Description / Transcription
We come this morning to John chapter 17, and it is a majestic and a massive task to preach in one sermon from the high priestly prayer. It is certainly too high and too holy for me, for us, but we will at least try to touch it, though we won’t do justice to it, and at least try to learn something for what Jesus is praying for Himself and for us, and my prayer is that by the time we are done with this, there will be something welling up within your spirit, eager to cry out, “Glory, glory, to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” It’s one of those passages that as we look into the mystery of the Trinity could easily look to be not very practical, not particularly relevant, but one of the things I hope as we are a mature church and as we always want to become more mature as a church, that the deepest things of God look to us to be the most practical things in life, the most relevant things. Very few, if any of you, came in here this morning thinking, with everything you have going on, everything you have facing you, you know what I need this morning? I need to explore the inner workings of the Trinity. But you do, and I do, because the very vision of heavenly bliss is to be caught up in that life, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which we have the privilege to be a part of.
Follow along as I read from John 17.
“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, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.'”
“‘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. Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You. 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. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 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. 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. But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.'”
“‘I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, 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. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, 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. 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 have loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know You, I know you, and these know that You have sent me. 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.'”
John 17 is the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in the Bible, and coming here right before His betrayal and crucifixion, it could be argued this is the most important prayer of Jesus in the Bible, maybe the most important prayer in the Bible. We just prayed together a few minutes ago the Lord’s Prayer, but this even more so could be called the Lord’s Prayer, at least another Lord’s Prayer. What we call the Lord’s Prayer might be called the Disciples’ Prayer, it’s the disciples saying, “Jesus, teach us how to pray,” and that’s the prayer He gave us as disciples to pray. This is the prayer our Lord prayed in the garden.
In chapters 14 through 16, essentially He gives His disciples in the upper room a sermon in large part on the Holy Spirit, and on the Trinity, and now at the conclusion of the sermon, it’s as if He breaks into prayer, and He doesn’t do as I always do and “let us pray” and then you know that you’ve made it through another sermon and here we go, we’re done. But you would be caught off guard if I finished and then I prayed a prayer this long after the sermon. Jesus doesn’t even say “and now let us pray,” we simply read in verse 1 His transition is to put His eyes into heaven, and then to offer this expression of His deepest longing.
Have you ever known someone so holy you just love to hear them pray? I had a roommate in seminary who was more than twice my age and I, I have stories about him. He was in many ways a slightly eccentric man, but he was a godly man and I was early 20-something and he was maybe in his 50s and he had been in seminary for 12 years. He didn’t believe in going into any sort of debt and so he would work in Alaska for eight months out of the year doing ship to shore sort of really hardcore manly stuff and make money and then he would come to seminary and he was stretching this out. And I was his, his roommate. I didn’t know it was a big deal, you can just look and I was in a dorm and they had a dorm at the seminary and I found roommate and everyone said, “You have Ron.” I said, “Who’s Ron?” “Oh, you’ll find out.” [laughter]
He was a legend. He was slightly eccentric, quite charismatic theologically and sort of in tune with the Spirit, didn’t believe in setting an alarm clock, but that God would just wake him up in time for classes. He was always late for classes. [laughter] But, the man could pray. And he would often, “Kevin, let’s just pray.” I remember in the grocery store one time, we didn’t know we were both there, “Oh, Ron, you’re in the grocery store,” and we were talking about something and we were just standing there. I’m holding milk and juice or something and he said “yeah, we should pray about it,” and I said, “yeah, we really should pray about that.” “Well, let’s do it right here.” “Oh, well, of course, that’s what I meant. Of course, [laughter] I also stop and pray with people in the grocery store.”
He was the sort of man, this was before the Lord of the Rings movies came out and he was passionate about them and he was so adamant that the movies would be true to the books that we had a prayer time where he was praying down curses upon Peter Jackson if he would ruin the books and praying… So, slightly eccentric, but a prayer warrior, and I would pray with him and you know with some people, you know, you pray and it feels like, sorry to sound unspiritual, is this ever going to end? And with him they were such fervent prayer, concrete, specific prayers for things to happen, that it was a delight to pray, and I learned just from listening to him pray.
