Summary: Make Jesus' passion your passion, his aims your aims, and pray for these things every day.
THIS PAST TUESDAY, I took a day away from my desk, and Jan and I made a trip to Frisco, which is one of the places we like to go when we can. We ate at a favorite restaurant, relaxed and talked a bit, and then, as we almost always do, we went our separate ways – Jan to shop, and what I always do is, I go to a bookstore and browse through the books. But this time what I wound up doing was: I spent most of the afternoon, thinking through this passage from John’s Gospel. Now, don’t feel sorry for me. I actually enjoyed every moment of it. It was uninterrupted study time, and that was a true gift.
Now, I knew going in with that this entire chapter is a prayer Jesus prayed. In fact I have preached on and taught this text many times. But this week I saw some things that I had not seen before, and they came together in a fresh way. And I want to invite you, if you are willing, just to look with me at this passage and see what we discover. As we do, we need to keep in mind that Jesus prayer this prayer the night before He died, and he knew He was going to die the next day. Now, why is that important? It’s important for this reason: If we wanted to know what Jesus’ priorities are, we might very well expect to find out by listening to what it is He prayed about just hours before He laid down His life for us. We will never get closer to His heart than this. Now, this might be a big assumption to make, but I can’t help but believe that, if we know what Jesus’ priorities are, we will adopt them as our own. We will make His passions our passions, His aims our aims, and, and if He prayed for these things, we will pray for them as well.
So, what are Jesus’ passions? I see three of them in this passage. As we look at His prayer, we discover that He is passionate, first, about His own glory, second, about the church, and third, about reaching the world with the gospel. You and I might summarize them this way: the glory of Christ, the body of Christ, and the work of Christ in the world. Those are Jesus’ passions. And what we need to ask ourselves today is: Are these our passions? It’s an important question because: We want to make His passion our passion, His aims our aims, and, since He prayed for them so fervently, we want to pray for them as well.
Take the first one: a passion for the glory of Christ. In John 17, verse 1, we read that Jesus “looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you.’” You will notice that He repeated this petition in verse 3, when He said, “Now, Father, glorify me in you own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.”
Is this our passion – to desire and defend the glory of our Savior? It is if we want to make Jesus’ passion our passion, if we want to make His aims our aims. And, if that is what we want, then the glory of Christ must become a priority for us. It ought to be the first consideration in everything we do as a church. We ought to ask, Does this – whatever it is – exalt Christ? Does it display His character and His will? Does it reveal His heart? If any place on this earth is to be devoted to lifting up the name of Jesus, it ought to be this place. If His name is spoken with affection anywhere in this world, if anywhere our Lord Jesus is looked upon with adoration and reverence, it ought to be here, among His people, in His church. Right? We are here to glorify Him. This was His passion; it must be our passion as well.
The second passion of Jesus revealed in this prayer is for the well-being of the church. And, if you look closely, what you will see is that He prays that the church may be kept safe and sound – safe from threats without and from threats within and sound in what it teaches. To use words that have a kind of Presbyterian flair to them, our Lord prays for the peace, unity, and purity of the church.
He prays for the peace of the church, because it is ever under threat of persecution. He prays that His church will be safe from threats without because those threats are real. Over the past several months, we have all become aware of the fact that many of our brothers and sisters – people we do not know but with whom we are bound together in Christ – are suffering severe persecution.