When you pray, what is it you pray for? Do you pray for yourself, that all of your wants and desires would be granted to you, like a genie granting you a wish? Do you pray for your family and for your friends, for their needs of body and soul? Do you pray for your enemies and for those who curse and persecute you? Most of us would probably say that our prayers are self-centered and that we surely don’t pray for our enemies. However, in our text for today, Jesus prays not for Himself, but for His friends. Listen closely, because He prays for you.
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” This is the beginning of a wonderful prayer that Jesus prays on behalf of you and me. He prays this prayer on behalf of all believers, even those who would betray Him later that evening. The Son prays to be glorified, but ponder this carefully; He is not praying for the world’s idea of glory. The world defines glory in terms of splendor and fame, strength, beauty and celebrity. But Jesus defines His glory quite differently: Because the Father has given Him authority over all flesh, all flesh is His responsibility; and the Son is about to serve all flesh by His crucifixion. He is about to die for the sins of all, so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life. That means that He is going to die for your sins so that you would have eternal life.
This is the glory of the Son: To serve all, according to His Father’s bidding. His service is not just beginning, and He clearly prays, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” He has lived that life of work – He has fulfilled the prophecies by His teaching, His miracles and wonders. He’s been the righteous servant, upheld by God as He has mercifully exercised justice. He has lived His perfect life for the world, to credit all who believe in Him with His righteousness. Now, the ultimate glory: He is going to die for the world.
Jesus’ glory, then, is to fulfill the work that His Father has given Him. It will not be glorious in the world’s terms. In exchange for beauty, the Lord takes a beating. In exchange for strength, He accepts weakness. Instead of putting His foes in their place, He allows their mockery on the cross. It is not glorious in the world’s eyes, but it is the Father’s will. We behold His glory at the cross, full of grace and truth.
In order for this to all take place, you need an intercessor; you need Christ. It is Christ who always makes appeals for you on high. You can be certain that the heavenly Father hears the intercession of His Son and answers in your favor. The intercession that Jesus prays for is “Holy Father, keep them in your name,” the name of protection against an evil world.
You need the Lord’s intercession, for the world resolves war against you and your unity with Him. You are contending against lethal powers that intend to destroy your unity with the Father and the Son, namely, the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh, in order to lead you to abandon His name, Word, and work. There is nothing more that the devil wants than for you to doubt, to question God. If you do that, then the devil wins.
Your intercessor gives to you those tools that are necessary to defeat the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh. Jesus says, “For I have given them the words that you gave me.” The disciples will be far from lost: Not only do they have the Lord’s Name to call upon, but they also have His Word. Jesus has painstakingly taught them His Law, that they might clearly know what is required of man, lest they be led astray to teach or live some false doctrine. He also patiently teaches them His Gospel, that He is going to the cross to redeem the world. While the disciples do not understand the significance of all of this, no matter; it is still His powerful Word, whether they understand it or not.
Not only did Jesus give to His disciples His Word, He has given that Word to you. There in His Word are the promises that He has made for you. There in His Word is the promise of forgiveness for you. There in His Word is the promise of salvation for you. There in His Word is the promise of everlasting life for you. These are promises that are not made lightly. These are promises that came at great cost, all for you. It cost the Father His own beloved Son. It cost the Son His very life. Given the costs, we would say they were high, maybe even too high. Could we really justify the life of our only-begotten son for someone else? I think we would be hard-pressed to justify that, yet God did not think twice about it. He did not question the price because you are His creation and when He created you in His image, that is how He meant for you to be: holy, perfect, without sin. The only way for creation to be restored is by the death of Christ; but not just by His death but by His resurrection also.
You are kept in His name because you have been given to Christ by your Father before time. Being Christ’s eternal possession, you can be certain that the Father hears the Son’s plea to keep you in His own name. What exactly is that plea that Christ makes on your behalf? He pleas, “Father, forgive them.” He pleas, “Glorify your Son.” In short, Jesus says, “Put me on the cross. Burden and bury me with all their sin. Raise me from the dead so they may have everlasting life.”
With His Name and Word, the Lord leaves to you and me gifts for our benefit. Add His Word and Name to water, and there is Holy Baptism to cleanse the sinner. Speak His Word and Name, and there is Holy Absolution, as sinners are forgiven in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Add His Word to bread and wine, and the Word-made-flesh is present for the forgiveness of sins.
These are the gifts that Jesus gives to His disciples as He prepares to be glorified on the cross: His Word and His Name. By His Word, He speaks to them and tells them all they need to know about sin and grace, faith and life. He places His Name upon them and declares them to be His; and by His Name, they can speak back to Him and call upon Him at all times. And so He prays: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
This is why Jesus prays in the text today: That you would thankfully receive His Word and gladly hear and learn it. That you would call upon His Name in time of trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. That you would hear Him and call upon His Name, rejoicing in the forgiveness He has won for you, giving thanks that He has united you with the rest of the Church. Until then, listen to the Lord Jesus pray. He prays for you. And because He prays for you, you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.