If you’ve ever had someone like that in your life, or maybe a saintly parent or grandparent or some older person that you just love to listen and overhear because you got something, it was almost as if the curtain was pulled back from heaven as this person had a relationship with God that, that you didn’t yet have and you heard the very throne room of heaven being grabbed hold of for the concerns of the world and of the church, if you’ve ever had that experience with someone here on earth, how much more should we want that experience with the God-man here in this prayer? To, to listen and overhear the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, took on human flesh, praying to His heavenly Father, surely we have everything to learn from His prayer.
There is enough theology, enough exegesis, in this chapter to last until our clocks turn back the other way, when we get a good night’s sleep, but since we have minutes instead of months, we will have to deal with the big themes and we won’t be able to cover everything in this prayer.
The prayer, you may have realized before, divides neatly into three sections, which are marked off by three paragraphs in most of your Bibles. First, Jesus prays for Himself, verses 1 through 5; then Jesus prays for His disciples, verses 6 through 19, He makes that clear, I’m not praying for the world but I’m praying for those that You have given Me, these who have been with me from the beginning; and then third, in verses 20 through 26, He prays for us, He prays for those who will believe in the future based upon the testimony of these disciples. So He prays for Himself, He prays for the disciples, and then He prays for the Church, or you might say He prays for us.
Let’s look at each of those in turn. First, Jesus prays for Himself. His petition can be boiled down to one thing, and it is found in verse 5: Father, glorify Me. The singular thing that Jesus prays for Himself is that He will be glorified.
Now what does that mean? It is such a church word, such a Bible word, such a Christian word… Glorify. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The glory of God, usually in Hebrew “kavod,” which can mean weight, or heaviness, “doxa” in the Greek, from which we get “doxology.” The glory of God refers to His splendor, His majesty, His beauty, His weightiness, His gravitas, His wow, His awesomeness, His unbelievable-ness.
To glorify God means to honor God. When you glorify someone, you celebrate them, you give them honor.
If you have a sports team that wins the championship and then you have a ticker-tape parade, I’m not saying that’s idolatrous necessarily, it’s just a way of honoring, celebrating, we might say glorying in.
Or someone who wins an award at one of the infinite number of award ceremonies on TV, or someone who wins a gold medal, and then stands there and they put the medal around the neck and stand on the highest platform, and the national anthem of the country is played, it is to honor their achievement. It is a way of making much of them, bringing glory.
So when we glorify God, let’s try to think of this in language that we might use just on the street. To glorify God means to make a big deal of God. Take that very street level, simple, colloquial, almost child-like definition and put it into some other verses in John.
John 8: 54: “Jesus replied, ‘If I make a big deal of myself, My big deal means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the One who makes a big deal of Me.'”
John 11: 4: “When He heard this, Jesus said, ‘The sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s big deal that God’s Son may be made a big deal of through it.'”
Or John 12:28: “‘Father, make a big deal of Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have made a big deal of it, and I will make a big deal of it again.'”
And on and on, dozens of times that we have the language of “glorify.”
So Jesus is praying, “Father,” verse 5, “make a big deal of Me in our presence that I may in turn make a big deal of You.” That’s the essence of His prayer in verses 1 through 5.
Now, to put it that way, it almost makes us uncomfortable. “Glorify” seems like a safe word, but to hear Jesus praying, “Father, make a big deal of Me,” you think, “Is that a little vain?” Well, it’s not vain because you can’t really wrongly be self-centered when you are the center. The reason it’s wrong for you or for I to be self-centered is that you are not the center of all things. You are not the center of the universe. If you were actually the center of all things, then to be centered on yourself would not be a mistake, and so it is with Jesus.
But even more so than that, we dare not charge Jesus with any vanity or selfish ambition, because we understand what this prayer entails. How is Jesus going to be made a big deal of?
Look at verse 1: “He lifted His eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Make a big deal of Your Son, that the Son may make a big deal of You.'”
The hour has come. What is the hour? Well, throughout John’s Gospel He’s been saying “it’s not the hour.” Way back in chapter 2 when He does the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, He says, “Woman, it’s not My hour.” The hour is the hour of the climax of His mission, it’s the hour of His death, that’s what’s coming in chapter 18 – His arrest, His betrayal, His crucifixion. So He says “now is the time for My ignominious death.”
