Saturday 11 March 2023


The Reverend Eric

 JOHN 17  v 6-19

It is the night before the Crucifixion. Jesus is with His Apostles at the Last Supper and is spending His last hours before going to the Cross.

In a few hours He will be dead, so He is telling them He is going to leave them and they will be left to face life without Him. He then concludes with a prayer, which makes this one of the outstanding passages in the New Testament, telling His followers then, and by extension to those who follow Him through the ages, what they will have to face as Christians.

For Jesus, life was life with a climax and that was the Cross. When He spoke of the Cross as His glorification, it had a deep significance. It is one of the facts of history again and again, that it was in death that some people’s greatness was recognised and they would never ever know how they influenced others.

I once took a funeral of a young man who virtually gave up his life by the way he lived, suffering from acute depression and a feeling of achieving nothing. Tributes were paid in the most sincere and outstanding words, by men of his profession who went to considerable effort to do so, and it was sad to realise the young man never knew how much he was valued. We see this in the life of religious figures, and in the world of music and art.

The Cross was the glory of Jesus because it was the completion of the work God had sent Him to do. God had given Him authority over every man and woman on earth; He had come to show the love of God, and what He was prepared to suffer for mankind. In His glory He brings glory to God, and if He had not gone to the Cross, it would have meant His work was not completed; to stop short would have suggested there was a limit to that love. Jesus showed there was nothing the love of God was not prepared to do and suffer for us.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus could have escaped the Cross by never going near Jerusalem. The Cross was proof that men could do their worst, yet He could rise above their worst, and the Cross would not be the end, for the resurrection was to follow.

In verse 6, Jesus says ‘I have revealed you to those whom you have given me’. Jesus is here thinking of particularly of the Apostles with Him in the Upper Room; those who turned and followed Him in His ministry; those ‘kept the Word’, meaning they were obedient to the faith. But this also equates to all who would one day follow Him.

Then Jesus goes on to say He was not praying for the world, but for those who God had given Him. Jesus is teaching us that we are rescued from the world. The world means all who are opposed to God’s standards and way of life; those who live without reference to God.

This means there are two types of people in the world, which the gospel makes clear over and over again; those who are loyal and obedient to God, and those who are not. Jesus was always quite unequivocal, that we are either for Him or against Him, there is no neutrality or sitting on the fence. Jesus is firmly black or white in how you respond to Him

It is like being on a mountain top; you can keep to the laid down path and be safe, or make your own way which will likely end in disaster. Jesus spoke of two roads, one leading to eternal life, the other to destruction, so we have to decide our course in life.

Sometimes we feel buffeted by the storms of life, the stresses and strains, the problems of work and family, and personal relationships. We ask will I be strong enough to do the work God wants me to do. Jesus is praying here for all who believe in Him, and particularly for the difficulties to be faced.

In the Bible names mean not only how we are addressed, but also refer to people’s character. The Jews saw the name God as being too sacred, so they used four letters, IHWH. The Hebrew language did not have vowels and God was seen as being remote from man.  Jesus was telling us because of what He had done in the world, He had brought God close to men and women so that they could use God’s name

When Jesus says that God will protect us by the power of His Name, He means the power associated with God’s character that He will keep us and watch over us, and guard us spiritually from falling from Him. The Bible makes it clear we need to obey the Word of God.

In verse 11, Jesus prays that God will leave His disciples in the world and will protect them from the evil one, because like Him, they do not act to the world’s standards. He wants His disciples to be active in the world. God will rescue us from people who in rebellion are opposed to Him, but that does not mean we should gather in holy huddles out of contact from others, who need to hear about Jesus from us.

There are of course, religious orders that lock themselves away from the outside world. They are truly dedicated men and women, who sincerely believe they are serving God. The kind of Christianity however, which shuts itself off in a monastery or convent, would not have seemed to Jesus to be Christianity at all. The kind of Christianity which finds the essence of the Christian life in prayer and meditation, in a life secluded from the world, would have seemed to Jesus to be a sad version of the faith He died to bring to people.

