The Jesus Who Prays - Sermon #2 on John 17 by Dr. Rick Perrin

THE JESUS WHO PRAYS

Our community is reeling right now with the front page stories about the adulterous relationship between the local school district superintendent and the young principal of one of our elementary schools. These were successful people by every measure. But now he has lost his job, and his wife has taken their seven children, left the state, and filed for divorce. The principal who has two children is currently "on leave" as the school board figures out what to do with her. Years ago, as a little girl, she attended our church with her parents and her sisters and she grew up in our Sunday school. Now careers are in shambles, families are decimated, lives are wrecked, and professions of Christian faith lie trampled in the gutter. Honor, accolades, respect, and glory have flown with the wind, like so many dry leaves of shame. I want to talk with you this morning about shame and glory.

 

For these several Sundays we are considering Jesus’ Prayer for You, the prayer Jesus offered in the upper room for his disciples and for us before he went out to face arrest and crucifixion. Please turn to John 17. Last week we explored the end of John 16 and saw how the disciples swelled with confidence as Jesus told them what was coming. "Now…we believe that You came from God," they boasted. But Jesus knew that within hours they all would run away and abandon him, Peter would deny him, and they would hide for fear of their lives. What is more, they wouldn’t even be persuaded that he had risen from the dead in spite of the fact that he had foretold it, until he stood physically in front of them. I think it was Jesus’ understanding of their coming failure that partly prompted him to pray for them: His prayer showed them how they themselves ought to pray. Today we’re going to look at chapter 17, verses 1-9. We’ll proceed in four parts—the classical who, what, where, and why of reporting. Except that we’ll place them in slightly different order. 1. Why did Jesus pray? 2. Where did he pray? 3. What did he pray? And, 4. For whom did he pray? As for the "how" part, we’ll comment on that at the very end.

 

1. Why did Jesus pray?

 

Let me explain. The first words Jesus utters in his prayer are, "Father, the hour has come." "The hour" of course, refers to the moment when he would redeem his people by paying for their sins on the cross. This is the great turning point in human history. All heaven holds its breath. Our salvation hangs in the balance. You and I will either be redeemed or condemned without hope. Jesus had often held off the actions some urged him to take to initiate his kingdom by saying, "The hour has not yet come." "It’s not time yet." But now it had come. The phrase also takes us back three years

earlier to when the devil tempted Jesus in the desert. Those were real temptations. Jesus could have fallen into them, but he successfully resisted. Hebrews 4:15 says he "was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." Luke tells us that when the devil failed to make Jesus fall, he withdrew from him "until an opportune time." (Luke 4:13) Now that time had come as well, and the devil renewed his temptation. These two events, the act of paying for our sins and the great, final temptation by the devil to turn Jesus from the cross, both converge at the same hour. And it wasn’t certain what Jesus would do.

 

That night in the garden Jesus prayed a continuation of his prayer in verse 1. Luke tells us that as he prayed he was sweating so profusely that it seemed like he was sweating blood. You remember what he said: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42, 44) Jesus feels the need for support so he asks his disciples to sit beside him and pray with him. But they too were under terrible stress, and their bodies were shutting down. They kept falling asleep. Angels came to help Jesus. But essentially he was alone. So, no. it was not a foregone conclusion that Jesus would glorify the Father by submitting to the cross. He might have bailed out as the time drew near. But he would not. This is why he prayed.

 

Perhaps you recall G. Gordon Liddy who spent time in prison for the Watergate burglary back in 1972. In his book, Will, Liddy tells how one night in a restaurant he demonstrated his determination never to talk, never to betray the President. He placed the palm of his hand over an open candle flame and held it there as the flesh burned. His companion was appalled, but he was impressed. Back in chapter 16 the disciples professed that they would always stand by Jesus, but Jesus knew better than they the weakness of the flesh. He knew it was not certain that even he himself would complete the suffering of the cross (which tells us something about how excruciating his payment for our sin was going to be). So he prayed to the Father for help. "Glorify Your Son, that the Son might glorify You." You and I then, must understand how very weak we are. You and I by the power of our wills cannot stand with Christ to do what is right and good. So we ought to take Jesus’ example and pray hard what Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer: "Deliver us from temptation." Pray for yourself. Pray for those you love. Pray for your fellow believers, that the Father will preserve us and help us when we face difficulties and temptations in life. And that we will glorify our Lord Jesus.

