Summary: Jesus' prayer for us and using our spiritual gifts.
John 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 really does exist, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I Just 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” is 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 in chapter 2: 19 “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
And in our Gospel reading, 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 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children 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 God” 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.
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 want to share a few ideas from the passage this morning.
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 God – but he uses the word Abba – which we might translate as “Daddy” when speaking with God.
And through this passage, 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 was, and this tells us we have a need also to start spending more time with God.