May 08, 2016

Pastor Mark Bartels

The Historic Lesson; Acts 16:6-10

Epistle Lesson; Revelation 22:12-17

                          Revelation 22:20

Sermon Text; John 17:20-26

The text we will look at today is taken from John, chapter 17, verses 20-26, and reads as follows in Jesus' name.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father , are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

These are your words. Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


A couple of times a month, on Saturday mornings, we have a ministry here. It is called Jesus Cares. It is for developmentally disabled adults. We begin it with a brief, little, chapel service. In that little, brief, chapel service one of the things we do is take prayer requests. This group of students always has just really, down-to-earth prayer requests. They may ask, “Can we pray for my roommate, because I am not getting along with my roommate”. “I am going to have surgery, so can we pray for that?” Or, “Somebody I love is in the hospital, so can we pray for him?”

For years, we have done these prayer requests every couple of Saturday mornings, with our Jesus Cares Ministry. Yesterday, something happened that has never happened before. After we had done the prayer, and the prayer request, one of the older students by the name of Annie, asked, “Pastor, you always ask us what we want you to pray for, but you never tell us any of your prayer requests. What would you like us to pray for?”

I smiled, looked at Annie, and said, “Annie, thanks so much for asking that!” Then, I told them something they could pray for, for me.

Then, right there on the spot, Annie said, “Can I say a prayer, right now?” In her simple, little, way Annie said a little prayer with that whole group for my prayer request! It was so comforting to know this wonderful group of believers was praying for me!

You know how comforting it is when somebody tells you they are praying for you.

       -Maybe, as you are heading off to work, and you know you are going have a tough day, your spouse says, “I'll say a prayer for you”.

       -Or, maybe when something tough has happened at school, and your mom says, “I will say a prayer for you”.

That is so comforting!

Especially comforting is today's scripture reading, because in today's scripture reading we have Jesus, Himself, praying for His Church, for His people. This prayer is part of a larger prayer called, The High Priestly Prayer. It was prayed on Maundy Thursday Evening. Jesus is about to go to the cross. He is about to suffer, and die. He is, in a way, giving a farewell speech to His disciples, preparing them for His death, resurrection, and then ascension into Heaven. So, He has what we call a Farewell Prayer. In this Farewell Prayer, again, He is preparing them for His death, resurrection, and His ascension into Heaven, and then what comes next. It is this beautiful prayer. We call it The High Priestly Prayer, because Jesus is now interceding for His people.

The prayer is broken up into three sections.

       -The first section is Jesus praying for Himself. He prays He would be glorified, and the Father would be glorified through Him. That evening, Maundy Thursday Evening, and the next day, Good Friday, is when Jesus was truly glorified. You and I cannot, as sinners, think of a deeper glory for God than that God would so condescend for you, that He would go to the cross for you, and die for you and pay for your sins, so that you, an undeserving sinner can be all forgiven, and be with Him in Heaven. You cannot think of a greater glory, as a sinner than to see that God would do that for you!

And so, Jesus was glorified, as He died for our sins on the cross. And, the Father was glorified through Him. There we see how deeply the Father loves us.

“God so loved the world,

that He gave His One and only Son.”

So, Jesus prays He would be glorified.

       -Secondly, He prays for His apostles who were there with Him that evening. He prays God would then prepare them to take what He had taught them, and take it to the world.

       -Thirdly, He prays for the future church. This section I just read is a prayer for the future church. That includes you, and that includes me.

I want to look at three things that Jesus, our dear, dear Savior, (who loves us beyond what we can possibly imagine), prays for His dear, dear church.

       -The first things He prays for is unity. He prays

“that they may be one

even as we are one”.

Has that prayer of Jesus been effective? Look at the visible church, today. There are divisions all over the place.

       -There are different synods, and different denominations.

       -In congregations there are people who do not get along, people who disagree with one another, people who offend each other.

       -On TV we see people who are members of churches who have fallen into this sin, or that sin.

As we look at the visible church, we don't see this great oneness, this great unity. In fact, we even know when it comes to outward unity, Jesus has called us to be aware of false prophets. So, we know there are going to be people who are 'out there', who teach falsely. Scripture even tells us to watch out for those who have teachings contrary to what we have learned, and keep away from them.

Scripture calls us to unity, not at the expense of truth, but only on the basis of truth.

So, when Jesus prayed for oneness, and unity, “that they may be one even as we are one”, has His prayer been effective?

I want to tell you something. The church I just described is the church we see with our visible eyes, that we can look at.

Man looks at the outward things,

and God looks at the heart.

The Lord sees something you and I cannot see. It is what we refer to in The Nicene Creed as “the one, holy, Christian and Apostolic Church”. We don't believe there are many holy, Christian, Apostolic Churches. There is only one holy, Christian, and Apostolic Church.

We believe the Lord looks in the hearts of the people who go to all these different churches, with all these different struggles. He looks in the heart, and the Lord knows who are His people - the one, holy, and Christian, Apostolic Church. He knows who the people are, who are His holy ones.

By holy ones, what makes us holy? We are not holy, in and of ourselves.

We are sinners.


whoever trusts in Jesus,

as their only Savior from sin,

God, in His mercy,

declares us to be holy.

       -This one, holy, Christian Church is a church that clings to Christ.

       -It is the apostolic church that is built on the teaching of the apostles. Jesus is our Savior, and our sins are forgiven.

The Lord knows who are His people. That is

the one, holy, Christian, and Apostolic Church.

When scripture talks about believers, it always talks about believers as one. For example, in talking about The Church, and this is the holy, Christian, and Apostolic Church, this is only those who believe in Jesus, as their Savior. It is the invisible church. We can't see who they are, but God does.