So to hear Jesus say, “Father, make a big deal of Me” is not at all how you and I would expect to be make a big deal of. If you ask, now we would sort of have enough sort of Christian sensibility to push that pride down, I will sometimes say to people, “I don’t know that I’m humbler than other people, but I know that I have enough pride to at least want to look humbler than other people.”
So we would not say “glorify me,” but if we did, if we really gave vent to that expression, we would, we would mean, “give me accolades, give me awards, honor me, support me.” What we don’t mean is “crucify me.”
So in the mystery of the cross, the supreme moment of Christ’s glorification will come in what looks to be the supreme moment of His defeat. Jesus is crying out, “Father, make a big deal of Me by handing Me over to be killed.” This is why we make a big deal of Jesus and not of ourselves. That’s why we make a big deal of Jesus and not Mohammed. That’s why we make a big deal of Jesus and not rest content in just a trite-sounding sort of spirituality. We make a big deal of Jesus because the cross, Christ was lifted up in shame that He might be lifted up in glory. And in so doing, He will fulfill the covenant obligations established between the Father and the Son.
Look at verse 2: “Since You have given Him authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.”
There’s an entire theological lecture that we don’t have time for here, but just to note that we see hints of this eternal pact between the Father and the Son, sometimes called the covenant of redemption, sometimes called by the Latin phrase the pactum salutis, which just means a pact of salvation, a covenant of redemption. That in eternity past, and pause right there because that’s not really the best phrase. When you hear “eternity past,” you think eternity was a time before we began, when really eternity is the description of how God exists. So think of eternity not as the time before time, but eternity as the way in which God existed before there was the creation of time, because time is a created thing, but we use the phrase “eternity past” to say we’re speaking before there was a world, before there was even time, there was God and eternity.
And the Father and the Son have this relationship in verse 2: “You have given Him authority over all flesh; You give eternal life to all whom you have given Him.” There are other verses which suggest the same thing. We see hints of it here. This pact whereby the Son commits in the act of redemption to be the surety for God’s people and the Father in the act of redemption commits to give to the Son a certain definite number of persons to be saved. They are, in a sense, accomplishing the same act and work from one operation and from one will, and yet in doing so fulfilling it in two different ways. One as the guarantee and one as the guarantor. This eternal grant, this covenant, between Father and Son.
So this incident, this event of the cross, is not some act of cosmic child abuse. Such a notion is blasphemous, for a number of reasons, but here we see one most important reason: Because this is not something that is coming and falling upon an unwilling son by a vengeful father, but is rather in time the expression of what had been a covenant between the two from all eternity. There had been an agreement, Father and Son, that this is how the people whom they knew would sin would in time be saved.
Revelation 5:9: “And they sang a new song, You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because for this reason You were slain and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
We ought to pray, “Father, make a big deal of Jesus in our church. Make a big deal of Jesus in the United States. Make a big deal of Jesus in the world.”
And then through that the Father is made much of. Romans 6:4 says Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God the Father. Jesus prays, “Father, glorify Me so that You get glory.”
Now later in the prayer, there is a sense in which Jesus is going to share this, this glory. We, too, can be caught up into this glorious relationship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But there’s also a sense in which we would never pray, “Father, glorify me.” We might pray that we can be caught up in the glory that they have Father and Son, but the prayer is not for us. The prayer is that God would make much of Jesus.
Now you know this to be true in your head. Do you really believe it? Do I really believe it? This, this whole thing… Church, life, family, your schooling, your education, your hopes, your dreams, go for it, but just realize it’s about making a big deal of Jesus, and if your life is really about making a big deal of you, you are going against the cosmic flow of the universe because that’s not God’s aim.
Now some people, they have a God that they think that god exists to make a big deal of them. Jesus says God the Father is to make a big deal of Me.
You know when a friend, a family member, has a birthday and it’s sort of understood this is their special day, and they’re getting presents, they get to pick the meal. Somehow it’s morphed in our family that you get to pick breakfast and snack and lunch and dinner and dessert and a special meal and a special gift and shine my shoes… It is the aaaahhh, it is that, that one day in your life such that there is lots of angst leading up to the day and at the end of the day there is sadness. I was always that sort of kid. I was born at 11:41 p.m., so I would stay up until 11:41 p.m. until I officially turned and everyone else was asleep and then I’d celebrate my turning of an age all by myself, [laughter] feel sort of sad that I was never going to be special for 364 more days. Well, yes, thank you.
