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Last week, Pastor Mark told us that Jesus spoke figuratively. He shared with the disciples what was coming and told them soon He would tell them plainly. He reminded them of where He came from and where He was going. The disciples understood and firmly believed that Jesus was from God. Jesus tells them their sobering future included being scattered and left alone. He encouraged them by saying they have peace in Christ in contrast to the tribulation of the world. Jesus left them with the incredible truth that He has overcome the world. This morning, the time that Jesus has been referring to has arrived.
John 17:1-5 says, “Jesus spoke these things; and raising His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, so that the Son may glorify You, just as You gave Him authority over all mankind, so that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth by accomplishing the work which You have given Me to do. And now You, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world existed.”
Jesus shifts gears and begins to pray. The phrase, “Jesus spoke these things,” indicates a shift in the setting. For the moment, He has finished speaking to the disciples and He turns His attention elsewhere. He looks up in the sky and says, “Father.” Jesus does what many of us do in prayer. He tells God what He already knows. It’s a reminder to us that God is all knowing and all seeing. There’s encouragement for us when we pray in this manner. We’ll often quote Scripture to the Author of Scripture. We’ll remind the Promise Keeper of the promises He has made. We’ll affirm His characteristics by saying things like, “We know You are a God of love, justice, and mercy.” God knows these things, but it helps us have the confidence that He will hear our prayers and act on them.
Jesus says, “Father, the hour has come.” As you probably have figured out, this is not a reference to a specific time. It is the time of Jesus’ glorification. The time that all of history before Jesus has looked forward to. The time since that all history looks back on. “Glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.” It is such a simple prayer with such incredible depth. To fully understand the depth of this prayer, we have to remember that, “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (Jo. 3:17) As we have seen in John, anytime the Son is glorified, the Father is glorified. Anytime the Father is glorified, the Son is glorified. Remember too, that this specifically refers to the final glorification that will occur through what is to come. Jesus knows His days are drawing rapidly to an end. Jesus continues by acknowledging, “Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” This verse can be challenging if taken by itself without looking at the surrounding verses. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” There are restrictions to this: this is not universal salvation. 2 Pet. 3:9 tells us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” We know what Jo. 3:16 says too. In the matter of eternity, we know God’s desire, but we know not all will respond to the message.
Here we are presented with restrictions. God is the one and only. He is not one among many gods as some say. We would definitely acknowledge there are other gods in the world. Time, money, prestige, power. We would call that idolatry, but it represents the same thing. God is unique in position and authority and there is only One. Not only is He One and only, He is absolutely genuine and authentic. There is none like Him. But it’s not just God. You need to hold the same knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ. There is no way to bypass this. Gen. 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Go back to the first chapter of this book and read Jo. 1:1-5, 14. Since God created everything that we know, He gets to make the rules and you don’t get to change them to suit your individual desires. We don’t look at Scripture through a modern lens of cultural relevance where we change the fundamental tenants of the faith to make things more appealing. Speaking to God Jesus says, “Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” The focus of this verse is not to limit those that come to Christ or to say that all will come to a saving knowledge of Christ, the point is Jesus has been given authority over those that respond to the message of salvation.
