7th Sunday of Easter (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Saturday, June 4, and Sunday, June 5, 2011
Jesus was praying for us. He’s still praying for us, pleading to the Father on our behalf. But today as we consider the passage from John 17, the thing to know is that Jesus was praying for us. What an incredibly uplifting idea to think that our Savior was praying for us 2000 years ago, to think that Jesus had us in mind that night, the night He was betrayed, the night He was about to go and be arrested and put to death the next day, that night when He prayed, He was praying for us.
Now, in the verses we have today are the beginning of the prayer, and really it is later in the prayer that Jesus prays for those who will believe in Him through the message of the apostles, so really, I suppose, in the verses we have today, Jesus isn’t praying for us. . .unless we realize that a prayer for the apostles is really a prayer for us. That’s right, when Jesus prayed for the apostles, He was praying for us.
What I mean is that by praying for the apostles, praying that the Father would protect the apostles and send them out with the faith intact, Jesus is really praying for us. The Father would protect the apostles, so that they could pass on the faith to others, so that that faith could be passed on from generation to generation, so that faith could be passed to us, so that eternal life could be handed onto us.
Jesus revealed God the Father to the apostles (hold up and turn on a red flashlight). Jesus revealed God the Father through His Words, through the way He taught the Scriptures, through the miracles, through who He was, all of that pointed to who the Father is.
Jesus revealed the Father to the apostles, so that they could know the true God. Let’s say that ___________ (someone in the front pew) represents the apostles (hand flashlight to person). So Jesus revealed the Father to the apostles so that they could know the Father.
And Jesus doesn’t just mean that they had intellectual knowledge of the Father, that the apostles had memorized the right answers, that the apostles were just book smart. When Jesus says that He has revealed the Father to them so that they could know the Father, He means know deeply, know spiritually, know to the core of their being, know in the sense of have a relationship with the Father. Because that’s what this is all about—having a relationship with God again, bringing God’s people back into relationship with the Father, that’s what will bring glory to the Son, that’s why the Son will be celebrated and praising and honored, it’s because Jesus did what was necessary to bring us back into relationship with God the Father.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For now, what Jesus has prayed, what Jesus is praising God for, is that the apostles have received the true faith, have received the true knowledge of the Father, have come to be in a right relationship with the Father. So the knowledge of the Father, the revelation of the Father has been passed on from Jesus to the apostles.
Here’s where the prayer starts to involve us—even though Jesus goes on to keep talking in these verses about the apostles. The prayer starts to be ultimately about us, because He prays that the apostles will hold onto that faith, that they’ll be protected, “protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”
Why does Jesus want the Father to protect them? Because they are the ones who have the revelation, they are the ones who have received the true knowledge of the Father, they are the ones who will pass on that knowledge to others. So when Jesus asks the Father to protect them, when Jesus asks that the apostles will remain faithful, He’s not just praying for the apostles—He’s praying for all those who will become believers through their message. He’s praying for all of them that will receive the light of the Word through their message.
Because that’s what the apostles did, they remained faithful to the Father, and they passed on the knowledge of the Father to others. So pass on the light, pass the light to others, pass the light to everyone in the room. (encourage people to pass the flashlight) Because Jesus was praying that you would also receive the faith, was praying that you would also know the Father, know Him, be in a relationship with the Father, know Him in your bones, in your spirit, in your soul. So pass on the light to everyone, pass on the light to everyone in the room, because Jesus has prayed that you would all know the Father, really know the Father, really have faith in the Father who has given you life and salvation, has given you forgiveness for your sins, given you the promise of eternal life.
So Jesus was praying for you, even as He was praying for the apostles, He was praying for you, you who would benefit from the message of the apostles, benefit from the faith being passed down through the generations beginning with the apostles. So Jesus was praying for you to have eternal life.
And that’s the other amazing thing about these verses from John 17, that’s the other amazing thing about this prayer of Jesus. When Jesus says that He prays for them (and us) to have eternal life, He defines eternal life in a way we might not expect. He defines eternal life as the knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ. To know God the Father, to know Jesus Christ the Son, that’s eternal life.