When, when you have birthday, you understand, okay, this is your day, and we’re to say special things about you, you, and it’s rude if the other siblings, let alone the parents, start turning all the attention on them. I admit that one time it actually was my birthday, I have a niece who has the same birthday, and if you have a niece who has the same birthday, and you’re together, well, you ain’t going to get any attention [laughter], it’s the niece. And my wife may or may not have had to say something at the end of the day like “grow up” [laughter] when I got, well, nothing, but I’m over it [laughter].
When it’s your birthday, you’re special. When it’s the other person’s birthday, you make sure they’re special.
When I think of Jesus saying, “Father, glorify Your Son,” it’s to remind us, hey, it ain’t your birthday. This whole life is not about your birthday. It’s about Jesus. It’s about His glory.
And actually, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, actually that will make you happier. It’s the people who want every day to be their birthday, every day to be about them and their glory, who end up not only making everyone else unhappy, but becoming unhappy themselves. When you lose your life, Jesus says, you find it. When you make it about the glory of another, you find joy unspeakable.
Glorify Your Son.
Second paragraph, Jesus now prays for the disciples. He prays two things. The first petition is found in verse 11: “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to You, Holy Father,” here’s the petition, “keep them in Your Name.”
Now, Jesus is praying this with great affection. He says that He’s not praying for the world, very explicitly. Now wait a minute, you say, I thought God loved the whole world, He sent His only Son. Well, true, in a sense, God loves the world, He loves the fallen mess of humanity that He sent His Son to save sinners. But Christ’s relationship to the world is different than His relationship to His disciples. He loves us not as an undifferentiated mass of sinners or as a generic race of fallen human beings, He loves us individually, as His family with a peculiar love and intimacy and disclosure and identity and belonging.
So He makes clear, “I’m not praying for the whole world, I’m praying, I’m praying for the people here overhearing this prayer, these 11 disciples. I’ve not lost one except the one that We had planned from eternity, the son of perdition, Judas, who Scripture knew and predicted would go to his reward.” He, in other words, prays with the greatest of affection that just as the disciples have stayed with Him to this point, they will remain with Him forever.
It may seem strange that verse 6 says, “They have kept Your Word,” because what we know of the disciples is they’re a rather bumbling lot and they get a lot of things wrong and they’re about to almost all of the scatter to the four winds. How can Jesus say you have kept My Word? Well, don’t compare the disciples before the resurrection to after the resurrection, compare the disciples before the resurrection to everyone else before the resurrection. And by that comparison, they’ve kept His Word. That is, they’re still with Him, on His last night, they’re the ones that He’s sharing a meal with. They have stuck with Him when many others were scandalized by Him and one is going to betray Him, but there they are, and now Jesus prays, “Would you keep them.”
Verse 6: “I have manifested Your Name to the people who you gave Me out of the world, Yours they were, they have kept Your Word.”
Verse 12: “While I was with them, I kept them in Your Name.”
And so the prayer in verse 11 is “keep them in Your Name,” that is, keep them loyal to, to You and to Your character. He doesn’t assume that anyone can go on cruise control, anyone can go on auto pilot. He, he aggressively prays keep them in the love of God.
Do you ever pray that for yourself? For your kids? For your pastors? For your elders? Yes, those who are justified will never be unjustified. But one of the ways that God causes His saints to persevere is through prayer and through warnings.
And so you need to hear the warning of Scripture, that no one is beyond, from a human vantage point, falling away. We know that it is not possible ultimately for the elect to fall away, but here’s Jesus praying. Jesus knows who the elect are. The Father elected them in Jesus, and yet Jesus is praying keep them. If Jesus prays that, surely we must pray that, for ourselves and for one another. He doesn’t ask to take them out of the world; this is where we get the well-known phrase “in the world, not of the world.” It doesn’t say you’re going to go off and live in a nunnery, not Christians who are hiding away to be protected from all contagions, but rather those who are to be protected from the evil one, from sin.
