O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Jesus Prays: A Confirmation Gift For You
Jesus Prays: A Confirmation Gift For You
Based on St. John 17:9b-11
Preached on May 28, 2017
No Audio Available
Treasured brothers and sisters,
My Gail and I watch a half-hour of TV just before bed to wind down at the end of our day. Right now we’re seeing a series called The Crown. It’s about Elizabeth II and her early years as Queen. Sometimes they show a personal conversation between her and her husband, Prince Philip, that is supposedly taking place in their private rooms at the Palace. We often wonder, “Did the Queen really say that? Or did TV producers make it up for the show?” There are times when you would love to know what a certain person really thinks, or what that person is saying in private about you when you’re not around to hear.
Today’s Gospel lets you in on a very private moment. It doesn’t just report, “Jesus was praying.” It actually lets you listen in on that prayer where it was just Jesus, all alone with His Father. I don’t know if the apostle John overheard it, or how the Holy Spirit moved St. John to write it down. But I thank God we have it. This private prayer Jesus spoke to His Father turns out to be a confirmation-day gift to all you confirmands of 2017. It’s also a gift to us other confirmands from years gone by. Two things jump out at you from the verses I’ve read:
I. Jesus prays for you, His children;
II. Jesus prays for what matters most.
If you ask, “Who is Jesus praying for in this chapter?” Jesus answers that Himself! He said to His Father God, I AM NOT PRAYING FOR THE WORLD, BUT FOR THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME, FOR THEY ARE YOURS. We know God cares about the world. The Bible says, GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON. We know God wants the world to be saved. The Bible says that, too. But Jesus’ tie to the world in general will never be so strong as the heart-tie He has to you, His children. Jesus spoke this prayer the night before He died. Before long He would rise and after 40 days return to heaven. Those first followers of His were going to remain in a world that’s not easy to live in if you’re a Christian. Even though it’s a tough world, God does get through to some people and move them to put their faith in Jesus. Jesus counts believers as a gift from His Father. They’re the ones He prays for here.
Dear confirmands, Jesus was also thinking about you when He prayed this. He said a little later, MY PRAYER IS NOT FOR [THE DISCIPLES] ALONE. I PRAY ALSO FOR THOSE WHO WILL BELIEVE IN ME THROUGH THEIR MESSAGE. That means you! It means me. It includes your Christian parents and anybody else on the face of the earth today who trusts in Jesus Christ. Our Father God gave these people to Jesus as a treasure. And so He prays for them, for you, for me.
You know, little kids don’t get very far in Sunday School – let alone confirmation class – before we start teaching them what Jesus Christ did to save them from sin and death. We teach them that Jesus came down into this world to live a holy life in your place. We tell them how Jesus taught people about God, how Jesus willingly suffered when they tortured and made fun of Him. We tell them how Jesus died on a cross, carrying the burden of the world’s sins on His own back. We tell them how Jesus came alive on the third day and showed with power how God our Father accepted the sacrifice He made for you when He suffered, bled and died.
So what did Jesus do to save you? He lived! He suffered! He died! He rose again! You all know that. Even Sunday School children can tell you that. But here is something even sincere Christians don’t think about much: Jesus also prays to save you! The Bible says so: HE IS ABLE TO SAVE COMPLETELY THOSE WHO COME TO GOD THROUGH HIM, BECAUSE HE ALWAYS LIVES TO INTERCEDE FOR THEM. “Intercede” is a fancy word that means Jesus Christ prays for His people.
He’s doing it constantly, the Bible says. There are times when you are weak and your Saviour Jesus asks His Father to pump strength into you to stand up to whatever threatens … and He does! There are moments when Jesus prays that some special temptation you face will not win out and drag you away from God … and you get rescued from it.
One of the strongest ways Jesus prays for you before your Father God is when He acts as your Advocate, like a defence attorney who argues your case in a court of law. The Bible puts it this way, IF ANYBODY DOES SIN, WE HAVE ONE WHO SPEAKS TO THE FATHER IN OUR DEFENCE – JESUS CHRIST, THE RIGHTEOUS ONE. HE IS THE ATONING SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS. Know what that means? That means if you do or say or think something that breaks God’s holy law, when the devil points that out to God and says, “Look there! That guy did wrong! That girl must be punished! God, You’ve got to let them have it!” Every time the evil one tries that, Jesus your Defender, stands up and says, “No, Father! Have mercy! Remember the blood I shed for that guy! Remember the death I died for that girl! Remember how You accepted that payment when You raised Me from the dead!” So, whenever the devil says, “Sin! Sin!” Jesus prays for you and shouts, “Mercy! Mercy!” Whenever the devil demands, “Punish! Punish!” Jesus pleads for you and says, “Forgive! Forgive!”
Jesus is doing this when you think about it, as we are at this moment. Jesus also does this praying in the many other moments when you are not thinking about it at all. God’s Holy Spirit moved the apostle, that servant St. John, to record this prayer in his Gospel-book. The Spirit did not simply do that so you have this prayer on paper as an historical fact. The Spirit did it because the Lord wants to use that truth to make you strong. The Lord wants to give you the comfort you need as a follower of Christ. Jesus Christ lived for you in the past. He died for you centuries ago. He rose from the dead on the third day, as the Bible said He would. Jesus did all those things in the past to save you.
Not just in the past, however, but right now … on this day … time and again in your moment of need, Jesus is praying to save you. Yes, He cares about what happens to our broken world. But He has the deepest heart-love for the believing sons and daughters God gave Him. Jesus prays for you, His beloved children. That’s a gift to you, the confirmands of 2017! God wants you to treasure that gift, to rejoice over it. He invites you personally to hold it close to your heart.
