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LSB Easter 7A Sermon – John 17:1-11

June 1, 2014

June 1, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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….’”

Jesus prays to His Father. You heard Him do so. That’s what the Gospel Reading for this Sunday after the Ascension is—the text of part of the prayer that Jesus offers to the Father. All of John 17 is called Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer”. He takes up the task that He will eternally perform: making intercession for His disciples.

But before Jesus makes intercession for His disciples, He prays for Himself. That’s how His prayer begins. Jesus petitions His Father: “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.” Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him. But He is not asking for an honor that is empty. Jesus doesn’t want a title or a certificate from the Father. No He asks for something else: “And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.”

So why does Jesus ask this of the Father? Because of what He had been doing on earth. The eternal Son of God had humbled Himself. He had become a Servant. He had come to the world to perform an assigned task: to give eternal life. That eternal life was to be given in a particular way through Jesus’ words and works. He would speak to the world about the Father, revealing the true God’s identity. He would perform signs, revealing the true God’s character. And He would make atonement for the sins of the world, fulfilling the true God’s promises. That is what Jesus’ entire life was all about. That’s why He was in the world—not to condemn it, but to bring salvation to it. The Father sent His Son to the world, so that the world may be saved through Him.

And that is what Jesus had done. This is why He says: “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.” Jesus speaks these words in the hours that lead up to His betrayal, arrest, trial, condemnation, and crucifixion. That is the extent to which Jesus goes to accomplish the work that His Father gave Him to do. But on the other side of that is glorification. The work that Jesus was sent to do on earth comes to its end when He says at His death: “It is finished.” But Jesus does not end. No, He anticipates the glorification that will come to Him. The Father looks upon the completed work that His Son has done. After Jesus has suffered for a little while, the Father restores, confirms, strengthens, and establishes Him. The Father exalts His Son who had become a Servant, returning Him to the status that was rightly His from before the world existed.

But glorification is not meant for Jesus alone. True, there is an eternal glory that properly belongs to the Godhead, that only God can possess. That will be Jesus’ alone. But Jesus’ work was to bring exaltation to mankind, to restore humanity to a glory that had been lost. That is the purpose of all that Jesus endured. The glory that He came to bring to the world was not a political liberation, an increase of financial riches, or a worldwide popularity. No, He came to bring salvation—to take mankind out of the corruption of sin, to remove humanity’s guilt, to overcome the fate of mortality.

This is the eternal life that Jesus has brought to those who have received Him. The Father authorized Him to give it to people. And Jesus has done so. That is what He mentions in His prayer. Just like the High Priest in Ancient Israel would pray after making the prescribed sacrifice and intercede for God’s people, so Jesus also prays: “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.”

Jesus prays not only for Himself, but for His disciples. He prays for those He has worked for. He prays for those who have received what He has brought into the world. These disciples have heard what Jesus has said. They know what Jesus has done. But they also have been given to understand that this all happened because Jesus accomplished what His Father sent Him to do. That understanding has been given to them through their reception of the word that Jesus brought from the Father to them.

But this category of people is not limited to those with Jesus that night. Yes, they were the ones for whom Jesus was praying. They were with Jesus on that night when He was betrayed. They heard Jesus speaking those petitions for them. But Jesus’ prayer is offered for others who aren’t there. It’s not part of the Gospel Reading for Easter 7 this year, but Jesus’ prayer goes further: “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….” 

Jesus’ prayer is for you. But that should not be a surprise. For Jesus’ work was to bring you into the glory that He has been given from the Father. Jesus’ work was not for only those Eleven faithful disciples; it was for all humanity. But don’t think of that as just a general act for people. No, Jesus’ work is for you. It is personal and individual. He has come to take you out of the corruption of sin, to remove your guilt, to overcome your fate of mortality. Jesus makes intercession for you because He has acted for you because the Father’s will was that you would would know Him and have eternal life.

On this Sunday, we got to witness this personal, individual application of Jesus’ work. That is what the baptism of Atlee was all about. As you witnessed the Rite of Holy Baptism, that became clear. The Baptismal Address spoke of the Father sending the Son to atone for the sins of the world and giving eternal life for all who believe in Him. The Flood Prayer asked for the drowning of sin and the giving of true faith by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel for Baptism spoke about a place in the kingdom of heaven for those received by Jesus. The Creed spoke about the identity and work of the true God. The Baptismal Blessing asked for strengthening by divine grace unto life everlasting. And when giving the Baptismal Candle, the statement was made that the newest disciple of Jesus had received the light of the world and should always anticipate His return.

All those items in the Rite of Holy Baptism were pointing toward what Jesus mentioned in the prayer He spoke to His Father: “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 who You have sent.” It was all about another individual having happen to them what Jesus said His work accomplished: “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.”

Jesus says about such people: “I am praying for them.” And that is what He continues to do. Jesus makes intercession to the Father for you. Not only does Jesus pray for you, He also stands as the Mediator between you and the Father. That is what Jesus does as He has ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. Because of the work that Jesus accomplished and the faith in it that you have received, the Father looks sees you as His righteous children. The way that He thinks about you is determined by what His Son has done for you.

Because you have become Jesus’ disciples and follow Him, there are difficulties. That is what Peter noted in his letter to people who believed in Jesus: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed…. Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” There are many who have not received the Father’s word from Jesus or who have not believed that the Father had sent Jesus. Their opposition to Jesus and His disciples rises up. At times, it is very active and severe. It causes suffering for those who believe in Jesus. In recent days, the case of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim in the Sudan—the new mother who was condemned to death for being a Christian—showed just how active and severe that opposition can be.

But there is the great promise given to those who have received Jesus and His work: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” The Father answers His Son’s prayer. He does grant Jesus the glory that was always His. That will be revealed to all the world when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. It will be put on display for all to see. But for you who have received Jesus’ words, who have been brought to faith in Him, that glory of Jesus will not be put on show. No, it will be given to you. You will share in it.

The Father answers His Son’s prayer for Himself; He also answers His Son’s prayer for you: “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 to Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.” The Holy Spirit is given to you. You keep the words that Jesus have spoken to you. You are cared for by the mighty hand of God. You receive eternal life, because you know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent. That is happening now. And it will be fully shown when you share in the glory that is given to Jesus for eternity.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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