John 17:1 – 5
We’re all a bunch of eavesdroppers!
This week I was standing behind a couple of young women in the checkout queue, and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. Don’t judge me!
I wasn’t doing it deliberately!, but they were talking about Prince Harry, and whether or not he’s going to get engaged to this young woman he’s dating, And whether or not that young woman was a more deserving future princess, then either of these 2 girls themselves! And I think that they decided that she wasn’t, and that Prince Harry would do be better with either one of these 2 girls from Mount Barker!
I’m sure you’ve had that experience, not of matchmaking yourself to a member of the royal family, although I suspect some may have!
I mean that experience of overhearing, eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation. Sometimes you really try not to hear, but, let’s be honest, there are occasions, when you really want to hear more about what’s being talked about, isn’t that right?! Is it just me? Maybe!
When we overhear, we can be privy to conversations that we wouldn’t otherwise have any part in, we learn things that we wouldn’t know otherwise.
John chapter 17, opens, with us overhearing a conversation.
A conversation between Jesus and his Father.
Actually, we only hear one side of the conversation, so it’s actually much more like listening to someone talk on their mobile phone, as people do, at the top of their voice,
We hear what they’re saying, but not what’s said at the other end.
Now Jesus isn’t one of those obnoxious people who talks on their phone at the top of their voice,
And he’s not just chatting away merrily completely unaware and ignorant that people are listening in to his end of the conversation!
In fact, quite the opposite!
Jesus, we can tell as this prayer unfolds throughout the chapter, is very aware of those who are listening, and he deliberately prays for their overhearing, as well as for his Father’s hearing.
And since John, one of the disciples eavesdropping on this conversation, since John records these words in his account of Jesus’ life, we too get the benefit of overhearing Jesus speaking with his Father.
After Jesus had said these things in chapter 16 about his going, he looked toward heaven and he prayed
Here is the Son of God, talking to his Father in heaven.
In the Bible, we’re told on lots of occasions that Jesus prays,
Very rarely, are we told the content of those prayers.
What conversations between persons of the Trinity, have you been privy to, in the last week?
Have you heard the Father and Spirit discussing who’s about to be born again?
Have you heard the Spirit speak to the Father and the Son, about the list of people he’s going to convict of sin, in the coming few days?
Have you heard the Son, describing to the Father and the Spirit, just how he’s going to go about holding all of creation together today?
We generally don’t get to hear the conversation, between the persons of the Trinity,
But here, we are deliberately invited in, to overhear a conversation within the godhead,
This is an enormous privilege!
Some Sundays here at Trinity we pray together the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, that’s often called the Lord’s Prayer.
But reading this section of John’s gospel, I can’t help but think that the Lord’s Prayer should be renamed! The one that we say on Sundays should be called the Disciple’s Prayer, because that’s what it is, it’s a prayer for disciples,
This John 17, is the real Lord’s prayer,
This is the prayer that only Jesus can pray.
Now, I’m not really advocating a departure from 2000 years of Christian practice, but this is a unique prayer and a special prayer.
There was a 17th Century Puritan preacher named Thomas Manton, who took 45 Sundays, to preach through John 17.
It took him 11 months! We’re going to do the same thing in 3 weeks!
So let’s get into it!
The fulfilment of God’s sovereign purposes is Jesus’ motivation to pray
After Jesus said this he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you
If you’ve been with us for much of our time in John’s gospel, you’ll probably recall that the phrase the hour, is Jesus’ theological shorthand for the cross;, his death and resurrection.
In the initial occurrences, it’s always that the hour has not yet come.
But as Jesus approaches the cross, that changes, to what we find here, the hour has come.
Here is a reminder that every act and event has been carefully planned and orchestrated by the sovereign God, as he drives his plans and purposes towards this fulfilment.
All the things that God had promised for centuries were about to unfold, in fact, were unfolding even as prayed.
Jesus knows that God’s sovereign purposes have reached their fulfilment.
He knows that in a matter of hours he will have been accused,
The hour has come
It seems to me, that if ever there was a time for resigned fatalism, this would be it.
If ever there was an occasion, when God’s plans and purposes were so clearly being fulfilled so as to make praying to God unnecessary!, this, would be that moment.
And yet, that’s not how Jesus sees this moment, is it?
Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been following the strange events surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
And there were a couple of things that intrigued me, as I read on Twitter, people’s news, theories, speculation, and, other rubbish!
But because the majority of the Malaysian population are Muslim, 2 things stood out in the Twitter feed,
One was the very public and unapologetic calls for people to pray for those on the flight. People posting pictures of Malaysian praying in the streets, that kind of thing.
But the flip-side of that, was the comments from, apparently very devout Muslims, who, well some of them were actually rebuking those calls to prayer, and saying “whatever has happened, it is clearly Allah’s will”, and so don’t pray, for the safe return of the passengers and crew.
Well, Jesus has an even higher view of God’s sovereignty, than those Malaysians have of Allah’s sovereignty, and yet, it is the very fact of God’s sovereignty, that drives him to pray.
Sometimes, though, I wonder if we are more like those Malaysians on Twitter.
It is easy to think, that because God is sovereign,
Because God is able to bring his plans and purposes about with or without us,
Therefore, we don’t need to pray.
If it’s God’s will that this person be saved, God will save them! I don’t need to pray for their salvation.
God’s got it all figured out when we live and die, so there’s no point praying for the sick.
God knows what he wants to accomplish through me today, so why bother praying, that I would be ready, to take the opportunities to be used by God.
Often that seems to be where our thinking goes.
And yet it is precisely because God’s plans and purposes are coming to their fulfilment, that Jesus prays.
Because the hour has come for Jesus to be glorified, he prays that that glorification might take place.
God’s sovereign plans and purposes are coming to pass, and that’s what drives Jesus to prayer.
He prays that his Father in heaven will accomplish the very things for which this hour has been long coming.
The fulfilment of God’s sovereign purposes is motivation for us to pray
When the Bible speaks to us of God’s sovereignty, it’s always an incentive to pray, not a disincentive.
The realisation that God is in control, should spur us to prayer, not divert us from prayer.
I don’t know what that means for your prayer life this week, but I’m quite confident that it could and should shape how you pray.
You can pray, for things as yet unseen, precisely because God is sovereign.
You can ask God, to have mercy on those who don’t yet know Jesus, precisely because it’s God who changes people’s hearts
You can bring before God, those who are sick, struggling, injured, lost, expressly because God holds our life and death in his hands.
You can pray, and ask God to bring his plans and purposes about, because it is exactly in answer to those prayers, that God longs to bring, his plans and purposes about.
So we’d better speed up!
There’s lots more we could say, even just here!
Once again, similar to what we see in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus calls God “Father”. This was in a time when Jewish people wouldn’t even say the word “God”, for fear of blaspheming.
Think of the prodigal son, if you know that story, he says to his father, “I have sinned against heaven, and against you.”
A character in a fictional story, can’t even say the word “God”, and yet Jesus demonstrates the intimacy that he has with his Father, and which his disciples can have, because of the reconciliation he’s about to achieve.
So what does Jesus’ confidence in prayer lead him to?
Jesus prays for his Father to be glorified
Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you
In some Bibles, this prayer in chapter 17 is divided into 3 sections, and the heading given to this section in verses 1 to 5, is sometimes “Jesus prays for himself.”
But, I’m sure you noticed as we read it through, yes, Jesus is praying for himself, but ultimately he’s not!
The goal of his prayer, is God’s glory.
Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you
What is glory?
Well the word is used in a couple of different ways in the Bible, there’s some overlap between them, so Jesus probably has both parts of the picture in mind as he prays.
The first aspect of glory, is about seeing the true attributes of someone, and usually in the Bible, it’s God’s attributes that are described as glorious.
To see God’s glory then, is to see his true character,
His intrinsic worth,
His attributes;, holiness, love, grace, . power, knowledge, and so on.
To glorify someone, is to show their glory, to show those attributes.
So one of the few ways that we use the word glory today, is in this sense; And that is, we might speak of seeing someone “In all their glory”, which is generally a bit rude, so don’t think about that too much!
But that’s what we mean, don’t we? We’re seeing the whole picture!
Nothing is hidden!
We know everything there is to know about them!
The other way that the word “glory” is used in the Bible, and again, especially with reference to God’s glory, is to describe something as being covered in splendour.
We might say something like “It was a glorious spring day”, which is a little bit related to experiencing the attributes of the spring season, but mostly we mean that we’re enjoying everything that is good about spring, that no one would doubt that spring is the best season, in the light of, what we see on that day.
