Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Son Asks for Me

Jesus' prayer in John 17 is rich: a blessed prayer that has invoked worship and assurance of God's love in Christians since it was first prayed.  After talking personally with His Father about the success of His mission (the disciples finally fully believe that Jesus is from God in v.8 of the confession in John 16:30), Jesus prays first for the disciples and their continued perseverance after Jesus drinks the cup of the Father's wrath (dies on the cross).  Then, Jesus prays "for those also who believe in Me through their word," (John 17:20).  The final portion of His prayer is for those who will believe in Him through the witness of the apostles.  One of those apostles, John, wrote down this prayer later in life.  So, all of us who are Christians today, who have believed because of the enduring witness of the apostles preserved in the New Testament Scriptures, are the recipients of Jesus' prayer in John 17:20-26.

Besides the sheer wonder that Jesus prayed for me particularly before walking the dark path to His death on the cross is the added beauty of the content of that prayer.  Jesus prays poignantly, "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me," (John 17:24).  Jesus, the eternal Son of God, prays a simple request: "Dad, please let the ones You have chosen be with me forever when I am glorified with You in heaven."  That Jesus is returning to the Father to prepare a place for us is alluded to in John 14:3, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."  That Jesus is talking about His post-resurrection and post-ascension glory is hinted at by Jesus' prayer to be glorified with the glory He had with God before the world was made (John 17:5).  But, most preciously, the Gospel of John has particularly demonstrated that whatever the Son asks of the Father, the Father gives.

One vivid example will suffice to emphasize the efficacy of the Son's prayers.  At a stone tomb in Bethany, amid the weeping of Mary, Martha, and other Jewish mourners, Jesus acknowledges, "Father, I thank You that you have heard Me," before declaring with death-defying power, "Lazarus, come forth," (John 11:41-43).  Jesus must have prayed to His Father for Lazarus to be raised, and was so confident the Father would raise him that He called the dead man out.  Jesus' confidence in His Father's loving provision for His prayers is also evidenced in His prayerful advice to His disciples: "if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you," for as the Father so loves the Son that He gives Him what He asks, so He loves those who believe in His Son (John 16:23).

The encouragement is not that I can pray, "God, give me a million dollars, in Jesus name. Amen," and He will give it to me.  This is by no means praying according to the name, character, and living legacy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Rather, the encouragement is that we have a twice-backed divine promise that those of us who believe in Jesus as the eternal Son and perfect Savior will be with God, and with our Messiah forever.  First, Jesus promises to return to take us with Him (John 14:3), then He asks the Father to make this so (John 17:24).  How rich a promise and how great an assurance we then have.

Such an assurance first is a blessing that the Holy Spirit uses in my heart to dispel the groundless accusations of God's defeated enemy.  When Satan whispers doubts like, "What if there is not a God?" or "What if you are not really saved?", I can cling to Christ's prayer: "I desire that with Me."  This same assurance also serves to prompt my heart to Spirit-filled effort to obey Christ.  He gave His life to purchase me from sin, and now in my ongoing battle caught between my new master, Christ, and my former, sin, I have His Spirit to enable me to obey Christ.  When I pray for strength, I am praying for the strength to obey the One who asks His Father to have me as His friend forever.  Praise God for such a powerful and loving Savior.

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