Vol. 10 — No. 28 July 13, 1969
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
These were Thy words, heavenly Father, santify us in Thy truth, Thy word is truth. Amen.
Fellow redeemed high school graduates and friends and relatives of these graduates, grace be unto you peace From God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Your high school graduation has something in common with today’s launching of an Apollo space ship for the moon. You have, as it were, gone through a count-down. You have passed the required tests and been pronounced ready for graduation.
Furthermore, a space ship is not launched without definite directives for its guidance. It has a certain goal. Its journey is carefully plotted. And it has certain things to accomplish before its journey is completed. A space ship which does not perform according to its guidance directives not only fails in its mission but may cause death and destruction.
So your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has brought you to graduation from high school for a very definite purpose. He has caused you to be born into this world, kept you alive, and given you gifts and talents. He has redeemed you from eternal death and damnation by unselfishly suffering and dying to pay for your sins, so that you can live before God now and forever in perfect God-pleasing righteousness. He has provided you with school and teachers for the development of your talents and gifts, a privilege which is available to only a small percentage of this world’s young people.
Why has He done all this for you? Has He done this for you so that you should now set off on your own course, go your own way to do your own thing? Has He done these things for you that you might all the better serve Mammon? Has He done these things for you that you might all the better live selfishly and make slaves of your fellowmen, yes, to hurt and abuse them in this life and mislead them so they also fall away from Jesus and lose eternal life?
By no means! St. Paul writes: “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him which died for them and rose again.” Yes, He died for you that you should live unto Him, that is, that you should live for Him, even as He lived for you. Gladly and fully He forgives you all of yours sins, when you ask Him, even as He forgave the woman caught in adultery. But, as He told her: “Go and sin no more,” so He also tells you, “Go and sin no more. Live your life according to my directives!”
May the Holy Spirit, therefore, attend us as we before your launching consider the—
His first directive is: “Be not afraid!” As you look ahead to your journey through life, fear could easily fill your heart. You don’t know what kind of things good or bad you are going to encounter, but you do know from the outset that your path will not all be smooth and bordered with primroses. You know that your path will also be beset with obstacles and tribulations. You will have to labor and fight to remain on the right course; for the Bible says: “Ye must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
It takes a lot of energy to put a space ship through its journey. And so it will take a lot of determination and effort for you to overcome the obstacles which stand in your way and to resist the powerful temptations which seek to pull you from your course. Some of these obstacles may be physical afflictions caused by accident or sickness. Other obstacles may be material, such as loss of property and money through business losses, storms, vandelism, riots or war. Still other obstacles will come upon you because of your faith in Jesus. If you will honestly try to confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, in word and deed, you will suffer for it, perhaps, even in your own family and household.
If you refuse to join people in their pursuit of fleshly lusts, they will call you a “goody-goody,” a “square,” one who is not “with it.” If you give up the opportunity to earn big money in order to serve Jesus in the preaching or teaching ministries or if you deny yourself some of the personal comforts and luxuries in order to give generous support to the work of the Church, you will be called a tool by your old Adam and even by some who are otherwise devout Christians.
Your final and greatest obstacle will be death; for your journey into heaven will not and cannot be completed without your leaving this life. The fear of these things will tempt you to turn away from the Lord, to doubt God’s love and goodness. This, too, brings fear to your heart, for you fear the temptations might be too strong for you to resist. But, you need not be afraid. Your ascended Lord Jesus, who has laid out your course for you and who has the power to bring you safely through it, says: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
You need no longer be afraid of death. And if you are not afraid of death, you need not fear any other temptations either. Trust in Jesus! He is preparing a mansion for you in heaven that you may be with Him in a life that will be as much better than anything this life can offer as heaven is higher than the earth. Believe in Jesus, and you can say with St. Paul, “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Believe in Jesus, and you can declare with Solomon that the day of death is better than the day of birth (Eccl. 7:1) because birth merely marks the beginning of a trying journey, while death marks its completion, as the hymn writer has taught us to sing:
Oh, how blest are ye whose trials are ended,
Who thro’ death have unto God ascended:
Ye have arisen
From the cares which keep us still in prison.