So in the Old Testament, God’s glory, is a visible manifestation of his splendour. To be given a glimpse at the glory of God, was to see that clearly there is no one like God.
Here Jesus prays, initially that he will be glorified,
That is, that his character will be revealed,
That his role as the centrepiece of God’s plan to redeem creation, might be seen
Jesus’ prayer, is that on the cross, people will, we will, see him “in all his glory”, as he deals with sin and evil once and for all.
See it’s at the cross, that we see Jesus as he really is.
At the cross, we see Jesus’ nature, we see Jesus’ purpose, more clearly than at any other point in his life.
At Christmas time, we see nativity scenes popping up all over the place, with cute little rosy-cheeked Baby Jesuses in them!
And I’m all for nativity scenes!
Anything that puts Christ at the centre of Christmas is good in my book!
But it’s not in the manger that we see Jesus as he really is!
It’s not in the manger that we see Jesus in all his glory!
Baby Jesus in the stable doesn’t reveal to us the full extent of his nature and purpose.
There are hints of it there, sure;!
Gentiles coming to worship,
Gifts fit for a king, and a burial.
The nativity is not divorced from Jesus’ true nature and identity, but it’s at the cross where those things come into clearest focus.
That’s what Jesus prays,
Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, Show him, to the world.
… in order that Jesus may glorify his Father
But Jesus prayer, for his own glory, isn’t an end in itself is it?
Truth be told, if I was praying for my glory, that’s probably where I’d stop!
But Jesus prays that the Father would glorify him, so that, he in turn can bring glory to his Father.
Now, its’ not some quid pro quo, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, If you make me look glorious, I’ll make you look glorious”
But the things we’ve seen about Jesus’ glory seen in the cross;, that it’s a revelation of his character,
His nature and purpose,
Jesus prays that the cross will also make those things known about his Father.
And that’s no surprise, really, considering what John has already told us in his gospel account, about Jesus being the one who makes God known, chapter 1 verse 18,
In fact all through his life and ministry, Jesus has revealed his Father’s character,
Gods’ purposes in the world.
And here’s the danger in that view of Jesus that says, “Well, I like to think about Jesus like this”,
I was talking to a lady recently who said, “I like to think of Jesus like such and such”, and she rattled off a big long description of what she liked to imagine Jesus’ character and Jesus’ purposes to be like.
Which, not only is the height of arrogance, you wouldn’t be too pleased if I ignored everything you told me about yourself and insisted on relating you based on the inventions of my imagination, Not only, but it also means we would miss out on the very things Jesus wants to communicate about himself, which are the things he wants to communicate about his Father.
He pointed people to his Father,
He has revealed the Father’s character, throughout his life and ministry, so much so that John can say, again in chapter 1, John says right in the very beginning in chapter 1 speaking of Jesus, We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth
Jesus life has brought glory to his Father and he prays that in his death he will bring glory to his Father.
So how does Jesus’ glorification, his death on the cross, how does demonstrate his Father’s glory, in a way that his life, his birth, his ministry didn’t or couldn’t?
Well the cross of Christ is the place where we see God, as he really is;, his character, his purposes.
For example, it’s at the cross that we see the holiness of God most clearly.
By nature, God is unable to have any part with sin, and at the cross we see the extent of that, as the perfect relationship between Father and Son is torn apart, as Jesus takes on himself the sin of rebellious humanity.
The cross shows us God’s holiness, because it shows us that God can’t just look the other way, sweep sin under the carpet, just tolerate it over in the corner here.
That’s what our view of holiness often is!
Sin can be explained away, ignored, tolerated, especially in ourselves, and sometimes even in others.
Sometimes even we’ll seek to preserve a relationship over holiness.
We’ll tolerate sin to maintain a friendship.
No, the cross shows us God’s hatred of sin,
That God will judge sin, even when it means judging his own, perfect Son.
The cross shows us God the Father in all his glory.
Also, as Jesus prays it will, we see God’s glory at the cross, as it demonstrates God’s commitment to justice.
This part of God’s character, we see at the cross like nowhere else in human history.
Sin must receive its due penalty,
There are consequences for living as God’s enemy, and the cross shows us just how committed God is, to seeing that penalty paid.
