During that last week with His disciples Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray, Jesus was never too busy to pray. So many times he had left the crowds that were following Him, in order to find a solitary place, a silent place, where He could be alone with His Father in heaven, where He could pour His heart out in intimate prayer. Nothing was more important to Jesus than prayer; remember that He was fully human, as well as fully divine, and in His humanity He needed to pray. He prayed in order to know His Father’s will. He prayed to be strengthened, for He was often tired and weak in body, and at times He was also troubled in spirit. On that night in Gethsemane He was deeply troubled, for He knew the cross was waiting before Him to embrace Him in a bloody agony of death. He was a young man, thirty-three years of age, and did not want to die, especially the horrible death of crucifixion. Therefore, He prayed, “Father, if it be possible, (i.e. if you are willing) let this cup pass from me (i.e. remove this cup from me); nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22;42). IF THERE WAS ANY WAY FOR HIM TO DETOUR AROUND THE CROSS JESUS WANTED TO TAKE IT, BUT THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY!
He had the power to save Himself, but if He had saved Himself, He could not be our Savior. The cross was unavoidable. He had come into the world for this purpose, to “…give himself as a ransom for many.” He was the only sinless one, the spotless Lamb of God, the Lamb without blemish, who would be “led as a lamb to the slaughter” just as God’s prophet, Isaiah, had prophesied (Isaiah 53). My favorite poet, Anonymous, wrote these words: “There was none other good enough to pay the price of sin, He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.” So, in submission to His Father’s will, Jesus went to the cross willingly, as our sin-bearer, “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities.”
According to the sequence of events that last week, as recorded by John in his gospel, before going to the garden of Gethsemane Jesus had prayed in the upper room the prayer that is known as His “high priestly prayer” (John 17). That is the real “Lord’s Prayer,” for it came from His own heart. The prayer that is known as the “Lord’s Prayer” today, the prayer that is so often prayed in unison during Christian services of worship, is actually the “disciple’s prayer.” It is the model prayer Jesus taught them to offer in response to their request, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11). The disciples had always prayed as all devout Jews prayed, in the name of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” as children of the covenant God had made with the Hebrew people. However, when they heard Jesus pray, they knew they had so much to learn about prayer, praying with the kind of intimacy and confidence with which Jesus prayed, as well as with power and authority. They not only saw how He was renewed in body, mind, and spirit following those times when He withdrew from them to pray, they also saw how great healing power went out of Him whenever He prayed for others, and when He even commanded the wind and the waves to obey Him. No wonder they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray,”
Then, on that night in the upper room, after breaking bread with His disciples, celebrating the Passover, and saying one of them would betray Him, they watched as Jesus “looked up to heaven” and heard Him as He prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son (John 17:1). So many times in their three years together, Jesus had said, “My hour has not yet come.” However, he knew the hour was now rapidly approaching, the hour of His perfect obedience unto death, the hour when His work on earth would be finished (John 19:30). I encourage you to turn in your Bible to the fourth gospel, chapter 17, and read the entire prayer, meditating on each petition. Pause and take time to reflect, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct your thoughts as you open your mind to the Word of God, and to the heart of Jesus, as He faces certain death, knowing He will be raised from the dead, and awaits the restoration of His pre-incarnate glory (vs. 24).
Our Lord’s prayer at this critical time in His life falls naturally into three parts: First, His prayer for Himself; Second, His prayer for His disciples being left in this world after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; Third, His prayer for us, for the Church Universal, for all “those” who would be brought to faith in Him through ages to come. Jesus prayed that He might be glorified (vs. 1-5); He prayed that His disciples would be unified, kept from the evil one who only seeks to divide and destroy (vs. 11-16); He prayed that all of His followers would be both unified and sanctified – that we might be “one” as He and the Father are one (vs. 12, 17, 20-23), one in truth (vs. 6-8, and 17. 19), so He will be glorified in us (vs. 10), – so His joy may be made complete in us (vs. 13) – so the world may know that He was sent into the world to make the Father known as “the only true God,” and that the promise of “everlasting life” is the Father’s gift through Him (i.e. through the Son, vs 2- 3 and 21-22) – so that the love the Father has for Him may also be in us (vs. 23), so Christ’s Church will be able to fulfill its redemptive mission (i.e. leading the world to believe), and finally so that all believers might eventually be with Him where He is, to see His glory (vs 24).
Jesus is still praying for us. In fact, the most important thing He is doing for us right how is praying for us, praying for His Church. We are His Church, the “Body of Christ” in this world. He is still praying that He will be glorified in us. The only way for Christ to be glorified on earth is in us, in the lives of all those who bear His name, and in our shared life in His Church. In this age when His Church is so divided, He is still praying that we will be unified. At a time when so many in positions of leadership in His Church have become apostles of discord, Jesus is still praying that we might become “one,“ even as He and the Father are one. At this very hour when we are engaged in spiritual warfare in this world, a struggle for the minds and hearts of people around the world, a “fight-to-the-finish” in which the evil one is seeking to deceive, divide, and destroy, Jesus is still praying that His followers will be sanctified – sanctified “in truth” – SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE!
O Lord, make us one. Bind us together, Lord. Bind us together in truth. Bind us together in love. May be be sanctified, Lord, and may you be glorified in us, so the world will know that You are who you claimed to be, “the way, the truth, and the life.” Amen.