Is it okay to ask the Son of God to pray for you? Have you ever had things going so bad in your life – have you ever been so confused by what’s going on around you in your life – have you ever had so many things, so many people, so many questions coming at you all at the same time in your life — that you didn’t just want someone else to pray for you, but you wanted Jesus Christ himself to do that praying? Whether you have ever thought about doing that or not, would Jesus even do it if you did ask him? And what would Jesus say if he did say, “For you I will pray?” As we close out our Easter season worship theme of “Unless I See…,” let’s see whether these words of prayer of Jesus to his Father in John chapter 17 can allow us to say to God’s Son when we have trouble seeing his love or his plan, “Pray for me, Jesus!”
Please look again at that opening verse where we see Jesus praying for himself: “After Jesus said this, he looked to heaven and prayed, ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you.’” Can you guess what kinds of things were part of the “this” that Jesus had just been saying before he started praying? In past sermons Pastor Casmer and Pastor Free have shown us that several of our sermon texts during this Easter season were words spoken by Jesus the night before he died, and that is true for these words, too What Jesus had just said on this night before his death was this: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” And then Jesus said, “Father, the time has come. Father, the time has come for glory. Father, the time has come for glory because tomorrow I am going to die…”
And that’s where we have to stop for a bit. How can I dare ask Jesus to pray for me, when I know that on the next day he was going to die because of me? He says he was going to glory, but there is no glory in my mind when I think that the blows that were going to come on his head and his body that night were because of the woes I caused with all the things I have done wrong in my head and my body every night and every day. My mean words, my feeble excuses, my filthy thoughts, my hurtful actions, my inability to straighten out my life – all those “my” things caused the things that happened to Jesus that night.
And yet Jesus says, “Even with all these bad things that are going to happen, Father, this is going to be a time of glory.” And why? Verse 2: “For you granted him (talking about himself) authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” The reason that Jesus was so glad to be able to say that he was going to be completing the work his Father gave him to do was because he knew that this was the work – the work of dying for all those things we have done wrong – and then rising from death to prove that all things were now right with God – Jesus knew that this was the work that meant that you and I could have eternal life – that you and I could live forever – that you and I can know that when we close our eyes one final time, we are going to see Jesus, and we are going to be able to thank Jesus, and we are going to be able to stay right near Jesus, and we are never again going to have to be afraid of any trouble that throughout the years of our life has made us want to say, “Pray for me Jesus.”
Jesus knew the time of glory had come because what he was going to finish doing in those next three days meant that what was going to be true for Jesus when he went back to his Father was going to be true for all of us who believe in him, which is what he talked about in verse 5 at the end of the first large paragraph: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Someday you and I are going to see Jesus as he is because of who he is – the eternal Lord God. And that’s why from the bottom of our heart we can have every reason to want to say, “Pray for me, Jesus.” Pray for me because you returned to the glory from which you came. Pray for me, because that means you are God – and, what means everything in the world to me, you are myGod.
The last few weeks I have done a fair amount of traveling, and one of the things that allowed me to do while driving in my car was to listen to a long audio book about some of the people and battles of the second world war — stories that were fascinating for my ears to hear, stories that very easily filled my eyes with sad, but thankful tears. Especially on this Memorial Day weekend it is appropriate to think about what so many have endured in various wars and battles, whether it was suffering beyond comprehension or even, of course, the loss of life. It seems almost impossible not to have an extra appreciation for what we have in our nation because of the sacrifices of so many in an effort to protect others around the world – and to protect us in our world. God bless all those who have served us – and who do serve us — by protecting us from some of the kinds of troubles that Jesus said we would have in this world that he spoke about to his disciples that night.
It’s that sort of thought in a spiritual Memorial Day sense that Jesus is talking about in the second main paragraph beginning with verse 6 – the thought of protection. In other words, in the first paragraphs he talks about his glory and why we would want him to pray for us, and in the second paragraph he talks about why it would be worth asking him to pray for us – his protection. Only in this case it is not the protection of armies, but the protection of the Lord and Commander of all. It is the protection that also makes it impossible not to have an extra appreciation for what it means to belong to Jesus in the nation of his family. Jesus speaks of that protection in the last verse of our lesson – verse 11: “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. 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.”
The name Jesus is our protection, because the name Jesus means Savior. The name Jesus means that no matter how much we have gone away from God, through the blood of Jesus we are one with God. The name Jesus means that no matter how much we wonder if God has gone away from us, through the blood of Jesus God is one with us. He cannot harm us because that would be harming himself. It is those promises which God uses to protect us when we are scared or worried, when we are confused or sad, when there seems to be no hope or when we think we have exhausted every opportunity for help. It is those promises which are part of God’s Word that Jesus uses to protect us – to keep us safe from any thought that Jesus doesn’t love me or that Jesus isn’t waiting for me. What Jesus said of his disciples in verse 6 is what he also says of us. Verse 6: “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.”
It’s interesting, I think, to see that the word that Jesus uses when he says we have “obeyed” his Word is the same word that he uses when he asks his heavenly Father to “protect” us by the power of his name. That word means to guard something very carefully because you don’t want to lose it, maybe like when you keep checking for your wallet or purse if you are in an area that is known for pickpockets or thieves. Because the devil so much wants to steal our faith by getting us to think that God doesn’t want to protect us – to guard us carefully – Jesus all the more wants us to keep guarding carefully the Word of God which tells us time and time again that God does protect us. He protects us from having to be afraid that we won’t go to heaven. And he protects us from having to worry that Jesus isn’t watching over us until we get there. For just as we can want to say, “Pray for me, Jesus,” because you returned to the glory from which you came, we can also want to say, “Pray for me, Jesus,” because you have given me the promise of your protecting name.
So, is it okay to ask of the Son of God, “Pray for me, Jesus?” The fact is that he already is doing so – and he always will. The apostle Paul once wrote that while Jesus is now in heaven, he is at the right hand of God “interceding” for us. That means he is speaking up for us; he is talking to his heavenly Father about us; he is praying for us. You can be sure that he actually is at God’s right hand, because he did complete the work he prayed about on that night so many years ago. He once again lives in holy glory. And you can be sure that his completed work which guarantees that you will live in that holy glory is not going to stop protecting you until that glory becomes your own. So, yes – in all the craziness of life – and because of all the craziness of life — pray for me, Jesus. And pray for everyone else I love, too. Amen.