+ 7th Sunday of Easter – May 8th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Acts 1:12-26; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20; John 17:20-26
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Scripture is full of prayers. The Psalms are the prayer book and hymnal of the Old Testament. Abraham, Moses, and the prophets prayed. King David and lowly Job prayed. The disciples requested of Jesus:” Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Every book from Genesis to Revelation includes God’s people in prayer.
And, as we hear in John 17, even God himself prays. John takes an entire chapter to give us the words of Jesus’ prayer to the Father, for his disciples, and for you.
It’s often called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, and for good reason. Like the priests of the Old Testament, only better, Jesus intercedes for us. Jesus is our mediator. Jesus is the one priest who laid down his own life as the sacrifice for our sin. His death was our death. His blood covers our transgression. Jesus lives to intercede on our behalf.
Of all the prayers in Scripture Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is perhaps the most comforting.
Of course, it’s a great comfort when someone says, “I’ll pray for you” or “You’re in my prayers.” And if our prayers, which falter and flounder, are a support for others, how much greater then, it is to know that Jesus prays for you.
Jesus never forgets to pray. Jesus never fails to pray for exactly what you need. Jesus faithfully prays for you. And what does Jesus pray for?
Jesus prays for those who will believe in me through their word. Whose word? The Apostles’ Word which is another way of saying Jesus’ Word. Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. Jesus is praying for you in this prayer, today as you hear his Word read, sung, and preached, and every time you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest his holy Word. Jesus prays – not that we believe his word based on how we feel or that we believe what we want to hear in his Word - but that we would have faith and trust in his words, not ours.
It’s Jesus’ word that declares to you: Baptism saves you. Jesus’ Word promises: your sins are forgiven by his called and ordained servants of the Word. Jesus’ Word gives his new testament in his body and blood for the forgiveness of all your sins. Jesus’ Word does not return void or empty but creates life. Through his Word Jesus gives you the very faith and trust in him that he is praying for in John 17.
Jesus also prays: that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.
Jesus prays for you again, and for all Christians, that we all may be one, as the Father and the Son are one. We confess this divine reality in the Nicene Creed. Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made. And Jesus prays that this mysterious oneness in the Trinity, this unity that is at the very essence of God, would also be ours.
This may be one of the more difficult petitions to understand in Jesus’ high priestly prayer. After all, when we look around at the Christian church today, or take a brief stroll down history lane, it’s quickly apparent that we are not one. There have been divisions in the church since the days of the apostles, and there will be until Jesus returns. It’s sad. It’s not what Jesus intended. We long for the church to be one as Jesus prays.
And yet, when you look over the last 2000 years of church history, and consider the Church that began as 120 believers gathered in one room on the eve of Pentecost, it’s a miracle that the Church managed to survive throughout the centuries. Empires have come and gone. Nations have fallen and risen. Great cultures have reached their pinnacle and then disappeared. Antagonists have risen up: Islamism, communism, atheism, pietism, rationalism, agnosticism, skepticism, post-modernism. And there have been enemies from within too: heresies, false teachers, egocentric leaders, corrupt clergy, faithless laity. 2000 years of mismanagement that would have driven any other organization into extinction long ago.
But for this: Jesus promised He would build His church on the confession that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church. Jesus promised to always be with his bride, the Church. And Jesus prays for His Church, as a loving husband prays for his wife. Jesus prays for her, and in praying for the Church, Christ also prays for you.
And not only for you. Jesus also prays that the world may believe that you sent Me.” Jesus prays that we, his congregation in Huntington Beach, would be an outpost for the Gospel, a safe-haven of his forgiveness for all people. The Church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world around us, just as Old Testament Israel existed for the benefit and blessing of the world.
This is why Jesus calls his church not to be so self-absorbed that we worry about ourselves more than others. That means taking the time to speak the Gospel with someone else who doesn’t dress like you, eat the same food as you, smell or act like you.
Another danger is to pit the needs of those who already believe in Christ against those who do not yet believe. Jesus calls us his church to care for all: the faithful and the lost.
And lastly, Jesus prays, Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Glory is one of those loaded words in the Scriptures. It’s a freight train barreling our way, loaded with the Old Testament tabernacle, temple, and covenant on board. Where God’s glory was, God was present with his people and for his people. Think Moses on Mt. Sinai. Aaron and the priests in the tabernacle. Israel before the pillar of smoke and fire.
It is this glory that belongs to Jesus from before the foundation of the world. And yet, for our sake, God in all his glory comes and dwells among us in human flesh. In Jesus the glory of God is present. His holiness is accessible. God is no longer hidden in smoke and fire and the brilliant light of Sinai. Now God is present in our own humanity.
And nowhere is God’s glory more clearly seen on earth than Jesus’ death on the cross for you. This is what Jesus prays for us to see: his great glory and love revealed in his sacrifice and death for you.
Jesus prays that we see the glory of his death for us, so that we will also see the glory of eternal life with him. The glory of Jesus crucifixion for us, also leads us to the glory of his resurrection and ascension for us.
In everything he does, Jesus prays for you. Even now, at this very moment, Jesus is interceding on our behalf. Unlike our prayers, Jesus’ prayer never ends. So, when you’re receiving his gifts in his church, serving in your vocation at home or work, or just enjoying something in his creation – Jesus is praying for you. When you’re in a routine doctor’s visit, receiving chemo treatments, or undergoing surgery – Jesus is praying for you. When you’re talking with your neighbor about what you believe, when you’re not sure what to say, or when you’re afraid to say anything about your Christian faith – Jesus is praying for you.
Jesus is praying for you.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.