Easter 5, 2016
The Epistle. James 1:22-27
The Gospel. St. John 16:23-33
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This is another one of those Scripture verses that many hold dear. The promise of Jesus here is very simple, and yet profound.
He promises His Disciples as a continuation of last week’s lesson….His dialogue about Him leaving them very soon and that they will run into much opposition when He is gone.
This last line is basically a summary of His entire discourse and we could say it is a summary of the Christian’s experience in life as well as a truth to hold on to.
Today is not only designated as Easter 5, but it is also Rogation Sunday. Rogation, coming from the word Latin word rogare, meaning to ask.
The concept here in particular, beginning in the 5th century or so, the Church set aside this time of year to pray to God, to ask God, beseeching Him for appeasement of His anger and also for protection from calamities. To deliver the Church from evil in all of its many forms.
It also included asking God to grant a bountiful harvest when the time comes.
We should always be mindful of the planting season, and even though we live in a massively automated world, especially in the United States, and food comes to us quite easily and cheaply…we should not lose sight of the fact that all things come from God, despite the machinery used.
And the success or failure….abundance or scarcity is also dependent on God’s good pleasure.
All of the science and equipment in the world does not provide food for us. God does. Our resources, our sciences and equipment are the tools we employ to get us such abundance and success year after year.
So we should be mindful each time we sit down to a meal and acknowledge that God has set this food before us through the means that He has graciously given us.
So Rogation is about asking. Rogare, to ask, is what we think about here today (and at this time of year in particular). It is what we are reminded to do…to ask. But we are not just thinking about food here.
The asking we are to be engaged in should be a life-long and all-of-the time endeavor. And it should be done in light of that first verse I read here. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This verse gives us a good reason to ask.
Because if we come to grips with the fact that no matter what happens to us…no matter what sort of illness, loss, heartache, disappointment, relationship complication, betrayal, lie, or disaster comes to us, it was promised by Christ to come to us….
And we are to take heart nevertheless, because in saying He has overcome the world, means He knows the world and all of its evil.
He knows what we are going through and by His Resurrection, He has given us something to look to.
He has given us a promise of a future that does not have even a trace of tribulation in it.
So we can then ask knowing that our prayer is heard. That He who hears our prayers knows our situation and is working all things for the good of those who love Him.
If Christ bids us to ask for things from God, and that He will hear us when we do ask, then this asking is to be done in light of the fact that Christ has overcome the world…and that we should take courage.
The Scriptures do not tell us here that we are to ask and then hope that there might be someone on the other end hearing us and He might just answer us in the affirmative…if at all.
No, we are bidden to ask because God loves us and wants to give us good and perfect things.
So let’s hear again some of what Christ is teaching us today as we keep in mind His overcoming the world and the worth and value and even the command to ask God for things.
Jesus, in the latter part of His dialogue with the Disciples that we heard read today, is telling them how the future will look.
How prayer will look.
How to pray.
Who to pray to.
What to pray for.
Summarizing He is telling the Disciples and by extension, us, that now that He is gone, now that He has ascended back to the Father, we are to ask God the Father for things in prayer.
And it is to be in the name of Jesus and through the mediation of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
He is saying, “…From henceforth begin the practice of asking everything in my name and through my mediation. Ask fully and confidently, and you shall receive fully and abundantly.”
He goes on this way: “In that day (meaning the day He is no longer here…the time we live in now) you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf;
for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
The Disciples seemed to at this point begin to understand to some degree. They were happy that they understood His words. They say, “…This is why we believe that you came from God.” “You are speaking clearly now to us.”
Jesus says to them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
So He is telling them here of His imminent death and departure from them this way. Each of them will be scared and will scatter and leave Him alone.
And this happened exactly as Christ said it would. They did leave Him alone at the trial and crucifixion.
The Passion of Christ was a trial and tribulation like no other and He went through it alone.
Not just the betrayal of Judas.
Not just the multiple denials of Peter.
Not just the fact that they did not stand and defend Him but left Him alone.
But also because the full weight of the sins of the whole world were laid on Him.
But it is precisely because Jesus went to the Cross, willingly and endured the shame and torment and death that we are told to take heart.
And this is why when Jesus says that in the world we will have tribulation, but we are to take heart and be of good courage, because He has overcome the world.
We are to do so, because Jesus overcame the world that day on the Cross and it was completed in the Resurrection.
He has overcome the world not only before us, but for us.
Through His resurrection He overcame the last limitation set before us…permanent death. By rising to life again and opening up the gates of everlasting life, He has gone before us. He has led the way, and we, through faith in Him, follow courageously.
But He has also overcome the world for us.
He did not come to earth for His own sake, but for ours. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly and also have it eternally.
And He has done so, in order that we might do the same.
John clarifies this up by telling us: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Through belief in Jesus as the Son of God, we overcome the world.
We believe because we are born from above, or born again.
Through faith, we have victory over the tribulations of the world.
Faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
Faith that He has risen and overcome death for us.
Faith that He has overcome the world for us.
Faith in the promises of certain victory…because Christ has been victorious and so by being fastened, fixed, bound to Him by faith, we too will enjoy the victory….over the world, and even over death.
Paul says in Romans 8 with great confidence: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Phillip Schaff: “Through faith in His word and through the keeping of the same, [the Disciples] were in Christ to an extent that sufficed for the preservation of their peace; but also in the world still, to an extent that necessitated their endurance of a tribulation perilous to their souls.”
The tribulations we find ourselves facing can at times be bad enough to be perilous to our souls.
There is a level of endurance that we sometimes must rise to against certain tribulations that would be perilous to our souls.
Temptations to sins that would cause us to fall away.
Temptations to following the world and all its glory.
Temptations to not trust in the words of Christ when He says that He has overcome the world and that we too do so by faith.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6: “…do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, not thieves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God.”
We must take care not to make a practice of these sins and temptations. They are perilous to our souls.
So all of this is a call to prayer. Not just here on Sundays but every day.
We ask through prayer. There is no other way.
We overcome tribulation by asking
And as we set out to ask, every time, we have to remember that this is based on a promise.
God has ordained that His work is accomplished in us through believing prayer. Asking in belief.
Asking, praying in belief, knowing that we are more than conquerors as Paul says. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Our prayer is effective when we ask, believing in our position as conquerors in Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ words to be of good courage, or to take heart are meant for us this way. ‘God does not intend that our minds be always caught up in the tribulations we face, but that we fight. But this is not possible if we are not certain of our success.’
We must fight being certain of the result. Christ calls us to the contest; he arms us with assured confidence of victory, though still we must toil hard.
Here is a good summarizing quote: “Let us lean back our souls on these comfortable words, and take courage. The storms of trial and persecution may sometimes beat heavily on us; but let them only drive us closer to Christ. The sorrows, and losses, and crosses, and disappointments of our life may often make us feel sorely cast down; but let them only make us tighten our hold on Christ.
Armed with this very promise let us, under every cross, come boldly to the throne of grace, [and ask] that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Ryle, J. C. (1880). Expository Thoughts on John (Vol. 3, p. 157). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.
 Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (p. 502). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Gospel according to John (Vol. 2, p. 162). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Ryle, J. C. (1880). Expository Thoughts on John (Vol. 3, p. 161). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers. (Brackets mine N.E.)