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.