Summary: “Since when is prayer an option?”

Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)

Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ

Sunday, June 5, 2011

by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter

“Praying … Not Preying: The High Priestly Prayer” [Part Five]

John 17:20-26

It seems only fitting that we conclude this sermon series on prayer with Jesus’ closing words from His “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John chapter seventeen. In these closing verses the Lord expresses His love, His concern and His deepest empathy for all who would come after Him; those, who by virtue of their faith in Him, would come to believe, though sight unseen.

Following His death and resurrection when the Lord first appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room, Thomas, also called Didymus, was noticeably absent. But when the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the risen Lord, Thomas replied: “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” [John 20:25].

A week later Jesus appeared again to His disciples where He summoned Thomas to come forward and to touch His hands and His side which prompted Thomas to exclaim: “My Lord, and my God!” [John 20:28]. Whereupon Jesus said to him: “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” [John 20:29].

In these closing verses of Jesus’ prayer we discover first of all the importance of: OUR BELIEF IN CHRIST (repeat).

Jesus neither requires, nor does He demand that we succumb to some kind of “blind allegiance” as critics and scoffers of Christianity advocate. No, from the outset Jesus says in verse 20: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message.”

Now previously, in verses 6-19, Jesus prayed for His disciples, but now He was turning His attention towards believers in future generations where He says, “…for those who will believe in Me…”

And though we ourselves have not seen the Lord “face to face” like that of Thomas and the other disciples, nevertheless, we believe their message to be true! We believe in God, and we believe in His Word. We have not been coerced or coaxed into believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Quite the contrary! Instead, the Holy Spirit has irresistibly drawn us towards the truth; for just as it says: “Sanctify them by Thy truth; Thy word is truth” [John 17:17].

Skeptics have come to look upon Christianity as nothing more than “Easy believeism”! And perhaps in one sense they’re right. It is easy to believe once a person is exposed to the light of God’s truth. But truth, as in God’s truth, is never easy to follow, or for that matter, easy to swallow. God’s truth provokes us, it convicts us and, if left unabated, it will most assuredly condemn us!

In all honesty most people do not seek the truth; nor do they desire to know the truth even when it is offered, simply because they are afraid of what the truth will reveal about them! Like that of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, who when questioning Jesus about His kingship, the Lord said to him: “You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” to which Pilate asked not inquisitively but sarcastically: “What is truth?” [John 18:37, 38].

On the last night of His life, Jesus took time to pray for those who would believe in Him through “their message” meaning the Gospel of the New Testament. But as one Bible commentator wrote: “There’s only one thing that will compel the world to believe … a supernatural oneness in the family of God.”

And so in this prayer we also discover the importance of: OUR ONENESS IN CHRIST (repeat).

In verses 21-23 Jesus uses the word “one” repeatedly in reference to the oneness enjoyed by both the heavenly Father and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Since before the creation of the world they, along with the Holy Spirit, were united as one divine entity; three Persons in one God, forever!

Then twice in verses 21 and 23 Jesus speaks of this “oneness” as the means by which the world might know that the Father has sent His Son to be its Savior. And this oneness, this unity, is not just some lofty ideal we should aspire to attain. No! Jesus speaks of this as an imperative! The Church of Christ must, at all costs, be united as one body, one Church, in Christ.

But we live in a world that is unarguably fractured and disjointed. You don’t need to look very long or very far to see the disunity in our homes, our families, our workplace. Why even local, state and federal agencies are at odds as to how best to serve its constituents!

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