Worship Theme: He Lives as Our Intercessor

Sermon Theme: Jesus Prays for Us

What if Jesus himself appeared and said, “I’ll pray for you”? In John 17:1-11a, he not only said it but did it right in front of his followers and he did it at a time we would least expect, just hours before being crucified! Jesus prays for us.” May 21, 2023.


Did you ever have thoughts like this? “I need to talk to someone, not just anyone, but someone who will listen with open ears and an open heart, someone who won’t belittle me or blow me off. I have so much on mind, so much bothering me. I have a hard time finding the words, and a lot of times I feel stuck not even knowing what to say. So I sit in silence, stewing in my thoughts or tossing on my bed or getting distracted from a task. If I ever do find someone to listen and get the courage to say what’s on my heart, I’ll probably fluhdoober all over the place and not the words in order get out.”

Was that bumping around in the mind of the apostle John? All the rest of his pals, sent to proclaim Christ to the world, were dead. He alone survived six more decades, and though not facing an executioner’s ax or thrown rocks or a cross, had been exiled to an island and left to wonder whether he would spend the rest of his days roaming and ruminating alone. If you’re like me, you haven’t felt like that every minute of every day, but somewhere along the line you have needed someone to help you with the thirty-nine-gallon Hefty bags of stress and distress in your heart. Talking it out helps. Then, if someone you’re talking to adds, “I’ll pray for you,” it’s heartwarming, it’s encouraging, and it means so much especially in those crummy days when you’re down and blue, despairing and bottoming out.

What if Jesus himself appeared and said, “I’ll pray for you”? How comforting and special would that be! I’m here to tell you that happened. He did physically appear on earth and took “I’ll pray for you” a step further. He not only said it but did it right in front of his followers. What knocks my socks off is that he did it at a time we would least expect, just hours before being crucified! Jesus prays for us.

 Assuring us of Pardon

Do you remember the story Jesus told about the lost son? For those with a little snow on the mountain top, we used to call him the prodigal son. A young man begged for his share of his father’s inheritance, then went out and flushed it down the sewer of wild and wicked living. When he hit rock bottom, he had nowhere to go, and the guilt pressing on his heart was like the forelegs of a rhino on his chest.

Been there? I’m not asking if you’ve been in the gutter. I mean, do you know what that kind of guilt feels like? If not, you’re either dead or delusional. We all have said something so hurtful, or neglected something so important, or hurt someone so special that we pulled a King David and soaked our pillow with tears because of the guilt. That’s when this scene ought to play out. The jury members file back into the courtroom and resume their seats in the jury box. The judge asks, “Madam foreperson, has the jury reached a verdict?” “Yes, your honor, we have.” She hands the piece of paper to the bailiff who passes it on to the judge. The judge tells the defendant to stand and calls out, “Madam foreperson, how do you find?” She reads the verdict, “We find the defendant ...” If the defendant knows he’s guilty, if the defense counsel presented every possible defense but could not outweigh or eliminate the evidence, if the prosecution has an airtight case, what feelings are stirring in the defendant’s heart the moment the jury spokesperson reads the verdict? That’s what you and I will feel like when we stand before God if we have just one little sin on our record, and if there is no Jesus.

He knew that the disciples on the road to guilt mountain. He knew that in just a few short hours Peter would be bawling his eyes out in the courtyard because, after swearing he never heard of or hung around with that Jesus guy, the man from Nazareth hit him with a look that said, “Dear Peter, I told you so!” Jesus knew that three days from this moment these disciples would be hanging their heads in shame, “Our leader was arrested, sentenced, and killed, and we ran and hid!” How could they get rid of the guilt? How can we? Listen to Jesus’ prayer. [Heavenly Father,] I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world ... 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 ... I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” One day, and for some of them it might be every day, the disciples of Jesus would feel like they had been standing at the back of an unloaded guilt-dump-truck and would want to call out, “Somebody, anybody, please listen! Help me deal with this guilt!” Then they would recall Jesus’ cross-cry, “It is finished!” assuring them of pardon and his promise, “I will pray for you, lifting off your guilt with my pardon.”