       -The Lord speaks of The Church as one body.

Now, there are many members in one body,

and yet they unite to form one body,

one Church,

one unity.

       -The Bible talks about believers being a building, with many stones, but there is one building. There are many of us. We all believe in one Jesus. We have one Lord. We have one Spirit. We have one faith. We have one baptism. And, all of us who are many, are one in Christ.

       -The Bible talks about The Church being a flock. There are many sheep in the flock. Each of them individual, with their own needs, and yet there is only one flock, and one Shepherd.

       -The Bible talks about The Church being the bride of Christ. There is only one bride of Christ.

And so, we believe in a miraculous way, through the preaching, and teaching of The Word of God, as it was passed down by the apostles, the Holy Spirit reaches into the hearts of people, through the pure Word, and Means of Grace. And, He creates this one, holy, Christian and Apostolic Church. It is His Church, and His people. It is a group we can't see with our visible eyes, but God does. And, we are one.

We are one.

Jesus says He prays that unity would be there

“so that the world may believe you have sent me.”

Jesus prays for this one church, with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one forgiveness of sins, one promise of Heaven, one body of Christ, one flock, one bride,

“so that world may believe you sent me”.

That one Church, that one group of people who have been called out from this world, to believe in Jesus, that one group has one great commission. That one great commission the one body has is this.

“Go therefore into all of the world

and preach the Good News to all creation.”

Jesus gave that one Church, that one, holy, Christian and Apostolic Church this great commission.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father,

and of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

That is the one great commission of this one, holy, Christian and Apostolic Church.

Jesus loves the world.

The Bible says,

“God so loved the world that

He gave His one and only Son.”

The Bible says,

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ.”

And so, Jesus sends this one, holy, Christian, and Apostolic Church out into the world, so that the world may know that the Father sent Jesus.

So, here I am. I am just one, little part of this body of Christ, the holy, Christian Church.

       -God's commission for me is some, little, orphan girl in India who has not heard about Jesus yet, that somehow she would know God sent Jesus to be her Savior. That is my commission.

       -It is my commission that some high school age student, down in the Amazon Jungle, would come to know Jesus as his Savior. The Father sent Him, and Jesus came to save him.

I can't do that all by myself. I can't. This is why God has created one Church, one body, one group of believers. When we unite together, (the hands, the eyes, the ears, the feet, the arms, the heart of Jesus), when we unite together as one, we can accomplish what each individual can't accomplish by themselves.

       -We can raise enough money,

       -we can translate enough Bibles,

       -we can train enough missionaries,

and together, as one body, we can send out into the world. Jesus wants the world to know! We can send out into the world, whether it be the orphanages in India, or the high school we have down in the Amazon Jungle, where people are being taught the Catechism. Together, united. We are united, Jesus says, so that the world may know that the Father sent Jesus.

Here in Madison, Holy Cross is doing its part, its little part in striving so that this area of the world knows. There is no way I could have, all by myself, over the past year brought 60 new, young children come to hear about Jesus, but together, united we did!

       -We have almost 40 little, ones going to our early learning center that we didn't have a year ago, at this time.

       -We have about 20 more students in our school, with more to come, that we didn't have a year ago, at this time!

It is because, together, each one of us, we as a body, united, using our resources, our time, our talents, our prayers, our energy to reach out to this part of the world.

So, this is Jesus' prayer. We would be one. We are part of that one, holy, Christian, and Apostolic Church. We have one mission. We unite together to spread that Gospel.

The third part of Jesus' prayer is this. He prayed, “Father I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

There is this really interesting Bible passage. It kind of takes you back, at first. It is in Psalm 116.

“Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the...”

Do you know what comes next?

“Precious in the eyes of the Lord

is the death of His saints.”

Kind of takes you back a little bit, doesn't it? Why would the Lord say that? On this side of eternity, yes, as a believer in Jesus, you are part of the holy, Christian and Apostolic Church. And by holy, it means God sees you as holy, for Jesus' sake.

       -He forgives you for Jesus' sake.

       -He washes you clean for Jesus' sake.

       -He declares you not guilty for Jesus' sake.

On this side of eternity, you are declared holy, but you are not really holy. You are still a sinner, aren't you? So am I. We still slip. We still fall. We still have thoughts go through our heads that we wish would not go through there. We say things we wish we wouldn't say. We do things we regret.

We are saints, holy ones,

and sinners at the same time.

We have worries. We have doubts. We have fears.

We know we are forgiven,

for Jesus' sake.

We have struggles. We have fights.

We know we are forgiven,

for Jesus' sake.

We are saints,

and sinners at the same time.

A sinner cannot stand in the presence of a holy God and live. The only way you and I, as sinners, can look at God right now, and be comforted is to see Jesus hanging on the cross, because there I see

God loves sinners.

       -God is merciful to sinners.

       -God washes away the sins of sinners, because of the blood of Christ.

That is the only comforting way I can see Jesus, now. But the Bible says,

“Precious in the eyes of the Lord

is the death of His saints”.

On the day we die, that sinful nature will go away. We wont' be sinners, anymore. We will only be saints. We will only be made holy by the mercy of Jesus. Then, we will be in Heaven. We won't have to look at God in His hidden glory hanging on the cross, but we will be able to see Jesus with the glory He had before the foundation of the earth. Won't that be AWESOME! Won't it be awesome to be made holy, and to look eye to eye into the eyes of a holy God, and live! Rejoice and be glad! That is our destination. Jesus' prayer is we take as many with us as we possibly can, as we make our way to Heaven, for Jesus' sake.