Readings: John 17: 1-19, 20-26
‘Always here for us’
Things were getting tough and Jesus was close to the end of his life on earth. He had shared a meal with his disciples, he had washed their feet, he had promised to send them the Holy Spirit and he had spoken about going back to be with the Father; and now, just before being arrested, he begins to pray. But what a time to pray. You would think that Jesus would have been too busy or too worried, but he finds the time to pray for himself, for his friends and for us.
His prayer begins with a kind of review of his life’s work and just as his life had been centred on God’s glory (v4) so was Jesus’ prayer. He prayed for himself, not so that he could escape, but that God’s glory would be seen in him. His prayer was characterised by submission and obedience. What he really wanted was for his people to look at the way he behaved and from that to see what God is like: forgiving, loving and kind. When we pray is that what we want, for God to be glorified by the way we behave? I believe that we need to go back to basics, being living stones. We need to love one another, forgive one another and unite together in Christ. In verse 6, Jesus began to pray for his disciples. These were his friends, the ones who were closest to him and would carry on his work. For them he asked for three things: Protection, joy and sanctification.
Jesus prayed that his friends would be protected from harm from the evil one. He prayed that they would be united, joyful and belong to God. He wanted them to be ready to do the special job that he had ready for them which was to tell everyone about him. Jesus knew that the following weeks were going to be difficult for the disciples, after his death they would be scared and confused. Jesus also knew that after he came back to them alive they would be amazed and concerned about the future. So he prayed for them and also asked for them to be sanctified, but what does that mean? The dictionary says: sanctify means to be made holy, free from sin, justified, to be made legitimate. But for that prayer to be answered, Jesus had to hang on a cross.
Finally, Jesus went a stage further, he prayed for all people that the disciples would reach with the message of salvation, which of course includes us!
That night in the upper room, Jesus was praying for you and me. He prayed that we would be united, kept safe and know that he is living in us.
All this happened 2,000 years ago but the best bit, the most wonderful bit, is that Jesus is still praying for us. As we pray he is always listening and interceding for us to the Father.
Revd Jim Thorneycroft