It was Jesus insistence to be in the hurly burly of life that we must live out our faith. Christianity was never meant to withdraw men and women from ordinary people. It does not release us from problems, but equips us to deal with them. It offers not always peace, but triumph.

Jesus is saying He wants His people to be in the midst of the world, mixing with non- believers. Just as a lifeboat is of no use set permanently polished in a station, but is needed to go out and rescue people trapped in stormy seas, so we need to be rescuing those dear to us, trapped in the perils of life in this world. Jesus was saying His people are not meant to be little ships which stay in harbour, although it is much safer, that is not what ships are for, they are meant to be on the high seas.

Jesus prayed for the unity of His disciples, and that they would be one as He and His Father were one. There can be no divisions between Christians. If there are, the cause of Christianity is harmed and the prayer of Jesus is rejected. Jesus never considered different denominations, which would be criticising one another, or considered one denomination could claim exclusive access. Jesus prayed we would be one, and there is no prayer of Jesus which has been so hindered from being answered by Christians.

Jesus warned us of the hostility we face from a hostile world which hates Christians. If you find that hard to accept, just consider the violence, even murder, of Christians in Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. On a more subtle scale, in Australia and Canada; where Bible preaching is under threat and proposals have been made to ban parts of Scripture.

You may say well this is England it can’t happen here, but it is happening now. Consider scientists, intellectuals, to whom the Bible is a form of hate literature, arty types, who have shown their dislike and contempt for the Christian faith. There is now legislation which makes it an offence not to recognize people who claim to have changed their gender, or if you don’t call them by their preferred gender name.  The Church has decided it is hate speech to declare marriage is only between a man and a woman, in case it upsets same sex couples. Street preachers have been arrested, and Nurses suspended just for praying for people.

We have people showing quite manic attitude to Christianity. Now we have our faith under threat from politicians and public servants who want to ignore Christian festivals, ban Biblical teaching. ‘Christian Concern’, the organisation which legally represents Christians suffering from secular repression, has undertaken many cases.

The world hates biblical truth, and if you take a stand publicly for the truth of the gospel, you will not be popular and are likely to be called narrow minded at best, and a bigot at worst.

Finally, Jesus prayed that His people would be made holy by the truth, set apart for a purpose, and have the character necessary for the task. If we are Christians set apart through the death of Christ, we must go into the world with the Word of God.

The central request of this prayer is for God to keep those of His own people from the evil one, who would seek to destroy our lives and ministries. Those who believe in Christ are not of the world, they are in the world, but not of.

Jesus calls on God to make them holy, with unity and openness among His people. Here is proof for the value of unity amongst Christians. How often we waste time and energy fighting fellow Christians, which made Jesus pray so earnestly that believers may be one.

This illustrates how important it is for Christians to believe the Bible. Unfortunately, and regrettably there are too many members of the Church, lay and clergy, who are not prepared to do so because it does not accord with their desires, and actually condemns their desires.  If we cannot agree within the Church, we are betraying our faith, and more importantly our Lord.

The recollection of Christ’s prayer should abide in our minds and influence our actions This should not be treated lightly. We should live peaceably with one another, but there always seems to be a storm centre in our midst.

Finally, we see how Jesus prays His people may at last be with Him and behold His glory, and wants those who God gave Him to remain with Him. He prayed they would have a character necessary for the tasks they will face.  If we are Christians set apart through the death of Christ on the Cross, we must go into the world with the Word of God.

Recent events in this country have revealed that from the highest to the lowest levels of the Church there are men and women clergy who just don’t believe the Bible, otherwise they would not produce ridiculous proposals which directly contravene the Scriptures. We would not be apologizing for the fact the Church did not completely bow to society’s wishes.

We do not see Christ now.  We read, hear and believe in Him, and cast ourselves on His finished work.  But it is by faith, not sight, we make our way to heaven.  We know little about heaven, but we can rest on the blessed thought we shall be with Jesus.

You are invited to make a comment.



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