Today is Mother’s Day, a time to focus on mom, to think about her and maybe even give thanks for some good memories with her. I have to say, I’ve been blessed with some good ones.
I was blessed with a loving, nurturing mother. I never had a moment of doubt that mom loved me. She gave her all in raising me, taking care of me, helping me, encouraging me, guiding me, hugging me, forgiving me when I messed up, loving me no matter what, not to mention seeing to all my physical needs – feeding me and putting clothes on me. I felt absolutely secure in her love. She and dad took those promises they made at my baptism seriously. They raised me in the Christian faith keeping me connected with the church and trusting Jesus.
A memory of my mom comes to mind as I was studying the passage for today. It was when I was leaving for college, and she put me on the train leaving Livingston, Montana for Minneapolis, Minnesota and then down to Iowa. On that day it seemed like the other side of the world for mom and for me.
As we stood at the train station, I gave her a hug and said goodbye. While we squeezed each another, I felt her shaking a little bit. I looked into her face, and saw she was crying. My heart melted as I saw her tears, and I got a little teary myself. It was hard for both of us to say goodbye. We had done a lot of life together. But I knew that as I set off on this new chapter of life, mom would continue to pray for me and hold me up to God for protection, guidance, and blessing. I knew that because mom loved me.
I thank God for her and all she did for me. She graduated to heaven back in 1993 at the young age of 59, and I still miss her. I always will.
I share this story with you because I wonder if Jesus had to choke back a tear or two – like my mom – as He sat with His disciples in the upper room the night before He went to the cross to complete His salvation mission. Everything was about to change. These men had been with Him in training for 3 years, 24/7. They were close!
Now He is about to leave them to return to the Father. He would no longer be present with them, at least not physically present as they had experienced Him for three years. We know Jesus loved them deeply. While we don’t know if there were tears, we do know He prayed for them, and it was a touching, heartfelt prayer – so heartfelt, in fact, that John recorded in his Gospel. Some scholars refer to this prayer as the real Lord’s prayer, because the prayer He had taught them earlier was for the disciples – not Him – to use. He never had to ask for forgiveness, for He was perfect.
In this passage, they heard some wonderful, intimate, personal praying. The prayer has three parts and begins in John 17. In the opening, Jesus prays for His mission, that God would be glorified in Him as He went to the cross. Then He began to pray for His disciples.
I wonder how they felt as they listened to those petitions on their behalf. I can only draw from my own experience. When someone is praying for me in front of me, I feel cared about. The truth is, folks, you really don’t have to wonder how they felt because interestingly enough, you are included in His prayer. That’s right. He was praying not only for them but for you and me as well.
In verse 9, Jesus says about believers in Christ, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” The things He wanted for the disciples, He wants for you. So let’s take a look at the petitions He gave for them and for you.
Jesus told the Father of the disciples’ (and our) value to Him referring to them as gifts from God. He described what He had been teaching them and how far along they had come. He said, Now that I am about to leave them behind in this dangerous world, I’m entrusting them, Father to Your care. Listen to these petitions.
First of all, He prayed for our protection. “Protect them in your name . . . so they may be one, as we are one” (11). The word “protect” means preserve them, defend them, keep them safe. And “in your name” stands for the power of God manifested in His person, in His character.
Keep them close to you. Keep them trusting and believing in You. Walk so they may be one, loving one another and standing together as they face this hostile world in Christ’s name.
Jesus knew He was sending them out into a world that was so oppositional to the cause of Christ and spreading the good news of God’s love in His Son. He had set them apart for kingdom work – called them out of the world and trained them. The worst thing that could happen was if they would fall away from that community and go back into the world that is hostile to God, give into the temptation to quit the mission, or walk away from the faith and be pulled back into the darkness of life apart from God. He knew we need to be reminded to live out our faith in the church community, which keeps us strong in the faith as we support each another and love each another, as He loves us.
Keep them together. Keep them in church, basically. He knew the evil one, Satan, would be attacking us, seeking to destroy our relationship with God, tempting us to pull us away. So He prayed, “Protect them, Lord, from the evil one” (12).
Protection was at the top of our Lord’s prayer list for us. As He sends us into the world to live as kingdom of God people and share the good news of Jesus, keep them connected, Father, with you. Keep them in your name, and keep them connected with one another so they may be one.
Not only did He pray for protection, but He also prayed that we might have His joy, no matter what life may throw at us (13). He wanted us to have the joy that comes when we know we belong to God and are forgiven children of God. No matter how badly we may mess up, we are forgiven children of God because of what Jesus did for us at the cross. He is with us and He is for us! It’s the joy of looking forward to seeing Him face-to-face in glory someday, knowing history is His story! That is Joy! A protective joy!
Finally, Jesus prayed for our sanctification (17). Another word for sanctify is holy. Jesus asked God to make us holy. He’s talking about spiritual growth. Growing closer to God, exhibiting the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
The word sanctification means to be set apart for a good purpose. Jesus is asking the Father to set us apart; work on us; make us different from the world so we might be useful instruments for Him. As we’re sanctified, we’re put to good use for God’s purposes in this world as sent people. The tool for that to happen – Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in your truth. Your Word is truth” – the Word of God, the Bible.
Friends in Christ, this is why we need to daily be in the Bible. God’s truth builds us up and sets us free from the pitfalls of life without Him. It teaches us how life really works best. Jesus desires so much goodness for us! Protection, joy, and sanctification. How does that feel for you? It makes me feel quite good! And it must’ve been comforting and encouraging for the disciples as well.
A question I pose to you is, Why do you suppose Jesus prayed for them and for us? We find our clue at the very beginning of this upper room episode in chapter 13.
Listen to these words: “Now before the Festival of the Passover, Jesus knew His hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who are in the world, He loved them to the end.” This prayer is Jesus loving them to the end. He prayed these things for us because He loves us. He loves you even more than a mother can love her child, as hard is it is to imagine. But it really is true. You can bet the farm on it!
Jesus went to the cross because He loved us. He suffered and died a cruel and humiliating death to save us from sin, death, and separation from God. He died as a sacrifice to pay for our rebellion against God so we might not perish but have eternal life with God and have the wonderful life He has in mind for us as we trust and follow Him. He wants us to have a personal relationship with God, protection, love in community, joy, fruitfulness, spiritual growth, eternity with Him.
Now get this: He is still praying for you and me. I came across these words from the Apostle Paul in Romans:
“Who will bring any charge against God’s elect (us). It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship,or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us” (8:33-35, 37).
Did you catch it? Jesus is still interceding for us, praying for us with the Father as He sits at His right hand. He speaks on our behalf. And you know what? Nothing can separate us from His love! Paul personally testifies to this based upon his own experiences with Christ.
“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (38-39).
My dear friends, I know life can sometimes get hard. Sometimes you suffer. Sometimes you feel alone. This passage encourages you to take heart and place your trust in what Jesus prayed. Place your trust in Him. You have someone who wants nothing but the best for you – the eternally best for you. Someone who has prayed for you and is praying for you, talking to the Father on your behalf. He loves you, He died and rose for you, and He promises that nothing can snatch you from His hand.
The appeal this day then is to trust Him. Open His word, read it, and study it daily. Let Him speak to your life, and watch what happens. He will change you into someone more and more beautiful! Call out to Him in prayer. Ask Him for the very things Christ Jesus prayed for you to have. God loves that kind of prayer – He will answer. After a while, you will have the ability to say with all your heart, Yes, Jesus loves me! He really does. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer