“And when the days drew near for him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk.9:51). We come now to the 5th stop on this journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and as we said last Sunday, as the journey continues we can’t help but notice how interconnected each stop is to the others.
Last Sunday we were in the village of Bethany in the home of Martha and her sister Mary and the whole visit was about the “one thing necessary,” which was to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His word to YOU just like Mary did.
Which for us means, that we need to establish the HOLY HABIT of setting aside the chores of the day to carve out some time for reading our bible in our home. Because the bible is the very word of Jesus speaking to you through His Prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. When you read your bible, you are sitting at the feet of Jesus, LISTENING to Him speak to you IN YOUR HOME just as Mary did.
So, if you weren’t here last Sunday I’d really encourage you to go to our web site and listen to the sermon. And if you were here last Sunday but you’re not today… well you get the idea. These two stops on the journey really go together.
On this morning’s stop on the journey with Jesus, we learn that there is also another side to this incredible relationship that we have with God. He not only speaks to us as a DEAR FATHER SPEAKS TO HIS DEAR CHILDREN but we may also speak to Him, AS DEAR CHILDREN SPEAK TO THEIR DEAR FATHER.
“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place…”
It may at first strike us as a bit odd that the disciples should find Jesus praying. He is God. Why does Jesus need to pray to God? Well actually, He doesn’t. But the fact that HE DOES tells us something very important about God.
When Jesus prays, God is TALKING to God. When the disciples stumble onto Jesus who is praying, they have stumbled right into that inter-trinitarian conversation between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as in, “Let us make man in our image…” That’s God talking to God. Whatever the IMAGE OF GOD is, it involves conversation.
So, when we see Jesus praying, God speaking to God, what we are seeing is NATURAL to His DIVINE NATURE. This is who He is. HE SPEAKS AND HE LISTENS.
This is what GOOD RELATIONSHIPS are all about. An IMPERSONAL God only speaks – never listens – it’s simply not in its NATURE to listen.
We hate it when the authorities are impersonal and all they do is SPEAK their commands and demands but never LISTEN to what anyone has to say. Marriages are always in trouble when one spouse does all the talking and never listens or the other spouse hardly ever speaks. It’s the same with friends.
But the Triune God is not like that. He speaks and we listen to His Word, and then He says, ‘now you speak to Me and I will listen to you.’
That’s what it means to have a ‘PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD’ as opposed to an ‘IMPERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.’ We listen to God speak to us AND we respond to God who listens to us.
The simple fact that this RELATIONSHIP with God also applies to our relationship with one another only means that this is part of the image of God in which we were created, but which our sin has crippled. That’s why when one stops listening and the other stops talking it’s gut wrenching. There’s something deeply imbedded in us that tells us that this is NOT THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE. It’s not the way we were made. IT’S NOT NATURAL.
It’s the curse that God spoke onto His rebellious people when He said, “LET US go down there and confuse their language so that they may not understand each other’s language…” (Gen. 11:7).
But of course, Jesus has no sin. And so His relationship with God is the PERFECT IMAGE of what our relationship with God SHOULD BE – and if we preserve in this one true faith, WILL BE.
HE LISTENS AND HE PRAYS. He is always in perfect agreement with every word that He hears from the Father. “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) And the Father is in perfect agreement with all that He hears from the Son. “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. LISTEN TO HIM.” (Mat. 17:5)
So the fact that our prayers, if we pray at all, are not always answered the way that we want them to be answered or are flat out rejected SHOULD REMIND US that we really are ‘fallen’ and ‘sinful’ creatures.
Maybe we’ve been doing all the ‘talking’ to God and so very little ‘listening’ to Him speak to us through His Word. Maybe we have listened to His Word but we’ve got some issues with it. There are parts that we disagree with, or we have some doubts about it or we just don’t understand.
And so when we pray we ask God to do things for us and give things to us that He couldn’t possibly agree to and still be a ‘loving’ God. Maybe this is why He so often answers our prayer like He did poor Job, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)
This is why this journey with Jesus led us FIRST to Martha’s house where we learned how important it is to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him speak to us, and THEN go to ‘a certain place’ where we are to learn to pray. First we LISTEN TO GOD. And then we respond with thoughts and words that come from HIS WORD “which is what is most true and sure.” (Intro to Lutheran Worship)
“When He finished [praying], one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
Interestingly, this is the ONLY TIME in all the gospels that any of the disciples ask Jesus to teach them something.
“And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
We call this “The Lord’s Prayer” because it comes from our Lord. At another time and place, Jesus taught the CROWDS HOW TO PRAY which Matthew records in his gospel and is the way we’re used to hearing it and praying this prayer.
In teaching the disciples, and us, how to pray, Jesus leads into a ‘good relationship’ with God who wants us to listen to Him speak to us and who also listens to us when we speak to Him.
When you pray, say, “Father…” Jesus is inviting them and us into the relationship with God that is His relationship with God. As the Son is to the Father, so are we. We are sons and daughters of God and God is our Father.
Which, because of our sin, would be utterly absurd were it not for the fact that this is the Son of God who is teaching us how we should pray. Which can only mean that when we come before the Father, we do so by the invitation of the Son who has taken away all of our sin and renewed us in His holy image again. We come in His Name.
In his baptism, David Maxwell Grierson was washed of all of his sin and made a ‘child of God,’ who can now, for the first time, come before God in the name of Jesus and say, “Our Father…”
This is the ‘relationship’ with God that we have through Jesus Christ that Jesus wants us to learn so that we may pray and pray rightly.
We do not pray to God as though this were a negotiation with a superpower.
We don’t need to appeal to God’s ego with flowery words.
We do not have to bribe Him with promises of what we will do for Him if He does what we want for us.
We do not have to lecture or instruct Him about what is ‘fair’ and why He should be ‘fair.’
Jesus teaches us that we are to come before THE ALMIGHTY GOD as dear children who love and trust their dear Father.
That’s really what the two parables that Jesus speaks to His disciples are about. The first one is about a man who is in need of something and who has A FRIEND whom he knows has what he needs. Jesus presents the RIDICULOUSLY UNTHINKABLE when he says that the FRIEND says, “go away. Don’t bother me.” No friend who is worthy of the name friend would ever do such a thing.
But God is your FRIEND who alone is worthy of the NAME and the TRUST and the RELATIONSHIP, and so we should come to Him and ask for all that we need without fear that He will tell us to go away.
Jesus goes on to present the EVEN MORE RIDICULOUSLY UNTHINKABLE when he describes a SON who asks His FATHER for a fish and an egg instead gives him a serpent and a scorpion. No father worthy of the name father would ever do such a thing.
But God is your FATHER who alone is worthy of the NAME and the TRUST and the RELATIONSHIP. And so we should come to Him and ask for all that we need without fear that He will give us anything that will harm us and with total confidence that He will give us all that we need and more.
The more regularly we sit at His feet and listen to Him speak to us through His Word, the more we grow in faith and the more like little children we become. And the more like little children we become, the more easily and readily we are to come to God as DEAR CHILDREN COME TO THEIR DEAR FATHER. It’s just the NATURAL THING for the baptized to do.