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Jesus Prays For The Church

April 5, 2020

Jesus Prays For The Church

Passage: John 17:20-26
Service Type:

Jesus’ Prayer for River City

I’m sure most of you, at some point, have had someone ask you how they can pray for you, right? Here’s a bit of a random question: How would you answer that question, right now, April 5, 2020, middle of election year, coronavirus, kids are at home instead of school, jobs are in limbo, and whatever else may be going on in the background – and Jesus walks up to you in your kitchen this afternoon and says, “How can I pray for you?”

This is Jesus himself. All authority and power in heaven and on earth is given to him. He rules over everything you can see and all the things you can’t see. He is commander in chief of all the armies of heaven. Money, time, power are obviously not an issue.

How do you answer him?  In John 17 if you have a Bible nearby, or a device. Jesus is leaving the city of Jerusalem after the Passover Supper with his disciples,and on the way out of the city for the night, Jesus stops to pray. He prays first for himself, that the Father would be faithful to glorify him the way they had planned, where those he came to save would be saved and that Jesus would complete the work he was sent to do. This is good news for us: It’s not a crime to pray for yourself. Jesus models that in his prayer, praying for himself. When someone says “how can I pray for you?”, you don’t have to ask for grandma, neighbors, unsaved people, etc. It is not arrogance for you to ask for a specific prayer for yourself. It’s actually a posture of humility, and it’s healthy.

Secondly, He then prays for his disciples, that the Father would protect them from the evil one with salvation. That they would be united and guarded so that none of them are lost. He prays that they would be sanctified, which just means that they would continue to grow in their knowledge of truth and be made more like Jesus. And then, incredibly, he prays for you and me…. [20] "I pray not only for these (disciples), but also for those who believe in me through their word.”

Now if we stopped reading right here, and you heard that Jesus is praying for you, what would you expect him to pray? What would you hope he prays? Father – Protect them from trouble in this life. If they worship you, don’t let any harm come to them or their families. Don’t let them experience the pain of grief and loss. Make all the bad things happen to bad people, and good things happen to good people. Don’t let them experience physical, emotional, or mental stress or hardship. Father, keep your expectations of them low, because they aren’t perfect and will make a lot of mistakes. Lord I pray that money would never be an issue for them, that their businesses would be successful, that their marriages would be easy, that school wouldn’t be difficult, that their friends would all want to read their Bible with them instead of go to parties, that our friend circles would never have conflict, that any plagues/viruses you inflict on the world would only harm people who hate you….

I mean lets be honest – I’d love that prayer for me. You know God’s going to answer it, I mean, it’s Jesus praying. But that’s not what Jesus wants most for us. Maybe you’re tempted to think, yeah, but Jesus doesn’t know what it’s like to be stuck in your house for two months. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes.

Well, as Jesus prays, he knows that by tomorrow this time, he will have been beaten with whips to the point where his tendons and bones would show. He would be put through a process of intense physical torture by being nailed naked to a cross for breaking the commandments HE gave, and crimes against his Father which he did not commit, die a humiliating death, and be hastily buried in a tomb. So Jesus’ prayer doesn’t come in a time of perfect peace and harmony. Here’s what Jesus prays for you, the night before he is crucified for your sin and mine –

[21] May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you.

Of all the things he could pray. “May they all be one.” Jesus’ prayer is that we would be united. That we would be one… "as you, Father, are in me and I am in you." How are God the Son and God the Father united? They are one in nature and essence, they are one in power, perfectly united in their will for God’s glory to be seen in all the world, perfectly united in their plan for all of human history. And they are united in this by the Holy Spirit. Jesus prays that the church across the world, in our communities, us as River City, would be that tightly knit to each other by that same Spirit. But not only that...

[21b] May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me.

This is adoption language. I have two brothers, both of which have adopted internationally, so I’ve seen this firsthand. When a child is adopted she is brought into the love that those parents have for their own children. “May they be in us”, is adoption language. May they be in our family, sharing in our love for each other.

Of course, here on earth, adoptions aren’t perfect. No family is. But Jesus prays that we would share in the perfect, everlasting love that the Father has for the Son and the Son has for the Father; that we would share in glorifying the Father through the work of Jesus so much so that the world would see how unified we are and say, “Man! Jesus really was the Son of God! There’s no way that those people, with their different perspectives and preferences, different backgrounds and cultures, different races and languages could ever be that united unless Jesus really was God’s Son.”

What is it that would unite a group of people like that? Jesus explains: [22] I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.

Jesus is a regifter. You know what a regifter is, right? Someone who gives to someone else what they were given? Jesus is a regifter. He takes the gift that his Father has given him, and passes it on to you and me. Look there in verse 22: I have given them the glory you gave me. That’s the regift. The Father gave Jesus a glory, and he is giving it to us.

Now, it’s not the glory that he shared with the Father before the world began, it’s not his majesty or his authority or the praise that all of heaven gives him. That is what Jesus asks for in verse 24, where he says he wants to show us that side of his glory. What is the glory that the Father gave Jesus, that Jesus passes on to us? Remember Jesus’ baptism? Jesus comes out of the water, and what did the people around him see? They saw the Spirit coming down like a dove, and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.”

And Jesus is giving us that same glorious Holy Spirit, to be our comforter, our guide, to convict us of sin, and to cause us to be born again into the family of God, so that no matter what culture, background, race, or language you grew up in, God will say of you and me, this is my Son, this is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased.