 

2. Where Jesus prayed.

 

In September 1953 television viewers in England were surprised to pick up a broadcast from TV station KLEE in Houston, Texas. That was strange enough, but when British broadcast engineers attempted to contact KLEE they discovered that the station had gone off the air in 1950. Somehow the Houston signal had been bouncing around in space for three whole years before it made its way back to earth. Psalm 2 presents us with something like that. Psalm 2 is a broadcast, if you will, from all eternity past of a conversation between the first and second persons of the Trinity. The Father is giving the Son his earthly assignment, and Jesus refers to it in John 17:2 when he says that the Father gave him authority over all mankind. Back in Psalm 2:7-9 the Son—Jesus—says, "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’" Christ wasn’t coming to be a judge. The nations, that is, the peoples of the world, were to be his inheritance (John 17:2) but he would have to come to save them by giving up his life to rescue them. In other words, you and I were given to Christ by the Father long before we were ever born. Jesus says, I’ve come to give them "eternal life." .

 

What does he mean by eternal life? This is extremely important for us to understand because the world’s people have a tendency to define for themselves what they think eternal life is. For example, the Hindus believe eternal life is a never ending cycle of reincarnation. It’s a tragic idea. When I was in India many years ago, I visited a crematorium and observed an Indian funeral. The family had gathered to burn the body of their father or grandfather. His body was wrapped in cloth and placed on a pyre. The oldest son lit the flames. And the forty or fifty family members and friends began to wail and cry in grief. What made this so sad was that they would never again encounter this man whom they loved. Even if he was reincarnated as a human being, they’d never recognize him. He was separated from them forever

 

Jesus defines eternal life as something totally different. In verse 3 he says, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." There is a lot more about eternal life than Jesus describes here, of course, but the heart of eternal life is that we enjoy an intimate relationship with the Creator. He is not Shiva, nor Allah, nor the Japanese emperor, nor Zeus nor Baal from the ancient world. God is the only true God. A human being can know God, and when you know him you enter into life that will never end. But how do we know the true God? We know him through Jesus. The second person of the Trinity came to earth to reveal the true God to us. The greatest minds in the world can know Jesus. And so can the little child who sings, "Jesus loves me, this I know.". How about you? Do you know the true God through Jesus Christ? Jesus prayed with his feet firmly on the earth where he had come to save you and me. He prayed from the field of battle, not from some distant location far behind the front lines. He prayed among us, with his eternal inheritance gathered around him, that he would be able to finish the task and give us eternal life.

 

Do you have a task God has called you to do? Perhaps it is your work. Maybe it is as a mother providing for your children. It could be the wearying labor of a caregiver to aged parents. It might be in the ministry of the church. Wherever you find yourself, pray day by day for God to give you wisdom and energy to persevere for his glory.

 

3. What did Jesus pray?

 

Glory speaks of brilliant light and majesty and the possession of limitless power. The Bible uses the word holy to describe this kind of glory. Holy means completely set apart. Completely other. Christ possessed glory to an infinite degree before the world existed. And no one was there to see it but the Father! So why does Jesus pray in verse 5 that the glory he possessed before he created the world would be returned to him? Because he was going to be shamed. In a matter of hours all his visible glory would be blotted out, covered by blood and humiliation, and unjust human condemnation, and finally death and the cold, dark, dankness of a tomb. So of course Jesus desires his glory back. Glory was part of his essential being!

 

There is nothing so tragic as when a human being arrives at the end of his life and all people remember of him is his last act of infamy. People forget the accomplishments. They remember the worst. Benedict Arnold was one of America’s greatest Revolutionary War generals. But he is known only as a traitor. At West Point the generals of the Continental army are glorified by shields hung on a wall of honor. But in the place where Arnold’s name should be there is only a blank plaque. When he died in London, alone and despised on both sides of the Atlantic, they found him dressed in his old Continental Army uniform, the pants not quite buttoned when death arrived, a testimony to the vain attempt to touch the glory he could never regain. Jesus prays in verse 5 for his glory to be restored, that he might be known and honored and worshiped all over the world for his final act of saving human beings. Notice here: Jesus cannot regain the glory himself. Only the Father can give it back. You and I are the answer to Jesus’ prayer. We see his glory, and we acknowledge it each Lord’s Day when we gather to worship Jesus.

 

Do you feel unappreciated? Do others fail to see the things you’ve done? Do others steal the credit due to you? Don’t seek your own glory. Instead, like Jesus, ask the Father to give it to you if he will. And on the day when all the accomplishments of the world are summed up and spread before his throne, on that day he will select from the pile the one tiny thing you’ve done for him, and he will hold it up for all the world to see. And then you will know what real glory is.

