Sermon from Sunday May 12th 2013 / Seventh Sunday of Easter
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / May 11th / Seventh Sunday of Easter Season of Easter, John 17:20-26.
“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. 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 17:20-26 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. This last Thursday was Ascension Day, the day the church remembers Jesus’ Ascension into heaven following His resurrection on Easter Morning. Today we are still in the season of Easter but next week we move to Pentecost and that day we will have both Baptisms and a confirmation of Baptism as we remember the promised Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles with “a sound like a mighty rushing wind,” resting on each of them in “tongues as of fire.” But today between Ascension Day and Pentecost we have this brief interlude to ask a simple question: What does Jesus do in heaven? In the Nicene Creed we confess that Jesus “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.” That, “He will come again with Glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” ... So I guess right now He does a lot of sitting? Is this right? Jesus just sits there until the end comes? Is He on some sort of celestial holiday? Is He basking in the glory of His resurrection? What is it that Jesus does? What does Jesus do in heaven? We can only know what He does from what is revealed to us in Scripture and there are two things that we know for sure that Jesus is doing right now in heaven, the one thing you likely know about already, and this can be found in John 14 where Jesus promises His disciples before His crucifixion that He goes to prepare a place for them in His Father’s House, He does this not just for them but for us too; so there’s the first thing that we can know that Jesus is doing even now in heaven. The second thing that Jesus is actively doing in heaven may be a little surprising and we can find an example of it in John 17, from our Gospel reading today.
In Chapter 17 of the Gospel that bears his name, Saint John records the words of Jesus between the Supper and His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. The first Lord’s Supper had just ended and Judas had gone out into the night and was preparing to betray Jesus: The cross was coming, and Jesus knew it – the disciples were still unaware of it, even though Jesus had told them that it was coming. Jesus had already promised them the Holy Spirit saying, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” By the working of the Holy Spirit, Saint John recorded these words of Jesus; and in these words from Chapter 17 we see Jesus at prayer – often times in Scripture, it say something like ‘and Jesus retreated to a desolate place to pray,’ or ‘Jesus was alone praying’ – here we have in the Scriptures a rare passage showing us a lengthy prayer prayed by Jesus and not just that He had prayed a long time but the actual words of the prayer itself.
In this prayer Jesus starts by addressing the prayer to God the Father and then by praying for Himself. He quickly moves to praying for the people of the day, the ones He was breaking bread with, the apostles, the seventy, the rest of the disciples, and those who heard the Word of God and believed in Him.
Then Jesus expands it to us when He says, “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.” Martin Luther commented on this passage saying that, “the words [of Jesus’ prayer] are simple and plain, and that makes [some] rush over them and despise them as something they had abandoned long ago with children’s shoes.” Prayer is simple enough for a child and some people feel too grownup for it, Jesus however says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And in his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer’s introduction “Our Father who art in heaven,” Luther writes “with these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.” See how prayer is the act of a son or a daughter coming to their father just as Jesus, God’s Son, comes to His Father in prayer.
How is your prayer life? For us, as individuals, it is sometimes easy to just pray for ourselves, because our problems seem so great and are so important to us – sometimes it is easy to only pray for those who are closest to us, our family and friends – often times it is difficult to extend our prayers to those we don’t know. In church we do pray for our nation for various people, many of whom aren’t necessarily even Christian but we do this because we are exhorted to pray, we are encouraged to pray. At times we may even do this task in a half-hearted way. Here we see, however, that Jesus prays for an ever-expanding circle of people, yet (unlike us) He knows them all, He is their Saviour. He died for them on the cross as He died for all people, shedding His innocent blood for the washing away of their sin. Jesus does not pray half heartedly, Jesus doesn’t pray with a selfish heart. Jesus is actually an expert at prayer, He in fact is perfect at prayer and where we fail to keep the second commandment (You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God) Jesus keeps it without fail; He calls upon God the Father in every trouble: in prayer, praise and to give thanks. In this prayer Jesus asks the Father to make us to be one with Him as He is one with the Father. Knowing that the cross is coming He prays that God the Father would take those who had been given to Him and protect them while He is dead, so that that on the third day they will remain saved and not be snatched up by the evil one.
In John 17, Jesus is still with the disciples in Jerusalem, so this is an example of Jesus in prayer, and it leads us back to the question: What does Jesus do in heaven? The writer of Hebrews tells us what Jesus does for us even now, when he writes these words: “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in [their] office, but [Jesus] holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever. Consequently, He is able to save at all times those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like [the previous] high priests [of old], to offer sacrifices daily, first for His own sins and then for those of the people, since He did this once for all when He offered up Himself,” as the final sacrifice upon the cross.
So what is Jesus doing in heaven? Right now, Jesus is interceding for us, interceding for you before the Father in heaven on your behalf, offering prayers for you, John Chapter 17 is called the High Priestly Prayer, in His Easter resurrection and Ascension into heaven Jesus is now our High Priest appealing to God on our behalf with His very own blood. We can trust that Jesus is praying for us now in heaven just as He did in John 17. The Holy Spirit also prays for us. In Romans Saint Paul tells us: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Those of us with Christian mothers also have, I’m sure, experienced that they too pray for us. If you’re a mother, you know this well. Mother’s pray that we’ll get home safe, that we’ll drive safe, that we’ll make the right decisions in life, that we’ll find a good husband or wife, that we’ll be our best, that we’ll have good health. They pray these and a million other prayers for their children and we love our mom’s for this and for all that they do. But as much as we love the prayers our mothers pray they are not the perfect prayers of Christ, and as a mother you will at time falter in your prayers for your children and at times they may make it hard to pray for them. Remember that when you fall short in your prayers for your children Jesus is praying for them. Jesus prays perfectly for them. In those hard times when you have not prayed without ceasing for your children, remember that the forgiveness of Jesus is yours, and not just for mothers but for fathers too and for all of us.
When we are caught unsure what to pray, when you can’t even find the words, trust in the Holy Spirit and trust in Jesus because They are both interceding for you and for your children to the heavenly Father. When we are at the end of our rope, and know not what to pray, remember the Lord prays for you – what we read in John is not some far off distant thing, it is for you. In Jesus your faith is firmly set on His cross – your eyes are fixed on Him – your reliance is on His blood for the forgiveness of your sin – and you can trust that even now Jesus prays for you: Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Acts 2:2
 Acts 2:3
 Lutheran Service Book, Devine Setting One, Concordia Publishing House 2006, pg 158.
 John 14:2 Jesus says “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
 John 14:26
 “In these days He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night He continued in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12 ESV) Often the content of Jesus’ prayers is kept privet by the Gospel writers.
 John 17:1-8
 John 17:9-20
 Luther’s Works, Volume 69, American Edition; Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 17-20, Edited by Christopher Boyd Brown, Concordia Publishing House 2009, pg. 107.
 Luke 18:17
 Luther’s Small Catechism, with Explanation, Concordia Publishing House 2005, pg 19.
 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time ... I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” (1 Timothy 2:1-6, 8 ESV)
 Luther’s Small Catechism, with Explanation, Concordia Publishing House 2005, pg 11.
 Matthew 13:18-23
 Hebrews 7:23-27
 Romans 8:26-28