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Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:20–26

James T. Batchelor

Easter 7, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, May 8, 2016 

Todays Gospel brings us to the end of the words of Jesus in the Upper Room on the night that He was betrayed.  He has been teaching many things to the disciples in order to prepare them for the events of the next few days His suffering, death and resurrection.  He has also been teaching them about their lives after His ascension how the Holy Spirit will inspire them and teach them all things.  Finally, our Lord finished His teaching with prayer.

The Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus prayed frequently, but they do not often record the actual words of His prayers.  Never the less, we do have the words of Jesus prayers on this night not only His prayer in the Upper room, but also His prayer in Gethsemane.

His prayer in the Upper Room had three parts.  First of all, He prayed for Himself Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you. (John 17:1) He prayed that He would remain faithful to the task which his Father in Heaven had given to Him the task of suffering and dying for the sins of the World.

When He finished praying for himself, He prayed for the Apostles I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:911) Jesus prayed for their faith that they would remain faithful to God the Father.

Then there are the words that we heard in todays Gospel.  Here Jesus prayed for you I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word. (John 17:20) You are the ones who have heard the words of the Apostles and believe.

Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers.  Three times, Jesus asked that the Father would make us one.  21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:2123) Three times means that this is very important.  Jesus truly desires our unity.

But that unity cannot be just any unity.  Many in the current culture want to unite humanity at any cost, but their idea of unity is very different from the unity for which Jesus prayed.  They might say, Well, lets just agree to disagree. OR they might say, Well, you have your truth and I have mine. Such phrases and others like them are NOT statements of unity.  The true meaning of such statements is that there are real disagreements, but everyone is going to ignore the disagreements and act as though there are no disagreements.  In reality, this is hypocrisy, not unity.  We used to call this sweeping things under the rug.

So, we now have people who say silly things like, Well, Moslems and Christians both worship the same god just under a different name.  We should be able to find a way for them to get along. Such people demonstrate a profound ignorance of the teachings of Islam and Christianity.  Allah, the Moslem god, asks you to sacrifice your sons and your daughters for him.  On the other hand, God the Father has already sacrificed His Son for you and for your sons and your daughters.  The difference is profound.  True unity can only be found in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We human beings cannot produce the unity for which Jesus prays.  Instead, Jesus prays for the unity among Christians that He Himself has with God the Father.  Jesus prays for the unity among Christians that is in God and from God.  Such unity can only happen because people are already united to Christ.  As you are united into Christ, you are united into the body of Christ the One, Holy, Christian, and Apostolic Church.  True unity can only be found in Christ, the Son of God who became man and gave Himself up for us on the cross.  This is the unity for which Jesus prayed in that Upper Room.

This unity is not a dead stagnant unity, but it is an active living thing.  As Jesus prayed, He prayed that this unity would have a specific effect.  He Prayed, So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:23) Once again, Jesus prayed for this three times.  This indicates that this this is very important.

The Greek for the word sent is the root for the word apostle. When Jesus prayed that the world may know that you sent me, He prayed that the world would hear that He is the Apostle sent from God the Father.

As the Apostle from God the Father, Jesus came to the earth on a very specific mission.  God the Father sent Him to take up our human flesh into Himself and work the redemption that we could not work for ourselves.  That work included His perfect life, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, and His ascension.  By accomplishing this mission, Jesus earned forgiveness for the sins of the world forgiveness that offers eternal life with Him.

The unity of the church also proclaims the love that God has for the world.  The greatest expression of love is the body of the son of God hanging on a cross for you and for me.  His love endured the punishment of hell for you as He hung there.  Jesus prayed that every believer would know that God loves them even as God the Father loves God the Son.  The love that God has for you is the same as the love that God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have for one another.

Jesus described this love as the love that He received from the Father before the foundation of the world.  From these words we learn that the Son of God is eternal with the Father.  Even in eternity, the love between the Father and the Son is perfect and that is the love with which the father loves you and me.

What is the net result of this unity, this sending, and this love?  24Father, 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. (John 17:24) Jesus prayed that all of this will have one effect that those who are unified in Him would have eternal life with Him in His glory.  Jesus prayer for you is that you will live with Him forever in His glory.

Jesus prayed at a real time in a real upper room and He prayed for you.  He prayed that you would be united with Him just as He is united with God the Father.  He prayed that you would know that He is the Apostle sent from God the Father to redeem you from sin with His holy life and His innocent suffering and death.  He prayed that you would know that God the Father loves you, His adopted child, just as He loves Jesus, His only begotten Son.  He prayed that you would spend eternity sharing in His glory the glory that He shared with the Father from eternity.

The Holy Spirit inspired John to record the actual words of Jesus prayer for your comfort and for your confidence.  You can take comfort in the love that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have for you.  You can have confidence in the eternal salvation that is yours in the glory of Christ.  You can know that God the Father, in His love, sent His Son as a sacrifice to make you truly one with Him.

In his epistle, the Holy Spirit inspired John to write, My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1) These words teach us that Jesus is our advocate with the Father.  That is, He still prays for us.  Even as we heard the prayer that He prayed in that Upper Room, so He still prays for you today and every day until you join Him in His eternal glory.  Amen

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