Like I said, to know the Father, that’s more than book knowledge, it’s more than an intellectual knowledge, it’s knowing Him in your spirit, in your soul, it’s having a relationship with the Father.
But still we usually think of eternal life as what we will have when we die, and when Jesus returns to raise us from the dead, when Jesus brings us to life forever with Him on the new earth, that’s eternal life, that’s life after death, that’s life that lasts forever.
What Jesus is saying is that eternal life starts now.
Eternal life starts now.
Eternal life starts now with knowing the Father. Eternal life starts now with knowing the Father through knowing the Son, knowing the Father through how Jesus revealed the Father, knowing the Father through the Word and deeds of Jesus, knowing the Father through the cross and resurrection. Eternal life starts now, because you have received the faith, you have been given the most holy faith, you have been given the right knowledge of the true God, you have been called into a relationship with the Father, because of that, your eternal life starts now.
Oh, I know, you’re not sure that this seems like what you’ve come think about eternal life. I mean, there are things about this life that we certainly don’t want to continue forever—the sin in us, the sin in others, the brokenness in the world around us; it’s certainly hard sometimes to see God working in this world, so how can we say that we have eternal life now?
Besides, it’s pretty clear when we see sickness and death all around us that this isn’t a life that lasts forever. So what can Jesus mean by saying that we have eternal life now through faith in the Father?
Well, an interesting thing is that in Hebrew thought, in the way that John the Gospel writer thought, in the way that Jesus taught as a rabbi, eternal life doesn’t just mean quantity, it doesn’t just refer to the length of days, to the forever quantity of days. Eternal life doesn’t just mean endless.
Eternal also refers to the quality of life. It refers to the kind of life that we have, and in that is eternal life. We have a different quality of life because we know the Father. We have a different quality of life because are in a right relationship with the Father. We have an incredibly better quality of life, because we have hope beyond death, we have light in the darkness, we have forgiveness in the midst of sin, we have victory in the middle of defeat, we have this faith to hold onto even when there seems very little to hold onto.
You have eternal life now, you have a quality of life now that only comes through the knowledge of the Father, you have a hope and a peace and a comfort that the world cannot give you, you have a quality of life that goes beyond this world, a quality of life that is eternal, spiritual, supernatural, beyond anything this world can offer.
You have eternal life now, and even though you will still experience heartache and heartbreak and heart disease and heart stoppage, still in your heart, you know the Father, and through knowing Him, you have eternal life now, you have quality of life now, you have a right relationship with the Father now, you are His child forever now.
Jesus prayed for you when He prayed for the apostles. Jesus prayed for you when He asked the Father to protect the apostles so that they could pass on the faith to you. Jesus prayed for you so that you could know the Father, so that you can have eternal life.
Has everyone in the room gotten the light? Has everyone received the knowledge of the Lord? (if someone didn’t get the flashlight, pass it to them). I suppose another way of asking that is: has everyone in the room seen the Father revealed in the Son today? Has everyone seen that Jesus died and rose again for you? Has everyone seen that Jesus has given you the most holy faith so that you can have right relationship with the Father? Has everyone in the room seen that Jesus comes to us through the Word and through the Lord’s Supper, has everyone seen that the Father comes to us through our baptisms? Has everyone in the room seen that you have been given eternal life today, eternal life now?
Jesus prayed for you—and still prays for you. Jesus prayed for you, and you’re here now, you’re here and He is revealing the Father to you, revealing the knowledge of the Father, revealing that you have eternal life now, revealing that you have hope and comfort and peace and forgiveness and love now.
I’m going to pass the flashlight around again during the last hymn. As it goes around, I want you to remember that you have eternal life now through the knowledge of the Father, through knowing the Father in your bones, in your soul, in your spirit. You have a different quality of life, because you have hope and peace and comfort in knowing the Father, through being in a relationship with the Father. Your life has changed eternally, spiritually, supernaturally, because Jesus prayed for you.