That the World May Know – John 17

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

(Note: Due to technical difficulties, the audio recording of this week’s sermon is not available.)

My dad (technically my stepdad) had a family that was very broken.  He grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and his father was a severe drunk.  And he was an angry drunk.  It was not uncommon for his dad to hit his mom. 

When my dad and his older brother were in their late teens, one time dad beat up mom again in a drunken rage, and the boys went after dad….I think with a baseball bat …and told Dad if he ever did that again, they would kill him.

And my dad’s younger sister, Harriet, was 16 years old when she ran away.  And no one in the family knew where she was for over 50 years.  Why did she leave?  We are left to use our imagination.  But my dad was reunited with her in those later years, and developed a very meaningful relationship in the few years before she died. 

My dad’s family is not so unusual, is it?  Many of us have broken—no, shattered—families.  They are not whole.  They are not “ONE.”   Siblings and parents that don’t speak to each other for years.

Conflict seems to be everywhere we look.

  • Congress has tremendous conflicts, and we mock them for it.
  • But we have logs in our eyes when we do that.  For we all have our own conflicts, don’t we?
  • In our marriages.  With our teenagers.
  • Churches can be that way, too.  Even churches like ours, who proclaim and believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is crowned Lord of all.  We can have conflict that boils up to the point of bitterness.  And church splits. 

Why can’t we all just get along?

This morning we are going to read a passage.  Actually, we are going to read a prayer.  Jesus Christ, just hours before he was crucified in the most horrific, unjust act ever committed in human history….Jesus prayed a passionate, heartfelt prayer.  A significant part of that prayer is about “ONENESS.”  About Oneness with God himself and Oneness with each other, with other followers of Jesus.

A remarkable prayer.  An encouraging prayer.  An inspiring prayer.  An exemplary prayer.

John 17

We’ll read John 17 today.  [Page 903]

As you are turning there, I will introduce myself.  My name is Brad Barrett, one of the pastors here.   I am married to Annette.  33.4 years.  She gave me four beautiful daughters.  And I grew up with 3 sisters.  No brothers.  I am rich in women.  What’s humorous is that my wife grew up with 3 brothers.  No sisters.  Somehow the Lord prepared us for each other. 

This chapter—John 17— is the record of Jesus’ prayer.  It is the longest recorded prayer of his.  As we read this prayer, several things happen.

  1. We know the heart of Jesus.  What he believes and desires. 
  2. We learn how to pray.  Whatever is important to him ought to be important to us. 

Vs. 1-5: GLORY

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come;  glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

Several times earlier in John Jesus said, “My hour is not yet here.”   But now he is literally only a few hours from being arrested and crucified.  So the hour is finally here.  The Son has been glorified—honored, lifted up, exalted—by the Father, for he has been given all authority over all flesh….all people.

This is profound.  And we find this theme all over the NT.  Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He has authority to judge every human being ever born.  He has authority and power to raise people from the dead into everlasting life.  There is no one greater than him.

That is why we worship Jesus the Son and the Father.  That is why, as followers of Jesus, we call ourselves “Christ-ians.”

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

The Lord has put eternity in the hearts of everyone.  A longing for a world beyond this world.  But we must not fantasize about eternity nor develop our own definitions and solutions.  We must instead take what God has revealed.

Here Jesus tells us what it is:  Eternal life is found in the only true God and his Son, Jesus Christ, who was sent from heaven for a time.  And the Son is now in heaven waiting to come back again.

What is instructive for us here is precisely how Jesus says this:  Eternal life is that “they know God and they know Jesus Christ.  Jesus emphasizes “knowing” God.  It’s important we understand that eternal life is far, far more than a place.  A destination called  heaven.   We say, “Believe in Jesus and you will go to heaven.”  That’s true, but it’s not saying enough.  It includes heaven, but it’s more.  Much more.

Fundamentally eternal life as Jesus describes it is to know God and his Son, Jesus. 

What this tells us is that eternal life is a relationship:  knowledge of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.   This is a knowledge of intimacy, like a husband knowing his wife and parents knowing their children.   So eternal life is much more than a place called heaven.  It is life in God, and it is life in God now.  Here.  Daily. 

Isn’t it radical and significant that upon believing in the Son, we are given the Holy Spirit who dwells in us…inside us…forever?   Three times in these 5 chapters Jesus tells us he is sending the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is leaving….that sounds terrifying.  But we won’t be alone.  Someone— the Holy Spirit of God—will be with us and abides in us now and through eternity. 

The implications are many.  Throughout these 5 chapters, Jesus assumes this close relationship.

He wants us to abide in him and he in us.

He wants us to pray to him.

He wants us to obey everything he says.

He wants us to trust him.

He wants us to be on the same mission he has been on.

If I think that eternal life is just some time in the future and in another place, I lose connection with the Person of God.  I would then be tempted to live life here on earth as if God was only “UP THERE” with little connection to “HERE AND NOW.”

Our salvation is centered…not on a place called heaven…but on a Person.  Knowing God and his Son, Jesus. 