Assuring us of Parental Presence

Parenting is not easy. Parents live with the nagging thought that they might goof up and not protect their kids from harm. Then they hear the tumble down the steps because the little one figured out how to undo the gate latch, or they get the tear-filled call, “I was just in accident.” It is apparent that not everyone here is a parent, but we all have had parents, and we all know that in our broken world parents aren’t perfect.

Imagine being in the disciples’ sandals on that Thursday evening. They were reclining around the table. Seriousness and solemnity hung in the air. Then Jesus spoke, “My friends, the time has come. I am going away. You will see me no more.” They felt like orphans.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty. We can look back from a two-thousand-year vantage point and almost chuckle, “Those knuckleheads! They should have known that his going away was for their good. Taking away his visible presence meant that he could be with them invisibly everywhere.” But I wonder what we would have felt like if we were in that upper room that night. I have a hunch we would be feeling just as empty and worthless. Where will we get our self-esteem and sense of worth? How about belonging to a family with perfect parents? God himself is our true Father, and Scripture indicates that he also pours out to us a mother-like nurture and tender love. Listen to Jesus, [Heavenly Father,] I have revealed you to those whom you gave me ... they are yours.” No matter how far we live from home, no matter how many friends and relatives we lose by death, no matter what kind of parental love our earthly parents showed us, Jesus has given us status in God’s family. One day, and for some of them it might be every day, the disciples of Jesus would feel alone, empty, worthless and want to call out, “Somebody, anybody, please listen! Help me deal with this loneliness!” Then they would recall Jesus’ promise, “I will pray for you, filling your emptiness with my parental presence.”

Assuring us of Protection

It’s no fun knowing that you are in the cross-hairs of the devil’s night-vision gun scope, but as we live in this world, we will be. His favorite ammunition is fear. How many phobias do you have? Arachnophobia, fear of spiders; acrophobia, fear of heights; agoraphobia, fear of crowds; claustrophobia; fear of enclosed spaces; cynophobia, fear of dogs; ophidiophobia, fear of snakes. Here’s one not on Google lists, witnessophobia, fear of telling others about Jesus.

His first followers had to be wondering, “If Jesus is going to be arrested and killed, are his enemies going to come looking for us and give us the same treatment?” They wouldn’t be able to hide forever. Can you sense the fear bubbling up like boiling water on a stove? On top of that, Jesus told them, “I am sending you out to change the world as proclaimers of what I have done for sinners.” Can you sense the fear rising like an ocean tide? “How are we supposed to do that? None of us earned a degree in evangelism from the University of Jerusalem. The only schools we know are the schools of fish in the Sea of Galilee. Who are we to try changing the world?” Listen to Jesus’ prayer, [Heavenly Father,] All I have is yours, and all you have is mine I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.” He’s praying not only for them but for you, praying that God would guard and keeps us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or lead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; and though we are tempted by them … that we may overcome and win the victory. He prayed that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil that threatens body and soul, property and reputation, and finally when our last hour comes, grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven. I just quoted Martin Luther. One day, and for some of them it might be every day, the disciples of Jesus would be shivering in their boots especially when witnessing about him, “Somebody, anybody, please listen! Help me deal with this fear!” Then they would recall Jesus’ promise, “I will pray for you, eliminating your fear with my protection.”

Were You There (CW 426) is a Lenten hymn that takes us to Calvary with a title in the form of a question that is answered by the stanzas that follow and by the conviction in our hearts, “Yes, I was there. My sin put him there. I pressed down on the crown of thorns. I pounded the spikes. I jeered him with my so-what-if-I-sinned attitude. I jabbed him with the spear of my ego. But he did it, took it, bore it, paid for it all, so that I know for certain the answer to ‘Were you there when he prayed for you?’ and ‘Is he here praying for you now?’” Think of that! Next time you need someone to talk to, call a friend, find a referral, but also be sure to talk to God. The living Lord Jesus, the Savior who lived and died for us and rose to prove it’s true, will be by your side praying for you. Amen.


​Be sure to subscribe so as to not miss future worship services, and please consider sending financial gifts to support the ministry of Grace Lutheran Church:

Online Giving: http://www.gracedowntown.org/giving/
Giving By Mail: Make checks out to "Grace Lutheran Church," and send to:

Grace Lutheran Church
1209 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202