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Sermon blog: The Glory of Love

July 9, 2017

John 17

Here’s an unpleasant thought!

Imagine my prayers were available online. Available to download as podcasts.

What might you learn about me?

What do I pray about? Is it all about me? Is it long lists of requests? Are my prayers full of praise and worship? And thanks?

Does the way I pray change with the different circumstances in life? Are they different when things are swimming along, or when times are hard?

When I’m up against it, do I pray more earnestly? Or do I pray less for some odd reason? Or do my prayers become obsessed with my problems and needs?

Long before the days of downloads, the disciples had the privilege of listening in on an amazing prayer. A prayer of Jesus himself. Facing his greatest challenge.

Thanks to John the gospel writer, we can listen in again this morning, and hear how Jesus prayed when his mind was focussed on the cross that lay ahead of him.

[1] “After this” – these are the words that started our reading this morning, so of course we need to remind ourselves what came before. We can read about this in chapters 13 to 16. Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples.

A meal was shared (the Last Supper as we call it). Jesus had washed their feet in an act of servanthood. He told them of his suffering to come. He told them that he was leaving them, but promised them the indwelling presence and power of God the Holy Spirit. He encouraged them that he was preparing an eternal home for them. He assured them of his peace.

And his victory.

It is after all this. He raises his eyes.

And he prays.

We often talk about the Lord’s prayer. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught his disciples HOW to pray. Not WHAT to pray, but he gave them a pattern to pray.

In some ways, this is more the Lord’s prayer. Some people have suggested that this is John’s longer more detailed version of the Lord’s prayer:

• Jesus addresses God as Father

• Reference made to heaven

• Making the name of God holy

• Jesus has done God’s will on earth

• Prays for his disciples to be protected from the evil one

But this is not Jesus teaching how to pray. Not an example. This is him doing it.

In the face of impending suffering and death.

Now his prayer is there for all to hear.

When we face a crisis, we may pray, but we might also busy ourselves with activity.

As strange as it might seem to us sometimes, the most practical thing you can do is pray.

As he had taught his disciples, he prays to a father. His Father. There is no closer relationship one can know.

It is a joy for us to know God as Father, but that relationship was, and is, so much more for Jesus.

This has been described as the high priestly prayer of Jesus.

Or Jesus’ prayer of consecration.

The prayer can quite easily be divided into 3 parts:

• Part 1: A prayer for himself

• Part 2: Prayer for his disciples

• Part 3: Prayer for all believers

Part 1: A prayer for himself

He begins “Father, the time has come.”

John loves to talk about “the time”. Or “the hour”.

In John 2, as Mary sought Jesus’ help at a wedding with no wine, he replied, “Woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come”.

In John 7 he told his disciples, “I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not fully come”.

Equally in the same chapter John tells his readers, “They tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come”.

Jesus knew when his time had not yet come.

But now – “the time has come”.

Jesus somehow was always completely in control of his times.

His time, his hour, was to be his moment of destiny.

The moment everyone is waiting for.

His ‘moment of glory’.

And it is to the subject of glory that Jesus turns:

As we will see the theme of unity runs through this prayer but it has been said that this chapter is primarily about glory. Unity will not be a goal in itself, but will point to glory.

“Glorify your son”.

“…that your son may glorify you”.

Jesus is preparing himself, or consecrating himself, to glorify God by his death.

Christ revealed his glory to his disciples by his miracles. In John 2 the turning of water into wine is said to have revealed Jesus’ glory.

In Jesus’ glory, we catch a sight of who he really is. In that first miracle, we see that he has come to transform lives, to take the ordinary things of life and turn them to the best.

He reveals his glory too through his death and resurrection.

Glory is seen in majesty and in suffering.

Glory is reputation. In seeing Jesus for who he really is, Jesus shows God as he really is.

If we think of glory, we tend to think of the scenes in heaven in John’s revelation. There we see Jesus in all his risen glory and power there, but even there we can never forget that he appears as a lamb looking as if he has been slaughtered.

[2] Jesus derives his authority from the relationship he has with the Father. He has a God-given authority over all humankind.

An authority that was his rightfully from the beginning, and yet as he laid aside his heavenly standing, to enter this world as one of us, God returns that authority to him.

An ultimate authority. An authority that gives life to those whom God brings to him.

[3] So what is eternal life? Jesus puts it plainly. It is simply knowing God. The true God.

And knowing Jesus. The one sent by God.

That relationship with Father and Son (and surely also Holy Spirit) is eternal life. There is no mention of quantity of eternal life, although that is plainly in sight. First and foremost it is knowing God.

Suddenly what is impossible to know, becomes known to us.

Eternal life is about quality – Jesus describes it elsewhere as “life in all its fullness”. As life was always meant to be.

Here we are being drawn into the prayer life of Jesus. Invited into relationship with God; Father, Son and Spirit.

