Hesham Shehab: Ascension 2023… Jesus Prays for Us
Sermon text preached by Rev. Hesham Shehab
Sunday, May 21, 2023
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Burbank, IL
Text: John 17:1-11
Jesus Prays for Us
Christ has risen. He has risen indeed. Hallelujah. In the name of Jesus. Amen. Dear Saints, a few days ago, we celebrated the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, 40 days after His resurrection, when He ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father, where all kingdoms and powers and authorities are being placed under His feet, where He is ruling and reigning all things for the sake of His church.
Jesus tells His disciples and He tells his church, He tells us that it is good that He goes away. Now, how could that be? How can it possibly be good that Jesus would leave them?
Well, this is why for you, for me, for Peter, James and John, for all of his followers, this is why it is good, because at the Ascension, our Lord Jesus Christ sets aside His humility, and now takes up the full use of His divine power. He takes His place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords for you. It’s because Jesus is ascended that St. Paul can say that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
It’s because Jesus is ascended, that He can give us the promise; I will be with you always, even to the end of the age. It’s because Jesus is ascended above all authority and all powers that He can give to His church the promise that no evil will befall you. Jesus, like everything else that He did in his birth and life and death and resurrection… Jesus’ ascension is also for you.
Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father for you. We have this glorious vision that’s given to our brother John when he was in exile on Patmos. John is taken up to see the throne room of God and the veil is pulled back so that he can see the heavenly reality, and he sees the throne room there.
This is kind of the control room of the universe. This is where God dwells according to His divine majesty and power, and John sees that room and there on the throne is the Lamb…and not just any lamb. It’s the Lamb as He had been slain. Can you imagine a slain lamb, a slaughtered lamb, a dead lamb being peeled apart?
That’s what’s on the throne of the universe. In other words, it’s Jesus crucified. It’s Jesus dead and buried. It’s Jesus who suffered for you, it’s Jesus with the holes in His hands and His side. In other words, the one who sits on the throne is the one who hung on the cross for you, and if He was willing to suffer all of that torment and all of that affliction for you, then He continues to love you even from His almighty throne.
Now we see some of that wonder in the text that’s set before us today from John chapter 17. It’s a surprise; the things that Jesus says here. But it’s maybe even more surprising if we simply remember when He was saying to them in John 17; what’s called the High Priestly discourse of Jesus. And this part, the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus is all taking place on Maundy Thursday. It’s after Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.
In other words, these words are spoken by Jesus just a few hours before His crucifixion. This prayer is prayed by Jesus in, in some ways, just before his greatest trial and affliction. And look what he’s praying for. He’s praying for the disciples. He’s praying for the church. He’s praying for you.
He says, 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, and this is eternal life that they know you. The only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Jesus continues:
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me and they have kept your word. I am praying for them.
Now dear saints, I don’t know if you struggle and wrestle in your own prayers to know that God hears you. I know that some people, when they pray have this sort of underlying confidence that God is right there listening to them. And for that praise God, because it’s true. God does hear our prayers. But for many people, I’ll include myself, there’s this difficulty in our prayers because it seems like God is far away, like his ears are closed to us, like he’s not hearing our prayers.
This in fact seems to be the more common experience in the Christian life and over and over in the Psalms. It’s expressed this way. Oh Lord. Will you not open your ears to us? Oh Lord. Will you not hear our prayers? How long? Oh Lord. Will you be silent?!
But I want to kind suggest to you? In the midst of these troubles, I want to ask this question. Do you think that the father hears these prayers of the Son? Do you have any doubt in your mind? You might doubt if the Lord hears your prayers, but do you have any doubt in your mind that the Father hears the prayers of His Son?
Is there any ounce of questioning this! We say, of course. This must be the Father’s delight to hear the voice of His Son. This must be the pure pleasure of God, the Father, to receive the petition of God the Son. So how much confidence do we have that this prayer from Jesus is heard by God the Father.
Now I want you to take that confidence and bring it from the text to right now. Because just as Jesus prayed for his disciples and for you on Monday, Thursday, so He continues to pray right now. This praying of Jesus to the Father is only begun on earth, and it continues and I’ll prove it. Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus always lives to intercede for us. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father to rule and reign all the universe for us, but most specially to pray for us, to pray for you. Imagine that, that you have a prayer partner who died and rose again, that you have a high priest who is able to sympathize with you in all of your trouble, who even now carries all of your afflictions, all of your sorrow and suffering, all of your wants and your needs.
He carries them before God, the Father hears those prayers of the son. And he answers them. He gathers up our own prayers and perfects them and carries them as an offering to God the father, who is pleased to receive them, to hear them, and to grant our prayers. So dear Saints, we have this great confidence in the midst of this tumultuous life.
In the midst of this world, which gives us so much trouble, even in the midst of our own sin and in, in the midst of our own death, and in the midst of our own suffering, we have this great comfort that Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ has ascended, and Christ is coming again. May this be our confidence in prayer.
In life and in death, that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and that He intercedes always for us. Amen.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding guard your hearts and your minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Christ has risen. He has risen indeed. Hallelujah.
Adjunct Faculty at College of DuPage, Formerly Adjunct Faculty at American University of Beirut and Pastor at Peace Lutheran Church Lombard, IL Name pronounciation: HI-shahm SHI-hab Hebrews 12: 4 & Philippians 1: 29