Over the past many months we have been studying the Gospel of John. We are doing so for a very specific reason. We believe that Jesus was the most significant person who ever lived . . . and we want to get to know Him better. And in the course of our study we have seen Jesus as He healed the sick, as He confronted the stubborn, as He talked to the masses, as He performed unheard of miracles and as He counseled with His friends. But nowhere do we see the heart of the Savior more clearly than in John chapter 17. For in this chapter we have the opportunity to listen to Him pray.
When most of us think of “the Lord’s Prayer” we think about the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples when they asked Him to teach them to pray. They had heard Him pray before and had been stunned by the intimacy and power in His prayers. They wanted to pray like Him. So, Jesus gave them a model prayer as an outline for their praying. In truth, that really isn’t the Lord’s Prayer . . . it is “the model prayer”, or “the disciples prayer”. The real Lord’s prayer is before us.
The prayer falls neatly into three sections. In the first five verses Jesus talks about His personal relationship with the Father. In verses 6-19 He prays for His disciples. And then in verses 20-26 He prays for the church . . . for those who would come to believe. He prays for you and me. We’re going to take one week on each of those sections. Then we are going to take a five week “break” to talk about how the Union Church of La Harpe is trying to be what the Lord wants us to be.
We aren’t really sure when Jesus prayed this prayer. What we do know from John 18:1 is that the prayer was NOT prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It may have been prayed in the Upper Room where they celebrated the Last Supper. Or it may have been spoken somewhere between the Upper Room and the Garden. We simply don’t know. But the location of the prayer is not important. What makes the prayer worth studying are the words. This morning we see three things (naturally) about the Savior.
We See the Savior’s Nature
In the text before us we see Jesus once again making claims to be equal to God. In verse five He says, “glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Jesus claims to be eternal. In verse 10 He says, “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.”[italics added] Jesus claims equal authority to the Father. In verse 11 He says, “….so that they may be one as we are one.” He claims to be one (equal to) with God. And then in verse 24 he says, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me before the creation of the world.” Jesus claims a right to glory. These are incredible claims.
We should note that these kinds of claims have come up over and over again in the Gospel. In fact the very first words of the Gospel proclaim that Jesus “was with God and was God”! John states Jesus’ claims up front because the rest of the Gospel doesn’t make much sense if you don’t know who the central character is.
Understand what these claims mean. It means we can no longer be neutral about Jesus. We’ve said it before and I will say it again and again and again. The notion that Jesus was JUST a good man and a Great teacher are ridiculous. That is not even a remote option. Jesus claimed to be God!!!! So, Jesus was either:
- truly God . . . which means He was far superior to any good man or great teacher and we owe Him our lives and ought to follow Him.
- not God but He was sincere in thinking Himself to be God . . . which makes Him crazy. And that would make suspect anything He taught.
- not God and He knew He wasn’t God . . . in which case He was misrepresenting Himself. He was a liar. He was a fraud. He was an agent of the Devil.
The claims of Jesus to be God make it impossible for us to be neutral about Him. At least it is impossible to be neutral and rational. There are no other possible options than those listed above.
This understanding of Jesus as God is described best in the expression of faith known as THE TRINITY. Very simply the Trinity states what the Bible declares:
- There is only One God. This was the declaration of every Jew and what God said about Himself.
- The Father is God
- The Son is God
- The Holy Spirit is God
- They are all unique and separate – but one.
Scratching your head? I’m not surprised. This is one of the most mysterious and difficult doctrines of the Christian faith. Every attempt to explain the relationship with a simple earthly analogy brings us very close to heresy. So I will not attempt an analogy.
The great thinker C.S. Lewis likened the Trinity to art. In one dimensional art you can draw a line but that is all. In two dimensional art you can use many line to make simple shapes (like a square). In three dimensional art you can combine lines and squares to form objects (like cubes). Each advanced dimension contains what the previous dimension had but it is augmented.
