Tuesday, September 4, 2012

John 17:1-5

This morning we come back to John’s Gospel at a most precious place. When we last left this book, Jesus had just completed His last teaching to His disciples. There was an urgency in the teaching, because Jesus knew He was about to die. Now, in this chapter, Jesus turns to His Father. This is the prayer of a dying Savior. How blessed we are to be able to listen in to the most intimate prayer of the Son. We know that what He says here is of eternal importance, so let’s pay especially close attention.

According to Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: New Testament, this passage was the favorite of the Scottish reformer, John Knox, who called it the “Holy of Holies in the Temple of Scripture.” Courson writes, “So much did Knox love this chapter, as he lay on his deathbed, he had it read to him over and over again.” (P.572)

As we look at this amazing prayer, let’s think about another point Courson makes: “Prayer is not the way to get God to do our will in heaven. Prayer is the way to get man to do God’s will on earth.” And Jesus was all about doing His Father’s will. We will spend some time in here, so let’s first just look at the initial verses:

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:1-5)

The words “glory” or “glorify” appear five times in this short passage. It is really what Jesus’ entire life and ministry was all about: glorifying the Father on earth - revealing or illuminating His nature and person to the world. Even in asking that He, the Son, would be glorified, His purpose was that God the Father would be glorified through it - even though it meant a horrific death on the Cross.

I’ve underlined the second and third sentences in my Bible, because the statements seem so significant to me: Jesus is the one who gives eternal life to those whom the Father has given Him. First, Jesus is not just a messenger or teacher - He’s the Giver of eternal life! And second, it is not given to everyone - but to those whom the Father gives to the Son. John stated in the first chapter of his Gospel, “Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) You aren’t born naturally as a child of God; you become a child of God by believing in Jesus Christ.

In fact, that is the exact statement Jesus made in this prayer in the third verse, when He said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Knowing God, having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ - THIS is eternal life. Jesus is saying in these first verses that He glorified the Father by making Him known to those the Father gave the Son. That was His number one purpose: making the Father known. And He asserts in the opening of His prayer, in the fourth verse, that He had completed that work! He had COMPLETED it!

I see two very important applications here: first, we are to glorify the Father, NOT ourselves, in all that we do; and second, we are to complete the work He has given us. Courson reminds us that Jesus said, “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Whatever you do for the LORD should point people to Him, so that they think, “Wow! God is amazing!” It’s why He chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

Finally, when we know God has given us a task to do, we need to complete it. Jesus was able to say He had completed all He was supposed to when He was on the cross. He said, “It is finished!” - not, “almost done!” Don’t we want to be able to say that on our death beds???

So much here, and we’re only getting started! So glad to be back in His Word!  

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