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Sunday After Ascension
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael Moffitt, May 24, 2020

Protected by the Power of His Name

Text: John 17:1–5

Over the years I have encountered people who were famous and well known in their own field, but were completely unknown to me. It’s amazing how ordinary people can accomplish such extraordinary things, and yet remain anonymous to most everyone outside of a fairly small group of people. When I was in my early teens my parents were friends with a couple who had moved from Boston a few years earlier. I knew that the man was a doctor in a small regional hospital outside of Covington, Virginia. Charlie was always very kind to me, and I thought he seemed to be a really great guy. One day while visiting our home I needed to go somewhere, and he offered to give me a ride in his Jaguar. What a car! He showed off a little bit by driving fast and taking turns at high speeds to show me how his car “cornered like a cat”. I took his word for it but couldn’t remember paying attention to how cats maneuvered around corners.

Not long after that, my father told me that Charlie had moved from Boston where he was the head of orthopedics at one of the major hospitals. He was considered the third leading bone specialist in America. He had moved down to the tiny little town of Low Moor to work at a small regional hospital because he was burned out. He bought a farm and put in an airfield for his airplane and glider and lived a much simpler life until he died.

It’s interesting how God brings people or events to mind when contemplating his word. This week as I considered what is called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17, I thought of Charlie Woodhouse and how he had been so much more than I initially realized. I never would have known about him if I hadn’t gotten to know him personally.

From the very beginning of his Gospel, John points the reader to the impressive amount of evidence of Jesus’ divinity. It’s helpful to remember that John is writing this gospel around 30 years after the Synoptic Gospel’s Matthew, Mark and Luke. At the time of the events in the upper room and the High Priestly Prayer, the disciples still had little comprehension as to Jesus’ full identity and intentions. At the time of the writing of his Gospel John’s intention was to speak to the heresies concerning Jesus that plagued the early church, and to leave no doubt as to the identity and purpose of the Son of God.

A great deal had happened over the 55–60 years since Jesus’ ascension back to the Father, and John, through the Holy Spirit, had a very different understanding as to Jesus’ role in the Father’s plan for redemption. John’s gospel has a richness and depth that was borne from many years of living in the presence of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We should always approach the Word of God with anticipation of the Holy Spirit moving through the word into our lives. When approaching John’s Gospel we should anticipate a deeper appreciation of the majesty and glory of the Son of God.

From the very first chapter of John the reader is shown that Jesus was eternally present with the Father and through Jesus, the Son of God, all things were created. The Father used the Son as the agent in creation showing that creation itself was a distinct activity of the Godhead. One of the styles that John employs is to emphasize contrasting themes and concepts: light and darkness; love and hatred; from above and from below; life and death; truth and falsehood. Since the celebration of the resurrection on Easter we have seen how the “I am” statements of Jesus reveal more about who he is and why we should put our faith and trust in him for eternal life. John through the Holy Spirit reveals the ways that Jesus intends to function in the lives of his people. He came to function as a Prophet, as a Priest and as King. In John 12:49–50 we see an example of Jesus’ role as prophet,

“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Moses told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 18:18–19,

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Of course, there is a great deal more to say about Jesus as Prophet, but our passage today speaks more to His role and function as priest. Let’s look at John 17:1–2,

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

Before Jesus turns to the Father in prayer he encourages his disciples by telling them in John 16:26–28 that his hour has come, and he is going back to the Father. He wants them to know that they should be comforted “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and believed that I came from God.”

Then Jesus looks up to the Father in prayer. It’s similar to Jesus’ prayer at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11:41–42,

And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus made it clear that he had no need of appealing to God for Lazarus to be raised up from the dead, because he had been one with the Father for all eternity. He prayed publicly for the benefit of those present, that they would know his authority even over death. In our passage this morning Jesus is praying for the sake of his disciples who were with him and for those who would believe because of the disciple’s ministry. This passage focuses on the union between the Father, the Son, and the glory they share. The Father is seen as the one who gives, (used 13 times in this chapter), calling attention to His grace and his role as the source of all. Jesus focuses specifically on the Father’s gift to the Son of the disciples.

Throughout his ministry on earth, Jesus referred to his hour coming. At the wedding feast in Cana of John 2, Mary the mother of Jesus came to him because the wine had run out at the wedding, which would have been a great embarrassment to the host. Jesus looks at his mother and says, “Woman, my hour has not yet come.” Of course, he turned water into wine and a much better wine than before. The theme of Jesus’ “hour” was prominent for much of his ministry and the story from John’s gospel. Time and again the authorities attempted to arrest Jesus, but he slipped by them because, “His time had not yet come” (7:6, 8, 30; 8:20) and his appeal to the Father in John 12:27:28,

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

I bring these examples to our attention because they give us a greater appreciation for what our Lord went through on behalf of those that the Father gave him. He was very much God, but he was also very must a human man.

When he fell down he would bleed, if he were hungry he felt the same hunger pangs as you and I. With that idea in mind, we have to contemplate what Jesus was going through as he prayed for his disciples in John 17. He knew what was coming and yet his focus is on the disciples and the glory of God.

I love the way 19th-century pastor and theologian Charles Spurgeon saw this moment for Jesus.

After the closing supper, his public preaching work being ended, and nothing remaining to be done but to die, he gave himself wholly unto prayer. He was not again to instruct the multitude, nor heal the sick, and in the interval which remained, before he should lay down his life, he girded himself for special intercession. He poured out his soul in life before he poured it out unto death.

