Video - Seventh Sunday of Easter
Sermon read by David LIng, Elder
John 17:1-19
May 24, 2020

Jesus at Prayer

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the Gospel reading from John 17 today, we find Jesus at prayer. This is an amazing prayer. He prays for Himself. He prays for you and me.

Jesus prays for Himself in verses 1-5. He prays for Himself because “the hour has come” (John 17:1). The time has come for something to happen. What is about to happen? It is His crucifixion.

Jesus prays this prayer on the night on which He was betrayed. It is the eve of the day He will suffer the jealous wrath of the Jewish ruling council. It is the eve of the day He will be handed over to the soldiers by the indifference and political expediency of Pontius Pilate. It is the eve of the day He will be beaten and whipped and nailed to a Roman cross to be hung there.

But, it is also the eve of the day on which He will bear God’s wrath against our sin. So it is the eve of the day on which these words will be fulfilled: “He bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) and “this is My blood of the Covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). It is the eve of the day on which He will then be able to say on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), as He commends His spirit into the Father’s hands.

What is finished? It is all the work which the Father sent Him to do (John 17:4); all the things that Father gave Jesus to say (John 17:8); all the revealing of God’s Name that God sent Jesus to reveal by giving to the apostles Jesus’s own Name (17:6).

As He says “it is finished,” all the atoning and reconciling us to the Father that Jesus came to obtain is obtained. All the praying the price for our freedom from God’s just judgment against our sin that God sent Jesus to pay is paid. As Jesus dies, it is all done; it is all complete and accomplished.

This language of speaking of an hour having come gives it an ominous and decisive character. So it is. Jesus’s hour is the cross-roads of history and destiny for every human being. So it is ominous and decisive not only for Jesus, but also for us, indeed for the whole world.

It is ominous for Jesus because of the suffering He is about to endure. It is also ominous for Him because of the mission He was sent to accomplish, a mission that could not avoid the cross; the mission that could only be accomplished through His suffering.

Jesus’s hour is ominous for us because our eternal life hangs in the balance of His completing His mission.

So Jesus prays for Himself. He prays for strength from the Father to see Him through it to completion.  

We should follow His example and pray for ourselves, for the strength we need for the battle we are in for faith against false doctrine, sin, temptation and despair; for strength to endure the suffering we may have to endure to fulfill the mission to which Christ has called us; to remain steadfast.   

We can ask about how Jesus prays for Himself. He prays like this: “Father, Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify You” (John 17:1).

Jesus is doing here what was spoken by the writer of Hebrews, where he said about Jesus: [W]ho for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

Jesus was able to endure His hour because of “the joy that was set before Him.” He knew who His Father was. He knew who He was as the Son of his Father. He knew who would ultimately triumph. He knew He was going to the glory He had with the Father before the foundation of the world (John 17:5).

So it is as if He was praying: “Father. I know what now lies ahead of Me. Strengthen Me with the joy of who I am in You. Strengthen Me in the joy and confidence of who You have promised to be for Me. In this joy and in this strength, Father, I can endure and be faithful to the work and mission You have sent Me to fulfill for You and for all mankind whom You love.”

Now maybe we think that Jesus didn’t really need to pray like this. Maybe we think that He was impervious to the tremendous dread and fear that could have been arising within Him. After all He was God. And He was perfect. How could He suffer such dread and fear? How could He need to pray for the strength of the joy set before Him in order to endure?

Well, He was truly a human being as well. And He was truly human for your sake and mine. This is a tremendous blessing for us. Just how the divine and human natures in Christ work themselves out along these lines we will just leave to Jesus.

But here is why Jesus being truly human and praying this way is important for you and me. You and I surely experience tremendous dread and strong fear when our hour comes, whatever that hour may be. So if Jesus prayed for Himself, for His strengthen in who He is as God’s Son in that hour, then He is certainly encouraging you and me to do so, to follow His example and be strengthened and comforted in who we are and in the joy set before us.

