'What does Jesus pray for us in heaven?
Jesus is reigning in glory.
We are told that he is in heaven and is praying for us.
And John 17 is one of the prayers that Jesus prays for us.
It is the final prayer of Jesus before they arrest him and
take him to be crucified.
He pours out his heart – his deepest desire – to God his Father.
And what he prays for his disciples then – he prays for us now.
SO WHAT DOES JESUS PRAY?
He prays that we, his people, are protected so that we might be one.
V11: ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one’.
V21: ‘I ask .. that they may all be on. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us’
V23: ‘I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one’.
We usually pray for protection from enemies, persecution, poverty, stress, shame, loneliness, sickness, sadness and things like that.
But Jesus doesn’t pray that we will be protected from those things – at least not here.
In fact, we are told that we will experience most of those things for a little while, at some point in our lives, because we live in a world that is in rebellion against God, where those things happen.
And Jesus does not ask the Father to remove his people from this world, but to protect his people in the world so that we are not scattered or lost.
Jesus says that when he is lifted up on the cross he will draw all peoples to himself.
It is not a Jew, but a Roman centurion who looks at Jesus on the cross and who exclaims, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’.
And we look at Jesus on the cross and we see the wonderful purposes and wisdom of God, the love of God in giving himself for the sins of the world, the forgiveness and mercy that pours from the heart of God, the power of God in defeating sin and evil – as Jesus resists all temptations that would prevent him going to the cross.
And the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus gathers to himself his people from around the world. People who look at the cross and say truly this man is the Son of God. We are from all places and all times. And he is our centre.
But now he is going away, and so he prays to the Father, to protect his people ‘so that they may be one, just as [he and the Father] are one’.
Remember what we said a few weeks ago.
It is not this sort of unity, one individual coming against another individual,
but this sort of unity (hands clasped) – where we become part of each other.
Jesus is praying that we will be like this (hands clasped)
He is praying that God will protect us from the things that separate us from him – who is the source of our unity – and that separate us from each other.
He is praying that God will protect us from the evil one.
It is the evil one who would make us doubt his words.
These are the words which we have believed, received and kept (v6), which he has given us (v8) and through which he makes us holy (v17).
And it is the evil one who would scatter us.
And so Jesus is praying that God would send his Holy Spirit into our hearts and protect us from the pride which says that I do not need God or his word, that I know better, and which looks down on others and thinks that I am better than them, of more value than them, that I do not need them.
He is praying that God will protect us from the refusal to offer forgiveness or accept forgiveness.
He prays that God will protect us so that we do not, having come to him, harden our hearts and shut our ears to him and to others.
He prays that Father God will protect us from being people who seek our own glory, our own interests
Do you notice that when Jesus prays that the Father will glorify him – he actually prays, ‘Father glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you’ (v1).
Father and Son are so united (hands clasped) that the glory of One is the glory of the Other. If Jesus is glorified, the Father is glorified.
The universe in rebellion against God tells you that you need to seek your glory at the expense of someone else’s glory. If you don’t eat the other, they’ll eat you.
The divine community, which reflects the Trinity, and is gathered around Jesus is so structured that the way to gain glory for yourself is to give glory to the other. That the glory of the other is my own glory.
That is why it so important to Jesus that we should be one with each other, as he is one with the Father (clasp hands)
We were created to live in communion with God and in communion with each other.
And it is why when we live like that, we will know joy (‘that they may have my joy made complete in themselves’ v13)
This is a unity that is bigger than our church structures and denominations and organisations and labels. It is a heart communion.
It is something that we can occasionally experience.
You are with someone and you just know that they are a fellow believer in the Lord Jesus. The Spirit that is in you and the Spirit that is in them, just says yes!
It was a bit like when Mary, pregnant with the Lord Jesus, met Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist. The baby in Elizabeth leapt with joy in her womb.
But even when we do not experience it, it is still a reality.
We may be separated by the denomination we worship in or the network we are part of, by the theological language that we speak, by the way that we worship, by how we interpret passages of scripture – and that is a tragedy and we need to work for unity - but it does not change the fact that if you have received Jesus, you are united to Jesus and you are united to all who have received Jesus – and there is something, a mystical something, which means that our identity, our destiny, our glory, our joy is interconnected. That we are one in our faith in Jesus.
Jesus prays that the Father will protect his people and make them one
And then the Holy Spirit came - the Holy Spirit, who comes in the name of Jesus (John 14:26) who has been given the name of the Father (v11)
And it is the Holy Spirit of the Father and of Jesus who will protect us from the evil one, and who will keep us as one.
It is the Holy Spirit who shows us Jesus and unites us with him, who melts our hard hearts, who opens our eyes to God and to others, who leads us to repentance, who gives us different gifts (gifts which compliment each other, which make us aware that we need each other), who transforms us and grows in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generousity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Do you notice how all those wonderful fruits of the Spirit, with the possible exception of joy, are explicitly about how we relate to each other.
2000 years ago, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given to the first followers of Jesus
He came on them, and filled them, and he comes on all who have come to Jesus and received Jesus. If you have received Jesus, you have received the gift of the Spirit. And we need to allow the Spirit to work in us.
But today, as we remember the ascended Jesus who prays for us, and as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost next Sunday, we pray – in confidence - that God in his mercy will fill us again with his Holy Spirit, and that he will protect us and keep us in him, that he will keep us as one.