So committed, in fact, that he paid it himself, because we never could.
Our commitment to justice is, well sometimes, we’re committed to “justice when convenient” aren’t we? Truth be told?
We’re much more dedicated to seeking justice, when it lines up with what we want anyway, or of course when we are the ones offended against.
To see God’s glory, is to see God paying the penalty, even though he is the one offended against.
That’s some commitment to justice!
There’s an aspect of God’s character, his nature, his priorities that we see more clearly in the cross than anywhere else.
The cross shows us God the Father in all his glory.
We see God in all his glory, when we see his love displayed at the cross.
If we really want to understand the depths of God’s love, here is its ultimate demonstration.
Look at just how high a price, God was willing to pay, so that people like you and I who had lived as rebels in his world, could be brought back to relationship with him.
If God had been willing just to send his son to be born as a human baby, that would speak to us something of God’s love,
If God were willing for Jesus to live out the span of a human life, to be some kind of example, a religious leader, someone who could teach us about God, that would reveal something of a God who loves us.
But the fact that God sent his one and only Son to die, for rebellious humanity, shows us the true depths of God’s love.
The cross shows us, there is no price that God is not willing to pay, for his lost creation to be brought back to him,
The cross shows us there is no limit, to God’s love.
The cross of Christ really does show us God in all his glory.
No wonder then, that Jesus can pray, Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
There’s an interesting episode back in Exodus 33 and 34, when Moses asks God “show me your glory.”
And what does God reveal of himself?
His compassion, his grace, his love, his faithfulness.
That’s what God thinks, displays his glory!
And those aspects of his nature, are seen so clearly at the cross as Jesus dies in our place.
Jesus brings glory to God by giving eternal life.
There’s one more piece of the picture, of how Jesus brings glory to God in his death and resurrection.
It’s explained in verse 2, which is really just a continuation of the sentence in verse 1, for, or literally just as you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Jesus will bring glory to God, through winning eternal life for people in his death and resurrection.
The fact that Jesus can give eternal life to all those the Father has given him, once again demonstrates God’s great love for his creation,
It shows God’s sovereign purposes being worked out,
It shows God’s foreknowledge,
His fore-ordaining of history, to bring about this end, eternal life, for all his people.
Back in the Old Testament, God told his people Israel to expect a great manifestation of his glory, I will display my glory among the nations, God said, in places like Ezekiel 39, and the purpose of this great display of God’s glory, was nothing less than the salvation of his people!
But it wasn’t just Israel, those historically considered God’s covenant people, who were to be the beneficiaries, of this ultimate display of God’s glory.
Places like Psalm 96 show us, that the purpose was also to draw all the nations to God, to have them put their trust in him also.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, that God’s long-promised act of salvation, the death of his son on the cross, is simultaneously, a great display of his glory, and the means by people from all nations, can be given eternal life.
Eternal life is a relationship with God through Jesus
But what is eternal life?
Is it just life, like this, for ever and ever?
Recently, I was talking to a friend who isn’t a Christian, and I was trying to share something of the blessings and benefits that can be ours, even though we’ve rebelled against God, simply by trusting in Jesus’ death in our place, for forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
And so I was talking about eternal life, which, to me, as a concept, sounds pretty good!
We know that death is an enemy, that it spoils the things we value most dearly, like relationships, and family
So eternal life, life without death, well, surely that’s good!
But my friend commented that he didn’t particularly enjoy life,
He didn’t really feel that he had things to look forward to in life,
And so, he thought, what’s so good about eternal life, if eternal life is just this, for eternity.
And maybe you’ve wondered about that,
Is it just more of this?!
Because if it is, I’d have to say, there were bits of my week just gone, that I don’t particularly want to re-live for all of eternity!
I was tired,
I was busy,
There were times when I got angry,
People disappointed me,
I was confronted with my own sinfulness,
And that’s just since I got up this morning!
I don’t particularly want that life, to go on for eternity!
And actually, we know from elsewhere in the Bible, that God doesn’t want that life, to go on forever?
Right back in Genesis chapter 3, when Adam and Eve disobey God,
And doubt God’s goodness,
And put themselves in the position of deciding right and wrong,
Because God knows what life will be like in this situation that they have put themselves in, he says of Adam, Genesis 3:22, He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.
God’s plan, for eternal life is not just this life, in this broken world, forever.