So the prayer that I just put in Jesus’s mouth He puts in our mouths; yes, in our hearts and mouths. “Father, my difficult and trying hour has come. I am in the midst of it. I feel so strongly the fear and the dread. Strengthen Me with the joy of who I am in You as Your beloved child. Strengthen me with the joy of knowing by Your promise what life and peace You have in store for me Christ; a life and peace that no power, no one, and no circumstance can take away from Me. For I am kept in You by the One You sent to redeem me, my Lord Jesus. And He has kept me in You. Strengthen me so that I may be faithful to You always in my walk through the hour here and fulfill what You want me to do. And thank you that because of my Lord and Your promise, I will be with You in Your glory which You prepared for me in Christ before the foundation of the world; the promise of Your glory that gives me hope and courage in the hour here.”

Now in addition to all this, we not only find an example in Christ how to pray for ourselves, but Jesus Himself prays for us. Why does He pray for us? He gives some reasons.

Here is one reason. We are still in the world (John 17:11), and the world hates us, because we are not of the world just as Jesus is not of the world (John 17:14).

Is Jesus being melodramatic here in saying that the world hates His people? In these days of the coronavirus, where churches are not seen by government as important as retail stores, liquor stores, pot shops, even abortion clinics, we begin to see what the world thinks of Jesus and Christianity. What He says is not so melodramatic, but quite real.

So we need Jesus to pray for us. To strengthen us. To give us the comfort of faith in who He is and what He has done and that He now sits at the almighty right hand of the Father, interceding for us (Romans 8:34). We need Jesus to pray for us so we have the comfort of this faith by which we know who we are in Him. We need Jesus to pray for us to give us the strength of His peace and joy within, as we have trouble and trial in the world on the outside.

Another reason He prays for us is because He does not take us out of the world, but so that we be kept from the evil one (John 17:15). That is to say, so that we be kept from despair; kept from being consumed by anger and hatred; kept from false teaching; kept with our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith as the One who laid down His life for us. He now lives and reigns in His own original glory with the Father; not for Himself only, but for you and me. Jesus is praying that the Father keep us from the evil one because we are tempted by the flesh to repay evil in kind; hatred for hatred. Jesus wants to preserve us from being consumed by anger and hatred in response to the world’s hatred, since we are still in the world.

Another reason He prays for us is because not only are we not of the world, but He sends us into the world (John 17:18) and He has given to us the Father’s word (John 17:14). He sends us as salt and light into the world (Matthew 5:13-14). He has something for us to do in the places in this life where He has placed us. And in addition to what these places require, He prays for us that we show what difference being a Christian means there, because it does make a difference.

So He prays for us that the Father would keep us in His word, His word of Law and Gospel, His word of promise of where our salvation lies in Christ. Jesus prays that we would learn and grow thereby, ever more growing into the depth of God’s grace and love in Christ; evermore growing into the difference being a Christian can mean out there in the world. And Jesus prays for us, as He sends us because He sends us into the world that hates us, which is a remarkable thing. But as the One who was sent by the Father, who loves the world, so He sends us into the world with the same love. This is an even more remarkable thing because the flesh is prone to returning hatred with hatred. To return hatred with Christ’s kind of love is especially why it is so important that Jesus prays for us.

Dear Christian, peace be with you. Jesus has accomplished it all for you, that is, everything you need to be claimed by and belong to the Father in His grace forever. And you are a son and daughter of the Father almighty in Jesus. If you see your hour coming, or are in the midst of it, and the fear and the dread, the uncertainty and the oppression mount, know this: You belong to the Father in Christ and the joy set before you in Christ is wonderful, amazing, and eternal. Nothing can take that way.

And know this too through Jesus’s word: Jesus is right now at the right hand of God praying for you. And you know that His prayer is heard and that your prayer in Him is heard. You are secure in Him and the Father is giving you strength in Christ. You can count on this. Count on it always.

Amen.