The reality sunk in: they would not win. They could not win. They tried, yes. Those youngsters kicked the ball, threw the ball, caught the ball, but the other team kicked harder, threw further, caught better. The scoreboard clearly reflected that. The fifth-graders completely outmanned, outmuscled, outmatched the first-grade kickball team in every possible way, leaving those first graders slumped in demoralizing defeat.
One sight resurrected hope: A grownup! Little eyes gawk as he jogs towards their bench. Tiny legs jump in joy. Fists pound the air. Beaming faces cheer. Here is someone able to outman, outmuscle, outmatch the entire fifth-grade team! His very presence makes the fifth-graders cower in fear. He scores run after run after run after run— and no one can stop him! The lead quickly tips in his favor. The fifth-graders are completely overwhelmed; they brace for certain defeat. The once-helpless first-graders now bask in certain victory!
Do you know that sensational feeling? Maybe you remember the playground days. Or, the grueling math problem. The overwhelming car breakdown. The sheer helplessness as you were bullied by health, by co-workers, by a lawsuit. Then entered the math whiz. The ace mechanic. The specialist. The boss. The legal shark. The mere sight of your champion makes you swell with confidence. Their presence guarantees success, leaving you to march on in certain victory.
That swelling sense of victory would be appreciated about now, wouldn’t it? Not only are you dealing with a health crisis, but you have also stayed away from your friends and family for 60-days [two months]. As if things could not get much worse, now you have flooding on top of it all! Life’s challenges just seem to be compounding! You are squeezed tighter and tighter, and are not sure how much more you can handle. The truth is, you cannot handle these challenges— not on your own— but your Champion can. Yesterday, today, and always Jesus prays for you. Jesus Prays for You to see his glory and to share in his glory.
I imagine that Jesus’ glory is not always so easily seen. I mean, just think for a moment: What is ‘glory’? How do you define it? The children in catechism class usually make this angelic sound: ahhhh (A sound is not really a definition, but I digress…) Maybe you hear [the word]: ‘glory’ and think: ‘bright light’ or ‘heaven’ or ‘perfection.’ Might I offer a more concrete definition? ‘Glory’ means ‘to own (or possess) splendid greatness.’ To receive the respect your qualities deserve. To receive the fine lifestyle your rank is owed. To stand superior over all things.
So, when Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you,” that must have caught the disciples’ attention. This is what they are waiting for: Glory! National respect for being a follower of Jesus. A lifestyle of ease and luxury. Positions of power in Jesus’ shiny new kingdom. The disciples’ vision of glory centers around Jesus removing all earthly suffering.
Maybe that’s why this past week felt like a punch to the gut. We want a world free from struggle, but a virus proves our world is not perfect. We want to secure comfort, but a flash flood suddenly rips comfort away. We want some control over who we can see and where we can go, but that privilege is not ours yet. What makes all this frustrating is that it feels like Jesus is absent. Gone. Not around. Certainly not holding back loss and pain and suffering.
The troubles you (and I) encounter can block Jesus from our eyes. What blocks Jesus is not that he went away. It’s that our wants take first place. The disciples do not want suffering. The want glory— and they want it now. They find glory in Jesus, but do not want him to die. They want him to establish a new kingdom in which they would co-reign! If they got their wish, how would they be saved? A pandemic, social distancing, floods, health issues, the estranged child, the back-biting politics can leave demanding success now. When these troubles linger, we can begin challenging God. Questioning his care for you. Challenging his management of the universe. Wondering if you will be satisfied by the end of the year. We can wrongly conclude that the presence of trouble means that God does not care. If God does not care, then we do not need him. Yet, if we do not have God, then how would we be saved?
So, Jesus Prays for You. He approaches God the Father Almighty with the request that you see his glory. Maybe it helps to have the right picture in mind. Understand, Jesus does not sneak into some side-room, kneel down, and then prays while keeping the words in his head. He prays out loud, in presence of his eleven disciples. Jesus prays for himself, yes, but also with the intention that we hear the content.
