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Just be loved

Monday, March 30, 2020

The One who prays for us

WHAT:     READ THE TEXT:  John 17:1-6

SO WHAT:     REFLECT ON THE TEXT:
The purpose of prayer is to talk to God. And Christians talk to Him as our Daddy … as Abba. At least that is the pattern of prayer that Jesus teaches; it is the pattern of prayer that Jesus takes. We always look to our Father. In doing so, we commune with God personally, and we appeal to God on behalf of others.

That is what we find in this moment. We find Jesus communing with God personally while also appealing for us collectively. And this prayer comes in light of the knowledge that life will not always be easy (cf. John 16:33).
The Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne once remarked: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies.”
This seems especially significant to me, seeing as how all 4 gospels often mention Jesus going off by Himself to pray. Here, however, you might say that Christ is praying for you in the next room. Our eternal High Priest intercedes for us so that we need not fear a million enemies, not even a pandemic. The very One who spoke everything into being, prays for you.
In my estimation, Jesus means for this prayer to be overheard as His last words to the church before taking up the cross. They are spoken for us to see His purpose, to draw us to Himself, and to give purpose for our lives.
So what does this prayer teach us about Christ’s purpose, and how should it draw us to Him?
1. Jesus bears God’s name (cf. Exodus 3:13-14; John 6:48, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11 & 14, John 11:25, John 14:6, John 15:1, John 8:58).
2. Jesus bears God’s presence (cf. Exodus 40:34-38, 1 Kings 8:10-13; John 1:14, John 2:19-21).
3. Jesus bears the sins of God’s people. Where does God most fully reveal His glory? Where do we see the totality of His character and perfections of His presence? Where does the fullness of God’s justice and holiness coincide with the fullness of His mercy and love?  Answer:  AT THE CROSS.
     E. Stanley Jones writes, “God wrapped His heart in flesh and blood and let it be nailed to the cross for our redemption.”
Don’t miss it. We follow a humble Savior who gave Himself up so that we might share in the glory He knew before the foundation of the world! (cf. John 17:22).
So I cannot stop here without taking this teaching a step further. Although it is not directly stated in the text, it seems to me that Christ’s purpose has clear implications for our purpose as well.
1. We bear Christ’s name (cf. Acts 11:26).
     Alexander the Great once heard about a man serving in the military who had been named after him. Only the young man was reportedly a coward. Alexander the Great called him into his presence with a simple instruction:  The man must either change his name immediately, or he must behave with the bravery fitting the name which he had been given.
If we claim the name of Christ, we must bear it in accordance with our namesake. People will know us by the love that we freely give.
2. We bear Christ’s presence (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
     Think about people you tend to be on your best behavior around. Growing up, I would never think to act unruly around my Ma Fuller or my Grandmother Gibson. Those two women were simply too lovely … they were simply too good. In a way, you could say that their very presence was transformative for me.
If we come to know God and have a relationship with Him, we cannot continue to act in an unruly fashion. Christ’s presence is transformative. People will know us by the holy lifestyles that we exhibit.
3. We bear the burdens of Christ’s people (cf. Galatians 6:2).
     Right now, I have a friend who is a medical doctor in New York. They ran out of gowns and masks amid this COVID-19 pandemic. I can do so little for him in a tangible way. But I pray for and over him, and then I pray some more.
And Jesus makes it known that we bear one another’s burdens as a united church, not just as separate individuals (cf. John 17:21-23). Together, we bear Christ’s name. Together, we bear Christ’s presence. Together, we bear the burdens of Christ’s people. We imitate our eternal High Priest!
There is a story told of a small pygmy standing over a dead rhinoceros. This was an odd sight to behold — a big, violent rhinoceros under the feet of such a diminutive individual — that a passer-by asked, “Did you kill that?”
The little pygmy responded, “Yeah, I killed it.”
Curious, the man asked, “So how did you, a tiny pygmy, kill this rhinoceros?”
He answered, “With my club. Yep! I killed this rhinoceros with my club.”
The man was still confused. “How big is your club?” he asked.
The pygmy said, “There are about a hundred of us in my club.”
In other words, he was surrounded by others who had the same belief system and worked together so that they could handle being attacked by a rhinoceros.
How will we withstand the attacks that Jesus references in John 17:13-15? How can we remain of good cheer amid times of tribulation, such as what the world is experiencing right now?
We align ourselves with the One who prays for us — our eternal High Priest. We unite in His name, we unite by His presence, and we unite for the good of each other.
Whether there are 100 or 1,000 or however many in our particular churches, I think this period in our history ought to remind us to band together so that we can handle being attacked by a rhinoceros. And I think it ought to remind us to focus again on what really matters — to fix our eyes on the true glory of the cross of Christ.
Redemption has a name, and it’s Jesus!
Amen. Amen.



NOW WHAT:     RESPOND TO THE TEXT:

  • Doesn’t it mean something to all of us to know that someone is praying for us and over us? Who will you pray for today? How will you let people know that you are praying for them?
  • In what ways does knowing that Christ Jesus prayed for you and still intercedes on your behalf at the right hand of the Father encourage you and help you not to fear?
  • How can the current climate of our world draw you to focus on and unite around that which is most important in the church instead of getting side-tracked by insignificant matters that can prove divisive?
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