Saint John records the words of our dear Savior Jesus Christ on the night He was betrayed: “For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” ... His disciples said to Him, “... Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”
Here our Lord gives a glorious description of how He has come into the world to save us lost sinners and restore the fellowship of love between God and man.
Mankind should have existed in this fellowship naturally. We should have been always loving and trusting in God above all things. We were created in the image of God, and if that image were still intact, we would always love God perfectly. But the image is broken, and our sinful flesh prevents us from pure trust in the Father and the Son.
But Christ came so that men might put their faith in Him. The holy Son of God spoke His Word to sinful man, and through that Word they received the gift of faith. In the same way, men in the Old Testament believed the Word of Christ given through prophets and patriarchs. Even now, the same Word comes through preachers and teachers through whom Christ is still speaking to create faith. Through the Word, men begin to love and trust in Christ once again.
It is not that men could almost, but not quite, love or believe, so Christ gave them a little help. No, every man was completely dead, completely deaf, and completely helpless. We did not need a little help or a little shove in the right direction. We needed resurrection from our spiritual death. That is precisely what Christ has given to us.
For this reason He came forth from the Father and came into the world, in John’s words. Christ has existed for all eternity, before the world was created. He was the Son of the Father, also called the eternal Word, who lived in perfect bliss and glory with the Father.
But He left His Father and entered our world. He entered our time and history, and He became flesh. He became fully human, even while He remained fully God.
Then He did what He came to do, namely, to “leave the world and go to the Father.” That is, He died on the Cross and was raised from the dead and then ascended to the Father’s right hand. Now He sits in His rightful place in glory.
Now, it is not that Christ is gone from us. He is still with us, as He promised He will be until the end of the age. But when Christ said, “I leave the world and go to the Father,” this means that Christ is no longer present with the disciples in His external, physical presence, as He was in His state of humiliation for thirty years on earth.
For Christ is truly God, and therefore fills all things in heaven and on earth, yet not visibly. There is one place we can see His Body and Blood, yet even here in the Sacrament He is hidden or disguised under bread and wine.
But Christ had to separate His open, physical presence from the earth so that He could send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, into our midst. But that is a sermon for Pentecost.
For now, set firmly in your hearts the great love of Christ, that He did not remain in His Father’s glory. Christ could have remained in perfect happiness and comfort, and He would have never experienced pain or sorrow. He never would have tasted the bitterness of death. He did not have to come forth from God and enter our sinful world. We certainly did not deserve for Him to come into our miserable lives.
But He loved us, nevertheless. He willingly embraced all that our world had to offer, namely, trouble and temptation, hunger and thirst, and the enmity of man and devil alike. Christ did not have to ever know what it was to be sick. He did not ever have to know what it was to be hurt or betrayed by a friend.
But He loved you enough to take all these tribulations upon Himself. He suffered it all.
When it was time to return to the Father, the path led through the agony of the Cross. Christ had to lay down His life for us rebellious sheep. He let satan and sinful men do their worst, and then He surrendered His spirit when He breathed His last.
What a bitter death He had to die to return to His loving Father! This also He endured for one and only one reason: out of love for you.
So He has redeemed you. He paid the price to buy you back from sin, death, and hell. He shed such precious blood that no iniquity could ever separate you from the Father. Christ has created perfect fellowship between God and man. For Christ, who is both God and Man, has made peace in spite of our best efforts to destroy it.
So be of good cheer. Christ your Brother sits at the right hand of the heavenly Father. He, the best of all friends, has guaranteed your place in glory. He has reserved it with an unalterable promise, sealed with His Blood. No one can break that pledge. So you shall glorify God in His presence forever and ever, face to face.
In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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