But how are you going to keep on course? How are you going to recognize temptations and resist them? How are you going to realize when you have strayed off course and make the necessary corrections? Here also your Lord has not left you without guidance. His second directive is “Continue in my Word!”
You have heard, seen, and read enough to know that there are many different philosophies and religions to be found among men and that each one claims that it is the way, or at least that it is one of the ways to life. That is, they claim that their system of truth, if diligently followed, will lead to success and happiness. One claims that the way to live is to eat, drink, and be merry. Don’t worry about a thing, they say. Just live for today. Another claims that the way to live is to deny yourself everything until you reach a state of being completely unconscious to this world or the needs of your body. Many others offer programs for living between these extremes.
Assailed by such claims and counter claims from men who are highly regarded in this world for their great learning and wisdom, many people are diverted from their Christian course. Some come to agree with Pontius Pilate who believed that there was no such thing as truth and that no man could know the truth. That is a hopeless philosophy which often ends in taking one’s own life, as he did. Others come to the equally wrong conclusion that there are many truths and that it makes no difference which course you follow, only that you be sincere. How anyone can sincerely follow one course while at the same time insisting that there are also many other courses of truth, they fail to explain.
It all proves only one thing, namely, that among men there is no agreement as to what truth is or what course a man should follow in his life. Everyone has turned to his own way, and we can well understand the dilemma of Thomas. When Jesus told His disciples, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know, Thomas was perplexed. He said to Jesus: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?”
Yes, how can you know the way? How can you judge whether or not you are on course? How can you determine which way will keep you on course? How can you tell if you have strayed off course and what corrections to make to get back on course? One thing is certain, you cannot learn it from men. They cannot even agree on the goal of life, much less on how to reach it. But Jesus, your ascended Lord, who has laid out the course of your life also has the directions you need to get back on course if you have strayed. He says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
Continue in the Word of Jesus. Study your Bible with all diligence and obey it with all humility. Persevere in prayer. Lean not on your own strength and understanding but depend on the Lord. Then you will not only recognize the temptations, whereby Satan will try to get you off course, but you will know the way and have strength to overcome Satan and to obtain your crown of life through being faithful to Jesus unto death.
But what is the purpose of it all? Since life in heaven is so much better than this life, why does the Lord not shorten your journey so you don’t have to overcome so many obstacles and temptations? What is the purpose of life? This is answered in the Lord’s third directive: “Do the works of my Father!” And what is the work of the Father? Jesus answered that question by saying: “This is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29)
“Believe on him whom he hath sent.” Here Jesus lays before you the whole purpose of your life. As the spaceship fulfills its mission when it obeys the commands given to it, so you will fulfill your mission by obeying Jesus’ Word. As the spaceship fails in its mission when it disobeys the commands given it, so you will fail in your mission if you journey in disobedience to His word.
Thus whether your journey to heaven is long or short, its purpose is that during this time before you finally see Jesus face to face, you fear, love, and trust in Him by faith as though you could see Him. And if you have that faith, then the obstacles and temptations, and tribulations which will beset you, including also your death, are your opportunities to show forth your faith in Jesus.
If you show forth your faith in Jesus, you will glorify Him as God before men and by your example men will be called to depart from sin to walk in God’s ways. As Jesus glorified His Father by faithfully carrying out His will that the world be redeemed from sin and death and be reconciled to Him, so you glorify the Father by obeying Jesus because you believe Him to be God’s Son and your Lord and Savior.
This work of glorifying God by believing in Jesus, Jesus in our text calls a work which is as great as His work, yes, even greater. He says: “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also; and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen Him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.”
My dear high school graduates, you are ready to be launched on a journey which is far more difficult and important than any Apollo flight to the moon. But while spaceships can and may fail because they are built and directed by men, you have a Lord and Savior whose wisdom and strength cannot fail. Guide yourself by His directives, and you will not only safely end your journey at home in heaven, but your journey will also be a blessed one—blessed for you as you store up many treasures for yourself in heaven and blessed for your fellowman as they learn to know Jesus and the Father through your words and examples. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.