This amazing prayer was made with heart and mind focused on the Father in Heaven. He said nothing of the suffering he would go through or the decision to take our sin upon himself, even though he knew it would cause a break in the unity and fellowship that he had eternally enjoyed with the Father. You and I can never fully understand what that was like for the Father and the Son. Instead his focus was on the absolute fulfillment of God the Father’s will, no matter the cost, and simply because it was the only way that eternal life could come to others.

To put it simply, the Son will glorify the Father through giving eternal life to those that the Father gives him. In turn the Father’s glorification of the Son is in keeping with his giving the Son authority over all flesh. What authority is he speaking of? Earlier in the Gospel Jesus spoke of the authority given him by the Father to give life and to judge (5:20–27). In this case Jesus is speaking of the role that the Father gave the Son as the agent of creation.

Dr. Rod Whitacre in his Commentary on John explains,

the flow is from creation to new creation. In both cases the Father is the ultimate source, and the Son is God’s agent. The Son has given life to all creation, and now it is time for him to give eternal life to those within creation given him by God….both divine sovereignty and human responsibility have been stressed throughout this Gospel, but there is never any doubt that all depends on the Father’s grace.

As believers we should understand and glory in the authority of Jesus, especially considering the alternative. Every one of us operates under authority whether we choose to believe it or not. If you do not choose to live under the authority of Jesus, another authority will emerge. Jesus willingly submitted to the authority of His Father in Heaven and this is important to understand. It would not bring any glory to the Father if Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was not acceptable, or if the Son were not restored to his rightful place in the presence of the Father’s full glory. If this were not accomplished according to the will of the Father then the divine mission would be a failure, and the purposes of grace would be defeated. The disciples were in no position to fully understand the implications of what Jesus was praying until much later. In their mind and culture, the cross was a symbol of shame and humiliation, but it was the symbol of glorification in the eyes of the Father.

There was so much at stake here and you and I should fully understand that Jesus had the authority to give eternal life to all that the Father had given him. The only way that we would receive it was if Jesus obeyed the will of the Father. Christians often think of Jesus as God’s gift to us, but likely never see ourselves as the Father's gift to Jesus.

Let’s read John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

I love the quote from 4th-century theologian Augustine of Hippo, “You have made us for yourself, and hearts are restless until we find our rest in you”

Often, when we think of eternal life we think of the longevity of life, but Jesus is speaking of a very different quality of life—life with the Father. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus taught about the kingdom of God. The offer wasn’t just to live forever without sin, sickness, pain and suffering and the other problems we encounter here in this life, but to have a deep and wonderful knowledge of the everlasting, all-powerful, loving, and merciful Creator God. We were created for this and Jesus came to restore the relationship, and this is the promise of the New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:34,  

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

This knowledge is of both the Father and the Son. Jesus is the conduit by which we come to know God, but the offer is that we may know the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is truly and perfectly God and therefore infinite, but there is a richness to the Godhead which we are enabled to know and experience. This is what we were made for and this is the true life that Jesus has given to those whom the Father gave him.

This promise shouldn’t be seen as only a future event where we leave this world and travel to the next, for God is creator of both, as he is the creator of the universe. This world and all it contains will never fully satisfy us, and that was never the intention. We were made to know and experience the Lord of all creation and Jesus made it possible for us to begin that relationship now. To receive eternal life is not the end of the journey but the beginning of all that we were created for. We are invited to enter into an intimate relationship with God where our knowledge (or knowing him) deepens our appreciation of him, who is without end. I have found that to say or think such thoughts gives me a sense of limited anticipation, but when I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of what it means to know God intimately (and I have come to love the phrase, “press into Him”), then I feel a sense of longing to know Him more deeply. And that becomes my prayer.

John 17:4–5, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

It’s a wonderful feeling to being able to say to someone you love, “I did what you asked, and it’s now done.” Jesus came to us at the Father’s request and fulfilled all that was required, because of His love for the Father, and because they always had the same goal. The Father loved the Son and gave him all that he created, and he also gave him those who would follow him. The Son in turn obeyed the Father out of love and a desire that the Father be glorified. What was the Fathers response? Most of you are very acquainted with Philippians 2:9–11,

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

See how this works? The Son loved the Father and came to us to accomplish the Father's desire for redemption. In turn the Father gave the Son a name above all names at the name of Jesus all creation would confess his Lordship. For what purpose? “To the glory of the Father.” Next week at Pentecost we will see how the Holy Spirit joins in this eternal cycle of glorifying the Godhead.

Jesus knew that his work was complete and all that was left was to go to the cross. He would do it because of the Father’s love and his love for the Father and for those who the Father would give him.

Right now, we need to understand that we are invited to join with them. John Calvin wrote, “It is for God above all things, and not for ourselves that we were created.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith Larger Catechism’ first question asks, “What is the chief and highest end of man” Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

If our chief end is to love God and enjoy him forever, then Jesus’ witness in John 17 shows us the means to that end. We are to glorify the Father by joining with Jesus in his mission to this world. Jesus modeled for us that the highest form of worship has everything to do with obedience. Jesus continually bore witness to the glory of the Father and we must join in by bearing witness to the Father and the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 9:4, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

Jesus’ work is complete as he said upon the cross, “It is finished.” The mantle has been given to those who would follow Jesus and take up their own cross.

Last Thursday was Ascension Day, a day to remember when Christ ascended back to the Father, his work completed. The disciples watched him ascend until he was out of their sight, but 500 years before Daniel in a vision saw what happened next. Daniel 7:13–14,

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
        there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
        and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
        and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages 
        should serve him; his dominion
is an everlasting dominion,
        which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
        that shall not be destroyed.

The mission of Christ is not finished and if we would seek to glorify God, then we would seek God’s leading in bearing witness to our Lord. Only then will we be able to say, “I did what you asked, it’s done.”

Let’s pray.

©2020 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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