Sounds Like Mom
We are at a weird point in the Church Year. We've just celebrated the Ascension of Christ to His place of power, yet the outpouring of the Holy Spirit whom we need for daily life is not till next week. The Church has historically viewed this Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost through Jesus' prayer in the upper room on Maundy Thursday night. That too was a time of anticipation and apprehension, and Jesus is doing in the upper room what He does in heaven: praying, interceding. As you hear what He says, doesn't it sound just like mom?
Remember the situation as Jesus prays. It's the night on which He will be betrayed by one of His intimate friends; it's the night on which all of His disciples will flee from Him; it's the night on which He will be arrested for crimes He did not do. It's the night on which the full weight of the world's sins and God's wrath against them will come to rest on His shoulders.Where are your thoughts when you face a serious operation, a challenging test, a painful duty? Mine are riveted on me, myself and I. I'm not thinking about what others may want or need. I'm not thinking about what others may feel or fear. It's all about me. I sure don't do what Jesus did. He looked outward at His disciples and acknowledged them as gifts of His Father. Jesus prays concerning His disciples, "They were Yours; You gave them to Me." There's Peter, big blustering Peter and Jesus says to His Father, "What a grand gift he is!" There Doesn't that sound like mom? Focused more on her children than herself. Regarding her children as gifts just as they are? Didn't you ever have a brother or sister caught and convicted in something, and you were sure your mom would at last see them for the scoundrel they really were, only to have your mom speak of them wonderfully? Never mind if you can't see your mom as doing that, can you see Jesus doing it?
Can you see in this text how Jesus overlooks sins and puts the best construction on things? Jesus prays to His Father saying that His disciples had obeyed and accepted the Father's Word. Excuse me? Does that really describe the disciples? Aren't they the ones who couldn't understand that Jesus needed to suffer and die? Wasn't Peter so far from accepting the Word about the cross that he acted like Satan and tried to keep Jesus from going there? How many times did these sinful, fallen disciples flat tell Jesus He was mistaken, wrong, or silly because of something He said? They didn't accept His Word when He said someone touched Him in a crowd. They didn't obey His word when He told them they were to give the 5000 something to eat. They didn't understand His Word about getting a sword.
Jesus goes on to say that they believed He was sent by the Father. Guess that's why only weeks earlier Thomas said it was suicide to go back to Bethany. Guess that's why at the Transfiguration Peter would've rather stayed on the mountain with Moses and Elijah then to descend into the valley with Jesus. O sure, some times they confessed Jesus as being sent by the Father, but other times they acted like He was just an earthly teacher.
I can hardly believe how thoroughly, how completely Jesus overlooks their sins. The disciples did not always obey the Word, yet Jesus speaks as if they did. They didn't always accept the Word, but you wouldn't know that from how Jesus prays. The disciples didn't always believe and sure didn't always bring glory to Jesus, but Jesus says they did. If that's not just like a loving, self-sacrificing mom, I don't know what is! Ever try to get a mom to say a baby's picture was ugly? Ever watch moms at little league baseball parks? Her kid may be stumbling and fumbling around out there, dropping balls and running into teammates, but she doesn't see any of that. Well that's how Jesus looks at His disciples in the upper room; that's how Jesus looks at you disciples right now.
Jesus sounds just like mom when He prays. For example, Jesus says, "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me." Now that's how moms pray. What is before them when they pray is not a whole wide world but their children who are their world. When Jesus prayed in the upper room, there were world problems every bit as severe as the ones in our world today. There were wars, disease, political unrest, suffering and hunger. Yet, Jesus brings before His Father, not any of this but just His disciples.
Do you think Jesus prays any differently today? Do you think you're not in His prayers? You could no more NOT be in your Jesus' prayers than you could NOT be in your mother's. One of the main things Jesus does in the halls of heaven is advocate and intercede for us. I John tells us that if we sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One. The Book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us.
Here we can see that Jesus goes one better than mom. Didn't your mom, in a moment of very understandable frustration ever say to you, "Do you think I live to be your servant?" Or, "Do you think that I was put on this earth just to wait on you?" Of course, the answer to both questions is "No!" Moms were not put on this earth to be servants of their kids or to wait on them hand and foot. However, the Bible says Jesus does live to intercede, to pray for you. The Bible does say Jesus was put in heaven to be your Advocate. We should not take the serving and the helping of our mothers for granted; we shouldn't expect it. But we should expect the interceding and advocating of Jesus Christ.
