Sermon: Listen To Jesus Pray

Text: John 17:1-11
The Sunday After the Ascension/ Seventh Sunday in Easter
Listen to the Sermon here.
Sermon from the LCC – Written Sermons.

Listen closely, our Lord is praying. It is the night in which He was betrayed; but the betrayal is not yet. Jesus and His disciples are still in the upper room, and the Lord is praying. So, listen closely, because He is praying for you.

        “Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him.” Now, when Jesus prays here to be glorified; He is not praying for the world’s idea of glory. The world defines glory in terms of splendour and fame, strength and wealth, beauty and celebrity. The one who wins is the glorious one. But Jesus defines glory differently. The Father has given Him authority over all people, and the Son is about to serve all people by His crucifixion. He is about to die for the sins of all, so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life.

That is the glory of the Son – to serve. His service, however, is not just beginning; for He has been serving all along. “I have glorified You on earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do,” so He says. Yes, Jesus lived the perfect life as a service to us and for our salvation. He fulfilled the prophecies by His teaching and His miracles. He has been the righteous servant as He brought His merciful justice to the world. And now, the ultimate glory – He is going to die for the world.

Jesus’ glory is to accomplish the work His Father has given Him. To be sure, it will certainly not be glorious in the world’s terms. In exchange for beauty, the Lord takes a beating. In exchange for strength, He accepts weakness. Instead of putting His foes in their place, He allows their mockery and their cross. No, it is not glorious in the eyes of the world; but it is the Father’s will. And we thus behold His glory at, of all places, the cross – “full of grace and truth.” And it is right in the midst of this gory glorification that Jesus prays that you might have forgiveness, eternal life.

His prayer continues for His disciples: “I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world.” He has given the disciples a precious gift – made known to them the Name of God. Jesus is about to die, to rise again, and to ascend into heaven to prepare a place for them. And yet, He is not far away, but has placed His Name upon them and made them His own. And with His Name they are to ‘call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.’ To be sure, there will be all sorts of other gods and religions that will confront the disciples and seek to confuse them. There will be events in their lives that will make it seem that God is very far away. But Jesus has given them His Name . . . and because they have His Name, they have the honour and privilege of praying in all times and places and situations to His Father who is now also their “Father who art in heaven.”

Jesus’ prayer for His disciples continues: “For I gave them the words You gave Me.” Not only do the disciples have the Lord’s Name to call upon, but they also have His holy Word. Jesus had taught them His Law that they might clearly know His will for them and not be led astray. And He also taught them His Gospel – that He is going to the cross to redeem the world, to save the world from the just punishment of God for not keeping His Law. It matters not that the disciples do not fully grasp the significance of all this; for it is still His powerful Word – whether they understand it or not.

Did you catch it? Add God’s Word and His Name to water . . . and there is Holy Baptism to cleanse sinners. Speak His Word and His Name . . . and there is Holy Absolution as sinners are forgiven “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Add His Word to bread and wine, and there is also the body and blood of the One named Jesus to be given out to His disciples for the forgiveness of sins and to strengthen and preserve them in the true faith to life everlasting.

Yes, His Word and His Name are the gifts that Jesus has given to His disciples as He prepares to be glorified on the cross. He spoke that Word then, and He continues to speak it to us today . . . telling us all we need to know about sin and grace, faith and life. He placed His Name upon them, and has done so also to us. And by His Name, we continue to speak back to His Father and now our Father in heaven – “calling upon Him in every trouble, praying, praising, and giving Him thanks.”

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name, the Name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one,” so Jesus’ prayer continues. Yes – “That they may be one.” So, pay attention to what Jesus is praying as we pull it all together. This is the same St. John, the Gospel writer, who writes in his first letter that there are many antichrists that have come into the church causing division, causing trouble, and causing many to fall away. Think too about what St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

 We do not need to be great theologians to see that, as we pull this together, what ought to be is certainly not what is, but, in fact, what ought not to be. The word that comes to us from the Greek as ‘choice’ can also be translated as ‘heresy’. In the garden of Eden, Satan came and provided a choice to Adam and Eve, and that heresy led to sin and death. We are a society that loves choice, but we also need to understand that choice is not always a good thing. For the unborn child choice is not good news, it is a heresy that leads to sin and death. So this prayer should also cause us to pause a moment, pay attention to those words that Jesus prays – that we would be one even as He and the Father are one.

