Where is Jesus today? He is enthroned in heaven surrounded by the Father, Spirit, Cherubim, Seraphim, and millions of saints.
What is Jesus doing today? He is giving glory to the Father and Spirit, he is being glorified by the Father, Spirit, and his perfected and happy friends, and he is engaged in prayer for his brothers and sisters on earth.
How is Jesus praying for his church? Well, perhaps the best way to answer this question is to see how Jesus formerly prayed for his church.
In John 17, Jesus is in his final hour. It is the hour which had been decreed from eternity past and had been prophesied for at least 4000 years. It is the hour when the King of Kings will be abused and apparently dominated by the King of this World. In this hour, Jesus will betrayed, abandoned, arrested, mocked, tortured, tried, convicted, condemned, and crucified. Then hell will come Jesus’ way as he screams to God, “Why have you forsaken me?” It is understandable why Jesus, in this brutal hour, is greatly troubled.
Despite his anguish, Jesus loves his own. He washes their feet, participates in the Passover Celebration, inaugurates the first Lord’s Supper, teaches truth*, sings hymns, and leads them on a trek to the Garden of Gethsemane. And there, Jesus leads his fellows in a final season of prayer. Here is a personal conversation between two members of the Godhead. Here is the longest recorded prayer of the most perfect worshiper. Here is a most tender moment recorded by one of Jesus’ best friends — John the Beloved.
First, Jesus expresses his passion for God’s glory.
… Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you … I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:2-5)
Then, Jesus expresses his passion for the salvation of those given him by the Father.
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me … Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:6-10)
Next, Jesus expresses his passion for the preservation, sanctification, and education of his own.
And 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 … While I was with them, I kept them in your name … I have guarded them … But now I am coming to you … I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because. they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:11-19)
Jesus continues on by expressing his passion for the unity of his family.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I 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 17:20-23)
Finally, Jesus expresses his passion for men’s eternal glorification.
Father, 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. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 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.” (John 17:24-26)
Friends, this is how Jesus prayed for his own. This is his Jesus prays for his church family. Therefore, let’s join him in praying his thoughts with him. This morning, let’s allow Jesus to lead us in prayer.
Let’s adore the Father, Son, and Spirit. Our chief end is to enjoy God and join in glorifying him forever. So, today, let’s worship him with our thoughts followed by our words. Let’s speak and sing to him. Then, let’s continue praying that his holiness might be displayed in our affections and actions; that his glory might more fully shine through us.
Let’s pray for the elect — whoever they are. God has chosen people from every time period, continent, ethnicity, nation, region, gender, age, caste, and class. They are all born “dead in their sins and trespasses.” They are all rebels. They are all deserving of divine excommunication and wrath. However, they have been sovereignly selected by the Father and given to the Son. (17:2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12) Now, they are on the hot-list of the Holy Spirit and are found within his target-sights. Graciously, gloriously, and winsomely he goes after them, and they are ultimately going to be made disciples by God working through his earthly family. Therefore, let us pray for hearts of love. Let us pray for boldness. Let us pray for selfless service. Let’s pray for a huge army of Gospel workers and evangelists. Let’s pray for the Spirit’s falling. Let’s us pray for fruit, that we might worship with an even larger host of saints rejoicing in the free Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray for progressive sanctification. While being in the world, we are not to be conformed to the stinking-thinking of this world. Instead, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” We are those already saved from our sins, and we are to be those learning to love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore, let us be those regularly sitting in the Word while kneeling in the Spirit. Let’s pray that God will allow us to see clearly the folly of Satan, his followers, and their influence. Let’s pray that God will allow our insides to be arrested by his fantastic wisdom. Friends, we have a new Father, a new Brother, and a new Counselor with a Holy Book. We have a great Savior who has the ability to impact our affections, thoughts, words, and deeds.* Sinful saints, let’s pray and enjoy the fact that God saves, encourages, educates, progressively sanctifies, and preserves all his own until the glorious end. This is our inheritance, and it is fantastic to rest in our Father’s care and discipleship.
Let’s pray for unity. God’s Word presents Jesus’ disciples as a family. It is expected that they be different, but it is unthinkable that they be divided. Schism stems from disbelief, arrogance, self-worship, greed, and jealousy. It shows itself in insensitivity, criticism, gossip, backbiting, slander, posturing, power-mongering, speaking with a sharp tongue, and failure to confess, forgive, and overlook offenses. The Puritan minister Thomas Brooks said, “Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous.” Division hurts the church, hurts the neighborhood, and grieves the heart of Jesus. So much does it trouble him that he prays greatly against such. Let’s pray that we might be one.
Let’s praise God for our final state. The Scottish Reformer, John Knox, had Jesus’ prayer from John 17 read to him every day during his final sickness. It was his testimony that these verses were a great comfort to his soul in his time of trouble. Friends, over the horizon, God has a new body, new garden, and new community waiting for us. Heaven is going to be so glorious that, when we are enjoying it, we will wonder why we did not focus on it more while on earth. Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is our future — our final chapter — our inheritance. It has been promised to us by the Unchanging God who cannot lie, and the contract has been signed with the blood of the Lamb. What a glorious day it will be. We, who were scandalous prostitutes, receiving the the inheritance of pure brides. We, who were disreputable paupers, receiving the inheritance of the Proper Prince. We, who were children of the devil, receiving the inheritance of the Son of God. Oh friends, let’s rejoice with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — the Godhead who made all this a reality for us — Christ’s family.
* Jesus had covered such topics as:
- The disciples duty to be foot-washing servants (13:15ff)
- The imminent separation around the corner (13:33ff; 16:5ff)
- The abandonment from his disciples — especially Simon Peter (13:36ff)
- The inner joy and rescue from anxiety from God (14:1ff; 14:27ff)
- The future abode being prepared by the Father and Son (14:2ff)
- The assurance of reunion – Jesus would return (14:3)
- The way, truth, and life – Jesus (14:6)
- The relationship of the disciples with the Father due to the Son (14:7ff)
- The presence, peace and power of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus (14:12ff; 16:7ff)
- The abounding fruit they would produce due to abiding in Christ (15:1ff)
- The coming persecution from the world who hates Christ and them (15:18ff; 16:1ff)
We have a great Savior who has the ability to impact our affections, thoughts, words, and deeds.
- Titus 2:11–14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.