Summary: Part of the High Priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ was that God’s glory might be in them. What our Lord prayed for is staggering.
A story is told of a boy who was drawing a picture. His teacher asked what he was drawing.
“I’m drawing a picture of Jesus, miss,” he replied.
“But, Johnny, we don’t know what Jesus looked like.”
Johnny paused for a moment, perked up, and said, “but they will when I’ve finished”
We laugh at that story because we’d all like to know, but know we can’t. There’s an attraction to the figure of Jesus. Yet surely this desire to know the human face of Jesus evades the fact that the most important ‘face’ of Jesus to know is his ‘divine’ face.
Our reading this morning from John chapter 17 forms part of his ‘High Priestly Prayer’. Jesus prays for himself, then for his disciples and finally, in that part we just heard, his prayer is for those, “who will believe in me through their message” (John17:20b). It’s a prayer for believers through all ages: it’s a prayer for you and me if we believe in him as Lord and Saviour. Verse 21 says “I have given them that glory which you gave me.” These are staggering words if you stop and think of their implication.- and Jesus prays also about knowing that love which he and the Father have for each other (John17:24).
This morning my desire is that that prayer would speak to each of us; that prayer which speaks of love and glory. It speaks of the love that the Father has for the Son; that which we can’t begin to understand or to comprehend in all its magnitude. There’s a unity and a fullness in the Godhead which is the unity of divine love, so that Jesus could speak of being one with the Father and of doing nothing except what he saw the Father doing. There’s surely a ‘prodigality’ in that love, and a fire which blazes at the centre of the being of God. I use the word ‘prodigality’ because I believe that the parable of the Prodigal Son is actually about the ‘Prodigal Father, and it throws light on the love of the Father for the Son. We see Jesus coming to this world, laying aside his divine nature, being made sin for us, being one with us as he bore all our dirt and degradation on the Cross, and then returning to the courts of heaven. And in this prayer, Jesus surely looks forward to that as he says to the Father, “I am coming to you now” (John17:13). If I may put it that way, surely the Father embraced the Son when he returned.
Then in verse 23, the prayer is that, “[we] may be brought to complete unity, to let the world know…that you have loved them even as you love me.” So, part of this prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ for us, is that we should know that God loves us; the Father loves us even as he loves his Son. It’s a love that Jesus has for his whole church, and for each one of us that we may know it. And let’s just note on this day when we pray for unity and celebrate unity, that it is not our prime goal. The Father desires our unity so that the world may know his love for us.
A bride looks radiant on her wedding day. I’ve known (and I’m sure you have) known the plainest of ‘Janes’ look radiantly beautiful on their wedding day. Why?
Well- a bride knows that she is loved; that she is counted as someone very special by someone who has responded to her with all his being. She prepares herself in beauty for him and is beautiful as she comes to meet him at the wedding. There is a joy in that radiance; a sad and plain bride would seem a contradiction in terms.
I can’t help but see this as something special that God has planted in the human heart- that it might speak to us of how we are to see God’s love. The New Testament speaks in two places of the love of Christ for his church (and thereby surely, of his love for each individual member) as that of a husband for his bride.
And this human love is but a pale reflection. In that famous passage (read at many weddings) from 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1Cor 13:12). Paul, when he spoke of a mirror, wouldn’t have thought of our modern mirrors, but of a sheet of (not too flat and probably tarnished) sheet of metal, which would have given a very distorted reflection. The prayer of Jesus is that we may have some knowledge of the reality of God’s love.