Sunday, April 04, 2010

Jesus Prays for His Church

Jesus Prays for His Church

 Intro.: How does one say goodbye?

    1. This is the second time in three months that I have had to ask that question.
    2. The first was with a church that I had spent 7-1/2 serving.
    3. Now I say it to a church that I have served a little over seven weeks.
    4. I cannot help but imagine that Jesus, as started out on Thursday evening, wondering what he would say to his disciples as they spent one last meal together before his arrest, trial, and death.
    5. He has already encouraged His disciples to celebrate His life and death through the Lord's Supper.  Strange that we should celebrate the Lord's Supper at the end of our service – even though Jesus celebrated it as part of a meal.  Other than His instructions, it was a normal part of the passover meal as celebrated by Jews for nearly 1400 years prior to the birth of Jesus.
    6. And as Jesus readies Himself and His disciples for the walk that will lead to His arrest and death on Friday, he prays.

Read:  John 17:20-26


Trans:  Last week we looked at the first two parts of this prayer -

    1. Jesus prayed for Himself – that the glory he left, the role that was his, the place He had in the kingdom would be seen by a world that had chosen to reject Him.
    2. He also prayed for His disciples – he asked that they would be protected, no physically, but that their faith would remain intact as the faced the same opposition that Jesus faced during His life.
    3. Now Jesus turns His attention to pray, not for those present at the dinner, but to those who will come to faith because of the disciple's message.  As Jesus ends His prayer, He is praying for you and for me.

T.S.  In John 17:20-26, Jesus asks two things for His church.

  1. Jesus prays for the Unity of the Church
    1. This was Jesus' prayer, but I usually think of unity as being something Paul wanted.  You will remember the words from Philippians 2, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
(Ill.) George Whitefield was a contemporary of John and Charles Wesley – an active member of the Holy Club that included an active group of committed Christians.  In fact, when John and Charles Wesley left for America for their brief stay here as missionaries, it was George Whitefield that took over the leadership of Oxford's Holy Club.1  
But, because the Wesley's and Whitefield differed on some key doctrines, the public's perception was that they hated each other. It is said that both the Wesleys and Whitefield took out newspaper advertisements denouncing the beliefs of the other.  Sermons would be built around the differences that others noted.   The Wesleys and Whitefield would preach in the open air to congregations of several thousand.  
One day, a journalist, trying to get a statement that would inflame the rivalry, asked Charles Wesley if  he expected to see George Whitefield in heaven.  Thinking for a moment, Charles replied, “No, I do not think I will see Mr. Whitefield in heaven.  For,” he went on to say, “George Whitefield will be so close to the throne, and 'm going to be so far back, I will never see him.”
Here are two men who are very different in how they approach ministry and in how they understand God.  Yet they were able to see beyond their differences and know that God was using both.2    Their differences would be resolved – but by the time they that happened in heaven, the differences would have no importance at all.
    1. Christ's prayer is that we may be one – not like the disciples and He were one, but that we may be one just as Jesus and the Father are one.  That was Christ's prayer for the Church – as I leave this morning, it will be my prayer for you.
  1. Jesus prays that the world would see Christ through the Church
    1. But unity is not the goal here.  Listen to the words of Christ in vss. 22-23:  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.
    2. Unity is not about us – it is about the world in which we live.  About a world that does not know Jesus Christ. 
    3. Jesus has not yet given the Great Commission – that would come in the days and weeks which follow His resurrection.  But here, at the end of his last meal with the disciples before His death, Jesus asks that God would build a community of faith so strong that it will be obvious to the world, that it will be obvious to those among whom we live and spend time with.
    4. Christian unity does not happen because of us.  It is not even for us.  Christian unity is rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
    5. Church unity is not founded on a common heritage, or race, or even abilities – though I suspect some churches build on their power on the softball field – Church unity is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. 
(Ill.) James Dunn noted that Christian unity is distinctly different than that seen in the world.  We live in a world in which it becomes easy to define unity as uniformity.  Yet in the Christian Church, our unity will become apparent in our diversity.3 
    1. I wonder if Jesus saw the diversity that would make up the church?  I wonder if he foresaw the fights – both verbal and physical that would arise during the history of the church.  And I can't help but wonder if he cried when he saw the unity that He prayed for broken by the people he loved and died for?

Conclusion:  Jesus is about to end His prayer, He is about ready to go out that door, and be approached by a man who had spent most of three years with Him.  A man who will approach with a sign of love – kiss on the cheek.  

    1. Yet that kiss was not a kiss of love, it was a kiss of betrayal.
    2. A kiss that, a few hours later, would lead to the death of our Lord and Savior.
    3. Though I am certain that Judas Iscariot thought he would have the last word, it was not to be so.  Sadly, because Judas hanged himself over his guilt, he would not know the outcome – at least in this world.
    4. Sunday would be a day of surprises for the disciples.  They would hear of the empty tomb, they would hear the testimony of a few of the men and women that had spent time with Jesus – a testimony that said they had seen the resurrected Lord.
    5. But some would not believe until they had touch the hands of body of Jesus.  Jesus had prayed for them.
    6. But in the end, he prayed for you and for me – because we believed the testimony of those who had lived and listened to our savior so many years ago.
    7. Jesus prayed for us – for you and for me. 
  2. Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
  3. Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

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