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Worship Series: Change of Plans
Worship Theme: It Feels Like Jesus Left Us
First Lesson: 1 Samuel 1:21-28 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: John 17:1-11 (EHV)
Hymns & Songs: CW 473 Savior, I Follow On, I Am Not Alone, Lift Up Your Eyes, CW 439 Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: It Feels Like Jesus Left Us
Today we are going to look at Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17. This is the end of Jesus’ “Upper Room Discourse” with his disciples. He is on the cusp of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. If these are some of Jesus’ last words before he will be taken from them, these are very important words for them and us to hear. The disciples are about to feel abandoned, like Jesus just got up and left them. He’s going to die, just when they were beginning to understand who he was. How could the Son of God allow himself to be cut down like this? How could he leave the disciples to fend for themselves in this sin-infested world? John 17 allows us to see directly into the heart of our Savior as he prays to his heavenly Father. He opens up about God’s plan of salvation and outlines his deep love for his followers (believers). Even though it felt like Jesus had left the disciples, he hadn’t. This prayer shows us Jesus was still going to be with them. He would continually intercede for them with actions and words.
As our text opens up, Jesus looks towards the heavens and starts praying. This was completely normal in ancient times, as it showed a person’s attitude in prayer. You can try this today at home, if you want. Later in the service when we pray, you can look up to the sky, showing you know that God is above you in stature and majesty. In addition, Jesus looking up shows us exactly whom he’s talking to. He’s praying to the Father.
What does the Savior of the entire world pray for first? He prays for himself. What? Himself? How could he? Now hold on, the more time you spend in God’s Word, the more you realize that even when it seems like Jesus is being selfish, he’s really being unselfish. Jesus asks for his work to be successful for the benefit of others. It’s time for Jesus to face off against sin, death, and the devil, a contest pay-per-view would drool over. The stakes? The world and everyone in it. All people are included in God’s plan of salvation. The hour has come. Jesus is about to put his perfect, sinless life on the line. He is going to suffer and die. He is going to take the punishment of the entire world and bear it on his own shoulders...alone! It seems like an impossible situation and yet Jesus is going to win. It’s not even going to be close. There was never any doubt. Even before this happened, the Bible talked about Jesus’ saving work through death on a cross as past tense. It was as good as done. Through this victory Jesus was going to win glory for himself and the Father. This glory was apparent in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Jesus would continue to glorify the Father by using both his human and divine attributes to show the Father through the Holy Spirit in the gospel message.
Let me explain a little further. Throughout the verses we are looking at today, we see the unity of Jesus and the Father. Jesus is not acting alone. The Father has given Jesus complete authority over all people. The Father is the one who sent him in the first place. When one gets glory, the other gets glory. They are both in this together. In fact, it’s even more than that. They are one together. In verse 5, Jesus talks about how he was with the Father before the creation of the world. How is that even possible if Jesus was born 30 years earlier? Jesus is true God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time. However, Jesus was born as a human to fix a problem for which we had no solution. He took the punishment of our sins and earned glory for the Trinity. Jesus is talking about this glory. The author of this book, John, understood this. He summarizes this in the introduction of this book. ““The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Jesus wants his disciples to know about the glorious victory he was going to win over death, sin, and the devil. That way, when it looked like he had left him, they would know he hadn’t. Instead, he was taking action on their behalf so they would be saved. And not just them, these actions are for you.
When we can’t see Jesus physically we panic and wonder if he really was there in the first place. We are like my two cats, Evee and Mia. I always wondered what our two cats did when Sarah (my wife) and I left the house, so I’d pretend to leave and then hide and watch them. When we were in the house, they were completely relaxed and happy, but when we left, suddenly their eyes would get really big and they’d freak out. You could just see that they would start overthinking things and panic. Looking left, right, up, down, quickly, behind. “Was that a butterfly...or a flying monster out to get me? What was that noise? Was that the neighbor bumping around in the garage... or a cold-blooded murderer out to pour water over our heads and steal our food!? OH NO, THE FOOD!” Then I’d watch as the cats would check on the food and then proceed to freak out some more. They had just eaten 15 minutes ago so their bowls were empty. “Oh no! The food is gone. Someone must have already taken it! How are we going to survive? How long has it been since we last ate? Hours? Days? Months?!” I think I can feel my stomach eating itself already?” I had been hiding for a total of like 5 minutes and they were already freaking out, even though Sarah and I have always come back to take care of them. This time, I hadn’t even left. They just couldn’t see me. This is how we react to Jesus. We panic because we can’t see him. It feels like Jesus left us and we wonder if everything, or even anything, in our lives will be ok. Jesus is reminding you that he has not left us. He continues to act on your behalf and provide for you. Your salvation is assured. Have faith.
