Monday, May 18, 2020

Safely Kept; John 17:6-12

Safely Kept

John 17:6-12, 05/10/20, Remsen Bible Fellowship


Does Jesus love everyone? Does God display kindness to all people? Obviously this is true in some sense. God gives everyone the same sunshine and the same rain. We know from John 3:16 that God so loved the world, the broad sweep of sinful humanity, that he gave his only Son to die. And in Mark 10:21 we read that Jesus loved, he had compassion for, the rich young man-despite the fact that this young man was going to walk away from Jesus. I think it’s fair to say there is a clear sense in which Jesus loves everyone, and that he and the Father are united in this love. 

But does he love everyone in the same way? Perhaps you’ve heard that we’re all equal in God’s eyes. We’re certainly all equally guilty before him-but are we all equally treasured? Here in John 17:6-12, as Jesus’ prayer shifts from his request that the Father restore his eternal glory and begins to focus on the requests he has regarding his people, we are going to hear some surprising things. Like this: Jesus isn’t praying for everyone. Jesus has a particular love for a particular group of people. 

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 

As we examine our passage this morning, we will do so under the heading of four questions. The first one is this: For whom is Jesus praying?

For Whom is Jesus Praying? v9

Jesus tells us in verse 9 that he is praying for his disciples, I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 

This sounds rather exclusive, doesn’t it? Jesus is not praying for the world, the broad fullness of humanity. That’s not to say that Jesus never did pray for those who weren’t his followers. Perhaps you remember Luke 23:34 where Jesus prays, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Again, we should note that Jesus has come as an expression of the love which the Father has for this entire world of sinners, and indeed he has come to be the Savior of the world (John 12:47). Yet we know that those actually saved by him constitute a group which is quite distinct from the world. 

And this distinction is not arbitrary, it’s one of a deep difference in identity. The world belongs to God in the sense that he rules and reigns over all as the absolute sovereign. But for Jesus’ disciples, his followers, God loves them and rules over them as a gracious Father. A king, yes. But a king who has brought these former rebels into his family. These disciples for whom Jesus prays in this section are obviously the 11 who have remained with him, and it probably expands out to include the small number of others who had stayed true (think, the women at the foot of the cross, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea). 

Yet it is worth looking verses 6-10 to see what Jesus says of these people, because we will find that the same things are true for all of those who follow him today. So our next question, the one where we’ll spend the bulk of our time this morning, is this: Who are the Followers of Jesus? 

Who are the Followers of Jesus? V6-10

What we have in verses 6-10 are descriptions which encompass both the Divine perspective on how the disciples came to follow Jesus, as well as an explanation of the human process by which they came to follow him. These are woven together in the text, but for the purpose of clarity, we’ll look at each separately, beginning with the Divine Perspective.

The Divine Work

What is the Divine Work behind someone becoming a follower of Jesus? I think we can see four distinct steps. 

  1. The first is that they are known and possessed by God. We see this first in v6, Yours they were. Then v9 tells us, for they are yours. And then in v10 we read, All mine are yours. What does it mean to be God’s? I noted at the outset that all of the world belongs to God, and thus in some sense all human beings belong to him. And yet, there is a through line in Scripture of God choosing a people for himself from out of the world. This can make people incredibly uncomfortable, and maybe that’s you this morning. It sounds unfair that God would choose some people and not others to be his own. But this thinking generally stems from a view of human beings which is far too high. Does God choose anyone because they deserve it? Absolutely not. No human being this side of the fall deserves anything more than eternity in hell, apart from the presence of God and his blessings. We, each and every one of us, have turned aside. Think about this past week. How many times have you lost your temper? How many times have you bent the truth? When have you accused someone falsely? When have you gossipped? The Psalmist puts it this way: we have become useless. None of us deserves God, indeed, our desires are against God. And yet, God in his mercy chooses not to demolish the entire race. In the time of the flood, God chose Noah. In the days following Babel, God chose Abraham. This continues into the church age, with God setting apart those who are his. He lays claim to certain persons in a manner which differentiates them- not because they are intrinsically better or worthy, but simply because it pleased him to make them his own.

