Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 26, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 17. Today marks our third and final sermon on John 17. Before reading the entire chapter, let me first review what we have unpacked so far. This prayer marks the end of what is called the Upper Room discourse. It is the capstone of five chapters of the teachings of Jesus that took place the night before his death. As we will see next week, God willing, Jesus will end this prayer and head directly to the Garden of Gethsemane where will be arrested.
As we have already discussed, the overarching theme of this prayer is the Glory of Jesus and the Glory of His Father, which is the same glory. The way in which this glory will be achieved is by Jesus giving his life, so as to receive the authority His Father gave him, so as to give eternal life, to those whom the Father has given him. So as we said last week, the Glory of God is displayed through the giving of the Father and the giving of the Son. Another way that we could describe this glorious giving is glorious grace.
Last week we observed that Jesus not only prayed for himself, but he also prayed for his disciples. Specifically, Jesus prays that his disciples would be kept in the name of God. To be kept in the name of God means to continue to believe in the Father and in the Son whom the father sent. As we saw, understanding who keeps us in union with the Lord is a crucial understanding in our walk with the Lord. We are kept by the grace of god, not by the power of man. But practically speaking, how does this work? How does God keep his children? It is through the Word of God. Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” We are kept in the name of God, by God, through the Word of God. And as we stated last week, if the Son prays that his followers would be kept, you can guarantee that the Father will grant that request. For the Father will not deny his Son. So with that, let us read the entire chapter one more time as we begin today.
In these six verses we will unpack the recipients of this prayer, the requests in this prayer, and the results of this prayer. Recipients. Requests. Results.
Let us begin by looking at the recipients of this prayer; those in whom the prayer is for. Look with me at verse 20, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” Who are these people?
Jesus in his prayer gives us three characteristics of these people: 1) these people heard the word, 2) these people believed the word, and 3) these people possess the glory of God. So let us break this down.
Hearers of the Word
First, these people heard the word. What does this mean? Look at verse 6. Jesus says, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” Now look at verse 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.” Then in verse 18 Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Then as we see in verse 20, the people who Jesus is now praying for have heard this word.
As we stated last week, the manifestation of the name of God mentioned in verse 6 is the radiance, or display, of all that God is. Jesus’ words and His works display the Father. Jesus and the Father are one; therefore Jesus does all that he is commanded and speaks all that he is commanded. His teaching and his actions are the display of God on earth. The disciples were eyewitnesses to this display. Upon hearing and seeing this display, they received it. They received the Word incarnate. They came to know God through knowing Jesus.
Jesus, just as he was sent by the Father, now sends his disciples to go and proclaim what they heard and observed. Jesus commissioned them to testify in the world about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. So where would we find that testimony? It is found in the New Testament, most prominently in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These 11 disciples will go out and tell people in the world about what they saw.
The Apostle John, the author of the Gospel of John, begins the letter 1 John 1:1 by saying, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you,”
Believers of the Word
Now what is interesting about this testimony is that people will actually believe them. This is the second characteristic of those whom Jesus is praying for. Not only will these people have heard the testimony of these men, but they will actually believe the testimony of these men. And Jesus in his high priestly prayer has no doubt that people will believe it. It is a guarantee.
Now take a second and think about this. 11 disciples, soon to be 12 again with the addition of Matthias in Acts 1, are going to go out a tell everyone that a Jewish carpenter from the podunk town of Nazareth is actually the Son of God. They are going to tell the stories of him turning water into wine, they are going to tell about him healing the blind, deaf, and lame. They are going to tell how he walked on water. They are going to tell how he fed thousands with just few loaves of bread. They are going to tell how he raised people from the dead. Then they are going to say that this same person was then arrested and crucified by Rome, but that three days later he rose from the grave, and is now in heaven. And people will actually believe it. Are you kidding me!? Why in the world would anyone on this planet believe such lunacy? You would have to be a fool to buy what these disciples would be selling.
Yet here we are today, nearly 2,000 years after Jesus prayed this prayer and in 2010 a reported 2.2 billion people on this planet claim to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. According to Wikipedia, Protestantism from 1960 to 2000 grew three times as fast as the population rate.
Possess the Glory of God
How is this possible? I believe the answer lies in verse 22. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” What does Jesus mean that these people who hear the gospel, and believe the gospel, have already received the glory of God. It means that the testimony of the work and words of Jesus found in the Gospels, carries as much effectual power as seeing the actual work and words of Jesus. This is what Paul means when he says in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of salvation.
When Christ spoke and displayed the glory of God in his life, his disciples witnessed it and observed the glory of God in the person of Jesus. When a disciple testifies of those same things, whether it be 100 years later, 1000 years later, or 10,000 years later, the same glory is radiated.
This is why in John 10:16 Jesus could say, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” The way that Jesus brings people to himself is through the mouths of his disciples. And the same glory that he displayed in person will be on display to the nations when proclaimed by his disciples. People across this globe from every tribe, language, people group and nation will believe that this 33 year old, unmarried, homeless man who lived 2000 years ago is the Savior of the World. All of us in this room today are proof of Jesus' prayer.