[4] Jesus continues “I have brought you glory on earth”. Jesus points to God. He shows the way to God. He is the Word. He is the image of the invisible God. The visible face of God. The revelation.

And how does he bring God glory? “By completing the work”. This will be a culmination of a whole life lived to the glory of God. That is what his “TIME” is to be.

The culmination of their rescue mission for mankind.

[5] Now Jesus asks the Father, “now Father, glorify me in your presence, with the glory I had with you before the world began”.

A prayer to restore his previous rightful royal position. At the very beginning of this biography of Jesus, John describes Jesus as “the Word” who, in the beginning was with God. And was God.

The reward for Jesus’ suffering is to be glorification.

Jesus is ready to be glorified on the cross. Now we truly see who he is.

The cross has the power to free us from sin. Resurrection frees us to serve in a new life.

Jesus glorified God. But the question for us his, how do we glorify Jesus? Can we find glory on a Monday morning, in the ordinary moments of life? How do we live glory? How might we even bring glory to him through suffering?

The Apostle Paul learnt from God “My power is made perfect in weakness”. 2 Cor 2:9.

Part 2: A prayer for his disciples

So there it is. Jesus prays for himself. The vast majority of this prayer though is taken up in praying for others.

[6] We already know that he has lived a life which points clearly to God. “I have revealed you…”

“To those you gave me” – to his disciples. Those who had followed him, presumably more than just the 12 apostles.

“…out of the world” – these disciples had been called out, to follow Jesus.

“They were yours…” – the disciples belonged to God.

“…you gave them to me…” – they now belonged to Jesus. They are part of that family.

“…and they have obeyed your word”.

These disciples are God’s people, called by God, to follow Jesus, to live a life of obedience”. As modern day disciples, we are of course called to do the same.

We might ask ourselves about the obedience of the disciples. They made plenty of mistakes. The showed what it was to be obedient and disobedient. Although they would never be perfect, that obedience would show itself in its fullness at Pentecost.

[7] “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you”. Which is interesting, because as Jesus taught his disciples in the upper room, they plainly had some issues with this.

“Show us the Father” said Philip.

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” was Jesus’ reply in John 14:8 & 9.

It seems now Jesus felt the disciples had understood.

[8] “I gave them the words you gave me, and they accepted them”. Again, not always without difficulty! John 14:10 “The words I say to you are not just my own”. These disciples were going to turn the world upside down.

Jesus’ upper room teaching was fresh in his mind, and also hopefully in the disciples’ minds, if they listened in now to Jesus’ prayer.

The disciples not only (1) accepted Jesus’ teaching, but (2) they knew with certainty Jesus was from God, and (3) they believed.

[9] So Jesus prays for those disciples. His prayer in this moment is sharply focussed. It is not for the world. It is for his disciples. They are God’s people.

[10] Again there is relationship between Father, Son and disciples. Jesus has brought glory to the father.

But now get this:

Jesus has been glorified through his disciples. They have shown him to others. With varying degrees of success it might be said. But they have glorified and they will surely bring glory to Jesus.

Jesus the “light of the world” calls his followers the light of the world also.

Nothing has changed in that regard. The way Jesus is now glorified and revealed in the world is through you and me! That is why the unity we will come to read about is so important. God’s glory is revealed in who his followers are together.

So the challenge for me and you is, can people look at us and see who Jesus really is?

His glory.

The disciples are the joint property of God the Father and God the Son. Soon to be the realised possession of the Holy Spirit too, by his indwelling presence.

[11] Jesus has already told his disciples that he is leaving. He focuses in now on this.

He zooms in on the problem. “I am leaving”, but “They are staying”.

The disciples need prayer!

These disciples aren’t going anywhere. They are in the world.

In the familiar verses of John 3:16-20, Jesus makes it clear to Nicodemus that God loves the world and yearns to save it.

So we must love the world.

But at the same time Jesus’ followers are not to love the world and all it stands for. John again makes this clear in his letter, 1 John 2:15. Loving things so much that we get drawn into them rather than Jesus is dangerous.

Jesus prays to “Holy Father” a phrase that is only used here. It reminds us of the nearness of the Father but also his Holiness. Two things always to be held in balance.

Surely the disciples need protection. The protection of the power of God’s name.

The name of God is the same name that is given by God to Jesus. “I am”. The one who does not change. The resurrection, the good shepherd, the way, the truth, the life.

“that they may be one as we are one”. Again the closeness of that relationship in and with God. Unity that is given. It has been established for the disciples by Jesus. They ARE one. This is not something to be achieved.

But it will be something to be shown

The apprentices have now been hired for the job ahead. Their call to be unified in their love for the world. Unity is outward looking. It is to be done with backs in fronts out. An outward facing circle, not a holy huddle.

It is loving the world together that will bring unity among Jesus’ followers.

[12] They had until now been under Jesus’s protection. He had kept them all safe and secure.

“…except the one doomed to destruction”. Judas. The one who had made a very different choice.

Scripture is being fulfilled, even by Jesus’ betrayal, and suffering, death and resurrection.