Think about what that prayer means. So much of our modern day thinking about things like multiculturalism and affirmation and accommodation and ecumenism seem to be in contrast to this very prayer. For what Jesus is praying for is that we be one in faith and hope and eternal destiny. And yet, look at the Church, divided up into thousands of different groups. And, so often, people speak about that in a rather smug sort of way; as if it is somehow a good thing that people are not as serious about the Christian faith as they once were . . . and that there is a vast choice to satisfy the desire of everyone’s itching ears.

But pay attention to what Jesus is praying; for it gives Him no pleasure that we are divided up . . . in spite of what so many pious sounding people might think. It makes a mockery of Jesus’ glory . . . and a mockery of His prayer for His disciples and His Church. As we hear these words of our Lord and Saviour, should it not push us down on our knees in repentance? After all, we should not be rejoicing that there is diversity, that there is a vast choice of churches across our land; but rather, be deeply ashamed of what we have done and allowed to go on.

Jesus prays that we who call Him “Lord and Saviour” might be one, even as He and the Father are one. To be ‘one’” means to be in agreement. There is, however, no oneness where there is disagreement and conflict. We see this in the Father and the Son. They are one. The Father and the Son do not have different views and opinions on things. The Father and the Son think the same things, say the same things, want the same things, and do the same things. In John’s Gospel Jesus says: “the Son can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” There are no contradictions or differences between them. Jesus says that the Father had given His Word to Him; just as He had told them earlier: “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” Jesus accepted the Word of His Father and without adding to it, or taking away from it.       

And He passed the Father’s word on to the apostles as He says: “I have given them your Word.” And through the Holy Scriptures, the apostles have in turn given this Word to us. And now the challenge to all Christians is to be faithful to this Word. After all, we are one in Christ only in so far as we are one in His Word.

And this is why Jesus prays for all who confess His name: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus knew that we would need the Father’s help to be one. For our oneness in Christ is always threatened by the enemies of Christ and His Word. The chief enemy is Satan who already in the Garden of Eden used his trickery to cast doubt on the meaning of God’s Word and to distort and twist it. According to the parable of the weeds, Satan is the source of all false doctrine and division in the Christian Church.

And today as well; for it is in matters which concern the Word of God that the church today is divided up. Think too about how we are divided by the very gifts that Jesus gives to His Church to keep us in the faith . . . gifts that are meant to keep us as one just as He and the Father are one. We are divided over the Word of God itself, as if the Scriptures are not God’s inspired and inerrant Word from beginning to end. We are divided over Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We are divided on what the office of the holy ministry is about and what the Church is really all about. We are divided about the way of salvation and what our role in that is. We are divided over the very gifts that Jesus gives us. And as we are divided, we make a mockery of the very words of Jesus in those final hours of His agony when He prepared to set aside His earthly life to be glorified by way of the cross for our salvation. He prays that we be one even as He and the Father are one. And if that were not enough, He now sits at the right hand of His heavenly Father continuing to pray that same prayer so that, in spite of our divisions, and in spite of our many goofy notions, that we remain one just as He and the Father are one.

        And the Good News is this – that even though it seems that the divided church . . . and that would include you and me . . . does not pay attention to the words of Jesus in regard to His prayer as we ought – and everything else He says for that matter; yet, our heavenly Father pays very close attention to what Jesus prays. And as Jesus prays and the Father listens; this is not just idle talk, but they do something about it . . . they deliver. Here is Jesus giving to His Church, and to you, His gifts. Here is Jesus putting everything together – even things that Satan is going to work so hard to twist and confuse, so as to divide the Church. But Jesus puts everything in place so that His Father’s will – that you get to heaven – is fulfilled . . . giving you Baptism, giving you His saving Word, giving you His Holy Supper of His own Body and Blood to strengthen and preserve you in the true faith to life everlasting. Yes, here is Jesus giving you His Church . . . making you a part of it . . . setting everything up so that you would believe – believe the one faith, with the one hope, the one Baptism, and the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. That is God’s will for you. Jesus said that the will of His Father is that we believe in the one whom the Father sent, that is in Jesus Himself, the Christ . . . and that through faith in Jesus we have eternal life. That is God’s will for you – that you have eternal life, that you get to heaven.

And all by and through our ascended and praying Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


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