Keep me. Your biggest concern, and this will be very relevant with all the news we’re hearing, your biggest concern in life is not sickness, it is sin. Yes, we do what we can to avoid sickness, but are we doing all that we can to be kept free from sin. What if we took precautions against vice as we take precautions against a virus?
Jesus says, “Keep them, Father.”
Brothers and sisters, how often are you praying what we just prayed, “lead me not into temptation, deliver me from evil. Lord, don’t put me in front of a Potiphar’s wife. Lord, don’t lead me into temptation.”
And look at what Jesus says. Verse 14 speaks of hate. Verse 15, the evil one. Verse 16, they are not of this world. But verse 13, before all of that, He speaks of joy. Jesus prayed for protection from the evil one that they might have the full measure of Christ’s joy. “My joy,” Jesus says, “fulfilled in themselves.”
God warns you against sin. He means to keep you from sin. Not to keep you from pleasure, but to keep you in His pleasure. Jesus wants you to trust that to keep your life free from the stain and the temptation of evil is not to make you miserable, it is to make you the happiest people on the planet. Sin lies to you, sin tells you, “Eat the fruit, you’ll be happy, your eyes will be open, you’ll never be so happy. Go take those 20 minutes to throw away your life and your marriage, you’ll never be so happy. Go click on that site, you’ll be, you’ll have ecstasy for 10 minutes. Go hit the drug, pull the lever on the slot machine, enjoy that vindictive rage, it will feel good.”
And sin lies to you. It’s to lasting. Only Jesus gives lasting joy, so we must get on our knees and pray with Jesus, “guard us, protect us, keep us.”
That’s the first thing He prays for the disciples. And then second He prays, in verse 17, sanctify. Make holy, set apart. To be sanctified in the Old Testament was reserved for priests or for utensils, for the furniture that would participate in the worship in the tabernacle or the temple. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.
It was one of the great errors of liberal theology, which tried to have the sanctity of human life and behavior apart from the truth of God’s Word. Theological liberals would say Jesus was a good man, Jesus was a holy man, and the essence of Christianity is to live like Jesus, to be good people, to be people of faith and generosity and love and justice. If only we could live like Jesus. But then, many of those same liberal theologians said but the Bible we know is full of myths and stories and it’s kind of a mixed bag of fact and fiction, it must be de-mythologized, and so they wanted to have true holiness without the truth of God’s Word.
Jesus says just the opposite. How are you going to be sanctified? It’s by the truth. Your Word is truth. We make no apologies here for being a church ultimately and intimately concerned with the truth. Now I know some people hear that, “oh, you’re the truth people versus the grace people.” No, we want truth and grace. But we make no apologies for truth. Jesus says that’s how you get holy, that’s how you get grace. The heart of worldliness is the rejection of God’s truth, the rejection of God’s gracious self-disclosure in the words of Scripture and in the Word made flesh.
How does truth sanctify you? Jeremiah says at one point, “Is not Your Word like a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces?”
Think of the Word, the truth of the Word, as a hammer, and so much of life wants to coddle you and we have the mistake of thinking we can get to heaven on flowery beds of ease and we become soft, and the hammer of God’s Word is painful at times. But as lay ourselves down on the anvil, and we allow the truth of God’s Word to pound us into Christ’s likeness, we are sanctified. The reason we want to know the truth is not simply to have an intellectual knowledge of right things, that’s good, but because that truth in time transforms us, it pounds us. You cannot become holy apart from truth. You will stall out on our path of sanctification. It doesn’t mean you have to have advanced degrees, it doesn’t mean you have to have advanced education.
But you must have the truth of God’s Word, here on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Bible studies, books, discussions with others, pounding you as you lay your life, a spiritual act of worship, there on the anvil of God’s glory that you would be gloriously pulverized into His image.
And you see what Jesus says there in verse 19: “For their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
Now Jesus didn’t have to become holy in the sense of imperfection, but He, too, was setting Himself apart for the work that God had given Him to accomplish. He is self-consecrated like the priests of old, or like the animal sacrifice of old, set apart, set aside, for God’s use.
