By Paul Koch –
In our home, a home with a lot of children running around, there is a call that can be heard echoing throughout more than any other. From the youngest to the oldest and at all times of the day and night you can hear one of the children calling, “Moooom…” Now we believe that a basic goal of parenting is to aid your children toward emancipation and so we don’t cater to our children’s every whim; yet whenever a child can’t find something, or can’t figure something out, or is hungry, or almost any other imaginable circumstance arises in his/her life, the kneejerk reaction is to call for mom. The reason for this is simple, moms know things.
Now that may sound like an overly modest thing to say, but it’s true. Moms know things that no one else in the household, including me, can seem to remember. They know where things are and how to fix them and when is the right time to use them. They are part doctor, part nutritionist, part economist, and part psychologist. My wife will wake up in the middle of the night and know that the kid sleeping on the other side of the house is running a fever. I suppose the reason the kids call for mom is that they don’t have smartphones yet where they can ask Siri or Google to provide the answers. And so they simply call for mom.
But the reality is that it’s not always good that mom knows so much. While her knowing is delightful when we are trying to get something done and need help, her knowing isn’t so great when we’re trying to get away with something that we ought not be doing. I’ll never forget the time my older brother and I were going to try and sneak some cookies from the pantry in our kitchen when mom went upstairs. No sooner had we opened the door and grabbed the container when mom yelled from somewhere upstairs, “don’t eat the cookies!” We were shocked, mystified and not to mention pretty bummed. Being known by one who knows can be of great comfort, but it can also be downright terrifying.
And if that’s the case with our moms, it is far more profound when we contemplate being known by the Creator of all things. Through the Word of the law God knows us. He knows when we try and sneak cookies. He knows what we think about and never tell anyone else. He knows every thought, word and deed. He knows how deep and profound our sin is: how we find pleasure in judging others, and how we feel justified when we gossip and ruin reputations. He knows how you think I’m talking about someone other than you, and how you manage to downplay your own sinfulness while pointing out the sins of others. God knows that all of our righteous deeds, all of the very best things that we muster up to present before him and proof of our living sacrifice, all of them are filthy rags. They are tainted by our self-righteousness, by our consistent failure to love and care for others as we have been loved by him.
And yet knowing all this, knowing every detail, every stain upon our souls, he still loves. God is not tricked into loving us. It isn’t a blind love where he doesn’t know who we are what we’ve done. No, he knows and he loves. It is through the Word of the gospel we are known as his beloved children, as his saints, as his great treasure. And this love for you isn’t conditional, it’s not based on some sort of retributive scale where you do this and I’ll do that. You try your best and then I will love you. You go this far and I’ll go the rest of the way for you. No, again, he chooses to love you, to freely give you his gifts of grace. He gives his only begotten Son who suffers and died for your sins so that you might be eternally loved by him.
Being known by our God in his Word of law and gospel is to die and rise with our Lord. We are known in the depravity of our sin that we cannot escape or overcome by any work of our own hands no matter how well intentioned. To be known like that is to be condemned and deemed worthy of the flames of hell. And yet we are also known by a Lord who is condemned in our place. So that we escape the flames by his death and resurrection, known by his Word of life we are united to him, dying and rising with him. We then truly know who we are by the Word of God. And in that Word we find that we are not in this alone. As our eyes are opened by the God who perfectly knows us we turn around and find that we are part of a much larger family. To be known by our God is to be bound in a life together with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And so in John 17 on the night in which our Lord was betrayed he lifts his eyes toward heaven and he prays to his Father for those who are known in the Word. He prays for endurance, for unity and for strength. He prays to his Father saying, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me though their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” We then are prayed for by the Lord who truly knows us all. He prays that we are united in him, united in the truth, united to continue to make the good proclamation of our Lord’s saving work.
Our Lord prays for us because he knows, he knows what challenges the world will throw at us. He knows the attacks and temptations of the Devil. He knows the internal battle that still rages within each and every one of us. So he prays for us. He prays because the wolves are always on the prowl; not only do they attack from the outside but they manage to sneak in wearing the garments of the sheep where they begin to destroy the flock from within. The unity of those who die and rise with Christ will be constantly under attack. So he prays that we remain grounded in the truth, and that the Word itself is never separated from us. For by that Word we are known and by that Word we know one another.
Of course our Lord doesn’t just pray for us. He who knows us so thoroughly then goes to the cross. He goes like a lamb to the slaughter. He goes for he knows that this is the only way we will stand a chance. He prays for our unity and then dies to make it so. The terror of being known in the law that condemns now turns to joy in being known in the blood of our Lord. In Christ we die and rise, in Christ we are fully known. In Christ we are one.
These promises of our Lord call us into service to one another. Released from the bondage of our own depravity we are freed to embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we reach out with more than simple service, more than acts of sacrifice and thanksgiving and mutual love and support. For as great as those are we have something of even greater value. We can embrace one another with the Word of truth by which we are truly known. A Word by which the proud are brought to despair but the despairing are lifted up to eternal confidence and assurance in the forgiveness of the Lord.
And so our Lord prays, “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”