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John 17:1-5 NIV

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

 “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Introduction. For me, the prayer we are considering today is the most significant in the New Testament. Some writers feel this prayer should have the title ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, for it truly comes from the heart of Jesus at the most significant moment in his ministry. Often before world changing events there is a short powerful statement that later carries on through history. I think of Dr Martin Luther King and his ‘I have a dream’ speech or Neil Armstrong just about to put the first human foot on the moon and saying “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." To properly understand this prayer, you must see the significance of the moment. We read After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

What follows is a truly remarkable prayer in which Jesus firstly prays for Himself - Jn 17:1-5, then for His disciples - Jn 17:6-19 and finally for all who would become believers in the future - Jn 17:20-26. Today I just want to reflect on Jesus prayer for himself in our opening 5 verses.

Since the 16th Century the prayer has been called The High Priestly Prayer and it is worth reflecting on why it is known by this name. Jesus fulfilled three roles; he was prophet, priest, and king. In the Old Testament priests sacrificed animals on behalf of the people (Ex. 30:10), especially for those who had sinned. (Leviticus 6:1-7) And they would pray (Genesis 20:17, Numbers 6:24-26, 1 Samuel 1:17. 2 Chronicles 30:27, etc.) to the Lord on behalf of the people. They interceded, they were mediators between man and God.

Now Jesus was not only the sacrifice which atoned once and for all for the sins of God’s people, but he also was the priest that prayed to God on behalf of the people. As he prays this prayer the history of the world is about to change for ever and Jesus makes intercession for His people in this High-Priestly Prayer. 

Glory the central theme. At the heart of this prayer is his desire that everything that is about to unfold should bring glory to his Heavenly Father.  The years of his earthly ministry are coming to its culmination and completion with the cross and resurrection. Completion of the Father's mission has been foremost on his mind -- to glorify the Father on earth by making sure that the Father's plan for salvation is accomplished, finished, completed. Notice what he says, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do”. 

Trapped amid a Pandemic it has perhaps becomes even harder for us to gain a picture of God’s glory. If we can it will give us the resources to keep our lives and our faith in perspective. Imagine for a moment you have never physically been to the sea. You have seen pictures on the weather forecast and images on TV showing beaches and rock pools and storms and waves. But you have never actually experienced it. Finally, the day comes, and you get in the car and you drive to the sea. Wow! Even then it still will not be enough to just look at it. You would need to walk or swim in it, to feel the power of the waves, to play in those rock pools. So, it is with glory of God. Jesus, our great high priest has made something of the glory of God real in what happens at the cross and His resurrection that follows.

For years, our view of the wonders of space were extremely limited by telescopes on earth that gave us images greatly affected by earth’s atmosphere. Then came telescopes sent into space, and now the sheer scale and beauty of space is revealed with amazing clarity. Jesus reveals the glory of God in just the same way. If we want to know the nature of God, then we look at Jesus. Why, well as we read in these verses, he shares God’s pre-existing glory. “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began”.

To experience God’s glory fully we need the gift of Eternal Life. This week I managed to run for 20 minutes, as a younger man I could run for almost 2 hours. All of us must face the consequences of getting older. We often get the wrong idea about eternal life as if it is just life with no end, but existence for the sake of it is not a goal many would want. The definition of eternal life Jesus offers here is quite different. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”.

Eternal life comes from a never-ending relationship with God and his Son, "knowing" them. It will not be a continuation of what we know now, it will be an intimate, glory filled knowledge of God. It will not depend on background or income or qualification. This is how the prophet Jeremiah imagined that day. 

No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”   Jeremiah 31:34 NIV

Or as Isaiah pictured it 

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:9 NIV

Conclusion. Here is more wonderful news. This same High Priest whose prayers on our behalf clearly demonstrate the depth of his intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father, continues that same process of interceding on behalf of his followers. The Apostle Paul says 

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died---more than that, who was raised to life---is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:33-34 NIV. As Paul makes clear in the verses that follow none of this excuses us from the present suffering of this world. We do not get given a get out of the Pandemic card, but through it all we can ‘know him’ and one day we will be overwhelmed by the glory and intimacy of knowing God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


First published on: 10th October 2020
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