Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Jesus Prays for Us - May 12, 2013 - (Mother’s Day) - Seventh Sunday of Easter - Text: John 17:20-26
Today is an important social day, that is today is the day we celebrate Mother’s Day and God’s gifts of mothers. So, as we begin this morning let me say, Happy Mother’s Day to all our Mothers and may the Lord bless you as you are indeed a blessing to your children and to our Lord in your vocation as a mother.
On Thursday of this past week we celebrated the fortieth day of Easter which was Ascension Day. I pray no one missed that day of celebration. Ascension day is the day we celebrate Jesus ascension back into heaven, the place from which He had descended in order to redeem the world, us included. You may have noticed then, that beginning this morning and until Christmas and our celebration of Jesus’ birth, except on Baptism Sundays, the Christ candle will no longer be lit.
As we get to our text, I want to remind you, brothers and sister in Christ, that I pray for you. Every morning I begin my day by bringing to the Lord any special requests which you have brought to my attention, the people listed in our bulletin for whom we have been asked to pray, and every morning I pray for one segment of the congregation, so that you can be sure that at least once or twice, sometimes even three times a month, I pray for you specifically by name, again, more often if you have expressed a particular prayer request to me. As I pray for you, so I continue to solicit your prayers on my behalf.
The context of our text for this morning is prayer, specifically, Jesus is praying. At the beginning of chapter seventeen He is praying for Himself, then He prays for His disciples and now, here in our text He prays for all believers, namely, He prays for us.
Jesus prays for us, that we may be one with each other, with Him and with the Heavenly Father. In other words, Jesus is praying for our faith, because it is only through faith that we have a part in His Kingdom and are a part of Him. Jesus is also praying for our message, the witness we make, as He says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (v. 20).
So, Jesus’ prayer is that we might live our faith. How we live our lives is the message of our faith. As the cliche says, “our actions betray us.” We cannot separate our actions from our faith, because it is our faith which moves us to act. We are called by God, to faith, to be different from the rest of the world. We are called to bear witness of the faith that is in us through our lives, that is through our actions, as well as through the words with which we speak to each other and to others. So Jesus’ prayer is that we might boldly live differently, and so differently, so much so that the world notices. And the world will notice. Will Willimon, campus pastor at Duke University, tells of the story of a young college student who came to him for counseling. The student was a member of a fraternity and at one meeting he was confronted by the group because they caught him going to church. Their accusation was that he was no different from them. He partied as much as they did. What right did he have to think he was better than them by going to church? His observation was that the world does notice.
Thus, Jesus is praying that the world might see our faith and that the result will be that they too will come to faith in Him, in other words, that the world might be saved. Jesus’ concern is for us as well as for all people. It is Jesus’ will that all people are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Jesus does not want anyone to be lost, even though He knows that there will be many who reject Him, as John expressed in the words from his vision in Revelation, that there are those who are outside the kingdom of God. Jesus knows that there will be those who do not want to be different from the rest of the world.
Jesus prays that we might know the love of the Father for us. The Father’s love is such and is so much that He did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all. We are sinful human beings. David reminds us that we are shapen in iniquity and we were conceived in sin. In and of ourselves we are deserving of eternal spiritual death, that is the wage, the cost, the price for our sin, eternal spiritual death and that is what we deserve. Thanks be to God the Father for His great love for us, so much that He did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us on the cross.
And so, Jesus prays that we might know the love He has for us. He did not go to the cross against His will, but freely, of His own free will and because of His great love for us. He went to the cross and suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty, the wage, the cost, the price for our sins. He did not shy away, but freely acknowledged His relationship with us and that it was for us that He was giving His life.
And Jesus prays that we might see Him in all His glory, in other words that we might be saved. Jesus knows the struggles we have in this world. He knows and understands, because He has suffered the temptations and even greater temptations than we suffer. He knows the temptation to live “en cognito,” in other words, He knows the temptation to just blend in with the rest of the world and He knows how much of our faith we must compromise in order to do so. And so, Jesus prays for us.
