A Pre-Ascension Prayer for our Post-Ascension World
Text: John 17:1-11
7 Easter, A
The seventh Sunday of Easter is always a little surreal. On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord back into heaven and His taking up the rightful throne as ruler over all things for the sake of His Church. Next Sunday we rejoice in the Pentecost visitation of the Holy Spirit upon that Church. But today? Today we fall back into Easter for one last go! Today our Gospel reading takes place once again in the Upper Room on the night Jesus was betrayed, in the context of His High Priestly Prayer. But it is a prayer only the risen and victorious Lord could pray. And it is a prayer especially important for those of us who find themselves in this post ascension world. It is Jesus’ prayer for us.
9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
Jesus prayed this in the presence of His disciples; what He wanted to tell the Father, to ask of the Father, was in their interest, and in the interest of the faithful of all times … The prayer of the Lord now concerns His disciples. They were God's own by His choice and selection and so He prays for those who know and believe that the Father gave them to the Son as a gift. These are very simple words, but they are profound.
Do we really believe that we became Christians only because the Father gave us to Jesus as a gift? That our saving faith belongs to Him, not to us? That there is nothing we brought to the whole process that makes one little bit of difference, but we are saved none-the-less? Do we really believe that Jesus prays for us? If we did would it change the choices we make, the fears and anxieties we face? Like a child willing to learn how to ride a bike because Dad is there holding the seat. Or a a driver being nervous and extra careful because they are being followed by a police car. Or a teen standing proudly at graduation knowing that Mom is looking on. Knowing Jesus is praying over every part of our life, would that change how we choose to live it? These are soul-searching questions.
1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, ... 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
All this talk of glory is talk of the cross. The hour is come, that one hour which was to be the climax and culmination of Jesus’ life's work, the hour in which He was to go to the Father through His death. It is that eternal plan finally coming together. The culmination of all history since the fall into sin leading to this very point in space and time. The fulfillment of the will of the Father, that is, the reconciliation of the world and the imparting of the redemption to all believers in the holy precious blood of Jesus and His willing sacrifice for us on the cross. This is the truest measure of glory!
Jesus' work, His suffering, death, resurrection and ascension, all glorify the Father. But they also glorify the Son. And best yet, they give all benefit to a world lost in sin. Not only does the Father glorify His Son by the death, resurrection and ascension, but the objects of redemption (that is you and me) also glorify Jesus. Our very justification and sanctification glorify Jesus. The fact that we are saved gives all glory to Jesus. And what we do with the life we have been gifted can (and should) glorify Him too. We pray that it may be so.
2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
The Father gave to the Son and in turn the Son gave. The Father gave us to the Son and the Son gives and gives His gift to us. What is Jesus' gift to us? Life eternal. But this life eternal, which all believers receive at the hands of Jesus, consists in the true knowledge, in the right understanding of God as the only true God. It means knowing that our salvation lies in His hands, our lives are covered by His prayer. Our sins are forgiven in His cross, and our place in His heavenly home is guaranteed by His blood. It means not being afraid, either of dying (which is easy) or of truly living to His glory (which is much harder by far!) It means spending our life in this world looking at that world which is coming. It means a life bathed in the Word of God and nurtured by the Holy Sacraments. Being with our Triune God HERE, and NOW, so we can be confident on the day of our Lord’s return. Eternal life is the intimate union and communion with the Father and the Son (as we see today) and the Holy Spirit (as we will see next week).
And so Jesus, the Son of God, that has everything in common with the Father, is glorified in His believers. He has taught them to know Him, to place their trust in Christ. Life will not be easy for the disciples when Jesus returns into heaven. But He has given us everything we will need, and continues to pray for them in the meantime. He leaves them in the definite hope that the what we don’t know now, will be revealed in heaven. The career of Jesus’ direct manifestation in the world is now coming to its end; He is now leaving the world to return to His Father.
But we disciples are still in the world, in the midst of unbelievers and enemies of the Gospel. Therefore this earnest petition of Christ is still most necessary and welcome! God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires to keep His holy name unsullied, thus keeps us believers in His name, in the joyful confession of His name, in the true and lasting faith, to the very end. God must keep the believers in the one true faith by the Word of His truth, which reveals and teaches His name. That we are granted faith, and that we persevere in faith is the work of God. To Him believers of all times (even these surreal times) must look to keep them steadfast in His Word and faith, unto the end, as is His gracious and good will. It is Jesus’ pre-ascension prayer for our post-ascension world. And now it is our prayer too. May God be glorified in us as the Father is glorified in the Son and the Son in the Father!