  2. They are given to the Son. The Father takes all those who are his, and delivers them over, as it were, to his Son as a gift. Twice we find this in v6, the people whom you gave me out of the world, and, and you gave them to me. V9 mentions those whom you have given me, and in v11 Jesus is making requests for them...which you have given me. Jesus came into the world, and as we will see momentarily, he did so in a manner which revealed the Father. And yet, despite his revealing intent and purpose, many found his teaching and claims a tough pill to swallow. Thus we find people saying in John 6:60, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” And instead of begging for forgiveness and issuing clarifying comments, Jesus looks at his disciples and says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Is God preventing them from coming? No, they don’t want to. They hear Jesus and think he’s too confusing, too demanding, or just not worth their time. The only way this is overcome is if God the Father grants eyes to see. The only way out of darkness is for the Father to give you to the Son. 

  3. The Son makes himself known to those whom the Father has given him. The word became flesh, and dwelt among us. We see in v6 that Jesus has manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Jesus has come to reveal the character, the nature, and the presence of God by his coming. And he does so in such a way that those whom the Father has chosen cling to the Son. John 6:37, All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. Jesus reveals himself, and in doing so reveals the Father, and all those who cling to Christ are gladly received by him and kept safe by him. He’ll never cast them out. 

The Human Side

This can all seem depressing, can’t it? If God is at work behind the scenes, electing, determining, granting, etc, then don’t we just live in a deterministic world where our choices don’t matter? Nothing could be further from the truth. Beware of anyone who wants to boil complex problems down to simple answers for you, like the relationship between God’s control and our responsibility. Scripture teaches both that God is in control of all things, working all things according to the counsel of his will, and that we are responsible for the choices we make. We are responsible to respond rightly to Jesus. So what does that look like?

  1. We have to hear his words. Notice the emphasis on word or words in this passage. V6, they have kept your word; v8, I have given them your words. Word in the singular is most likely referring to Jesus’ whole body of teaching, while words in the plural points toward individual words and phrases. But isn’t it instructive that even with Jesus walking with these men, doing miracles, signs as John calls them, the place Jesus still points is toward his words? He doesn’t say, they have kept my miracles. Or, they’ve stashed away tokens of my works (like some dried fish they’d save up for a rainy day). Jesus revealed himself to them by these things, but his focus here is on words. And brothers and sisters, the way we come to know Jesus in our day is no different: it is by his word. We must encounter Jesus through the word of God. The word is primary-it is primary in our worship, it is primary in our growth as disciples and followers of Jesus. The word reveals Christ, the word is where we come face to face with the living God, the word is where God’s own voice can be heard. This is why there is no such thing as evangelism without words. This is why there is no such thing as a Bible-less, doctrine-less, word-less Christianity. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. So we must hear his words. 

  2. We must come to know. We have to come to a point where we have not only heard these words, but we must be convinced that they are in fact true. Hearing about Jesus and considering it to be nonsense isn’t going to do me any good. There must be real form and content to what we’re taught, and Jesus points a few things out: the disciples now know that Jesus claims in places like John 6:33ff are true. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them  “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall not thirst.” Do you agree with what Jesus is saying and implying? That you are separated from God on your own, that you ought to feel spiritual hunger and thirst: and that he is the only way for those cravings to be met? He is the only mediator between God and man. Do you agree both that you need a mediator and see that Jesus is the one you need? The disciples heard and they received. 

  3. But they didn’t just receive. They believed. They banked their lives on Jesus. They have believed that you sent me, he says in v8. In v6 Jesus had said, they have kept your word. This is similar to what Jesus had pressed on the disciples in John 15:7, Abide in me, and my words abide in you. Hold onto the words, keep them, obey them, trust these words and submit your life to them, because they are the very words of God. 

Have you heard, received, and believed the words of Jesus? Have you trusted in him to be your Savior, the one who took the payment for your sins so that you can be right with God? Then you are one of those whom God has given to the Son. Which means you have great cause for joy, because Jesus means to be glorified in your life. V10, All mine are yours, and your are mine, and I am glorified in them. He is glorified in saving people like us. He is glorified as we speak of him. And he is glorified as we continue walking with him throughout our lives here on this earth. Which brings us to our third question: what does Jesus want for his followers?

