Sermons

< Back

Christ Prays for You!

May 13, 2018
By Pastor David French

See the Weekly Bulletin

Christ Prays for You!
John 17:11b-19

Given how things are shaking out for Christians in this world nowadays, the thought of wanting to separate ourselves from all the craziness and perversion and corruption and hatred and hypocrisy and persecution makes perfect sense.  There are plenty of times that I have thought the Amish may be onto something when it comes to interacting with the rest of this fallen world.  And yet, it is against that very separation that our Lord prays.  “I do not ask you [heavenly Father] to take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  Let them be in the world, but not of the world.”

Now the immediate context tells us that Jesus prayed this “high priestly prayer” on Maundy Thursday just hours before He was betrayed to death.  Jesus was obviously praying for His apostles; the same men who, in just a few hours, would abandon and forsake Him as they attempted to create as much separation between Him and them as they could to save themselves.  But then, can you imagine how those disciples would’ve felt seeing their hope of life eternal being beaten and humiliated and finally nailed to a tree to be forsaken and cursed by God?  They’d obviously wanted nothing to do with that, which brings up a good question: Was the prayer of Jesus ineffective?

Now I ask this question because this is the point where most people experience their moments of doubt.  No doubt we all think we know what Jesus means when He prays this petition, but what does Jesus NOT mean?  This is where doubt and anger and unbelief, like yeast, make their way into our faith.  This is where the devil finds a chink in our armor and begins to exploit and infiltrate and wear down.  Why?  Because bad things happen to believers.

Evil people do seem to get ahead while good people seem to get the short end of the stick.  Life just isn’t fair.  That’s the conventional wisdom, and Scripture seems to reinforce that fact time and time again.  If you are faithful, if you are good and God-pleasing in the exercise of your faith, you can consider yourself a marked person.  The devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh will seek to destroy you.  They will never stop working to bring an end to your contentment and peace.  That is, as we hold to Christ, we will experience hardship and pain and sorrow in our lives.

Now, to be sure, much of the pain and sorrow we experience and complain about in our cushy, contemporary setting isn’t necessarily a result of our being “good Christians,” but simply a result of our being children of Adam.  And this is where satan does some of his best work, that is blurring of the lines between the reality our fallen nature and living a life of faith in a fallen world.

Christians aren’t the only ones who get cancer or lose their job, their savings, or those they love.  Christians aren’t the only ones who experience bankruptcy or hunger or sickness or pain or sorrow or hurt feelings.  And yet, when these crosses happen, we often cry out to God as if He’s not keeping up His end of the bargain; as though we deserve a free pass from things uncomfortable or unpleasant.  “I try to live as a faithful witness and repent when I fail.  I’ve prayed again and again, ‘Lord deliver me from this evil,” and nothing happens.  Why should I pray if you’re not going to do what I want?!”

See how easy it can be to confuse the symptoms of sin with the reality of life in a fallen world.  When we experience pain and sorrow in our daily life, we’re tempted to understand that as we did something wrong.  We’re tempted to find the assurance of our faith by how things are going for us in life instead of holding to the death and resurrection Christ.  And it’s not because of a weakness of faith, but the strength of our sinful human nature that when times of testing come into our lives, without thought, we sometimes begin to panic and start reaching out for anything that might give us the assurance that we need.  The truth is, that’s a perfect time for satan to try and get us to take our eyes off of the cross, and our feet off the path that leads to it.  And, make no mistake, satan is always looking for opportunities to draw us away or to separate us from the only assurance of our acceptance in God’s sight and our only source of lasting comfort and peace.  My friends, it is by God’s grace and the working of the Holy Spirit alone that we don’t give in and follow the path that leads away and would separates us from Christ and His cross forever.

That’s why Jesus prays, “Keep them in Your name.”  Remember, Jesus knows better than you do what it is that you need.  He knows how to give you the peace and assurance and hope and confidence that you so desperately crave. Dear children of God, it is my joy and privilege to tell you again that God’s Word gives these gifts to you and His Word is certain and true.  Think about your baptism into Christ.  That is your justification.  That is where spirit gave birth to spirit and God Himself made you His own.  It is where He is giving you His Son’s victory over sin, death, and the devil.  Look at the altar—the very table of your Savior.  It is there He feeds and nourishes you with His own life-giving body and blood as God works a miraculous divine communion.

Now just let that sink in a bit.  God comes to us to forgive and commune (or be as one) with us.  It was and is the sin of humanity that separates and creates enmity.  Adam and Eve turned away from God, and because of our sinfulness, we’re still trying to run and hide from the one and only source of forgiveness, life, and true peace.  Still, the words of Jesus, “… how often I have longed to gather your children together like a hen, but you were not willing” … ring true.  That’s why Jesus comes to us.  He comes to bring us into communion with Himself, to restore what sin destroyed.  He comes to give us His life and with it the promise that all this will one day come to an end, and all who believe will be together with Him who is pure love.

The world we live in is coming apart.  Things are bad and they will only get worse.  But take heart, for you belong to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Lamb who made you His own through the water and the word of your baptism, the Lamb who speaks words of forgiveness to you, the Lamb who is nourishing you with His life-giving Body and Blood, the Lamb who is the Prince of the peace that surpasses human understanding.

Your Lord prays for you in the midst of His trial and tribulation, but He doesn’t pray that you never experience pain and sorrow while living your faith in a Christ-hating world.  He doesn’t pray that you never bear crosses.  But, Christ does pray that we bear our crosses faithfully, using them to show a childlike trust in Him no matter what life throws at us.  He prays for you, so that when you do experience those pains and sorrows that come with your crosses, you will by grace through faith hold even tighter to Him and His promise of grace and mercy.  Yes, even now, Christ prays for you.  And if God is for you, who can be against you?

May the truth of God’s love for you be your deep-seeded peace as He guards and keeps your hearts and minds in Christ our Lord and merciful Savior. 

In His Name Amen.