Parents, do you see some relevance here for you? If Jesus said “I consecrate myself that they may be sanctified in truth,” Jesus who had no sin, surely we who are full of sin ought to pray the same thing. You want your children to be turned off from Christ and the church? Now that happens and it’s often out of our control, but here’s a real sure-fire way to turn off your kids from Christ and the church: Be a hypocrite. Tell them one thing and live a different way. Come down on them hard with all sorts of rules and all sorts of exhortations that you yourself don’t follow. Tell them that Jesus needs to be really important in their life when they can see plain as day He’s not very important in your life.
If you want to make a difference in your children’s sanctification, pay attention to verse 19: “I consecrate Myself,” Jesus said, “For their sanctification.” You be holy because you want to see your children be holy.
And Jesus prays one final prayer. Praying for Himself, praying for His disciples, and then the last paragraph, praying for us, praying for the Church.
He says, in verse 20, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.” And what’s that prayer? It is that they may be one, just as You are one.
I tried really hard this week to try to find a way to get all these words to sound the same. Jesus’ prayer is to glorify, protecitfy, sanctify, and unify. Glorify, keepify, sanctify, unify. I couldn’t, if you come up with one for keep or protect that ends in “ify,” then free Kevin DeYoung book for you, okay? [laughter]
Glorify, protectify, sanctify, and then here’s His last prayer, and it’s for us: Unify.
So much that we could say here. This is not first of all denominational, organizational, ecumenical unity, though that could be an expression of it. This is spiritual unity grounded in truth. We’re not talking about paper-overing a kind of unity to just say we all get along when we really don’t. This is a unity on a more personal level – He’s speaking for people like us who will believe that the world would see our love for one another.
I think that the Lord has given us here at Christ Covenant to a remarkable degree a sweet spirit of love and fellowship and harmony. People’s feelings get hurt and we have lots of things we can improve on, for sure, but if I’m not mistaken, I think there’s a sweet sense of unity and harmony. Would you keep praying for that? That’s a gift, and it can vaporize in a morning, so pray that God would protect it, to be one, to be the sort of people that give each other the benefit of the doubt, to be the people like 2 Corinthians 7 who have our hearts wide open to one another. We can deal with a lot of hurt and misunderstandings and different preferences when we have our hearts wide open to each other, to be one, as a reflection of God’s oneness.
So it’s not necessarily institutional unity, but it is observable unity. And in what does this oneness consist? Look at verse 22. There’s a oneness of glory, the glory that You have given Me I have given to them, then verse 23 a oneness of love, that the world may know that You sent Me and love them even as You have loved Me, and then verse 24 there is a oneness of presence, or fellowship, I desire that they also whom You have given Me may be with Me where I am.
A oneness of glory, a oneness of love, and a oneness of fellowship.
And here’s where, we’ve got just a few minutes left, I just need to make your brains hurt a little bit in a glorious way, because everything here is bound up in the eternal relations of the Trinity. The Son and the Father are, in John’s Gospel and in this prayer, distinguishable. The Son is not the Father, the Father is not the Son. We see this in John 1:1 that the Word is God and the Word was with God. So the logos, the Word, is both God in one sense, in every sense, but yet speaking of God the Father is with God the Father, so they’re distinguishable. Jesus, as the Son, prays to the Father, obeys the Father. The Father sends the Son. There is giving and receiving. So the Father and the Son are distinguishable.
At the same time, their unity is more than a social, loving relationship. Don’t hear that well, they’re just really, you know, like you might be if you love your son or you love your dad, and you just, mmm, big bear hug and you really tight… And if you think that’s the unity of the Father and Son, then you’ve not understood it. For the Father dwells in the Son, John 14:10, and He does His works, and the Son, John 1, is the agent of the Father in creation and we’ve seen throughout John that the Father and the Son share one divine name, divine power, divine identity, and divine authority. So that’s different than you and your dad or you and your son just really being tight.
So the Father and the Son are distinguishable, and yet they share the same name, power, identity, authority, the later theological language of essence. There’s a oneness. The central confession about God in the Old Testament, the Shema, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
So the model that we have for oneness as believers is this mutual indwelling of Father and Son, verse 21, that they all may be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You.
Or verse 23: I in them and You in Me.