To have eternal life, is nothing less than to enter into a personal relationship with the creator of the universe!
To have eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ.
We touched on this a few weeks ago in Philippians 3, where we saw the Apostle Paul’s great longing to know Jesus.
Here we get another angle on how come knowing Jesus is of such supreme importance, the thing of all-surpassing worth, as Paul said.
Since the ultimate revelation of God comes in Jesus, knowing God can’t be separated from knowing Jesus.
It’s Jesus who reveals God’s glory, God in all his glory, so to know Christ, to really know Christ, to have a relationship with him, not just to be Facebook friends with him, to have a relationship with Jesus, is to know God, and to be in relationship with him.
Do you accept Jesus’ revelation of God?,
Are you obedient to Jesus’ teaching?
If you do, then you know God,
You have eternal life!
Jesus prays for his glory to be returned – again for his Father’s glory!
Well, the last 2 verses return to the theme we opened with, Jesus prays that God will glorify him.
Specifically, Jesus prays for the glory that had been his in eternity past might be returned to him, and although it might not seem like it initially, once again, he’s praying ultimately, for his Father’s glory.
See verse 4, 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you, before the world began.
In the incarnation, that is, when Jesus was born into the world, he had needed to step outside of his Father’s immediate presence, and to lay aside that glory that he shared with his Father.
That’s not to say that he stopped being God! But that his glory was not as visible, as apparent, during his earthly life. And of course that must be true! Everyone in the Old Testament who saw something of God’s glory thought they were going to die! Which wasn’t the case when people met Jesus.
But now Jesus prays that he will share in that radiant glory completely once more. Looking past his death to his resurrection and ascension, and again, confident that God’s sovereign hand is at work, he prays that he might return to his Father’s side, to the place of glory that is rightfully his.
But see, even this request, which, which might seem to us, to be the slightly selfish request snuck in at the end of the prayer, has at its heart, Jesus’ longing for his Father to be glorified.
Sure, the request to glorify Jesus in verse 1, is clearly only so that the Father may be glorified through Jesus’ own glorification.
But this one doesn’t seem so much like a means to some other end, does it? It looks much more like an end in itself: glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began
But suppose, just, hypothetically, that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, God the Father didn’t answer this part of the prayer, and didn’t give Jesus the glory that was his before he was born as a human being.
What would that mean?
Well it would mean that either, God’s plans and purposes failed, and that Jesus wasn’t actually able to make the one true sacrifice for sin,
Or it would mean that God the Father is dishonest, and is withholding from Jesus, that which is rightfully his!
But if, after his death and resurrection, Jesus is restored to his rightful place in his Father’s presence in heaven, then clearly God’s plans and purposes have been accomplished,
The one true sacrifice for sin has been paid,
God is shown to be holy, and just, and loving.
If Jesus is glorified in his Father’ presence with the glory he had, before the world began, then glory still flows to his Father,
And we see afresh God’s plans and purposes,
We see God’s character and his nature.
Even in the answer to this request, God the Father is glorified.
Of course, I should point out, that the Old Testament particularly is clear, God will not can not share his glory with anyone else, that would be to deny his character and holiness,
It would in fact be idolatry, to give that which belongs to God, to somebody else,
The fact then, that Jesus prays about glory, that he had previously shared with God,
The glory he says I had with you, before the world began, well it can only mean that Jesus is God.
Jesus is, in his very nature God, equal to his Father.
See even from this angle of what this reveals to us about who Jesus is, for God the Father to answer this request, even this request, that looks on the surface like it’s just for Jesus’ benefit, even to answer this request, is to show God for who he is, to show God covered in splendour;
This request proves to us that God himself came into the world!
This request proves that God himself hung on a cross,
This request proves that the cross was a self-sacrifice of a loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate, and just God.
Those 2 girls in the checkout queue, who thought they were the best thing, that could ever happen to Prince Harry,
Who thought that they were exactly what Prince Harry needed,
Well, as I stood behind them listening to their conversation, I realised they were teaching me something about God!
God thinks exactly the same thing! Sort of!
God thinks, the best thing that could ever happen to me, is God himself turning up.
God thinks that he is exactly what I need.
The cross of Christ is the ultimate demonstration, of the fact that God wants us to see him as he really is,
And to really know him, as he has revealed himself in Jesus.