Yesterday, while reading John 17, I was deeply moved by the Holy Spirit to recognize...to remember...and to experience the words of Jesus. John 17 is more commonly referred to as Jesus’ “high priestly prayer.” It is beautiful and glorious.
These words comes after the Last Supper and the foot-washing from John’s account of that Thursday on the eve of Good Friday. These words come after Jesus has shared his final parting words with the disciples.
After all of these events, Jesus prays and so ends John 17. John 18:1 says that when Jesus finished praying, he and his disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the garden where Judas would betray him.
This prayer comes in Jesus’ final moments when he could speak freely and openly to his disciples and to his Father in prayer. This is lengthy, but listen....just listen to what Jesus says:
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
[pay close attention here]
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Did you read it? Right there in verse 20...in Jesus final moments...when could have prayed for many things....Jesus prayed for YOU! JESUS PRAYED FOR YOU!
I have read that passage more times than I can count, but the words just leapt off the page when I read them this time!
Here, when Jesus is finished with teaching in parables, when all is about to revealed, when he is about to go to the cross, we literally eavesdrop on Jesus praying to his Father for us!
Friends, in these uncertain times when things are so strange; when everything is turned upside down, crossing the invisible borders of every nation and tribe, I remind you that Jesus prayed for you. He prayed that His love would be in us! He prayed that we would be in “complete unity!”
Then Jesus went and faced down death. He went to the cross and let death have its way, but death would not have the final say, because in the end Christ was glorified! Risen from the dead, this same Jesus who prayed for YOU was glorified, just as he spoke of in that same prayer!
I want to shout it from my porch, “He did it for you!” He didn’t just die for you, he was resurrected for you and he prayed , “that [God] not take [you] out of the world but that [God] protect [you] from the evil one.”
Jesus prayed for you! He prayed for your protection in the midst of this pandemic and every crisis. He prayed that you would know his love and the love of the Father.
Today, I encourage you to continue clinging to that love! Be unified in that love and share in the glory of the resurrection promise!
God bless you on this damp, soggy Thursday! Never stop loving one another with the love of Christ!
Yours in Him,
Pastor Brian sends a special message to everyone about upcoming Easter weekend worship services.
If you need me, I am a phone call, text or Facebook message away. Church member, community member, friend or stranger, I am here! HOWEVER, I will be working from home. I was reminded, by a wise and trusted friend last evening to practice what I preach...in a much gentler way! After repeatedly sharing in my sermon yesterday, “ALL WE CAN DO IS WHAT WE CAN DO; FAITH NOT FEAR WILL SEE US THROUGH,” my friend reminded me that I have a wife who struggles with asthma and a preemie granddaughter who has basically been sheltering in place these first (almost) 7 months of her life. I may be just fine if I get COVID-19, but they may not. I would run into a burning building, climb the highest mountain and swim the widest river to save them...i doubt I will ever have to, but I am being told that socially isolating myself as best I can could save their lives. There is no way to guarantee that any of us won’t get this virus, but I will do my part because, all I can do, is what I can do - Faith. NOT-Fear will see me through! Friends, do what YOU can!
Pray, practice social distancing, isolate if you are sick and check on your neighbors frequently. All of these are means of loving one another!
34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Good Afternoon Church Family!
Yesterday, I learned that some frightened young people have shared scriptures that led them and others to believe that we are in the final days of the earth and the rapture is about to take place.
In response to this, I shared my thoughts and what I believe in a letter to one young person in our flock who was very shaken by something a friend shared. The letter is based on one thing alone...the word of God found in the scriptures. I have decided to share the body of this letter with all of you as well in hopes that it will bring you comfort!
We read in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Fear is the devil’s playground! When we allow fear to take over our thinking, we are doubting the power of God’s love and plan for us.
What is God’s plan?
Well, in Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet tells us what the Lord revealed to him:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
It’s true that we will be judged when Christ returns, but that will happen when we would never expect it.
We read in Matthew 24:36 these words from Jesus,: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
These words from Jesus simply remind us that we are to live by His teachings until He returns. Neither the greatest of scholars, nor teenagers during the Corona Virus outbreak of 2019-20, nor even Jesus himself knows when He will return!
Our energy cannot be wasted in worry and fear! The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4-8 ,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
We are to live in faith and let God have all our worries. We are supposed to think about all the good that is happening, focusing on what is right, true, noble, pure, lovely , admirable, excellent and praiseworthy!
We must do this as many before us have done in more recent history. Imagine, for a moment what those living during the bubonic plague outbreak when millions died must have been thinking, or those living in Europe during World War II with air raid sirens and the sounds of bombs exploding all around their homes or being in Japan when the first and second atomic bombs exploded. All of these times and many, many more were thought to be the start of the rapture. Even so, we are still here. Life goes on and it will go on for all eternity with Jesus for those who repent and live by His way!
If any scripture speaks to me at this time more than any other, it is this:
““When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
We can’t waste our time worrying and fretting over something we can do noting about. Instead, we are to love as Jesus loved. We are about to have an opportunity before us to care for those around us who are in need. We don’t invite the circumstances of life that come before us, we simply do what Jesus would have us do. How do we know what that is? Well, we pray and we feel in our very heart the things the Holy Spirit is calling us to do for “the least of these.”
That, dear friends, is what I believe. Jesus is coming and I can’t wait. He will draw me, you and all of us who believe, close to Him and save us. In the meantime, we are to trust in that promise and love our neighbor as ourselves! So, get busy being that awesome disciple of Christ who loves like Jesus, putting others first, and stop worrying. YOU know the Savior and YOU are going to be okay!!!
Brian Abbott is a pastor in the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church under appointment to Nelson Memorial and Dogwood United Methodist Churches.
Brian has a love of people that had been a lifelong calling which began with a 24-year career as both a social work and a juvenile officer before answering God’s call to ministry.
Brian and his wife, Anna, have four adult children & four grandchildren. They joyfully share their empty nest home with three happy pups who keep them on their toes!