4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

Jesus has had a very clear work on earth he was doing.  Teaching truth.  Presenting the Father to the world.  Performing miracles to prove who he was.  And most importantly, going to the cross and rising from the dead.  All of this is to be God the Father’s means to save souls.  Jesus’ goal was that people would believe in him, that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him.  This is his work, and it glorified the Father..

5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

This statement by Jesus is astonishing, and is one of the more remarkable statements ever uttered on the earth. 

He prays for the glory that was his “before the world began.”  What mere mortal could ever say this?  This is more evidence that Jesus Christ is Eternal God. 

John 1:3 ESV “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

A dominant theme in this Gospel is that Jesus is from another world before time began.  And he was sent from heaven.  In fact, I have found over 50 references in this Gospel that says Jesus was sent from heaven by God the Father.  The Bible simply doesn’t allow for Jesus to be any smaller than this. 

If you consider yourself a believer in Jesus Christ, you follow the one

  • who is from eternity past,
  • who made the heavens and the earth,
  • who was sent from heaven to earth,
  • lived a perfect, holy life
  • died a cruel and unjust death,
  • rose from the dead into an immortal body,
  • ascended bodily back into heaven, and
  • is coming again to earth to judge all sin and rule in power as King of kings over all nations.

This is your Lord and King.  We ought to tremble in fear and in awe that we know him and belong to him.  We ought to never take him lightly or flippantly.  We ought to never ignore him.  We ought to bow before him in worship and reverence and obedience.   We ought to ensure that our view of Jesus is great and not small. 

Now Jesus prays for the Twelve disciples.  Actually, only 11.  Within the last hour, Judas has betrayed him.

vs. 6-19 – SANCTIFY

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.

The disciples, though they have wavered and not understood fully, have finally believed.   Yes, in a few hours they will flee for their lives and cower in fear while Jesus is crucified.  But they will be restored.  In a few days—after the resurrection—they will believe more fully and assuredly. 

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.

They belong to the Father and have been given to the Son.  There is something very intimate here, tender and loving.  They belong to God, not as property like slaves but as people made in his image with his tender love set on them.  We should extend this to us, as well. If you are a believer in Jesus,  you  are his!  All of us at times wonder if the Lord cares.  If he loves us.  If you have believed in his Son, you are his.  You are his sons and daughters.  This is a beautiful and intimate calling. 

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.

13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Jesus is leaving this world shortly, but the disciples will remain.  That he is leaving them might be terrifying to the disciples.  How can they ever keep living if they are all alone, if Jesus is gone?  So he prays for them.  He prays the Father in heaven will keep them.  Protect them in his power and presence.  He prays (vs. 11), “that they may be one, even as we are one.  Here is a very profound request:  ONENESS.  We might call it “UNITY.”

I find great comfort here:  God is guarding us.  Protecting us.  We should pray this for one another. 

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

He spoke at length in Chapter 15, that they should expect persecution as the follow Christ and go on mission out into the world. 

15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

He prays for their spiritual protection.  As Satan tried to destroy the Son of God, so he will try to destroy the Son’s followers.  So he prays the Father would protect them from Satan’s work.

16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Jesus knows that they now ultimately belong to him in heaven.  Their true home is not here any longer. 

17 Sanctify them in the truth;  your word is truth.

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

To be sanctified means to be consecrated.  Made holy.  Set apart for sacred use.  So Jesus is praying that we, his followers, would be set apart for holy purposes.  And in vs. 18, as Jesus was sent to earth, so he is sending his disciples on a holy mission. 

And they will be sanctified by the truth, the word of God as they believe and obey it… as they “keep” it (vs. 6), for what God says is meant to be acted on, not merely heard and dismissed and ignored.  The Father never wastes his words;  all are meant to be believed.

So though the disciples are in the world, they are to be consecrated from the world and to the Father and his truth.    We are to live in the world but not be of the world.  This is not our home.

Now Jesus prays not merely for his 11 disciples who are with him.  He prays for all those who follow.  That means he is praying for us.  For you.  Knowing this ought to catch our attention.  Jesus prays for me and for you.  For us together.  Surely what he prays is eminently important. 

vs. 20-26 – ONENESS

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,

23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Verse 23 is something I pray quite often for all of us here at Stonebrook.  And I meet monthly with pastors from other gospel-preaching churches in Ames, and I pray verse 23 for all of us.  What is Jesus praying for?  What he says may, at first, seem strange language.  May they all be one, just as you and I, Father, are one.

He is praying for “ONENESS” among his disciples (that’s us).  Or Unity.  The Father and the Son are completely and perfectly united.  They are a Unit.   And Jesus prays that his people would be like God.  That they would think and act and obey and be on mission and pray and worship like ONE.  Like a unit.

Not independent people all doing their own thing.  Like parts of a body doing their work but concerned about the whole body.  Like players on a football team, each have their assigned role, but they’re all running the same plays.  Like various instruments in an orchestra playing beautiful music.

Such oneness is so elusive in our world. 

  • Families like my dad’s
  • Co-workers can’t get along, declaring “personality conflicts.”
  • Congress has tremendous fighting.
  • Political candidates bash each other. 
  • Nations can’t get along with each other.