He prays: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. That might not sound so strange because we stand on the other side of Easter. Here, in John chapter 17, the setting is Maundy Thursday, the night on which Jesus is betrayed. Over the course of roughly twelve hours, mighty men will arrest him and whisk him off to the courts. Lies will pass as truth. Soldiers will spit and mock, punch and club. Other soldiers will muscle his hands and feet down as someone else drives nails through them. With the tug of a rope, the cross will rise into place. Jesus will suffer. He will die. Still, he prays: For you granted him authority over all people[.] Jesus claims control— even on the night of his arrest! He holds authority— including the authority to avoid the cross!
Yet, this is the purpose of his prayer: to see his glory. The cross will take away Jesus’ life. It takes a God-pleasing life and straightens you (and I) to be God-pleasing. It peels away a blameless life and puts it on you. It removes the Lord from life and gives you eternal life. Yes, the cross brings suffering, but the cross is not the end. Easter’s brilliant sunbeams burst forth from an empty tomb. Death fought so hard to hold Jesus down, but lost. Jesus snapped it. He undid it. He outmanned, outmuscled, outmatched death once and for all time. Easter reveals Jesus’ glory, his splendid greatness as King of all. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
Yes, Jesus receives his full, rightful glory as he ascends into heaven. Still, Jesus prays—a he prays out loud, so that you hear that his ascension is also meant for you. Jesus Prays for You to see his glory and also to share in his glory.
Just listen: I have revealed you[r name] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. Now, ‘knowing’ is not memorized information filed alongside your knowledge of state capitals. Rather, ‘knowledge’ is accepting the simple truth that Jesus died for your advantage. How does that knowledge became yours? By Jesus revealing with words! What Jesus speaks has been recorded in the Bible. The Bible keeps pointing you (and me) back to the power behind God’s promises, back to the things he is doing. 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.
You share in Jesus’ glory as you take to heart the results of his powerful reign. Natural disasters are out of our control, but not God’s. We benefit from nestling in God’s hands that protect us and restore our losses. A health crisis poses a serious threat, but we conquer fear by remembering that the Lord of life holds us. Restrictions limit us, but God has provided the mental strength to press on. Even more, the challenges we face powerfully teach us that the things considered so valuable can leave us. (If they leave us, then how valuable are they?) In the midst of loss, God still works all things for your good. You share in his glory, you take hold of his splendid greatness as you apply God’s unchanging promises to life.
Jesus Still Prays for You to share in his glory— literally. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. (That’s you!) All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. After Easter, Jesus holds a forty-day-long victory parade. On the fortieth day he stamps an exclamation point on that victory. Last Thursday marked Ascension Day. (Maybe your calendar noted the occasion.) Jesus goes up higher and higher in heaven, not with droopy head and saggy eyes, as some pathetic loser who knows that he failed and must retreat. He ascends in powerful might. No one and nothing outranks him. No one can prevent him from reigning. Never again will he die. Never again will he face humiliation. Jesus does not hope, but guarantees his return. A return where all people of all time have no choice but to blurt out the fact that he won (Philippians 2:9-11). A return where he does not hope, but brings you into your heavenly mansion (John 14:2-3). A return where he makes all things new forever (Revelation 21:5). He says these things out loud so that you may share in his victorious glory.
Are you starting to regain that sensational feeling? …The feeling that comes when your champion barges onto the scene? You are dealing with some large struggles. A health crisis. Staying away from your friends and family for 60-days [two months]. Flooding. General health problems. The sight of evil flourishing. The sight of good shriveling. Troubles from an estranged child. Changes from empty nesting. Life’s challenges can feel like they compound! You are squeezed tighter and tighter, and are not sure how much more you can handle.
The truth is, you cannot handle these challenges— not on your own— but your Champion can. Just like the helpless cheer at the sight of their saviors, the mere sight of your Champion makes you swell with confidence. The sight of Jesus guarantees success, leaving you to march on in certain victory. Yesterday, today, and always Jesus prays for you. Jesus Prays for You to see his glory and to share in his glory.