Good morning, Friends!
Welcome to our meeting for worship. We don’t have a choir, we don’t have a piano, we don’t have all the things we’re used to on Sunday.
We do have people! Last Sunday I posted my sermon, and 298 people watched it on Facebook! That’s a lot more people than usually show up here on Sunday morning.
All of us are struggling. I know these are difficult times to adjust to. But we are reaching out, and we do care about you!
Since the beginning of January, we’ve been reading the Gospel of John together. One of the things that’s remarkable about John, is the amount of time that Jesus spends, praying for people.
In the other gospels, you go right from Palm Sunday to the Last Supper. Then Jesus gets arrested, tried, executed and buried. Boom.
John takes five whole chapters to cover the same period of time. Much more time than the other gospels. And Jesus keeps teaching and demonstrating his way of life. And especially Jesus keeps praying, all the way to the end.
John has been called the gospel of glory. But John is also the gospel of prayer. In John, Jesus spends more time praying for people, than in any of the other gospels.
And it’s not just fluff that John puts in, to fill up space. Jesus is saying tremendously important things in chapters 13 through 17.
We’re going to look at some of those things in a minute. But what I really want you to remember, is that Jesus is praying for his friends and for the whole world. And that means that Jesus is praying for you.
Right now we’re all so isolated from each other, staying home from work, closed in and unable to see the people we love. Even with e-mails and phone calls and cards, we feel the loneliness and separation from each other.
Just remember that Jesus himself is praying for you. That is such an amazing thing to realize! With everything else that was going on, during the last week of his life on earth, Jesus prayed for all of his friends. He prayed for the new church he saw in the future, and for the uncountable number of people who would put their trust in him.
Jesus prayed for you. And because Jesus is alive, Jesus is still praying for you, even now.
Let’s look at just a few of these prayers from the gospel of John.
First, let’s take a look at John chapter 14 together. I’m starting at verse 26. Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father to send you the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with you forever.
This is the Spirit of Truth, who the world can’t receive, because the world neither knows the Spirit nor sees it. But you will know the Spirit, because the Spirit lives in you.”
“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus says. “I am coming to you. In a little while the world won’t see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live.”
That is such a rich and incredible prayer, and it’s an incredible promise. Jesus is praying that the Father will send the Holy Spirit, who Jesus calls the Helper, the Counselor, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. And that Holy Spirit will be in us. The Spirit will be present and alive, because Jesus himself is alive.
Just a few lines farther on in chapter 14, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Every time we pray, we’re asking the Spirit to help us to remember the right thing that we need to know right now. If we’ve forgotten it, the Spirit will help us remember. If we didn’t know it, the Spirit will teach us.
Jesus didn’t just live and die a long time ago. Jesus’ prayer is still active, still at work. Jesus is praying for you to remember and learn whatever you need today.
Then Jesus goes on to give his personal blessing, the gift he gives to all his friends. He says:
“Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. I don’t give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Any time, during the coming days and weeks, whenever you’re anxious or worried, any time you feel overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world right now, remember Jesus’ prayer: “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. . .Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27]
Down through the years, Christians have faced so many challenges. Christians have lived through wars, plagues, persecution, tyranny. Things even more terrible than what we’re facing.
People forget that Jesus himself is praying for them, all the time. But if we listen, we can still hear Jesus praying for us, promising us his peace, promising that he will never forsake us or leave us alone.
You can skip ahead, almost at random, and you’ll keep finding more and more of these wonderful prayers.
In John chapter 15, for example, Jesus says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who live in me bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. . .If you live in me and my words live in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. . .I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and so that your joy may be complete.” [John 15:5, 7, 10-11]
Complete joy is what Jesus is praying for us to have. A joy that’s complete, without any gaps, without anything missing or held back. Yes, we have problems. And yes, they may get worse. But Jesus is praying for a complete joy for everyone.
I just want to remind you of the time frame for all these prayers. This is Easter week when Jesus is saying all this. These are Jesus’ last words to us.
Jesus is facing betrayal and arrest. He’s facing people who will lie about him and hate him. He’s facing people who want him dead. You might expect Jesus to be a little more focused on his own problems.
But all the way through, to the very end, Jesus is praying for us. At the end of chapter 16, Jesus says: “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to your own home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:32-33]
That prayer is the source of a Christian’s strength. We feel scattered. We feel lost. We feel isolated. We feel cut off from each other, and from all the hundreds of daily interactions we take for granted.
But Jesus says, “I’m not alone. You’re not alone. God is with you. You are never alone, not really. As long as you pray, you are never alone. I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Yes, you have trouble. But you’re not alone, even if it seems that way. Remember this, and be at peace in your hearts. Take courage! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus prayed this, before the terrible events of Good Friday. Jesus prayed this, before he was arrested and beaten and killed.
Jesus said, “I have overcome the world,” even before the world did it’s worst to him. He knew that he would triumph. And any time that we feel scared or intimidated, any time we feel helpless or afraid, remember that Jesus won the big battle, a long time ago.
That doesn’t mean we can be foolish or careless. We still need to be careful and wise. But fear needn’t overwhelm us. No matter what happens, Jesus won. Death and hatred did its worst, and he still won.
Any time we get confused, go back to those words: “I have overcome the world.” You’ll feel stronger. That’s what Jesus’ prayer does for you. You’ll feel stronger, and braver, and more alive. You’ll feel more like your true self again.
Let’s look at one more of Jesus’ prayers, these wonderful prayers from the gospel of John. This one is from chapter 17, and it’s the climax of what Jesus wants to share with us.
This is what he says: “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name, the ones that you have given me, so that they may be one, even as we are one.
While I was with them, I protected them in yor hame. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost, except the one destined to be lost.” [Jesus is talking here about Judas, who betrayed him.]
“But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world, so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. . . I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from evil.”
“I ask not only on behalf of these,” he says, that is, the disciples who were listening at the time, “but I ask also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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.” [John 17:11-13, 15-16, 20-21]
All this, when Jesus had every reason to be completely distracted. Jesus’ attention wasn’t on himself, but on us. When Jesus had every reason to be frightened, he was praying for you and me.
Jesus knew that God’s truth would tell him what to say, and he knew that God’s love would see him through, no matter what happened.
Never forget that Jesus is praying for you. When we don’t know how to pray, he’s already in there, praying for us.
When we don’t feel confident, Jesus says, “I have overcome the world!”
When we feel anxious, Jesus says, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be anxious, neither let them be afraid.”
When we feel lonely, Jesus says, “I won’t leave you orphaned. I will send you the Counselor, the Comforter, who will advocate for you and be on your side.”
We have the greatest prayers imaginable, being prayed on our behalf, by the one whose prayers are always answered.
Lift up your hearts, and take courage. Jesus is praying for you!
Thank you so much for watching and listening. We pray for all the people who are sick and anxious today, for their families and friends. We pray together for their full recovery.
We pray for all the people who have been laid off and are anxious about their finances. We pray for all the young people, who are uncertain about their future.
There are so many people who need our prayers today. This is a rich opportunity for prayer for all of us.
You can find more of these messages on Facebook, on the Springfield Friends Meeting page. Or you can find them in text form at springfieldfriends.org.
If Springfield Friends isn’t your regular church, then please support your home church. For people from Springfield, we are so grateful for all the support you send in to the meeting. It’s needed, and we appreciate it.
May God bless you and protect you this week. May God lift you up, and keep you healthy and strong in your faith.
Until we can meet again face to face, in Jesus’ name, Amen.