But for us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, the very call from heaven beckons us into something richer and glorious, something heavenly, something godly. 

The Father and the Son in heaven have such oneness, a perfect and complete harmony filled with joy and love for each other.  And Jesus prays we would have the same.

What is the impact of such a oneness with the people of God?

In vs. 23, Jesus tells us:  May they be one so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

This is astonishing.  If we, the people of God, will live in harmony together like a well-tuned and skilled orchestra, the people around us will see a glimpse of God.  They will get a glimpse of the love of God.

Just a few hours earlier Jesus said this:

John 13:35 ESV  “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Our unity at Stonebrook has a missional impact.  Our unity in our homes has a missional impact.  The world will notice. And if we do not have such unity, the world will mock us.  And rightfully so.

This is why one of my most frequent prayers is Jesus’ prayer here in chapter 17.   If God helps us to live as “ONE,” the world will see a glimpse of Jesus Christ who was sent from heaven and who loves us. 

In the past 2 months, I have been involved in at least four separate instances of conflict and tension in our church.

But in all four cases, people sat down, prayed together, listened, share their hurts and concerns, repented, forgave, and loved each other.

The outcome in every case was unity.  I was astonished in every case.  It was a beautiful picture of the Oneness of the Father and the Son. 

One of those stories involved some updates to our building.  I was talking to a man recently, and he joked that church committees working on facilities can’t ever seem to get along.  One of our highest goals for all the physical work done in this building is that we are united.  And on numerous occasions our design committee and others have had strongly different opinions on what we ought to do.  But over and over again, we have worked through it to be ONE.  United.  Functioning as a unit.  As one Body.

It’s so beautiful when it happens.

To have the oneness Jesus is praying for requires having God’s heart.

It takes love for one another.

It takes an unselfishness.

It takes submission.

It takes humility. 

When we live this way, God in heaven is on display through us.   To seek after such unity and oneness and love is part of our mission:  to declare God the Father and his Son, Jesus, to the world.

So we should pray like Jesus prays.  Often.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Again as in the early verses, we see relationship.  Jesus wants us to be with him.  Yes, it is in heaven.  But it’s only heaven because Jesus is there.  More than longing for a place we are to long for a person.

That is why the Apostle Paul prays at the end of 1 Corinthians, “Marantha,” which means, “Come, Lord.”  Come back to earth, Jesus, to take us home with you forever and ever.  Perhaps the best prayer you could ever utter. 

25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.

26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

What Now?

We’ve read this important and glorious and amazing passage.  Now what do we do with it?  How can it….how should it….shape our thinking about God and life and eternity?

Let me offer one thing.  And it is a big one. 

Pray

Jesus’ prayer here tells us what is important to God.  We can continue to pray for our daily needs and trials.  That is good.  God cares about all those things.

But what Jesus prays is instructive to us.  And inspiring.  Let us pray for the very important things Jesus prays for.

Know God’s greatness.

Your Savior, Jesus Christ, is glorious and great.  He is eternal.  He is Creator.  He was sent from heaven.  He came to save the world.  He has been given all authority over all mankind to give resurrected life to all who believe.

Glorify God

Lift God up in praise with your mouth, your heart, and your very life.  Honor him.  Sing to him.  Obey him.  Worship him.  We know how to “glorify” a football team for a great victory over a highly rated team.  We know how to glorify a band at a concert.  Surely God is worthy of glory 1000 times more.  As we know him in his greatness, we cannot help but glorify him.

Know we belong to God

God offers an intimacy to us.  A tender, sweet closeness to him. Back in John 1:12 we are told that all who believe in Jesus become “children of God.  I know how much I love my daughters.  They are such a joy to me, and it seems to get better each year.  How much more sweet is it to have God view us as his children.  Even if you had a very bad father like my dad did, you have a heavenly Father who loves you dearly.  What a privilege.

Pray that we would know to whom we belong.

Protection.

Life can take a toll on us.  It can beat us up.  Satan hates us and wants to ruin us.  The world is no friend of God’s and will pull us away from the truth.  Pray for each other, that God would protect us from evil and despair and discouragement.  Pray that he would protect us by the power of his Holy Spirit.  And by the work of the church, the Body of Jesus Christ, whose purpose is to strengthen one another.

Joy

Pray that we would have Jesus’ joy.  Fullness of joy.

Sanctification in truth for mission

Pray that we would be sanctified by the truth.  Set apart for God’s purpose.  Made holy for the mission God has for us.  As the Father sent the Son into the world to rescue it, so the Son sends us.  Pray that we would all know God’s holy calling on our lives.

Oneness…that the world may know.

Pray for oneness.  For unity like a beautiful, skilled orchestra.  Like a cohesive football team running the plays with skill and purpose and harmony.  Pray that Satan would not tear us apart.  Pray that we would be quick to resolve our disputes and our hurts.  Pray that we would know the vastness of God’s forgiveness of us, and then we would forgive one another like that.  Pray that our love would be deep.  “As Jesus has loved us, so we are to love one another.  And then pray that the world would catch a glimpse of God in us.  That they would come to know him as we do.  Let us become people who pray.  Who pray often.  Who pray for the very important things that Jesus prays for.