As we hear this text for today we know that Jesus’ will is that we might not lose faith. Jesus knows and understands the trials and struggles we face each and every day, the challenges to our faith. Jesus’ prayer is for us to be strengthened in our faith. And how are we strengthened in faith? Luther suggests that we grow in faith through prayer, meditation and affliction. Thus we see the importance of being in the Word, that is, reading our Bibles and being in Divine Service and Bible Class. We see the importance of being in prayer and we see the importance of turning to Jesus during times of trial, tribulation and struggles in our lives. Also, please understand that affliction is not God’s will. Affliction comes from our living on this side of the fall into sin and the fact that our world is tainted with sin. Jesus uses this affliction for the best for us, that is He uses our times of trial, tribulation and struggles to strengthen us in faith.
Not only is Jesus’ will that we are strengthened in our faith, His will is that we might live our faith and thus share our faith. Jesus does not want us to “keep the faith,” at least not in the sense of keeping it to ourselves. He wants us to give it away. He wants us to live our lives in such a way that we show forth the faith that is in our hearts. Remember the old song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Jesus will is that we might have eternal life with Him, as He states, “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” (v. 24).
So what?, we might ask. Well, the “so what?” is this, Jesus loves us and He has shown His love for us in the giving of His life, freely, of His own will, for us, suffering the wage, the cost, the price for sin which we should have suffered. The “so what?” is what is our response to all that He has done for us and all that He continues to do for us?
By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, we are moved to have an urgency about our own faith. This urgency includes a constant working to strengthen our own faith. In other words, we know this urgency through our desire to read God’s Word on our own, to have personal and family devotions, to attend Divine Service and Bible study as often as offered, and certainly to pray without ceasing, in other words to, as often as possible be in prayer to our Lord. And as the Holy Spirit is working this urgency in us, the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh will be working to distract us and keep us from making regular and diligent use of these means of grace. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh will work to keep us so involved in our troubles and problems, working to convince us that we need to get our social lives together before we concern ourselves with our spiritual lives. Which is opposite of what we need to do, because it is only as we get our spiritual lives together that we can get the rest of our lives together.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, we are moved to have an urgency about the faith of others and even about the salvation of the world. We are concerned about the faith and salvation of other people, especially our close friends and family. We want to make sure that they know Jesus as their Savior. We want to make sure that they will be in heaven to share eternal life with us. Thus we have an urgency about us that we are about living and sharing our faith with them, through our actions as well as through our words. And here again, as the Holy Spirit works in us this urgency about the faith of others, so the devil, the world and our own sinful nature will work to distract us from bearing witness of our faith to others. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh would work to keep us occupied with our own problems, cares and concerns so that we do not have time for bearing witness to others.
Simply stated, the devil would have us not participate in the things of God, working to strengthen our own faith, working to share our faith with others, family and friends, and working to make a witness to the world. And the Holy Spirit works to motivate us to make regular and diligent use of His means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments so that we might grow and be kept in faith until Christ comes again, so that we might reach out to our family and friends and so that we might work in cooperation with others to spread the Gospel to the world. So, we continue to see the old battle rage within each of us between the devil, the world and our sinful flesh and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God that Jesus has already won the war for us. Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil for us and we are His. We have forgiveness, life and salvation. Next week we will celebrate His sending of the Holy Spirit and His giving us His authority to speak His Word to others and His promise that He will be with us to give us the very words to speak.
Perhaps you have never thought about it, but whenever we pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” in the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying for God’s Kingdom to be spread throughout the world, in other words, that we do spread the message of salvation to all people, so that all people might have the opportunity to hear the good news and be saved. We are also praying for the end of the world, that Jesus would come and bring us to His Kingdom in heaven, where we will sit at the Lord’s table in perfect fellowship with Him and with each other, eating of the eternal manna and drinking of the river of pleasure for eternity. My prayer for each one of you, every day, is that you are ready. My prayer is that Jesus will come quickly to take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself in heaven for eternity where we may gather around His throne with all the saints and boldly proclaim, to Him be the glory. So, as John says, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.