Easter 7A, June 5, 2011
This is a prayer of last requests. While not a death bed prayer, it might as well be. Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that He will soon be arrested and be put be death.
“He’s in the middle of an eleventh hour crash course on “everything you need to know before everything goes berserk between Good Friday and Easter.” It’s crunch time, and in this moment Jesus offers up a prayer for his followers, mindful of what they will have to endure (and with an eye toward all of us who will come long after them).” Danielle Shroyer
It’s a very hard text to dissect into pieces and force into a sermon. We should hear it and feel the heart of the one who prayed these words. It’s deeply personal. You can hear the anguish in the prayer of Jesus knowing everything that awaits Him. You can hear of His deep love for His Father, for His disciples, and for those who were yet to come to know Him.
Last words carry a special weight to them that lingers in the air when we hear them. This prayer reveals the heart of Jesus and the burdens that weighed on Him most in His final hours. There are three themes that run all the way through the prayer that we must pay attention to. May we listen carefully for God’s good word to us.
God May Be Glorified
First and foremost, Jesus prays that God will be glorified in His life and through what will soon took place. Even as He prays for God to glorify Him, He asks only so that He may in turn glorify His Father. God the Father and God the Son are mirror reflections of each other.
Specifically, Jesus prays that God may glorify Him the way He was before the world began. As much as He is divine, Jesus is every bit human. This was going to be almost too much to bear. Because of His love for His Father and His love for us He endured the cross that He would have to bear. He prayed that God would be glorified even in His death.
Jesus’ signs and miracles reveal God’s glory by displaying divine power, the crucifixion reveals God’s glory by conveying divine love. The crucifixion completes Jesus’ work of glorifying God on earth, for by laying down his life he gives himself so completely that the world may know of Jesus’ love for God and God’s love for the world.
Everything that God gives to us, our talents, our time, and our treasures should be used to bring glory to God. Even Jesus looked at His power, His time on Earth, and His disciples as gifts from God, (vs.6-10). He was faithful with all that God had given Him up until the end. He prays for all of us that we may also be faithful and that God would protect us (vs.11,15) so that others would come to know Christ through our message (vs.20).
Jesus glorified God on earth by finishing the work God gave him to do (v.4) and by revealing God’s power. We can glorify God by finishing the work He has given us to do, to use our lives as instruments of His grace, to share His love with others. As we love others the way Christ loved us, we make the invisible God visible in the flesh through our lives.
We May Have Eternal Life
“Christ does not pray that they might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from sin, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven.” Matthew Henry
It’s interesting to realize all the things that Jesus didn’t pray for in this moment. No, He didn’t pray for us to all be rich, powerful, and have everything we want, but He did pray for us to have the one thing we needed above all else… He prayed that we would know God, specifically to know God the way He knows God.
Jesus prayed that we may have eternal life, (v.3). He prayed that God would bring us to be with Him where He is going, (v.24). He wanted us to have that assurance of reunion with God and His Son, but He also said something else about what eternal life really is, (v.3).
He said that eternal life is “knowing you, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” (vs.3). “According to John’s gospel, eternal life comes from a relationship with the eternal God,” Craig Koester. Eternal life is now. This is part of eternity right now. The kind of life that God wants for us doesn’t start when we die. It begins now as we follow Christ and come to know the eternal God. Jesus didn’t pray for God to take us out of this world but that He would protect us and use us for His glory in this world, (v.15).
We can experience the full measure of God’s love and His grace here and now in this life. We don’t wait till we die to know God.
We May Be One
The blessing Jesus prays for is: That we may be one as Jesus and God are one. That’s a very important distinction in the kind of unity that Jesus wants for us. He doesn’t just want us to get along and not kill each other. He actually wants us to love one another selflessly the way He loves His Father and the Father loves Him.
We don’t have to get to Martin Luther, or even to the East/West schism of 1054, to know that Christian unity hasn’t lived up to Jesus’ prayer for us. Peter bailed on Jesus and his friends just a chapter later. Paul and Barnabas parted ways halfway through the Book of Acts. And us? If you checked the blogosphere right now, you’d find thousands of examples of Christians arguing over the fine print of our faith. We aren’t one as Jesus and the Father are one. We spend most of our time competing with one another, finding scapegoat enemies on whom to blame the world’s problems, and yelling. We’re running a repetitive grinder of anxiety in our collective stomachs.
If Jesus is praying on our behalf for us to attain a higher, more lofty sense of togetherness, we sure haven’t listened. So what does that say about us?
What does that say about Jesus’ prayer? For all those who were taught that their heartfelt prayers would be heard and answered, it is quite problematic to see the Son of God’s unanswered prayer staring us in the face. What does it mean when even Jesus’ prayer isn’t answered?
– Danielle Shroyer
We believe that there is nothing that God cannot do, but why hasn’t Jesus’ prayer been answered? We know that God doesn’t force us to do anything. He leads us, prompts us, convicts us, challenges us, but if we don’t listen, if we don’t follow Him, a part of God’s good plan for us remains unfulfilled. I believe that “God gets what God wants.” He will accomplish His purposes, but the frightening thing is that we may miss out on what He is doing. We may miss the blessing that could have been ours when we fight and argue rather than love and serve. Worse yet than missing out is that we may be a stumbling block for others. Rather than being a conduit for God’s love to be shown to a hurting world, we may actually drive people away from God and His Son by the way we claim to represent Him.
Jesus isn’t just asking God for something. He’s asking us for something. He’s praying to us, pleading with us also… “be one with each other, as We are one.” Unity and love in the body of Christ is far more important than being right. It seems for the last century the major thrust of Christendom is about who’s right and has the answers. We’ve lost something when we fail to love one another and love others who may be difficult to love. Can we really call ourselves Christians just because we believe certain things and go to special places, if we don’t truly love people. As the old hymn reminds us, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
I read somewhere that “people may not always remember what you say, but they will always remember how it made them feel.” I pray that we make people feel loved, wanted, believed in, and hoped for. May we bring out the best in one another rather than the worst in each other.
As we come to the close of Jesus’ prayer, we must turn our focus to our own prayers. How shall we pray? “What if we spent less time praying about being right and more time praying about being one?” Danielle Shroyer. What if we spent more time praying for the grace to love those who may be difficult to love? What if we spent more time praying for opportunities to show God’s love to others, whether or not we have the chance to explain it.
May God be glorified in us. May we experience life eternal and the love of an eternal God. May we be one as the Father and the Son are one. May Christ’s prayer be answered in our own. Amen.