[13] “I am coming to you, but I am saying these things now, so that they may be completely joyful”. Presumably the disciples are listening in here.

Joy and hope are closely linked. The great thing is to be able to live in the knowledge that everything will one day be right. No more death. No more tears. No more pain

[14] Jesus, the Word, has lived up to his name, and given God’s word to the disciples.

The world that is hostile to Jesus is also hostile to his disciples. To be a Jesus follower was never about winning a popularity contest.

[16] They don’t belong to the world.

They’re strangers too in a strange land.

One answer would perhaps be to take his disciples with him to the presence of the Father too. One idea for us might be to shut ourselves away so that we don’t get contaminated by the world.

But that is not Jesus prayer. The disciples are going nowhere. There is no escapist journey for them. And neither for us.

They are to stay right here. They have work today. Citizens of another country. But with a life to be lived there and then.

Just as we have a life to live now.

[17] The disciples need God to sanctify them. According to the truth of God’s word.

They are to be set apart. A holy people.

[18] God sent Jesus into the world.

Jesus sends his disciples into the world.

The same is true for us and the question might be “Where is God sending you?”

“Sanctify myself”. Jesus sets himself apart now to do God’s will. The cross is a looming reality.

The disciples will be saved through his sacrifice and in turn consecrated to his work.

Part 3: A prayer for all of us

[20] “My prayer is not for them alone”.

“…for those who will believe in me through their message”.

Jesus prays for those who believe , from the day of Pentecost as Peter preached, down through the centuries, to believers like you and me.

As Jesus faces his greatest challenge, in the valley of the shadow of death, he prays for US!

[21] “that all of [us] may be one”.

Again, as with the disciples earlier, that unity is a fact. It is not to be achieved. On one level that prayer is answered, by the fact of the worldwide church of Jesus down through the centuries.

[22] Again that unity is in the relationship with Father Son and Spirit.

“There is ultimately only one church, one family…” Pete Greig reminds us in his book “Dirty Glory”.

Unity is not uniformity. We are a family with many differences. But we are one in blood.

On another level is it proof that even Jesus has experienced unanswered prayer.

A prayer that we be one just as He and God the father are one. A huge prayer! It is fact that we are all one in Jesus.

But is unity a visible reality? A living witness to the world?

Just look at the number of denominations.

When I was a student, my friend and I stood outside church one day after the service , and an elderly man came up to us. If he had spoken to us before I don’t remember it.

Our one conversation, he said to us, “We have the truth”.

I’m not sure we even replied, even if we knew how to. Was he talking about the worldwide church?

I’ve never been able to get away from the idea, “this little church congregation here , we’re in the right.”

But as the creeds remind us, we are part worldwide church of Jesus followers.

Yes you may have disagreements.

But you are one In Christ.

How though do we show that to the world?

“Surely we could learn to look at each other generously and, instead of wondering, “What’s wrong with them?” we could ask, “What’s right with them? What can I learn from them?” Pete Greig again.

That oneness with each other and with God helps the world too to believe. Others will believe that Jesus is the visible hands and feet of God.

The gospel goes on sharing and growing. Our attempts at unity won’t always work. But when they do people notice.

But again that word glory. God has made himself known to the world through Jesus. Now Jesus in turn makes himself known through us.

[23] We are here to love. We are sent to love.

The standard of oneness in God the Father and the Son.

The promised Holy Spirit is surely crucial to this.

The world will notice complete unity. Sadly it will very quickly notice disunity!

[24] Jesus’ continued prayer for his followers is that you and I should “be where [he is], to see [his] glory”.

Glory given to Jesus. Loved before the creation of the world. Again in that upper room, Jesus promised to his disciples (and to us) “In my Father’s house, there are many rooms”. He’s getting a place ready.

[25] Jesus continues, “Righteous father”. Again an expression only used here. God is good.

[26] God is unknown.

But Jesus made him known.

Jesus will continue to make God known, firstly through the cross and resurrection, then through his Spirit filled followers.

God’s love that is in Jesus will be in his followers. So as the Holy Spirit lives in us, Jesus promises to continue to be with us.

So the challenge for us this morning, is what can people see of Jesus in us? Are the people of God bringing glory to God?

To start perhaps we need to look at the people around us in this congregation. We ARE one as the God the Father and Son are one.

Fact.

So how will we live that out in our relationships? How will we pray for each other? How will we care for each other?

Perhaps too we can look at the church in a wider context, maybe the other churches in this city. With them, we ARE one, as God the Father and Son are one.

Fact.

So how do we look to show that deep unity in the ways we communicate with them, talk about them, or when we work together with them?

On another level, how do we show the unity that already exists in God’s worldwide church? Do we pray for those who suffer and are persecuted, as if we feel their pain?

Jesus’ prayer as that we may be deeply, totally ONE.

We are one.

Will we display that oneness to bring glory to God?

That the world will see him as he really is.

 

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