Law and Gospel in Joyful Clarity
Jesus says, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10).
The Abundance of the Lord’s Prayer
What makes life abundant? Our biology textbooks tell us what you need to live: drink, food, shelter, and most people spend their lives pursuing these things. We measure our wealth by our possessions, physical things, things that pertain to the needs and wants of the body.
This is not all bad. Most of the vocations that we have are, in one way or another, making sure that there is bread on the table, from farmers to computer programmers, the armed forces to school teachers. There is a lot that goes into being a living , breathing human being, and we thank God that He has created us and sustains our physical life; He provides all that we need for this body and life.
But there is more. “Is not life more than food, and the body more that clothing?” asks Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25). Indeed there is more, but what?
I would suggest to you that Jesus is outlining the “more” in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread, but He teaches us to pray for six other things as well, six things that we need, six things that He wants to give, six things that, when taken together, make a full human life. To be fully human is to have from Jesus the seven gifts of the Lord’s Prayer. Or, to say it another way, Jesus teaches us, in the Lord’s Prayer, what it is to be fully human, fully alive.
The First Petition: Hallowed By Thy Name
Abundant life begins with the Lord’s Name, His Word taught. When we have the Lord’s Word taught truly we have a treasure beyond imagination. David teaches us that “more to be desired are they [the Lord's words] than gold, even much fine gold,” (Psalm 19:10). When Amos is trying to get the attention of the people He threatens them with a famine, not of bread, but of the Lord’s Word. ““Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it,” (Amos 8:11-12). This is a true famine, an absolute poverty; if we do not have the Lord’s Word then everything is lost.
The Second Petition: Thy Kingdom Come
An abundant life also has the Lord’s kingdom, that is, His Holy Spirit who teaches us His Word and leads us to lead godly lives according to it. God’s kingdom is His Church. To have a church where the Lord’s Word is preached and His sacraments are administered is part of the abundant life that Jesus has for us. There are many people who claim the faith but have no church. This is not good. Jesus knits is together as His mystical body, He gives us, in the church, daily and richly, the forgiveness of our sins. He feeds us His body and blood. He teaches us to love one another. The Lord’s gift of a church is another part of this abundant life.
The Third Petition: Thy Will Be Done
The Lord’s will stands against the will of the world, our flesh, and the devil. His will being done, and these other wills not being done is another part of this abundant life. The Lord sends His holy angels to protect and keep us, to beat back the devil, and to cause His gracious will to come to pass with us.
The Forth Petition: Daily Bread
We do need food and sustenance for this life. We know it, and so does Jesus. It is good that the fourth petition teaches us that it is okay to pay attention to our earthly lives. In fact, in the fourth petition we not only ask for all that we need, but that our neighbors would be clothed and fed. We also pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us to be thankful for all the gifts that the Lord Jesus gives us in this life. Christians have an extra measure of joy when we eat and drink, when we live on this earth, knowing that every thing we enjoy was given to us by our heavenly Father.
The Fifth Petition: Forgiveness
Just like our stomach reminds us to pray for daily bread, our conscience reminds us to pray for the forgiveness of our sins. Part of the abundant life that Jesus gives us is a good and clean conscience. Many people are chasing after a good conscience e by trying to do good, but a good conscience comes not from the lack of sin, but from the forgiveness of sins. When we are forgiven the Lord sets us free; He lifts from us the burden of sin and guilt, He untangles us from the fear of death that wraps itself around our feet. The Gospel gives to us a boldness in life, knowing that the Lord smiles at us we have the confidence to live fearlessly.
The Sixth Petition: Leading from Temptation
Temptation surrounds us at every turn, it’s part of life in this broken down garden. But Jesus is here leading us from temptation, keeping us from trouble, and keeping our sin from damaging our conscience. The Holy Spirit keeps us through trouble in the faith, and, because our lives are the Lord’s business, our troubles are cause for rejoicing. We learn, as Jesus did, obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).
The Seventh and Final Petition: Deliverance from Evil
When we pray that the Lord would deliver us from evil we are praying for our death. “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven,” (Luther, Small Catechism, Seventh Petition).
Ironically, part of the abundant life that Jesus gives is our death, the blessed death in the faith. “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints,” (Psalm 116:15). The end of our life is a gift, because Jesus’ abundant life is eternal life. His gifts do not stop with our heartbeat, but continue into heaven, through the resurrection into life eternal.
The Lord gives us life in such abundance that this lifetime is not enough! When Jesus takes us the task of delivering us from our sin, from death and the devil, He does this well. Jesus hands us over to a life that is more, much more, than food and clothing, a rich life of His Word, His Church, His Mercy and kindness. Amen.