Summary: Four thoughts 1. The importance of prayer, 2. The goal of Jesus ministry, 3. The simplicity of his mission and 4. changed lifestyles

DC/NR 28-05-06

Jn 17:1-19 : The High Priestly Prayer

I was sent this story last week by e-mail:

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.

As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation.

They talked about so many things and various subjects.

When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: "I don’t believe that God exists."

"Why do you say that?" asked the customer.

"Well, you just have to go out in the street to see that God doesn’t exist.

Tell me, if God exists, why are there sick people?

If God exists why are there abandoned children?

If God exists, there would be neither suffering nor pain.

I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."

The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond - because he didn’t want to start an argument.

The barber finished his job and the

customer paid left the shop.

Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, greasy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard.

The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again. He said to the barber:

"You know what? I don’t believe barbers exist."

"How can you say that?" asked the surprised barber. "I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!"

"No!" the customer exclaimed. "Barbers don’t exist. Let’s follow your logic. If barbers existed, there would be no people with long greasy dirty hair and untrimmed beards - like that man outside."

"Ah, but barbers DO exist! What the problem is that people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards don’t come to me."

"Exactly" replied the customer. "You’ve hit the nail on the head! God DOES exist!

But the reason why there is so much pain and suffering is not that God doesn’t exist.

Rather it is because people simply don’t come to Him.” (PAUSE)

But is believing in the existence of God enough to make you a Christian?

The answer is both “yes” and “no”.

Let me explain what I mean.

If we mean by “belief in God” giving intellectual assent to the proposition simply that God exists

– which is what most people in Western society would understand by believing in God,

then the answer is clearly “no”.

James in his epistle sums up the weakness of this position when he says:

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (Jas 2:19)

And in our Gospel reading this evening, I think Jesus also is clearly saying that belief in the existence of God isn’t enough.

There were many Jews in Jerusalem who clearly believed in God but rejected Jesus – as would be proved just a few days later – when they called for his crucifixion.

However, in Jewish thought, “believing in God” didn’t just mean giving intellectual assent to his ideas. It meant rather more.

If you “believed in” a Rabbi or a teacher in Jewish culture, it meant putting his teachings into effect in your life.

And that understanding of “belief” is what St John meant when he wrote in John 1:12-13

12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born neither of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

So being a follower of Jesus doesn’t just mean

believing in the proposition that there is a God.

Rather it meant that that belief must affect your life.

So believing in God is enough if we understand that “believing in Go” is lifestyle transforming

Our Gospel reading today is a part of the famous High Priestly Prayer of Jesus - one of the mountain peaks of revelation in John’s Gospel.

William Temple, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has described it as “perhaps the most sacred passage on the four Gospels”

The prayer reveals many things.

In it, Jesus reveals that his mission here on earth was to give eternal life to all those who are his true disciples – those whom God the Father had given to Him.

I have just picked up a few ideas from the passage this evening.

1. Prayer

The first idea that came to me was the

importance of prayer in Jesus’ life - and as Christians we need to follow his example.

Jesus doesn’t speak of some sort of distant deity – but he uses the word Abba – which we might more colloquially translate as “Daddy” when speaking with God

And Jesus encourages us, as his followers, to get to know his heavenly Father more.

As Christians, we can easily get sidetracked into “doing things for God” rather than “spending time with God”.

You may recall the story of the two sisters Martha and Mary .

Martha was the busy sister doing things FOR Jesus and Mary was the sister who spent time WITH Jesus.

Who was commended by Jesus - Mary

2. The rationale for Jesus’ ministry

The second idea that came to me as I was preparing was that, in this prayer, Jesus reveals the whole rationale for his ministry here on earth.

And that was to give his disciples eternal life.

Jesus put it like this

"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

And how is that life achieved?

Jesus’ answer is simple – by knowing God the Father and Jesus his Son.

In German there are two words for “knowing”. The first is “wissen” to know a fact of idea.

The other is the word “kennen” which is used of

know someone personally.

And it is that second understanding “kennen” that Jesus speaks about when he says in Jn 17:3 when he says

3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

3. The simplicity of Jesus’ mission

The third idea that came to me was the

simplicity (and concomitantly the absolute depth) of Jesus’ mission.

Jesus came simply to reveal his heavenly Father and himself to His disciples –

and I am not just speaking here of the first Century disciples to whom Jesus was actually speaking –

I am speaking of all of his disciples down the centuries

That is breathtaking in its simplicity and depth.

We can KNOW God personally– that is we can have a relationship with him.

In an earlier chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus said this:

“Anyone who loves me, will obey my teaching. My Father will love him. We will come to him and make our home with him.” (Jn 14:23)

God dwelling in us – what a wonderful thought!

4. Changed lifestyles

And the final idea that I had was simply this

Being a Christian is all about changed lifestyle.

Jesus asks his heavenly Father to “sanctify

them in the truth” (Jn 17:17)

The word “sanctify”, like the word “holy” comes from a Hebrew root meaning “separate”. (The Message of John” – Bruce Milne p.246)

We are called to live a different lifestyle, because we are called to live not only for God but in a close relationship with God.

When someone becomes a Christian, God’s Holy Spirit comes and lives in him.

And the Holy Spirit transforms that person from within. As St Paul tells us is:

22… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

For encountering God is a life changing experience.