What Does Jesus Want for His Followers? V11-12a

Jesus prays in the first half of verse 11, And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Jesus is about to make a petition to the Father, and part of why it is necessary is that he is returning to the Father’s side. This has been a major theme of chapters 14-16, and is part of what Jesus prayed for in our text last week as he requests that the Father restore the Son’s divine glory. Yet it does seem curious how he phrases it. I am no longer in the world. Jesus is speaking as if it is complete and he were gone. But this serves to press home the urgency of his request, which we find in the second half of verse 11, Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. This is a pressing request, because, as the opening sentence of verse 12 indicates, While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. 

What does it mean that Jesus has kept the disciples? We might think of keeping as in keeping safe from harm, but that would seem odd given how many of these men die violent deaths. Instead, we should think of being kept in this way: Jesus has been given the Father’s name, and the disciples have been kept in that name in that they have continued with him. To continue with Jesus is to keep walking with him, following him, placing your trust and your confidence in him alone. That might have seemed pretty easy when he was walking right down the street alongside you. But now they are going to be without their Rabbi, without their Teacher, without their Lord. How will they go on? Remember the multiple times when Jesus has mentioned that he was leaving: how did they react? Disappointed, sorrowful. Their joy was sapped. And yet it needn’t be this way. 

John 10:27-30 reads thus,

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. 

Those possessed by Jesus -the disciples- are given to him by the Father, who continues to guard and keep them. He did so while Jesus walked the earth by the presence of Jesus-now Jesus is asking him to continue this keeping work. How does the Father keep, guard, those who are in his hand this side of Christ’s ascension? By the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:14). If you have been given the gift of the Spirit, this is your down payment that Jesus really has brought you into his family, and that the Father will bring you safely home. 

Why is Jesus asking this? That they may be one, even as we are one. Jesus’ specific prayer for unity occurs a few verses later, so I won’t belabor the point this week, but I do want us to pause. We might think the primary reason for us to be kept is so that we can spend our eternity with him, right? Which is a good goal, and is connected to what Jesus prays down in verse 24. But the reason Jesus gives in this verse is that he wants them to be one. Where does true church unity come from? Does it come from a particular organizational structure, or tolerance for every kind of belief or lifestyle? Jesus would seem to indicate that the only way for his people to be unified is by a unified commitment to Christ as revealed in Scripture. Are you committed to this Jesus? Not the Jesus of your imagination, or the one whom we want to craft in our own image, but the one who is revealed in Scripture? He is the eternal Son, creator and ruler, who steps down into creation to redeem out of this world a bride for himself, a people: the people whom God has given him.

This would be a great place to conclude, but we need to address the thorny question which this text raises: How safe are Jesus’ followers?

How Safe Are Jesus’ Followers? V12b

I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the Son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. How sure is salvation? If Judas can be lost, can we? What is going on here? No one can snatch us from the Father’s hand, but what if we can jump out in a moment of weakness?

What we have in Judas is a warning, let there be no doubt. But it is not a warning that should cause us to question the power of the Savior. Remember what we read in Hebrews 6 about those who have tasted the heavenly gift or shared in the Spirit and then walked away. While there are disagreements among Christians as to the correct interpretation of that passage, I think the clearest way to make sense of it is with an example like Judas: these aren’t genuine believers, but they are those who have had substantial Spirit proximity. They’ve spent a lot of time around God’s people, they’ve seen the Spirit at work, and yet instead of this being the sort of winsome truth that holds them fast to Christ, at some point they become disillusioned or jaded or simply rebellious, and they walk away. 

But what we must understand is that this isn’t a case of Jesus losing his grip on some sheep. These never were sheep. 1 John 2:19, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 

When those who never were God’s people walk away, it shouldn’t confuse us. But we should heed the warning. God’s protection of us isn’t some magical reality disconnected from our actions. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:12-13, 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

You act. You obey. You keep on trusting Jesus. Because you’re the awesomesauce, because you’re a super-Christian? No, because God is at work in you. He enables and empowers. He gives you both the want to and the can do. We obey, we stay. And at the same time, it’s all dependent upon him. 

