John 17:11b-19 // 1 John 5:9-15 // Acts 1:12-26
Seventh in a series of seven, Jesus Building His Kingdom
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is John 17, Jesus’s prayer for his disciples: Holy Father (and I summarize) keep them in your name; keep them from the evil one. Give them joy. Make them holy.
Dear friends in Christ,
In our Easter sermon series we are focused on Jesus building His Kingdom near and far. We have said it again and again in recent months that Jesus is on a mission to seek and to save lost sinners, and He has invited every local congregation big and small to join Him on that mission. Our Easter Sunday sermon focused on Jesus risen and living for us, the week after that Jesus preparing us to be kingdom builders, then Jesus persuading Thomas and us, then our Good Shepherd shepherding us, Jesus abiding in us. Last week, we explored what it means for Jesus to be choosing us. Today, Jesus prayingfor us.
If your mom wanted one thing for you, what would it be? Or rather, I’m going to say it a different way, if you had to articulate your wishes, what would they be?
In these days, Benjamin is learning to put on his pants and pull on his socks, which first causes me to remember again how many learned activities you forget that you learned and how difficult it can be to explain a seemingly simple task. But in these days the temptation is to do it all for him. It’s faster. It’s more efficient. There are certainly less tears.
Although, it might do for the short term, it doesn’t help him in the long-term. What he truly needs is for me teach him and to expect him to do better than he can do right now. And so, although it is more expedient for me to do whatever will make my child quiet and happy, my prayer for Benjamin these days has been that he would grow up big and strong and kind and wise, even though it is not easy. Or as Hebrews says, “No discipline is pleasant at the time.”
And so, if your mom wanted one thing for you, what would it be?
In our text for today, we see Jesus in his final prayer before the storm begins.
What is Jesus asking for? He uses three verbs; he has three parts to his prayer.
Part One. Jesus’s first prayer is that his dear and heavenly Father would KEEP them, and if you look at our whole text, you’ll find that he’s asking that his Holy Father would keep them in two ways. 1) In your NAME. and (2) From the EVIL ONE. But notice the verb first. It’s the Greek word ΤΗΡΕΩ – it’s the same word for when Jesus tells his disciples to keep his commandments. Isn’t that wild?
Jesus is asking his father to keep his disciples as he asks his disciples to keep his father’s commandments. Just as he’s asking the disciples to abide in him as he abides in them. He’s asking his father to diligently and wholeheartedly follow after his disciples. This entire section so far (and we’ve been going through it for weeks!)
And the two parts: 1) to keep them in your name. That’s the name spoken over you in your baptism. That’s the name that your sponsors promised to uphold in your life. That’s the name that we begin our service every week with. That’s the name that gives us a worth that isn’t based on abilities and doesn’t fade with time.
And to keep them in your name, he goes on to tell us two things: it’s NOT keeping them out of the world. It IS keeping them from the evil one. What does that mean? It means that we are not called to leave the world, but to be a light in the world. We are not called to separate ourselves but to know the hope that makes us different.
Lord God, keep us today. Keep us in your name, and keep us, even while we are in the world. Keep us from the evil one. Amen.
Second, GIVE them JOY. What is that joy? He says, it’s a joy that come from abiding in his father’s word. It’s a joy found in the places where Christ promises it. It’s a joy that – and listen closely here – it’s a joy that Jesus is expecting to enter soon.
Step back a minute. He’s between the Last Supper and his agony in the Garden, and he’s talking about joy? The darkness is getting deeper. He is dreading the cup that he will drink and in this last hour he’s talking about joy.
One preacher said it like this: “Joy is the product of abiding in commandments and love of God (Do you remember that language from the past few weeks?)… [It] is the experience of peace and contentment because we are kept in the Father’s Name.” This is the joy that widows and widowers can know – a joy that can hold even in the bitter. It is a joy that moms and dads know – it is a joy that keeps their children, regardless of how their life goes.
Lord God, give us joy that lasts, joy that finds significance in what you say, regardless of what circumstances, our intellect, or even our feelings dictate. Amen.
Third, he asks his holy Father to MAKE them HOLY. Notice the progression here. Holy Father, make them holy as I am making myself holy. The holiness of the Father is the holiness of the Son, and that holiness works a holiness in us. So, what does the word holy mean?
It means, “Set apart for special use.” It means that (this is Romans 8) “all things work together for the good of those who love him, who are called according his purpose.” It means that for those called by the gospel, enlightened by its gifts, sanctified (this word means to “make holy”) and kept in the one true faith, we have the everlasting conviction that God is using our words and our deeds in cosmically significant ways, that when we look back from a heavenly perspective, we will see our words and deeds affecting those around us in ways we wouldn’t have imagined, in conjunction with a plan so great that it only could start at the beginning of time and it only ends with the recreation of the universe.
Lord God, make us holy as you are holy. Set apart our words and deeds to do more than we can imagine. Remind us again and again how big the Body of Christ is. Amen.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town that God is keeping in the world in his name, even as he keeps it from the evil one. God is giving them joy that lasts in all circumstances. He is making them holy for a purpose only he can fathom. And among them are at least some no good sinners who are wondering if there is any point to it all. They doubt their place. They doubt they have worth, but in his quiet way, their savior feeds them with his Gospel, and his message, his prayer, for them stays the same on the good days and on the bad.
What does Jesus pray for us? That his Holy Father would keep us. That we would have joy. That his Holy Father would make us holy.
And if he prays for that, what should we pray for?
Amen and Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther