Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ascension - May 1, 2008

May 1, 2008
John 17:11
A Prayed-for People

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”

Since Jesus left the earth, Christians are standing in the need of prayer. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus prays for those he leaves behind, including us. Today we continue to need Jesus’ prayers, for we live in a hostile world.

Before His ascension Jesus prays for you —

The hour has come” Says Jesus (v. 1). It is the hour of death and the hour of glory. This is the hour for which Jesus worked, the hour for which He came to earth. Who thinks of his hour of death as an hour of glory? To most of us the hour of death means the hour of defeat. Death means there is an end. Death means there can be no more conversation.

Does anyone plan his time to die? Our times are in God’s hands. Our responsibility is to be ready when the hour arrives. Some die too early, for they have not accomplished the work in their lives. Some live too long after they made their contribution and thereby diminish their work. “I am coming to thee,” said Jesus. It was the right time for him to die.

Eternal life is in knowing God and his Son. It is not an intellectual knowledge, but a personal relationship established and maintained by faith. It is a life in God, a life that continues eternally. Then, one does not earn nor deserve heaven, but receives it as a gift from God.

In Jesus’ case His death is a glory by virtue of the atoning power of His death to take away the sins of the world. In His death God the Father redeemed and reconciled His children. It was a victory for the Father. Jesus knowing that He was returning to the Father prays on behalf of His children…
1. Because we are in the world —
2. Jesus prays for us to be faithful to God —
3. The Savior ask for us to be one with each other —

Let us pray to the Lord:

Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him. Who lives and reigns with Yu and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and forever.

1. Because we are in the world — v. 11a, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.” We need prayer to keep from becoming of the world. These people are different from the world. He says, "I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given Me" (Vs 9). Yet, says Jesus, these people remain in the world (Vs 15). So the people Jesus is praying for are in the world but not of the world. They are people who have been set apart from the world…Jesus prays for their unity. There is no universalism here. There is nothing to suggest that Jesus is praying for the unity of all men everywhere, or even for the unity of all religious folk everywhere.
Jesus tells us something else about those people for whom He prays. He tells us they obeyed the Word (Vs 6), they accepted it as true (Vs 8), they believed it (Vv 8, 20), and they know that Jesus was sent by the Father (Vv 8, 25).Finally, Jesus says they are the people for whom He sanctified Himself (Vs 19). They are the people, in other words, for whom Jesus died upon the cross, whose sins He paid for, whom He has made right with the Father.

2. Jesus prays for us to be faithful to God — v. 11b, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me” Jesus refers to his prior existence with the Father. He is about to leave the earth to resume his position of power and glory. This involves the incarnation — Jesus’ leaving the Father in heaven to take the form of man. Accordingly, Jesus was never adopted at any one point in his earthly life, but God was in Him from the manger to the tomb. There has always been the Pre-existence of Jesus Christ. (v. 5) "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was”.

How could Jesus have glory with His Father "before the world was" if He did not literally pre-exist? An illustration is helpful: An architect sees and knows the beautiful details of his proposed construction before the site is prepared, or the foundation-stone laid.

But God is the great Architect and in His divine plan, Christ was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8) - the chief cornerstone "foreordained before the foundation of the world". (1 Peter 1:20). The building will duly be fitly framed together (Eph. 2:21) to constitute its part in the "kingdom prepared . . . from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 25:34).

Christ was "foreordained", but not formed until born of the virgin Mary in the days of Herod the king. Likewise, the glory he had with his Father was in the divine plan of the great Architect. It was the subject of prophetic testimony "when it {the Spirit of Christ} testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." (1 Peter 1:11 cf. John 12:41).
3. The Savior ask for us to be one with each other — v. 11c, “so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus stresses the oneness of the Father and Himself. This oneness includes the disciples. As the Son is one with the Father, the disciples are one with the Son. This oneness, Jesus prays, should also be true with the Disciples, one with each other. Christian unity, then, is not a human achievement, but a divine reality based on relationships we have with the Savior.

The unity of Christians needs the guiding and providential hand of God in order to be preserved. God needs to protect our unity from Satan and the forces of evil. Satan loves to see the church and Christians have disunity. He loves to see fights and splits and schisms. He loves to see heresies and arguments drive believers apart.

The Feast day of the Lord’s Ascension is one of the chief festivals of the church, the crowning act of Jesus’ career. The Ascension has certain important truths to be proclaimed:

Ascension celebrates the final exaltation of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ascension celebrates the universal accessibility of Jesus as our priest and mediator.

Ascension celebrates the total lordship of which Jesus has - He rules over all creation.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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