[23] I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

So if you ask the question, “so what, who cares? Why does it matter that we are one?”, your answer is right here in this verse. There are two things that our unity will proclaim to the watching world:

  1. First: That Jesus is sent from God. So before the foundation of the world, the Father and Son determined that the oneness of the church would be one of the primary signs to the world of God’s existence, and our unity in the gospel will declare to the world that Jesus is who he said he is. Yes, science points to God. Music and art point to God. Work and food and nature point to God, but not in the way a unified church does.

  2. And secondly, the world will know that God loves you and me the way he loves Jesus. Did you catch that? I mean this one is almost too mind-boggling to even talk about. It’s too wonderful to comprehend. I was reading Psalm 139 this week, and the first couple verses talk about how God knows every intimate detail about our lives… when we stand up, sit down, leave the house, go to bed, use the restroom, all that… and he knows every thought before we think it, every word before we say it, and all of our ways, our habits, our weaknesses, our recurring temptations, our motives. And I thought, oh that’s not good. That’s going to be a problem. But then after saying all that, he says, “You have circled around me; you have placed your hand on me.” Knowing what he knows about me, he still treats me like a son. David says this is too much for me. If you are hidden in Christ by faith, you are loved with the same love that God has for his own Son. You are truly and fully adopted.

Now, you might say, well that’s all well and good for the Father to adopt us and love us. But poor Jesus. His dad seems a little harsh to him, sending him to earth to suffer and die for something he didn’t do, just so we can be adopted. Maybe you picture Jesus in heaven, sitting in the corner with holes in his hands and feet sulking a little because of what his father made him do while God loves all the sinners. That's inherently false, and you can see it in what Jesus prays next:

[24] "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world's foundation.

WHAT!? What does Jesus ask his Father for? He asks his dad if he can have friends over! Dad, I want them to come home with me. Dad, I want to show them our house. I want them to meet you! I want them to know who I really am, and who you really are. I want them to know how much you love them, and how much you love me. Are you kidding me!? Jesus leaves the glories of heaven, perfect love, perfect community, being worshiped as part of the Trinity, and comes to earth where no one wants him, few listen to him, he lives a pretty hard life being well-acquainted with sorrow and grief, and they end up crucifying him for something he didn’t do, and the whole time, he keeps saying he’s dying for the sin of the world, which is yours and mine, and at the end of the day, he wants us to come over for dinner and show us around?! For eternity!?

[25] Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. [26] I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them."

Look at Jesus’ promise to his Father in verse 26: I have made your name known to them, through his miracles showing God’s power over the sorrows of the physical world, through casting out demons God’s power over the authorities in the spiritual world, by turning water to wine, multiplying bread, walking on water, showing God’s power over nature and creation…. In so many things, Jesus made God’s name known, and, keep going –– and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.

Jesus wraps up this prayer for us by saying, I’m going to continue what I started! I’m not done working. Just because I’m gone doesn’t mean I’m done. I will continue to make your power over creation, power over sickness, power over evil and darkness in the world known, so that they would have and know the same love for each other that you have for me.

In fact, Hebrews 7:25 says Jesus is able to completely save those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them. That means Jesus is still praying for you, still talking to his Father about you, still working as your high priest, your Savior, your King.


Maybe you’re on the call today, and you’re having trouble believing that God loves you at all. Too many things are wrong with the world, or with your own life, or with your family, and you can’t imagine that God could possibly love you or anyone. You want Jesus to pray that your life is all roses and buttercups, and that any hardship or suffering is removed. And when he doesn’t do it, and people you love get sick and die, or your life has been full of hardship, well that’s proof that he doesn’t love you or that he can’t be in control.


The suffering and sorrow in this life is very real. I’m not diminishing that; we live in a world full of sin and suffering. But I plead with you this morning to lift your head, get your eyes off yourself and onto the Son of God, who gave his life for your sin, who carried your sickness and your sorrow on his own back, and then rose to life again so you would see it, receive it, and be with him where he is!


God’s grace is held out for all of us who believe. Any who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How do you expect to escape or have any hope in this life or the next if you refuse that? What answer to prayer could God possibly give us that would be better than eternally knowing how loved you are?


So I encourage you to repent of your sin, and receive the gift of grace that is found in the gospel: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.


Or maybe you’re one who’s been walking with Jesus, and this past month or the month ahead has you rattled. I’m not going to lie – I’m not strong enough to lead this church through this. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks wrestling with anxiety to the point of getting counseling. I’m not out in front trying to lead with incredible grace and poise – I feel more like I’m army-crawling on my belly instead of running in faith.


But as Romans 1:16 says, the good news of Jesus is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.


That gospel power is not a once and done event. That same power that brought you from death to life is still at work in our lives, daily saving us from the power of the evil one, and unifying the church of Christ around the world.


Let me pray Colossians 1:9-14 for us as we close.


Almighty God. In these days that are uncertain to us, we know they are not uncertain to you. We are asking that you would fill us with the knowledge of your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, [10] so that we would be able to walk worthy of the your calling, fully pleasing to you: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of you, Lord, [11] being strengthened with all power, according to your glorious might, so that we may have great endurance and patience in these days, joyfully [12] giving thanks to you, Father. You have graciously rescued us from the plague of darkness and sin, and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son you love. Fill us with hope, and sustain us another week we pray.




Good Friday (6:30p)

Resurrection Sunday (9:30a)