John 17: 1-11 (Easter 7 - 2017)
“Jesus Prays For the Best Gifts”
The words before us today have been called “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.” In this prayer Jesus is speaking to the Father on behalf of all believers. In this prayer he is praying for his now 11 apostles; he is advocating for those who would hear and believe the message of truth; and he is praying for you. That is right. Jesus is praying for you. These are the final words of Jesus in the upper room the night before he died. When his prayer is finished he ushered his friends out to the Garden of Gethsemane – for more prayers.
It is clearly noticeable, especially in the terminology of the Greek text, that Jesus repeated the concept of gift-giving. Jesus prays for what the Father gives (donates) - his best gifts!
The Glory of the Cross
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you … I glorifies you in the earth having accomplished the work you gave me to do … glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had before the world existed.”
At first this may seem like a very selfish prayer for Jesus to pray. He wants to have the glory! But if we look closely, especially at the context and content of that Thursday evening, it is very much a selfless prayer. The only way for the Father to glorify Jesus, the only way for him to return to the Father’s glory, is through the suffering he is about to endure. The “hour has come” for him to leave the quiet of this room and present himself to his betrayer and to his foes. The next prayer to the Father will be in Gethsemane: “If there is any way for this cup to be taken from me … Father, not my will, but yours be done.” In agony and flow of the cold sweats Jesus has approached the hour of his most severe trials.
He will indeed be glorified. He will indeed return to the glory that he and his Father shared with the Spirit before earthly time began. But that glory will be earned in nighttime court rooms filled with false testimony. That glory will be earned in early morning face spitting, head striking, back striping blows to his tired broken body. That glory will be earned by a nail piercing death on a Roman instrument of pain and capital punishment; that glory will come through the cross; the glory will be for his Father and for you; as much as it will ultimately glorify the eternal Son of God.
The proof of this being a selfless prayer is in what he prays and acknowledges next:
The Life He Gives
“For you have given [Me] the authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this eternal life [is that] they know the only true God through [Me] Christ Jesus.”
His death happens because Jesus is the only human flesh being who has the power to remove sin. He is the only body among human flesh that is without sin. All other flesh, including mine and yours, is sinful. Jesus has the only flesh whose death gives life. And his resurrected flesh assures eternal resurrection of all flesh. The night before his death Jesus was praying for your eternal life. The night before his death he was asking his Father to go through with the plan to forsake him for you, kill him for your sins, bury him in your death, and bring about eternal salvation for all who know and believe that truth!
That life has a double meaning: 1.) the Jesus who says “because I live, you also will live” assures you that that you will be going to heaven and have life with God for all eternity. That is the great Easter news! 2.) The Shepherd who says, “I have come that they may have life” means that you have that life NOW.
Knowledge of the truth, knowing the only true God by knowing Jesus as Savior, means that you have hope, courage, confidence, a joy, and a life that only believers know. How often we say “how do unbelievers, people without faith in Jesus, face the bad stuff?” !? How true! Knowing that heaven is ours, knowing that Jesus teaches the truth, knowing that Jesus forgives sins, heals disease, uses all things for his glorification and our eternal well-being, knowing all of that means that our lives have a meaning and purpose. That life sets you and me apart in the world. We are now in it, but NOT of it. With that in mind Jesus dives into to the meat of his Priestly prayer:
The Confession of His Name
The body of his prayer is directly prayed for the sake of those 11 men in the room with him. They had become accustomed to his physical presence. In most cases he was always tangibly there: teaching in Galilee, traveling the roads, worshipping in Jerusalem, visits with friends, brushes with enemies and dangers; on stormy seas and on triumphant mountaintops; Jesus was always there. Soon they would be confessors of the intangible Jesus. Soon they “would see him no more, but would know him in truth.”
Here is the lesson for them and for us in his priestly prayer. His Father’s best gifts are given in Words. They are offered & received in the wrapping of tangible means; not just in the man Jesus, but in his names, words, truths. Jesus and his Father have wrapped up the glory of the cross, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, safety in trials, comfort in death, purpose in doubtful days; the Lord has wrapped that all up in one sure tangible way he has promised: his Name.
Last week our confirmation student gave clear confession to the faith they share with us. As a part of their examination they confessed this simple, yet provoking truth: God’s Name is not only everything he says, it is also everything that he is and everything that he does for you his people. Jesus prays for the best gifts when he says: “I have revealed your name to them … I have given them your words … they have received your truth, keep them in your name!”
When the truths of the Bible are read and taught - from a pulpit; at a kitchen table; by night stand or death bed; on a street corner; Jesus and all that he is and what he does is there. When the Name of the Triune God is spoken over the splash of water, Jesus - his death for sin, his burial of sin, his rising over death – all of it is wrapped up as the Father’s best gifts to the human world. When for the first time, thousandth time, or last time our lips received bread, wine, and the body & blood of Christ, the Father is gift-wrapping eternal life, strengthening of faith, and the unconditional pardon of our sins. It is in this prayer that Jesus speaks this simple thought: “Sanctify them – make them holy and set apart for you, Father – sanctify them by your truth; your Word is truth!” (17:17).
The Unity of His Church
The cauterization of his entire discourse in that room is the repeating, mysterious wonderful truth: “may they be one, Father, even as we are one.” If you have a “red letter” edition your Bible’s text will be mostly red from John chapter 12 until the end of 17. John, who was sitting closely to him, records these intimate Maundy Thursday words. Spattered throughout is the comforting mystery of the oneness that Jesus shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are unique as persons of the Trinity but undivided and inseparable. In two short weeks we will explore and celebrate that that triune relationship more deeply. Jesus prays that his believers experience that divine brand of unity. The Father’s final gift is an undivided Gathering of Believers.
That unity is not truly or perfectly realized in the visible nature of the church. No collection of believers in this world will be perfect. Your sins and mine have and will continue to ruin that wanted unity. When believers sin visibly, unity in the church is damaged. When Satan gets his hooks on God’s people, the Church often ends up with a bad rap. When falsehood and false practice wins the day, the visible church remains broken, divided, and scattered like lost sheep.
His broken body on the cross is the only thing that wipes the slate of sins away. His completed work on Good Friday is the only work that unifies the true, invisible, undivided Church. His Resurrection gives life to all who believe in his Name. His Spirit who by the Gospel “calls, gathers, enlightens unifies the whole Christian Church … keeps with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” (M. Luther/ 3rd Article). We believe that the unity for which our Savior prayed, does indeed exists, now and for eternity!
“Jesus prayed!” Think of the mystery & awe! Think of the beauty of the Trinity! Think of the personal application of this thought: Jesus is praying for you! Jesus is in constant prayer that his Father gives you daily the best of his gifts, the gifts he promises to give – even life itself with Jesus in heavenly unity! Amen