This might seem hard for you to reconcile. And at some level there is certainly mystery at play. But I don’t think it’s quite as confusing as we make it. The simple reality is that we all are responsible before God to trust him, obey him, and receive the gift of life offered through Christ. And by nature, we all reject that offer. God righteously condemns such rebellion. And yet in his mercy he chooses to pull some out, to send the Son to create, redeem, and form a people. He does this without doing any injustice to those whom he allows to continue in their own way. They have what they desire. Judas was not forced to betray Jesus, he was led away by his own desires as James would later write. But again, God was working through his decisions, even his wicked and sinful decisions. 

Jesus chose Judas in full knowledge that Judas would betray him, we see that all the way back in 6:70. Judas did what he did because he wanted to. But he also did it that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Psalm 41:9, Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. Jesus was betrayed by Judas, and God had planned this. Not in violation of Judas’ choices, by perfectly working through them. 

Which brings us back to those who genuinely are his sheep. He’s got you. If your hope is in the Christ revealed in this book, you are safe. You are also responsible. Responsible to abide, to keep trusting, to follow him to the end. Jesus is praying that for you, and his prayers will be answered. You are kept safe. Let me close by reading Hebrews 6:19-20, We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. 

The Son of God himself is our anchor. He keeps us safe. Put your hope in him.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Glorify the Son; John 17:1-5

Glorify the Son, John 17:1-5
Remsen Bible Fellowship, 04/29/2020

What do your prayers sound like? When you sit down at your table, or lay in bed, or you’re driving to work, what crosses your mind to bring before God?
For many of us, myself included, we rush straight into requests. And the advice we’re often given is to knock that off. Don’t start with your list. Start with God. Acknowledge who he is. Praise him for his excellence and worth. And that’s good advice. Many prayers in Scripture begin by taking stock of who we’re talking to, ascribing him the glory due his name, meditating on his character. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. But that’s not the only way to pray. In fact, in what we refer to as the Lord’s prayer, found in Matthew 6, Jesus is responding to his disciples’ request for instructions on prayer. And the model prayer he gives is full of requests. Coming to God with requests is not wrong. It makes total sense given our neediness as creatures as his abilities as our Creator God. It also makes sense that we as Christians would come to him with requests given that he is not only our Creator, but he is our loving Father as well.

The key question is this: what are you asking for?
This prayer, which encompasses all of chapter 17, falls into three basic parts: Jesus’ prayer for himself (v1-5), Jesus’ prayer for his disciples (v6-19), and Jesus’ prayer for the church (v20-26). This morning we will just tackle part one. Read John 17:1-5
We’re going to jump back into our study of the Gospel according to John, which we’ve been following through the first 16 chapters, and from which we’ve taken a hiatus due to COVID situation. As we reenter this Gospel, we find ourselves looking at what some have called real Lord’s prayer, or the High Priestly prayer, or the holy of holies. It is the prayer Jesus prayed the night of his betrayal. In this prayer we are going to find a number of petitions, a number of requests. And as we see what Jesus prayed for we will be instructed by his priorities. These are priorities which should give us comfort, because they include the salvation of all those whom the Father has given to the Son. It also includes eternal joy and love for all who are secure in Jesus. But these petitions should also radically reshape our own priorities and thoughts, because the ultimate aim that Jesus is seeking is this: his glory, and his Father’s glory.
Jesus’ disciples need courage, they need to take heart. What is the cause for such courage? The overcoming victory of Jesus. And this is the very victory to which Jesus refers when he says, the hour has come. The hour in John’s gospel refers to the time of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation. At least three times (in chapters 2, 7, 8) we read that his hour had not yet come. But in Chapter 12, as we come into passion week, that shifts. Jesus says in 12:23, the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. That intensity picks up here in chapter 17, as Jesus shifts his focus from teaching the disciples, and starts praying to his Father.
Verse one sets the context for us. When he had spoken these words. What words? The words of the upper room discourse. The dinner time discussion around the last supper. Jesus has been telling his disciples of his imminent departure, comforting them with promises to send the Holy Spirit and to eventually return and take them to heaven, exhorting them to remain in the vine, and warning them of the troubles which would soon befall them. Chapter 16 ends with these words,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Glorify Your Son-v1
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the word did not know him. He came to own, and his own people did not receive him.
What is the basic request of Jesus in these first 5 verses? He is praying for his own glory. Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son.
What is glory? The word which is translated as glory is the Greek word doxa. It carries with it the idea of splendor, greatness, legitimate cause for pride, beauty, brightness. I think of a particular sunrise I watched. It was about 10 years ago. I was part of a group that made a short (five mile) hike up Steamboat Mountain in Montana. Though it’s a short hike, it’s pretty rough and you gain over 3,000 feet of elevation. It was late in the day, so we camped up on top. Then we got up while it was still dark and sat on top of this mountain which looks east from the Scapegoat Wilderness out across the west-central Montana plains. You’re sitting there, way up high, it’s pitch black and freezing cold. The black starts fuzz into gray, and you just keep thinking “will the sun ever rise?” Then, finally, the sun begins to crest over the plains to the east and everything in your field of vision floods with light. And the only word to describe it is glory.