Lewis goes on to say that we exist in the first dimension . . . God exists in the third dimension. His dimension is richer and deeper than our ability to comprehend. In the three dimensional world six squares make one cube. But someone living in the second dimension cannot comprehend that. In God’s dimension three persons make one God. We have a difficult time grasping that reality.
St. Augustine said that trying to understand the Trinity is like trying to fill a hole with the ocean. There is no way our limited minds can comprehend God’s greatness.
Now, rather than this being a source of frustration for us this should encourage and strengthen us. You see, if God were small enough for our minds, He wouldn’t be big enough for our needs.
This is also encouraging to us when we remember God left the wonder and the splendor of Heaven (the third dimension, if you will) to come into our world, limited and restrictive though it is . . . to reach us. I hope that encourages you.
These deep theological reflections lead to a practical question: “Do you know the real Jesus?” Are you serving the one who was God become man? Or are you following Christ as you would a favorite teacher, author or artist? Jesus is more! Don’t limit Him.
We See the Savior’s Motivation
When I first read this prayer again I was startled, not by what I read, but what I didn’t read. Think about it. Jesus was facing the mutiny of his closest friends, the greatest miscarriage of civil justice the world has ever known, a painful agonizing death, and the wrath of God. [Now there’s a difficult concept to comprehend!] If that was me I would begin my prayer with a whine! I’d ask God to take care of my problems. I’d ask Him to remove the pain. I’d want to suggest some alternative approaches. But none of that from the lips of Jesus!
Jesus simply asks the Father to help Him do what He has been called to do so He could turn the spotlight onto the Father and His love. His goal was to “Glorify the Father.” Jesus knew how wonderful the Father is and wanted the world to know. He also knew that the “piece” that was missing from all of our lives was something we could only get from a relationship with the Father. He went to the cross knowing it was the only way He could show us how great God really is.
Now, do you find yourself a little uncomfortable as you hear these words. I do. I can’t help asking, “what or who am I seeking to glorify?” What is the motivation for my life?
If we are honest with ourselves and with God we would have to admit that the thing that most often drives us is a desire to glorify OUR name. We want to gain something for ourselves: praise, honor, promotion, financial reward, merit, good standing in the eyes of the world. In those few times we may actually point to the Father we are doing so in the hopes that the Father will reward us for our unselfishness! So even in those situations we are seeking our own glory.
Do you understand that we have not yet begun to comprehend how Wonderful God is? Do you realize we don’t have a clue what we have been saved from [the horrors of certain Hell] and prepared for [the glories of Heaven]? If we had caught even a glimpse of His glory we would want to draw everyone’s attention to Him . . . . not us.
We See the Savior’s Purpose
Jesus says, “the time has come”. Later he talks about “the job you gave me to do.” These words remind us that Jesus came to earth with a specific purpose. He came for a reason. Do you know what that reason was? Here’s a clue: he said His work was “finished” as He hung on the cross. Jesus came to die at the hands of sinful men. But why?
The Bible tells us that God is holy, pure and good. Because of that, God cannot compromise with wrong-doing. Wrong doing, rebellion, and sin HAS TO BE punished. If sin isn’t dealt with, then God is not exercising justice. If He does not exercise justice He is doing an injustice. If He is engaged in injustice He is no longer good, holy or pure. You let a little yeast into the dough and the whole mixture is contaminated. If a little dust gets into a microchip the whole chip is useless. A little injustice in God and He is no longer God!!!
When we rebelled against God (and we do it constantly, every day) we stood condemned before the God of justice. God has to punish sin. But He also loves us. How could God be just and also show mercy to us? There was only one way: God had to find a substitute who was willing to take our place, and our punishment. But where do you find such a person? Not on earth . . . we can’t be a substitute for someone else when we have our own sin to pay for. I can’t pay off your debt if I don’t have any resources of my own. And how can you possibly find enough substitutes for everyone who has sinned?
