. We use these three titles the to describe all that Jesus has done and continues to do for us. Today we focus on the second one, high priest.
What does that mean that Jesus is our high priest? To answer that, we look at what the high priest did in the Old Testament. What was their job? They would take the sacrifices brought by the people of Israel and presented them to God. They would represent the people to God and intercede for the people. All those high priests of the Old Testament were pictures or a foreshadowing of the one high priest that was to come, Jesus Christ.
As high priest, Jesus Christ also brought a sacrifice to God. He brought himself as a sacrifice for our sins. That is one of the things Jesus has already done as our high priest, and it is complete. But here in the Gospel of John, chapter 17, we see an example of something that Jesus does for us as high priest that he continues to do for us to this very day. He prays for us. As one who stands in the presence of the almighty God and at God’s right hand, he presents our requests to God. He prays for us.
Here is Jesus on the night before his crucifixion, and he is praying to his heavenly Father for his disciples. We can see how these words also apply to us. In fact just a few verses after this section, Jesus says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” Jesus not only prayed for his disciples that were with him on that evening, but he also prayed for all of us. That means Jesus also prays for our confirmands.
First, Jesus said, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” Through the Holy Scriptures Jesus Christ has revealed himself to God the Father and to us as well. Our confirmands were also brought to faith at their baptism and through the Holy Scriptures. Jesus Christ and God the Father have been revealed to them. Throughout confirmation class we study God’s Word and learn about what God says about us and about him.
They saw for themselves that the Bible says each and everyone of us is a sinful human being who deserves nothing but God’s punishment. But because of this Jesus Christ whom God sent into the world and because of his death on the cross, all our sins have been forgiven. Christ’s resurrection assures us of that.
This true faith is also a gift from God. We, as well as these confirmands, believe that Jesus Christ is from God. Therefore we believe everything that he has told us in the Bible. Last Friday evening they confessed their faith publicly to this congregation.
Jesus says, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me.” Not everyone has the privilege of having the Son of God personally pray for them. But you and I and these 11 confirmands do have that blessing. Jesus Christ prays for each and every one of us.
And what is it that he prays? He prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”
First of all, what are we talking about when we talk about God’s name? It isn’t just the word Jesus or the word Lord, but think about what comes to mind when you say someone’s name. If I say Bill Gates, you think about Microsoft Windows? If I say George W. Bush, do you think about some of things that he has done and whether you agree with them or not? When we talk about God’s name, it includes all that we know about him, all that he has revealed to us about himself. It really includes the whole Bible.
The name of God protects us. When Satan comes to accuse us of things that we have done and to make us feel guilty so that we despair, God tells us in His Word that we are forgiven, that Jesus Christ was punished in our place for those sins, and that by the power of his name we have eternal life. He does this even though Satan will try to convince us otherwise. What about when we look around in the world? We see the evil in this world, and we see horrible things happen to people? We look to God and his Word, and he tells us that he will protect us and keep us safe, that no matter what happens eternal life is ours. We are protected by the power of God’s name. Even when our own sinful flesh tries to tempt us to do things that are wrong, we look to God’s Word to find out what is pleasing to God and we also find their the power to do those God-pleasing acts.
God’s name protects us and God’s name also creates unity. In catechism class we looked at a lot of different Scripture passages, and we discussed and learned about the various teachings of Scripture. We learned about Adam and Eve’s fall into sin and what that means for us. We learned about who Jesus Christ is and what he did to solve the problem of sin. We also learned about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, faith and the proper place for good works. We learn what would happen on the last day, and we learned of the eternal life waiting for us. As we learned those things, we were making those connections with scriptural teachings. We realized as we read God’s Word and learned those things that what God tells us is true. We were also making that connection with the other members of St. John’s Lutheran Church. These 11 confirmands grew in their understanding that the truth of Scripture is also what St. John’s Lutheran Church teaches.
Now when these 11 confirmands join us in the Lord’s Supper they are prepared to say with the rest of those to come to this table, “I believe what this church teaches.” They are now prepared to say on their own that they share this unity with the believers here at St. John’s.
This is the purpose for confirmation, to to give these young people a foundation in their knowledge of the name of God so they can grow in that knowledge and rely on their faith in what God has done for them. It also prepares them to be active members in this congregation where they share and confess that one faith with the other members here.