Faith is not just a brain knowledge that Jesus is there. It’s a heart knowledge, a knowledge from experience. It's trusting in everything Jesus has done for you. This trust is not misplaced. Verse 4 says, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.” This is not some sort of “maybe this will work out hope.” This is a true hope, a knowledge of certainty, that you have eternal life in heaven because of Jesus. Sin, death, and the devil don’t have the kind of power necessary to take this certainty away. In fact, the only thing that can is unbelief. Jesus died for every single person. The gift of eternal life is already theirs. If people are condemned, it is only because they have rejected the gift for their own lives, excluding themselves through unbelief.
Jesus showed us the actions he had taken for us in verses 1-5, but Jesus helps us in more ways than just dying for our sins. In verses 6-11, we see he intercedes for us by praying for our spiritual well-being. He fights for us with his words. In verse 6, he starts praying specifically for his disciples, but his words hold true for any follower of Jesus. The love he has for them is the same love he has for us. Everything he says here is something he says in another place. Even later in this same chapter, we will see Jesus pray many of the same things for all believers (v. 20-26). Don’t just take my word for it. Go check it out for yourselves. No seriously, if this sermon gets you to open your Bible and read, then it’s already been worthwhile. Put me on pause, check it out, and come back. You better come back and unpause me too. Don’t leave me hanging... Welcome back. Point is, we can take much of what Jesus is saying about the disciples and apply it to ourselves.
Ok, let’s jump back to our text at verse 6. Jesus tells us how he reveals himself to believers. It is worth mentioning that even though Jesus was with the disciples physically, he still revealed God through the Word; the same means God uses when revealing himself to us. If you paused me earlier and read that section of the Bible, God was revealing himself and his glory to you while you read. Pretty cool, right? Jesus was constantly giving the disciples his Word, even when he was with them physically. The Holy Spirit worked through that word and the disciples believed. They did not reject God’s Word through unbelief, but obeyed. This is true for all believers. The Father and Son are working in unity to reveal God’s wonderful message of a Savior. We receive this truth and believe.
There is more. We see in verse 9 that Jesus prays for his followers. He says, “I am not praying for the world.” This is not because Jesus hates the world or anything like that. Jesus has prayed for the world multiple times. The reason he does not pray for the world here is that his followers are in the world, but not of it (verse 14). The world is not their real home; that’s heaven. This world is often opposed to God and he wants you to be near to him; not opposed to him. So Jesus is praying that his followers have spiritual protection in this dangerous world full of spiritual pitfalls. Jesus continues speaking for us all the time.
This is a hard concept for us to understand because we see things so differently from how God sees things. It’s really easy to think God doesn’t have our best interests at heart. When I get a paper cut, sometimes I think. “Why God? Why?” It’s kind of pathetic, I know, but that’s what goes through my mind. It bothers us when we don’t know the reasons God is doing something. Like, since he doesn’t tell us everything, we expect God to send us a text every 10 seconds checking with us to approve what he is doing. We crave control. We think that the sole purpose for God’s existence is to give us a life absent of pain and to give us exactly what we want. Thank God, that’s not how God thinks. He does prevent some pain from happening on earth, but definitely not all. He cares about your physical well-being, but he’s a lot more concerned about your spiritual well-being. He wants you to grow in your spiritual faith and so he doesn’t prevent all bad things from happening, but gives you the strength to endure, the strength to get through bad things. In this way, he trains you and protects you. Sometimes, he doesn’t give you what your sinful nature wants in the short term because he has a better plan for you in the long-term.
Verse 10 helps explain it well. Since Jesus redeemed/bought us from sin, we belong to him. In other words, we are freed from sin and are adopted by God into his family. He’s not going to let someone that is in his family and under his protection fend for himself. Instead, he works through you to increase the Christian family and bring people to see the glory of our God and his work.
All of this leads up to our final verse. It’s as if Jesus has been giving reasons leading up to his request for his followers in verse 11. Jesus knows his disciples will not be able to see him immediately after his death and then later on after he ascends into heaven. Therefore, he asks the Father to protect them and give them unity in his name. This is the type of unity that comes from having the same truth, the same faith we received in Christ. Jesus says this prayer aloud for their benefit. Even after they can’t see him, he will still be interceding for them with his words.
There are going to be days when you feel God isn’t there. There will be days when you think God isn’t showing himself to you in your life. On those same days, you can know God hasn’t abandoned you. The forgiveness of sins that comes from his death on a cross continues to reach into your life today. His actions continue to benefit you. He intercedes for you with his words, asking for your spiritual protection and helping to carry it out. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, we see everything we need to see and hear everything we need to hear to know he has not abandoned his followers. He is with us and he isn’t going anywhere. Amen.