The only solution was for God Himself to become a man . . . live a perfect life (to qualify him as a substitute) and then die in our place, bearing our punishment. The value of the life of the Son of God is so great that it can substitute for everyone who would believe in Him. Jesus went to the cross in your place and in mine. The agony He suffered was the agony that my sin caused.
My friend, Greg Munro wrote,
When Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” the Triune nature of God was sundered. He chose, for our sakes, to step out into the dark to fetch us. To experience the full righteous anger of the Father at our sin, for us. Father and Son who had from eternity been in perfect relationship, were now sundered by the Father’s wrath. God himself, in the person of his Son, bore our sins for us on the cross. And then he rose again and ascended back to the Father, taking us with him, into perfect communion with God. He stepped back into God’s family life, bearing us in his arms. [for the whole sermon see http://www.ozemail.com.au/~gsmunro/TEXT/TOPICAL/TRINITY.HTM ]
Jesus came to give us a way to have a good relationship with God. Notice that Jesus does not say that His goal was to lead us to Heaven. He said, “this is eternal life . . . .to know You.” Knowing God is not a “means to the end” it IS the end. The highest blessing is to know God’s gracious fellowship. That’s what Jesus makes possible. And only Jesus can do so. No one else is qualified to be a substitute. No one else can take our place . . . only the Son, Jesus.
Do you realize then how urgent the message of salvation is? The only hope our friends, neighbors and family members have is to receive the gift of life offered by Christ. It doesn’t matter how decent they are . . . they will be lost without Him. It doesn’t matter how sincere or well-meaning they are . . . they will be lost without Him.
God has given us the key the world is longing to find. We have been shown the solution to the “sin dilemma” we must share that information with those who are perishing.
My friend, do you understand the greatness of God’s love? As we listen to Jesus talk to God the Father, do you sense His love for you? Do you realize that His whole purpose for entering this world was to bring you into a loving relationship with God?
I know that some of you reading this find it hard to believe that there is such love. In your experience you have been hurt again and again by those you thought cared for you. They have used you, perhaps even abused you in horrible ways. You’ve had friends that stayed close only until they got what they wanted from you and then they walked away. Yes, the scars are deep and you are scared to risk that kind of hurt again. You want to believe . . . but it’s hard.
Others of you find it difficult to believe God loves you because you have done horrible things. You have lied, cheated, destroyed the lives of others. You have used people for your purposes and then cast them away. You have lived your life without any real regard for God at all. You wonder how He could love you after all that you’ve done.
I wondered too. But one day I dared to believe Him . . .and I’ve never regretted that decision. Look at what Jesus did for you. Look at the mercy God offers to you. Recognize that the depth of this love is unlike anything the world can offer or dream about.
The offer is on the table. Jesus says, “whoever believes in [entrusts themselves to] me will never perish . . . but will have everlasting life.” That’s the promise. The requirements are simple, yet life-changing:
- Admit that you need someone to pay the debt you have incurred
- Believe Jesus was the one who died in your place
- Receive Him as your Substitute, Leader and Friend
Make the decision today. God has provided the way, it’s up to you whether or not you take it. I encourage you in the quiet of your own heart to accept God’s gift. Become a part of God’s family today. Look at the evidence. Dare to trust Him.
AND FOR THOSE WHO DO BELIEVE. . . Lest you who believe turn away feeling self-satisfied and unmoved by this message I draw some applications for you.
- Who do you know who needs to learn of God’s love? What keeps you from telling them?
- And, in light of God’s love for you . . . . what are you doing to show your gratitude? How are you showing your love to Him? Read the questions again. Hear them well. Think about them often. I pray that this question (“In light of God’s love for you, what are you doing to show your love for Him?”) accompanies you, and me for the rest of our lives . . . in every situation . . .in every relationship . . . at every opportunity. And may that question become so pervasive in our lives . . . that we learn to turn the spotlight on Him.