Again in verse 26: The love with which You have loved Me may be in them and I in them.
Now you may say, “Well, I thought this was about the Trinity, this is Father and Son, and the Holy Spirit is not even named here.” That’s true. But, and this is drawing on the theology that Augustin and others developed, even though the Spirit’s not named, when you think about it, is He not the answer to every one of the Son’s petition? That we would know the glory of the Father and the Son – it’s to have the Spirit poured upon us. That we would know the love of the Father and the Son for one another – is to have the love of the Spirit shed abroad in our hearts. To know the fellowship and the presence that the Father and the Son have with one another – is fulfilled as we are joined with Christ by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just to stretch us a little further, think about here in this prayer, how the story of the Trinity is the story of God giving gifts. Look at this, verse 2: Since You have given Him authority. Notice real quick, all the language of gifts, so the Father gives the gift of authority to the Son, and then to give eternal life to all whom you have given to Him. So He has given the gift of a people to the Son who will in turn give the gift of eternal life to those people.
We see in verse 6: I have manifested Your Name to the people who You gave me, so again given a people, yours they were, You gave them to Me.
Again verse 9: I’m not praying for the world, but for those whom You have given to Me.
The same thing in verse 24: I desire that they also, whom You have given Me.
Do you ever think, you, the people of God, were a gift from the Father to the Son.
There’s also the gift of the work.
Verse 4: I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.
The words are a gift.
Verse 8: I have given them the words that You gave Me.
The divine name is a gift.
Verse 11: They are in the world, I am coming to You, holy Father, keep them in Your Name which You have given Me that they may be one.
God’s glory, verse 22 and 24, is a gift. Verse 7 shows now that they know that everything You have given Me is from you.
So follow this. The Father gifts the Son to give to disciples and to the Church then eternal life and the words of life that they might participate in the life of glory. The unfolding of this trinitarian plan of salvation is from start to finish from our God who gives gifts, the Father to the Son, and then the Son together with the Father giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to us, His people, who were a gift to the Son, that we may have the gift of His presence and His power and His words, so that in this we have communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in their eternal life of glory, love, and mutual indwelling, so that the best gift and the ultimate goal of all gospel blessing is that we can be bound up in the eternal life of love, glory, and fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That’s what Jesus prays. His prayer and His vision of heaven is irreducibly trinitarian.
I had a friend years ago whose idea of heaven, very common, was a wide open field with her deceased mother. And there they would be running their hands through the beautiful flowers and enjoying nature, reunited at last.
Does your vision for heaven have Jesus there? Does your vision of the glory of heaven have anything to do with our trinitarian God? When is the last time we heard a trinitarian vision of heaven? When is the last time this vision that Jesus had flooded your soul with delight? Yes, it stretches our minds to the breaking point. There is mystery here, but it’s what Jesus prayed for.
And it’s the only answer we have for our divisions, whether they be over race, or age, or economics, that we find our deepest, profoundest unity together as we are bound up into the life and love and joy and glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everyone in our day wants to have unity and diversity. Everyone wants to have people come together and be one, but Jesus gives us this unique, deep, profound trinitarian vision of what real Christian unity looks like.
So as you pray, and as you pray inevitably as we should about jobs and boyfriends and girlfriends and marriage and kids and sickness and insurance and diagnoses, cast all your cares on Him. But as we reflect the heart and the desires of the Lord Jesus and His perspective, let us pray like Christ, knowing that He sits at the right hand of God the Father praying for us, and let us say, “Lord, I want to see Jesus in His glory. I want my life to make a big deal of the Son that in turn might make a big deal of the Father, and protect me, O Lord, do not take me out of the world but keep me safe, and sanctify me by Your truth, Your Word is truth, and make us one as You are one, that we may know and enjoy and delight for all eternity in Your perfect glory, love, and presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Let’s pray. O Lord, there is so much here, much more to be said, much that is difficult to understand. If nothing else, Lord, would You help us to lift our eyes from earthly things to heavenly realms. To the degree that some trinitarian vision of heaven seems like a pale imitation of heaven, is the measure of how much we have been shaped by the world instead of Your Word, so help us to know You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and delight in Your love, Your power, and Your presence. In the name of Jesus. Amen.