When Jesus asks the Father to glorify the Son, is Jesus asking for God to add this kind of glory to him? No. Jesus is glorious. Hebrews 1:3, He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. There is nothing to be added to Christ. And yet, while he walked this earth the glory of Christ was veiled. John 1:9-11 says,

Jesus was seen, but he wasn’t seen. His glory was present in the miracles, in the teaching, in his sinless life, but it was not beheld believingly by most of those who saw him. And he’s asking the Father to change that. Glorify the Son. Make the Son’s beauty, his splendour, his luminous perfection seen by all the earth.
Because of how he exercises this authority. To give eternal life to all whom you have given me. It’s important, especially as we’ll see next week, that this is a distinct subgroup within the broader category of all flesh or all human beings. Jesus has authority over every single human being. And he exercises that authority in such a way that he grants eternal life to a certain group-those given him by the Father.
Is this a selfish request on the part of Jesus? Far from it. Even this request for his glory has a purpose in mind. That the Son may glorify you. Is it for his own sake? No. Jesus’ request for glory is reciprocal; it’s so that the Son may glorify the Father. The unseen God is seen as glorious by the revelation of his glorious Son.

Note how this request parallels the opening line of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Let your name be seen as holy, let your glory shine forth like the brightness of the sun. Let all the world see it! How has the Father chosen to reveal his glory most clearly in this world? Through his Son. Colossians 2:9 says, for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. God’s ultimate goal in Creation is to glorify himself, and he accomplishes this purpose most completely and finally in the glory of his Son. So Jesus’ request, while it may at first sound selfish, in fact is the most God the Father honoring request he could possibly make.

Why Does Jesus Deserve Glory?-v2

And yet, while Jesus is one the one hand asking for glory that he might glorify the Father, it is also true that in the accomplishment of the Father’s perfect will, the Son deserves the glory given to him. The basis for the glory of the Son is in:
the authority he has received from the Father, Since you have given him authority over all flesh. Note again the reciprocity, the mutuality. No member of the Trinity acts independently or apart from the others. The Son deserves glory because of the great authority given him by the Father. He also deserves glory:
Jesus has come to pay for our sins and make it possible for us to be in communion with God, but he didn’t stop there. In his display of love on the cross he also showed us what the Father is like. In his whole life and teaching he revealed to us the Father, that in coming to know Jesus we would know the Father as well.
There is a particular people, a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 5:9). These are sheep from many folds who come to make up one flock (John 10:16), whom the Father elected in eternity past to give to the Son. The Son has not simply made salvation possible for them on the cross-he has actually accomplished the salvation of those whom he was given.

What is Eternal Life?

How can you know if you’ve received this life, if you’ve been brought into his fold? That should be a pressing question for every human being, and I think it’s why Jesus gives us a clarifying statement in verse three.
What is eternal life? I think many Christians would answer that question something along the lines of: eternal life is having your sins forgiven, or eternal life is going to heaven when you die. Those are fundamental accomplishments of the cross. Apart from Jesus bearing the weight of our sins and absorbing the wrath of God, we are under condemnation and death. Apart from the promise of an eternal home, free from the presence of sin and pain, where is our hope? But these are not themselves the definition of life. How does Jesus define eternal life? Knowing God. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God. Think about what a bold statement this is. How can I know if I’m one of the people Jesus saved, if I’m in his flock? Simple, I just have to know God. Does this strike you as somewhat out of reach for the average sinner-for people like you and me?