What’s the point? Jesus clarifies this point when He says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Jesus is interceding to the Father on behalf of the people. “May know” is one word in Greek and it is the word ginosko that means know and understand. The only way to eternal life is to know God as the one true God. But that’s not all. Eternal life also means to know Jesus Christ who was sent by God. Being sent by God opens the door of understanding into the mission of Christ. In a basic manner, Jesus was sent, “To seek and to save that which was lost.” (Lu. 19:10) In a nutshell, that’s the primary goal for God. Look over at Rom. 1:16-25. God has planted a desire to know Him into every being created in His image. Knowing God is not some impossibility or pipe dream. We can know the one and only true God and we can know His Son. That’s the path to eternal life. Remember what Jesus said in Jo. 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” There is no other way. Remember the theme of this book: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (Jo. 20:30-31)
Jesus goes on to say, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which you have given Me to do.” Jesus is speaking in the past tense of something that is still to come. It is finished even though it is not yet finished. This is the desire and confidence Jesus has to complete the mission He was sent to do. This is the last night Jesus will spend with the disciples. The work is complete, but suffering remains. Everything in His life has led to this moment and it is finished. The atoning nature of His death and resurrection are complete even though His death has not occurred. I know this is challenging, but Jesus is confident in who He is and the mission His Father has sent Him on. Everything He has done, the miracles, the teaching, the fellowship, the one-on-one interactions, His mannerisms, His personality, His character, His devotion and desire, His willingness, His obedience, His submission have led to this moment in the history of mankind. Jesus has glorified God while on earth. This is similar to the words of Paul at the end of his life when he told Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7)
Continuing in prayer Jesus says, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Pay attention to the pronouns in this verse. In our opening verse this morning, Jesus prayed, “Glorify Your Son.” Jesus identifies Himself as the Son, God’s Son. He specifically asks God for the glory He had before the world was created. Remember the opening verses of this gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being.” (Jo. 1:1-3) Jesus is specifically asking for the glory that He had before He stepped onto the earth. We know that Jesus glorified God in all that He did, but this glory seems to be a different kind. The glory Jesus had on earth seems limited in some way by our human understanding and restrictions. But Jesus knows and remembers the glory He had in heaven before the world was formed and He asks the Father to restore that glory. Through the glory of His death, Jesus would enable humanity to enter into the very throne room of God. But this isn’t some sort of morphing of Jesus into God. John paints the very real picture that Jesus is separate from God. It’s not just an idea or principle. Before the world was, there was God the Father and God the Son. They’ve always been two distinct and separate beings coexisting and coequal in authority, harmony, and glory. To help us understanding this challenging concept, let’s read what Paul had to say about this. Paul came after John. John interacted with Jesus during His ministry, while Paul came on the scene after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. They’re writing with different perspectives. John wrote before the church; Paul writes after the church has been established.
Jump over to Phil. 2:6-11. The key to understanding this passage is to understand the words used. Words like form as in “form of God” and “form of a bond-servant.” Form here means an outward appearance consistent with what is true. The form would express that reality perfectly. Then we have equality as in, “equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Equality describes how God and Jesus existed. We’ve seen from John the reality of their co-equal nature. The other key word is grasped. Jesus, “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Remember back to the garden during the pivotal moment when Adam succumbed to temptation. The serpent successfully cast doubt on the truth and both Adam and Eve desired to be like God. To be like God was not their right to possess. In that sense, they robbed God of what was rightfully His. When we go back to Paul’s use of grasp in Philippians, Jesus and God coexisted in an equal nature and so equality was not something Jesus needed to hold onto because He already possessed it.
Then Paul says Jesus, “emptied Himself taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We often want to know what was emptied. You have to look at the entire passage. Paul says Jesus Christ is Lord in v. 11, but servant in v. 7. He says Jesus has the very nature of God in v. 6, yet human likeness in v. 7. The emptying refers to God becoming human: the Lord became a servant, and obedience led to death. Jesus emptied Himself of what was rightfully His. Emptied means to render void or of no effect or made Himself nothing. Jesus left His position of authority, privilege, and rank to become man. How did that happen? He took on the nature of a bond-servant and was made in the likeness of men. This represents a paradox. Being made nothing means adding humanity to deity rather than subtracting deity from His person. Challenging concept? Absolutely.
Let me see if I can tie it all together nicely. In John, Jesus prays to God the Father and asks that He be restored to the glory He had before He willingly left heaven and His rightful position in equality with the Father. His mission on earth is complete. Everything that needed to be done has been completed or has been set in motion to take place after His death. The thousands of years since the world was created and life began has led to this point in time. Jesus is ready, His time as a man is over. Although the actual events of the cross are yet to occur, they are as good as a memory for Jesus.
These few verses are certainly challenging. We are allowed into the prayer closet of Jesus as He readies Himself for what is to occur. Even though He knows what is to happen, we see His confidence in the will of God. What about you? We have the promises of God. Do we boldly and confidently pray that God’s will be done?