Jesus Prays For His Disciples
Seventh Sunday of Easter Trinity Lutheran Church
17 May 2015 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
He’s about to be arrested, betrayed, put on trial, and hung on the cross. He will be given the cup to drink – the cup of God’s wrath against every sin that’s been committed and against every sinner that’s ever lived. The next day – Good Friday — He will bear the sin of the world in His Body on the cross and get damned with it. Counted as the Sinner! Maximum Sinner! And only He can do it! This is what it takes to save sinners – and as a sinner YOU QUALIFY for the salvation Jesus does! After all, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” (Matthew 9:12).
And what does He do with this incredible and excruciating burden on His mind and heart? He … prays. Well, that’s a no brainer. But what does come, as the shocker, is the content of His prayer. Check it out! Jesus prays not for Himself! You’d think He would but He doesn’t. Incredibly, He prays for His disciples.
Well, don’t be so shocked. HE IS the Savior of the world after all. He lives not for Himself. He denies Himself in order to live for His disciples. He lovingly lays down His life into death for His “friends” (John 15:13). So it shouldn’t surprise you one bit then that He prays for His disciples, His friends.
They need His prayers. After all, Jesus will send them into the world. A world that will hate them just as the world hates Jesus. And the tasks and responsibilities Jesus gives His apostles are enormous. Salvationly huge! The apostles are to preach God’s Word. They are to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of sinners. They are to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the Triune Name and teaching everything Jesus has commanded. They are to bind unrepentant sinners and to loose repentant sinners. They are to give the Lord’s most holy body and blood into the mouths of sinners with the Lord’s promise that their sins are forgiven.
But they are just men! Sinful and feeble men. Are they up to this crucial work? The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak! What if they fail? They’re puny nobodies. Deadbeat losers really! None of them are a good fit to do what Jesus calls them to do for the sake of the church. There is a betrayer in their midst. Another is a denier, not once but THREE TIMES. Doubters they are. When push comes to shove they all take off – make a mad dash for cover. Won’t be caught dead hanging around this Jesus – especially when He suffers incredible brutality and dies a horrific death on the cross. What then of the gospel? Especially in a world that hates what these men are tasked to do. And when the world tag teams with Satan look at what they will do to Jesus! Nail Him to the cross! What do you think the world and Satan will do with these frail and fragile apostles? Surely it will be a piece of cake to get rid of such pathetic men or get them to compromise and diminish Jesus.
Then there would be no preaching of the gospel. No baptizing and teaching. No absolution. No lord’s suppering. All would be lost. His death on the cross would be for nothing. And there would be no church on the earth.
Well, that’s precisely why Jesus prays for them! “I am praying for them,” He says to the Father, “for those whom you have given me” (John 17:9). He knows who they are. He’s under no false impressions about them. He knows their weak spots, their Achilles’ heels, and all their flaws. He must pray for them. They are nothing! He is everything! He will see to it that they do what He’s given them to do for the sake of having a church on the earth – a bunch of hangers on – a bunch of believers in Him.
Listen to part of His prayer again. “Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, which You have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth … for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
This is not the prayer of just a man. This is the prayer of the eternal and divine Son of God the Father – the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He is the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given. That’s who prays for them! Jesus, the Great High Priest, on His way the very next day to Golgotha, speaks this intercession for His apostles. And more. In the verse following today’s text Jesus also prays “for those who will believe in me through their [that is, the apostolic preaching of the] Word,” (John 15:20). In this pray you are included! Every Christian that believes in Jesus as Savior!
Do you realize the importance of Jesus’ praying? It’s this. The intercession of Jesus for the apostles, that is, His ministers and for the church IS THE SECRET of the ministry’s and the church’s existence and preservation in a hostile world that teams up with Satan for their destruction. Jesus prays for His ministers. He prays for the church. The Father hears His Son’s prayer.
Brothers and sisters. This is the miracle of the ministry’s preservation. This is the wonder of the church’s continuation in the world. It is all due to Jesus’ intercession for His ministers and for His church.
Hearing Jesus pray like He does for the ministry and the church on the night He was betrayed should lead all of us to repentance. Seriously. We’re in need of some hard-core repentance. Before it’s too late.
After all, we act like the existence and success of the ministry and the church depend completely on us. We bullishly insist on pastors tickling our ears. Preaching neither the law nor the gospel. “Just make us feel good Reverend! Entertain us Reverend! Indulge us Reverend! Or we’ll get rid of you!”
We feverishly invent all kinds of programs, gimmicks and techniques and pull off all kinds of silly publicity stunts. We spend hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars each year for evangelism workshops and conferences that only berate and cajole their hearers as the “frozen chosen” and pejoratively demonize pastors as maintenance ministers. We speak of our transforming the church – awaking a sleeping giant – moving from maintenance to missional. We passionately preach the missio Dei (the mission of God) but then we brazenly do away with the pastoral office Jesus instituted, offer no one holy Baptism, bind the loosing key, loose the binding key and never build an altar to give out the Lord’s body and blood for sinners. I can assure you, there will be no church if we keep that up! After all, you can’t have the church when you absent Jesus from His church!
So it’s time, high time, to depend only on Jesus. It’s about time we repent of our incessant attempts to take total control of the ministry and the church. As if it’s in our hands to create and maintain the ministry and the church.
Only Jesus does that! That’s why He prays for the ministry and for the church. Only Jesus gives men to serve in the ministry. We heard that in the reading from Acts today when He chose Matthias to succeed Judas in the holy office of the ministry. In this way Jesus preserves the ministry and the church. Again, hear His prayer: “Sanctify them in the truth. Your Word is truth.” The prayer is heard and answered.
God gives men to be ministers in the church to preach the Word, especially the Word of the gospel – the good news that your sins are completely forgiven for Jesus’ sake. They give out the sacramental Word – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The gospel of forgiveness and Baptism creates the church. The Lord’s Supper which is also the gospel “given and shed for your for the forgiveness of your sins” sustains the church.
“I have given them your Word,” Jesus prays. His praying and His Word – again this is the miracle of the ministry’s and church’s existence and preservation in the world. This is certain and sure.
In the Name of Jesus.