So we have talked at length about who Jesus is praying for, the recipients of this prayer. Now let us turn our attention to the primary request of Jesus' prayer. Look at verse 20 and 21, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” The request of Jesus for all of his believers is that they would be one.
What does Jesus mean by all believers being one? In verse 21 Jesus says that our oneness as believers is to be like Jesus oneness with his father, therefore, what does their oneness look like.
To begin, we must recognize that the oneness of Jesus and the Father surpasses our understanding. The oneness of the Son and the Father is Trinitarian. How often do we say that the Trinity is the most difficult truth to wrap your head around? Therefore, the oneness of Jesus and the Father is supernatural. It is a oneness that cannot be found on this planet. It is a oneness that defies logic. Yet, we are called to have this same oneness. How is this possible?
First, it is only possible by the Holy Spirit. If you recall Jesus has spent a lot of time during the upper room discourse talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who binds all believers together. Therefore, the unity of all believers is supernatural for our unity does not come from the world it comes from God.
Second, our unity is centered around one truth. A true believer accepts that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. A true believer accepts that we are sinners deserving of Hell. A true believer accepts that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. A true believer accepts that Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and was raised in glory on the third day, and now sits at the right hand of God. A true believer accepts that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. A true believer will be sanctified by one singular book, the Bible.
Third, our unity is centered around the same mission, to go and make disciples of all nations. All believers recognize that Jesus has left us here, not to have the most comfortable life possibly, but to do the work that God has prepared for us. As Jesus said in verse 18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Jesus was sent to gather a people. Jesus now sends us to gather his people. All true believers of Jesus are to be disciple makers.
When Christ calls us out of the world and into his Kingdom, he does not call us to individualism, he calls us to community. Christians who do not attend a church are either fooling themselves and they are not truly saved or they are being disobedient. For as Paul says in Ephesians 4:4-6, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
To walk worthy of of the calling is to walk arm in arm with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus was eager to maintain unity, the apostle Paul was eager to maintain unity, are you eager to maintain unity?
At this point in my sermon prep I was tempted to do some rebuking, but instead I am going to go in the opposite direction. For I have seen the answer of this prayer in our congregation, and it is glorious. As a Pastor, my heart rejoices when I see us come together as one body. Yesterday, we had ten men giving up their Saturday morning to study Zechariah 2 and 3, and I will be honest, there was no other place I wanted to be. Watching these men who are different ages, different backgrounds, different economic statuses, different jobs, different families come around one truth to learn about one God and his one Son, who is our one hope, so we could be equip for one purpose was beautiful. This is just one example. I could easily talk about Wednesday nights, Sunday School, Women of Courage, etc. etc.
Our Church is bursting with oneness, granted it is not perfect, nor will it ever be until Jesus returns, but there is no doubt that what we see is supernatural, and I praise God for this, and I am eager to see more of it, and I hope you are too. So how do we see more of it? Verse 17, “Sanctify them in your truth, your word is truth.” The more that we pursue Christ likeness by submitting ourselves to the study and obedience to God's word the more we will be one. Picture all of us traveling form different locations to one singular destination, as long as we are all moving to that final destination, the more we will become closer and closer to one another.
Which leads us to our last point, the result of this request for believers. It is also found in verse 21. The result or consequence of Christian unity is, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Isn't that amazing? The unity of believers in Christ proves that Jesus is not just a carpenter, but is the Son of God.
As I was reading and preparing this week, I ran across a quote by Thomas Manton that said, “Divisions in the church breed atheism in the world.” Let that sink in. As I was reading this, I thought about our enemy, Satan. There is no doubt in my mind that Satan knows that unity of believers is a threat to his domain of darkness. Knowing this, Satan does all that he can to divide the Church. Satan is prowling around looking for a foothold to divide. His attacks are always subtle, but his goal is always the same, to destroy the supernatural unity of God. Perhaps this foothold is a friend or family member bad mouthing the Church or someone in it. Perhaps it is a personality that is different then yours. Perhaps it is an unfortunate glance, or comment directed towards you...or so you think. The list could go on and on.
In fact, I guarantee that in this very moment Satan is working on some of you to divide this body. I guarantee that there are people in this Church who have ill will towards their brother and/or sister, and if you do not root it out, it will consume you and it will consume our Church. And when it does, Satan will rejoice, and the world will keep on doubting that Jesus was more them some eccentric Jew.
We must recognize what is on the line when it comes to unity within this body. It is not about feelings, and it is not about tensions, and it is not about preferences. It is about salvation. If you want your unsaved friends and family to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ then stop Church shopping! What the lost need to see is something that every heart longs for; authentic, loving, purposeful community. The more you unify with your brothers and sisters in Christ, the more the world sees the Trinity on display. It is supernatural and it is captivating, so let us repent of our sinful and destructive individualism and be one as the Son and the Father are one, and let us do it for the glory of God and the sake of the lost.