Stored away in my computer I’ve got a prayer calendar. On that document I enter the names of people and situations I’m concerned about and bring to God in my prayers. There are so many that I cannot get to them in a single day. I have them arranged on a calendar so I do not forget to name them before God regularly.
My prayer calendar often misses the mark. Sometimes I’ve asked God to heal people who already got well long ago, but they never told me. Sometimes I probably mention situations that aren’t such a big issue in the Lord’s mind, but they’re big to me. Other times there are concerns which I’m sure are very dear to God’s heart which I fail to pray for at all. My prayer calendar is not perfect for the simple reason that I am not perfect.
Jesus’ prayer list in this Gospel is very simple. You find it in vs. 11: I WILL REMAIN IN THE WORLD NO LONGER, BUT THEY ARE STILL IN THE WORLD, He says about His men. HOLY FATHER, PROTECT THEM BY THE POWER OF YOUR NAME – THE NAME YOU GAVE ME – SO THAT THEY MAY BE ONE AS WE ARE ONE.
Unlike me, Jesus always prays for what matters most. He prays here that God’s Name will keep you, hold you, and preserve you. You confirmands were marked with that Name the day you were baptized. The pastor poured water on your head and said, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
You’ve been walking around with that Name of the true God on your forehead ever since. That Name plugs you into the death Jesus died for you, so that the blessings He won by that death are now yours. That Name plugs you into the resurrection where Jesus came alive, so that the victory Jesus accomplished is yours, too.
Today you will stand in this public place before God and all the witnesses who are present here. And you are speaking your own public confession of this Name of the one true God Who saves you. Jesus Christ and all the angels in heaven are full of joy today as they look down and watch you do this. Since your baptism God’s Name has been spoken to you. Your parents spoke it to you. They brought you to God’s House so that teachers of our church would speak it to you also. The power of this Name has kept faith alive inside you so you now want to say a big “Yes!” back to the Lord Who said a big “Yes!” to you when you were baptized.
Some people don’t believe that God’s Name has much power in it. Most who think that way don’t turn this power loose in their lives. Let me forecast this: If you keep praying in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit from this day forward, that Name will not let you go 5 or 10 or even 50 years from now. If you keep coming to hear God’s Name spoken in the worship of His people faithfully from this day forward, that Name will hold you close to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Name guards God’s beloved children. It preserves and makes them strong. If people wander off – and many confirmands do wander off, it grieves me to say – it’s not because God’s Name has no power. It’s because people let go of it. They let it fade. They don’t call on it in prayer, don’t listen to it being sounded and sung.
HOLY FATHER, PROTECT THEM BY THE POWER OF YOUR NAME … SO THAT THEY MAY BE ONE AS WE ARE ONE. Jesus and His Father were completely one in love and purpose. The Father gave glory to Jesus by showing Him to the world as the One Rescuer who can save people forever. Jesus gave glory to His Father by making His Name known as the one God Who cared enough to send His Son down here to buy us back.
When God called you to faith, He did not call you to believe in Christ alone. At that moment He placed you into a believing family – like our church family here – where God’s Name is honoured, where people call on it, preach and teach it. You don’t need me to tell you that it was good you were born into a human family. Long before you even thought about it, your parents worked hard to meet your needs – to feed you, clothe you, give you a place to live, to encourage you and even to correct you when you needed it.
It’s a blessing that God puts His children into a believing church family. You’re blessed by the family here, though you may not have thought of that. The fathers and mothers of our church cared enough to set up this place where Christ’s Name would be preached and taught in a lasting way in this part of Winnipeg. They sacrificed and worked and donated to construct this building, to keep it repaired, to recruit teachers for the young, to call pastors and to provide for them so they could make a living. Those blessings were already given before you were old enough to think about them.
You, dear confirmands, are called to bless this believing family, too. The Bible says, IN CHRIST WE WHO ARE MANY FORM ONE BODY, AND EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS. Let me repeat that last bit again: EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS. That means other members of the family have a claim on you. They have a right to receive encouragement from you, just as you have received encouragement from other people here.
When God’s Name is kept alive, sounded, called on, loved and praised, the Father answers this very private prayer Jesus spoke long ago. He brings His children close to each other. He makes them one, just as Jesus and the Father are one.
Want to hear a story from ancient history? I’ll tell you of my own Confirmation Day. It was May 25, 1969, 48 years ago last week. I remember just a few things: We had 31 kids in our confirmation class. We had a party in the afternoon in Grandma’s backyard, because her yard was bigger than ours. I think there was a cake, but I don’t remember anything about it. I got a confirmation certificate, but I don’t know where it is anymore. My parents gave me a hymnbook with my name printed in gold letters on the front; that I still do have. I don’t remember any other gifts.
Maybe you won’t remember much either, 48 years from now. That’s okay. But this prayer Jesus prayed to His Father is a deep gift to you 2017 confirmands, and for all you other confirmands of years gone by. It’s a sign of Jesus’ love, that this is how He thinks about you and prays for you. It’s a reminder of what really matters, what He longs for you to have. He longs for you to have and to hold that beautiful saving Name put on your forehead long ago, the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s the Name you are privileged and honoured to confess today. May God preserve you in it, together with all the rest of us, until we shout and sing it on high with saints and angels forever and ever. Amen.
Rev. Robert Bugbee