4. For whom did Jesus pray?

 

Last night Barb and I watched Michael Phelps go for his eighth gold medal at the Olympics. To win one gold in swimming is a great accomplishment. To win seven is incredible. With each race Michael had to re-gather his physical energy and refocus his mind. And at each event we wondered if in fact he would be too exhausted to rally. Especially when he won the seventh by one one-hundredth of a second. But then in spite of all the odds, he won his eighth. We call it perseverance. In chapter 16, verse 30, the disciples assure Jesus, "Now we know….Now we believe that you came from God." That’s where salvation and the forgiveness of sins and eternal life begins. The disciples said they believed and they meant it. Yet they would fall at their first test only an hour or so after their profession of faith. We’re like that. We profess. And then we fail Christ. Jesus knows this, so he says in verse 9, "I ask on their behalf." Jesus prayed for them and also for you and me. Because salvation does not depend on what we do but on what we believe. Jesus did what we couldn’t do when he went to the cross.

 

This leads to the "how" of Jesus’ prayer. He prayed with certainty. He prayed within the plan of God, confident of the will of God set from all eternity past. And he prayed with conviction that the Father would hear and would answer. That’s how we must pray. Do you want to know the true God? Then pray that he will help you to know him. Pray with certainty that this is what you want. But as you look into your own heart perhaps you find that you are not sure you really want to know God well. Maybe you still desire to be part of this world and its delights. If that’s the case, pray that God will change your heart. Or, if you’re honest, perhaps you need to pray that you will want to want to know him well. Jesus prayed that for you. And it took him to the cross.

 

Preached by Dr. Rick Perrin on August 17 2008 at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, 5637 Bush River Road, Columbia SC 29212 and Northwest YMCA on Kennerly Road Tel. 803-772-1000

www.DiscoverCornerstone.com Copyright 2008
In verses 6 Jesus’ thoughts and prayers turn toward us. Jesus reminds the Father of how he has fulfilled his eternal assignment. "I manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world." Not everyone receives eternal life. Not everyone comes to know the true God and his Son, Jesus. Not everyone receives eternal life. Notice he says, "You gave them to Me." As we saw in Psalm 2, the Father selected Christ’s inheritance for him. Do you realize what a special privilege you’ve received if you know Jesus? This was not your doing. You were part of the plan of God from before the creation. In verse 7 he says, "They have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You." You and I don’t deserve to be saved. But the Father intended it and Christ came to accomplish it. So, rejoice and thank God. Jesus says he has done his part. God the Father gave it. Christ the Son accomplished it! Verse 8: "The words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me." Notice the emphasis on God’s word. It tells us how we are saved. We are not saved through our feelings or because we have an experience with God. We are not saved because we pray a prayer. We are saved through our minds. We are saved because we believe the truth conveyed by the words Christ has spoken. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do you believe that he died to pay for your sins? Do you believe that he is Lord and has authority over you?
In verse 5 Jesus again asks to be glorified, but now we find another dimension to his request. "Now, glorify Me together with Yourself, Father, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." What kind of glory did Jesus have before the world was created? It was an eternal glory. I Corinthians 1:16 says, "By Him all things were created." Jesus is the Creator and he receives a kind of glory from the creation. The other day Barb and I were talking about some of the beautiful places on the earth we have visited—the majestic Alps, the bush country of Africa, the craggy islands of the Aegean Sea, the Atlantic coast where rolling waves tumble upon the sand. We recalled driving behind three elephants, a mother and two daughters, as they ambled down the dirt track before us; and the long-necked giraffes that sampled tender leaves at the tops of trees. And we marveled as a young friend demonstrated her iPod and showed us its technological wonders. Human beings are magnificent creatures. Jesus made it all. But his glory does not originate from what he created. The creation is merely the reflection of his pre-existing glory.
In verse 4 Jesus says to the Father, "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do." As we have said, the culminating event of Jesus’ work was about to be undertaken. Up to this point he had done everything he came to do. So he says—past tense—"I glorified You on the earth." The answer to the question, then, of where Jesus prayed, is that he prayed from earth, in the midst of battle, in the lull before the final drama began. But this phrase, "the work which You have given Me to do," takes us back to heaven. Without this backward look, we will never completely understand the significance of where Jesus prayed.
The answer lies in the opening words of his prayer in verse 1. "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You." Jesus began by praying for himself. Why did he pray that he would glorify the Father? Was it possible that he wouldn’t glorify the Father? Could Jesus fail to glorify the Father.? This seems strange to say, but yes, Jesus could fail, and he knew it.

 

 

Second In a series by Dr. Rick Perrin on Jesus’ Prayer for You from John 17:1-9(a)

John 17:6

 

"I manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept My word."