John 1:18 tells us, No one has ever seen God. How can we then know him? That verse continues, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. Knowing the unseen God was beyond reach. It’s possible now via one means: his Son, Jesus. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13
Jesus, after detailing what exactly is the eternal life he has given to those whom the Father gave him, and after stating that he had in fact accomplished the work set out before him, now asks the Father to restore his eternal glory.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18

How can you know if you’ve been saved by Jesus? Answer this question: do you know him? Have you received him as the way, the truth, and the life? No one comes to the Father except through him.

How has the Son Glorified the Father?

Jesus says in verse four that, I have glorified you on earth. How has Jesus done this? Again, remember that to bring God glory is not to add to his perfection or excellence, which is impossible. It is to make the beauty, the splendor, the God-ness of God seen for what it is: weighty, important, all-valuable.
How has Jesus done this? Through everything he accomplished on earth. He is speaking proleptically of having accomplished all he was sent to do, that is, he speaks of his past accomplishments (perfect obedience, miracles or signs displaying his glory, his perfect teaching) and he also includes what is about to come (the cross/burial/resurrection). He speaks of all of it in this moment as finished. Our minds are drawn back to John 16:28 where Jesus says,

I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.

Jesus, the perfect Word of God, was sent by the Father into the world. And now, as Jesus prepares to return to the Father, he prays with this certainty: I have left nothing undone. I have accomplished the Father’s work. And this certainty under-girds his request in verse 5.

And Isaiah 55:10-11, For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be the goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Restore My Glory

It is imperative for us to remember that in the Bible as a whole, and John’s gospel especially, Jesus is not a mere man, or even a man who achieves god status. This is the eternal Son of God, the Word. In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is God, eternally. What happened in the incarnation was the addition of humanity to that divinity. Which meant, for a time, the laying aside of his glory. Philippians 2:5-8 reads thus,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, as God, eternally enjoyed the rights privileges, and glories of his eternal power and nature. And yet, out of love for his people and his Father, he laid aside those rights for a time. He never ceased to be God, but for a time he ceased to receive his full rights of worship and being treated as God. But brothers and sisters, this was most certainly temporary. In fact, as Paul continues in that passage from Philippians 2, we find that as a result of Christ’s humiliation on earth, he actually receives a further glory: the glory due a savior: Philippians 2:9-11,

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

It is precisely for this that Jesus is praying in John 17.
As we conclude, I want to ask two questions: How does this priority of God’s glory give us comfort? And, how should this priority of God’s glory reorient our values?

How does this priority of the Glory of God give us Comfort?

This priority of God’s glory over everything else should give us comfort, because it is actually the ground for everything else Jesus prays in John 17. Jesus’ requests to keep the believers in his love, to protect them from evil, to give them unity-these are all predicated on the fact that they are means of bringing glory to the Son, which in turn glorifies the Father. Which means that God’s love for you and care for you is not ultimately centered in you. This is good news if you feel, as I often do, like you’re a massive failure that God doesn’t need. You’re right! You are a sinner, you do fail, and you know what? God in his inscrutable wisdom has determined to bring himself glory by saving and using you. If you will quit trusting in yourself and throw all your trust on Jesus, you are as safe as God’s own child-because you have in fact become his child.

How does this priority of the Glory of God reorient our values?
This realization is comforting, but it’s also challenging. We are so tempted to live in a way that foregrounds whatever seems important to me or comfortable for me or good for me. But Jesus’ prioritization of God’s glory drove him to the cross. He says elsewhere that if we won’t pick up our own cross and follow him we can’t be his disciples: in what way do your personal priorities need to die? How could centering your life on the glory of God in Christ change and shape the decisions you make with your money, the career options you look at, the way you relate to your neighbors, or how you approach friendships?

Brothers and sisters, our highest goal in life should be to know God by knowing Christ. This is eternal life. And such life overflows in making him known, in seeing his glory shed abroad into the hearts of those around us. Jesus prayed for this. Let’s join him in that prayer.

1 Samuel 8, The King Thing

Audio Link   (Sermon starts around 19:05) The King Thing 1 Samuel 8, Remsen Bible Fellowship, 10/25/2020 Introduction: Open by reading the t...