When we sin, and we will, we should expect that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is before the throne of God, saying, "Forgive them; have mercy on them; put away their sins. See these hands? They were nailed to a cross in place of their hands. See this back? It was whipped to shreds for the sake of them. See these feet? They walked always in the way of Your Commandments in place of them, yet they were nailed to the cross for them too!" That's how Jesus advocates for you, like a pit-bull lawyer. And His day is not complete unless He gets to intercede for you: He lives just to pray on your behalf, just to take your problems, your weights, your situations before the throne of God, and He asks that they be dealt with for the sake of His holy life and His bitter suffering and death. And do you think the Father can turn a deaf ear to such pleas? Do you think the Father thinks so little of His Son's holy life or His bitter suffering that He could ever turn away from a prayer that comes to Him based on it?
Notice in the portion of the prayer we have what Jesus asks for us. The bulletin translates, "Protect them by the power of Your name." The word translated "protect" is a special word to John. He uses it 34 times in his New Testament Books. All the other New Testament Books together use it only 33 times. Four verses after our text Jesus prays, "Protect them from the evil one." Sounds like mom, doesn't it? Jesus doesn't pray for us to do something for Him, but for something to be done for us. Kids ask moms what they want for Mother's Day, and what do they say? They usually hem and haw and reluctantly say something. They don't want gifts from us, but just like Jesus, they regard us as all the gifts they need. They don't want anything more from us. But they do want more FOR us..
Moms usually make good illustrations. Why? Because you can see how the prayers of a mother can illustrate how Jesus prays for you. Regardless of whether you had a harsh mother or a loving mother, you know how mother love ought to be, so it illustrates on a human level the divine love Jesus has for His children. You know what the problem is? Mothers themselves. Mothers listen to Mother's Day sermons and think, "I'm not that loving. I fall far short of the ideal of motherhood. I did this or that when I should've been doing that or this." So all the ways the best of mother love illustrates for us the Lord's deep love only serves to convict the very mothers we're trying to honor!
Well, moms, it's like this. Jesus does for you what you saw Him doing for all the other disciples in the text. Yes, Jesus rejoices over you. He no more sees your faults and failings then He sees anyone else's who has been washed by His blood. He no more remembers your sins, than you remember the sins of your 18 month old child. Jesus cannot think of one sin of yours that He didn't die for. He can't think of one sins of yours, no matter how much He tries, that He didn't carry away from you. He can't think of one sin that He wants you to feel guilty over, bad for, or hold against yourself.
I know what you're doing. Your going, "But this, but that, and what about this one, and surely this failing of mine cannot be dealt with so easily." Well, moms, lets think that through. What Jesus went through wasn't easy for Him. He sweat blood and bled tears for your sins. Surely, the suffering and death, the guilt and shame borne by the only begotten Son of God is more than enough to pay for your sins. The Father doesn't need to add your tears, your guilt, your shame, your feeling bad before He can forgive your sins, does He? Of course not! Long before your were born, long before you were a mother, the Father accepted the Son's payment for sins and declared your sins forgiven and forgotten.
You moms have an advocate with the Father. Jesus is before the Father always on your behalf. Satan, the world, and even your own conscience are saying, "guilty." But Jesus is in their arguing on your behalf, and not just arguing but interceding. Remember He lives just to intercede on behalf of you mothers. Just as you feel bad when your child will not let you help him or her, Jesus feels bad when you won't let Him help, when you won't depend on the fact that He is your advocate, when you won't be comforted by the fact that He is interceding for you.
In today's fallen world, there are so many things going on to discourage motherhood and mothers. Don't think that your Jesus is not well aware of this. You can be sure that His prayers take all this into consideration. Know that when you become discouraged and even despairing over being a mother or the results of your mothering, that is not a direction Jesus is leading you. Your Jesus calls you to Himself, His grace, His mercy, His cross, His forgiveness, His advocating and interceding FOR you not against you. Your Jesus endured discouragement and despair just so you wouldn't have to.
Jesus made the burden of your sins and shortcomings His own. He also takes up your cares and concerns for your children as His own. As much as you may love your children, you can't think that your love is greater than Jesus' love. Mother love is great, but Jesus' love is greater. Jesus calls us to rest in His advocating, in His praying and in His loving. He sounds like mom when He prays, but He loves even better than mom, and He loves even moms, not just today but everyday. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin Texas
Easter VII (5-12-02, Mother's Day) John 17:1-11