Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 7C, May 12h, 2013
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” [John 17:20]
This morning Jesus shows you that He has prayed for you. In the prayer which is brought to us in our gospel reading (John 17:20–26), He makes some pretty exciting promises. Do you trust His Word? Do you really believe that when He says something, it is in fact God Himself speaking to your heart, and when He says something it is not only going to happen, in fact, in God’s perspective, it has already happened! If you answered yes, well then, this message will be both exciting and challenging for you. If you answered, no or you aren’t sure, well then, it is God’s desire that this morning’s message would be one of faith; a message that will both create faith within you and sustain it. Would you like that? Good! Let’s get right into it.
This morning Jesus prays for two things: Unity and Glory. He prays that we would be one in thought, word, and deed, just as He and the Father and the Spirit are one, and He also prays that just as He is now in glory, seated at the right hand of the Father, we too would join Him there in glory.
This last Thursday was a day to celebrate, but because it did not fall on a Sunday, it probably passed you by. On Thursday, the church celebrated the ascension of our Lord. The day Jesus ascended into Heaven and into His glory. But when He left, He gave us this commission, backed by a powerful promise. Listen: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]
So when Jesus prayed for you in our gospel reading, He backed up that prayer in Matthew 28, when He ascended into Heaven. He’s letting you know that what He is praying for is powered by His real presence with us. He is ever interceding for His church as it fulfills its mission to bring God’s love to the world. And, He prays for you who are here this morning to be an active part of that mission.
He prays for you who believe that when Jesus says something it is fact; He knows that you will believe because you have been given faith through the word of the apostles, which is the very Word of God. (v. 20) Through the Word of God you have been brought into the body of Christ. So as part of Jesus body, the church, you are also one with the Triune personhood of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And now as part of the church, you have been given the glory of God. What is this glory that God gives you? Is it a glory that makes you better than your neighbor? Is it a glory that makes you the head and not the tail? No, not at all; instead it is a gift that not only invites us into unity as one body, but in fact it gives us the unity. (v. 22)
But how can we be one? Well to answer that question, we will need to jump ahead to verse 26, where we hear Jesus declare this wonderful promise: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (v. 26) So here is the very thing that empowers our mission into a world that is lost to sin; it is the love of God. (Talk about a Mother’s love) It’s a love that was and always shall be communicated through the Father’s giving of His Son unto death so that a world lost and dead in its sins may live. This is the great purpose or mission of the church: To be filled with the love of God and to share that love with the world. This is now both the mission of the church, and its gift to the world: A love from God that fills us and fulfills us.
It’s the love of God that not only gives us our mission but our unity. Jesus prayed that as He and the Father were one, that we would be one with Him and each other. (vv. 21, 22b) He prayed that the glory of God would be within us and fulfill us in unity so that…
The world might believe. But believe what? That Jesus, is the Son of God, and in a gift of love that God the Father has given so that we would believe that God is still with us and that He still loves us! Another way to say this is, through our unity with God and each other the world will see God’s forgiving love and believe that both Jesus and His gift of eternal life are real!
So how do you think we are doing with that mission? In our community alone we have hundreds of churches of various denominations and creeds. It is not uncommon for these churches to compete for a finite number of believers. This competition is always centered on truth, but not necessarily God’s truth. So many churches seem to have become its own living definition of what truth is, thus separating itself further and further from their brothers and sisters in other denominations and churches. And the unbelieving world sees this and shakes their head at us. A world that we are suppose to be reaching with the truth is laughing at some church’s made up truth and never really getting to see the power of God’s own truth in action.
And what is the source of unity, love, and truth? Nothing but the pure Word of God; not opinions, not theories, but only the pure Word of God, which is both truthful and mysterious. Where the Word declares bold truths concerning sin and salvation, punishment and forgiveness, we are suppose to also as one voice declare the very same message. Where the Word is silent or mysterious, we are never allowed to “fill in the blanks” so to speak but simply remain silent and trust even more in God’s mercy and grace. While it is true that even when God’s Word is declared in purity and unity many may still reject His call to repentance, that is not suppose to trouble us. We are simply asked to speak Words that give faith and then turn them to the object of their faith, Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and ascended; Jesus the Son of God who alone is able to intercede for them and grant them eternal life and peace with God.
So, is the mission of the church hurt by defective Christians? Yes, but it is never destroyed. Each one of us must remember this one great truth… Jesus is praying for us!
As he prays, He prays for his church’s glory. He knows that there is a great division between His church and those lost in this world of darkness. Listen: “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. (v. 25)
In these Words Jesus not only assures you that you belong to Him but also, ultimately it is His burden to bring faith to those who are lost in sin. We are simply to look out upon this world and see the difference between faith and faithlessness. We are to see the difference in the lives of those who live under the Father’s judgment and those who live out His gift of grace. Our mission this morning is to not only see the difference but live out that difference so that others will see the presence of God among us, through His gifts of love, forgiveness, and unity, and then desire to be a part of our community that gathers around those gifts.
So you see, it is for you that Jesus prays. He prays that you will trust Him and rest in His love for you. He prays that in His Word you will see Him always with you, always interceding for you who have been given to him by the Father. But He also prays that you will let Him lead you out into our community seeking peace first with each other, then with your brothers and sisters of different denominations, and finally with the lost and unbelieving world. And finally, He prays to remind you, that the kind of peace He invites you to share with others can only be found in the pure Word of God.
This morning, Jesus’ desire is that one day soon you will come to His side to a place where there will be no more sorrow, suffering, sickness, or disease; a place where all divisions will cease. “No longer will there be anything accursed (among us), but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and we His servants will worship Him.” [Revelations 22:3]
Will you trust His Word; will you rest in a reality that declares, Jesus prays for you? If you will, you won’t be disappointed; you will see His glory and you will forever know the Father’s love. AMEN!