Sermon: John 17:20-26
Patricia Beattie Jung
May 8, 2016
First Slide (Jesus praying)
Our text this morning is known as the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus. Before I read the section of it assigned for today, let me tell you a bit about it.
This prayer wraps up the account of the Last Supper in John’s gospel. While everyone was still at table, John reports that Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and began to pray. Since I often do likewise, I take comfort in noting that on this occasion Jesus began by praying for Himself. Since He knew His enemies were plotting against him, He asked God for strength: “Give glory to your son,” He pleaded, “so that your son may glorify you.” Jesus knew He would need a great deal of courage to face what lay ahead of Him. He asked God for what He needed. We should do likewise.
In the second part of the prayer, Jesus asks God to bless those who had shared this Last Supper with him. Jesus knew His disciples were naïve about what was to come; a few were even still jockeying for power among themselves. He knew that the hour of His death was growing near, and yet he worried about His companions. The next hours, days and weeks would be a time of crisis and confusion for them. They would need God’s grace if they were to be able to hold onto His promises and wait for the Spirit. In this second part, Jesus prayed for His family and friends. We should do likewise.
Our text this morning consists of the third and final part of this prayer. That fateful evening, Jesus prayed -- not only for Himself and His companions -- but for every Christian, across the ages and around the globe. He prayed for everyone who would ever place their trust in Him. He prayed for you and me. For starters, let’s just let that sink in. On the eve before His death, Jesus prayed for us -- for you and for me.
Listen now to the Word of God as found in John 17:20-26
Next slide: text
“I pray not only for them, but also for those
who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
Next slide: text
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Next slide: text
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
There is a whole lot going on in this passage. Next slide: a communion of people.
As you just heard, Jesus prayed that we would “be one,” just as He and God are one. In fact, Jesus prayed not just that we be united like the Father and Son, but that we become one with them. Jesus prayed that we would be drawn into the very same communion He enjoys with God. “I wish that where I am they also may be with me.” He prayed that we would come to know ourselves as beloved by God, exactly as He knew Himself to be. “That the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” Jesus prayed that we would recognize that we too are beloved daughters and sons of God. Indeed, John reports that a few days later, Jesus told Mary Magdalene outside His empty tomb: “… go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) In His prayer Jesus promised: “I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
I want us to consider: Who is this God with Whom Jesus is praying? What is God doing in the world? I will tell you part of what I imagine what God is doing, in the hope that it starts you thinking this week about that.
Two great melodies run through the New Testament. One sings of God’s mercy. This tune has deep roots in the narratives of Matthew, Mark and Luke and the letters of Paul. While not denying the importance of this emphasis on forgiveness, John’s gospel emphasizes another, complementary but different, melody. It sings of God’s great eagerness to be close to us, to gather us together into one holy communion with all that is. It speaks of God as love. Jesus’ prayer reveals God to be coaxing us, drawing the whole universe, into the love He shares with the Father.
Next slide: outstretched hands.
The God with Whom Jesus prays loves the world – and that includes each of us – with a breath-taking passion, nearly beyond our imagining. In the beginning God’s love overflowed- it spilled out and became creation itself. All that is continues to spring -- like a river flooding from the lavish love of God. So eager is God to draw near, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus prayed that God would keep reaching out to us because He knows that we find it difficult to believe ourselves so beloved. He knows that we are deeply alienated, even from ourselves.
Next slide: hands reaching toward each other.
So Jesus prayed that God would stir up in us a longing to be one with another and God. Jesus prayed that God would awaken in us a restless desire to enter ever more fully into that life together which we were created to enjoy. He prayed that we might all be one,
Jesus’ prayer is echoed throughout the scriptures. The Bible testifies repeatedly to God’s persistent desire to close the gap between us and to heal our relationships with one another and the earth. In one story, God might be moved to pity by our suffering; in another, God is dismayed by our folly. In still another, God is angered by our injustice. Yet, always, always, always…God is hounding us with an extravagant love that simply -- astoundingly -- does not grow weary. Jesus’ suffering unto death reveals the reckless nature of God’s longing for us. God remains in pursuit even unto death. God tracks us along every step of our journey, including our last.
(Next slide: woman standing on cliff.)
Who is this God with Whom Jesus prays? What fuels such passion for the world? God certainly does not need us. God is not lonely. God lacks for nothing. God’s longing to draw near is not born of want. On the contrary, God’s love is such that it springs as if from a fountain. God’s love is like a wave that gushes out and washes over us. God’s love is expansive, all-encompassing. It ripples across the world the way laughter sometimes travels across room. It spreads the way joy inevitably radiates outward, the way smiles follow delight.
We have a little experience of this kind of love, of love that inherently seeks to share its delight. Let me give you a few examples. Have you ever noticed that when people are having a really good time, they are also often very welcoming? They just seem to want everyone to join in the fun. Think about how you feel when you fix something really delicious – a sauce that is unbelievably good (that would be miracle if I fixed it J )– don’t you want to share it?
Consider wedding dances. Once the initial formalities are over, and the party has truly begun, it is hard to tell who is dancing with whom. Children, adults, teenagers, even Aunt Edna -- they are all just out there dancing. And the revelers keep trying to pull every out onto the dance floor. If at first you politely decline the offer, your niece keeps circling back across the dance floor … she keeps gently reaching out to you again and again. “Come on, Aunt Pat” she says, “dance with us!”
Make some quiet time this week. Try imaging God as Lord of the Dance – gently but firmly coaxing you onto the dance floor -- into life abundant. Consider as well the quieter ways God might be gracing your life. Consider when God might be sneaking up on you, climbing into your life, perhaps catching you unaware …holding you tight. …Rocking you back and forth… back and forth.
Next slide: parent and child.
Be at peace: know that you are deeply beloved sons and daughters of God, that God loves you forever, God likes you for always. Allow yourself to nestle into and rest in God’s embrace. Jesus make known the love of God. Do likewise. Pass it forward. Invite someone to dance. Pray that we all may be one.