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Sermon: John 17:1-5: The Mind Of Christ Revealed

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 110

“A Psalm of David. The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” (Psalm 110, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 17:1-5

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.’” (John 17:1–5, ESV)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)

Introduction

All of John 17 really belongs together. If we had more time I would prefer to preach the whole chapter at once. Here in John 17 we have a prayer of Jesus. Some (I being one of them) have called this “the high priestly prayer of Jesus”. Jesus is here praying to the Father for himself and for his people. He is mediating, or making intercession for himself and for his people, as a priest would. Others are hesitant to call this a “high priestly prayer” arguing that Jesus did not serve as our great High Priest until after his resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand. Point taken. Whatever we decide to call it, it is important that we recognized that this is in fact a prayer of Jesus. “he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and [prayed to the] Father”.

Notice a few things about this prayer. First of all, this prayer was uttered by Jesus out loud in the presence of his disciples. This is how we have record of it. John was there with Jesus on this night – the night of his betrayal – the night before his crucifixion. Secondly, notice that this prayer serves as the conclusion to what is commonly called “the farewell discourse”. In John chapters 14-16 Jesus is found offering his disciples a series of teachings which are meant to prepare them for the difficult road ahead. He was saying “farewell”. But more than that he was offering his disciples encouragement and comfort. In particular he comforted them with the news that they would see him again, and that he would come to them by sending the Spirit. How appropriate, then, that this farewell discourse is concluded with prayer. Jesus taught his disciples, and then he prayed for himself and for them, before entering into his suffering. It has been rightly said concerning this farewell discourse that, “the best and fullest sermon ever preached was followed by the best of prayers”. Notice thirdly that this prayer divides nicely into three sections. In verses 1-5 we find Jesus praying for himself. In verses 6-19 he is praying particularly for his disciples who were with him in that moment. And in verses 20-26 Jesus is found praying for all those who would believe upon him from that day onward. In verse 20 he prays, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…” (John 17:20, ESV)

And so we will follow the natural contours of this passage, dividing it into three parts, dealing with verses 1-5 today, 6-19 next Sunday, and 20-26 the Sunday after that, Lord willing.

I don’t know about you but I find this entire prayer to be deeply encouraging and also fascinating.

It is encouraging to be reminded that Jesus prays for us. He intercedes for those who belong to him. We see this mainly in verses 6-19 and 20-26, and so I will leave that emphasis for the next two sermons.

This passage is fascinating to me in that it gives us a very clear and intimate glimpse into the mind and heart of Jesus Christ. Do you want to know the mind and heart of a person? Then examine their prayers! The prayers that we say to God reveal what is in our mind and on our heart. Our lack of prayer also reveals something, doesn’t it. But the things that we mention in our prayers – the way that we pray, and the things that we pray for – say a lot about how we view ourselves, God, and the world in which we live. The same is true of Jesus. Do you want to know his mind and heart? Do you want to know how he viewed God, himself, and the world? One of the ways to gain an understanding of these things is to examine his prayers.

I have three observations to make concerning the first five verses of Jesus’ farewell prayer.

Jesus Prayed To The Father

First of all, notice that Jesus prayed to the Father.

This may seem like an obvious observation, but some have wondered about this. If it is true that Jesus is God (as the scriptures clearly teach), and if it is true that there is only one God (as the scriptures also clearly teach), then how can it be that Jesus prayed to God the Father?

The solution, of course, is to recognize that there is a distinction between God the Father and Jesus. Jesus is not the Father, and the Father is not Jesus. This can be demonstrated in two ways: First of all, it was the eternal Word of God, or the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, who took on humanity and dwelt among us. The Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but the Word only. While it is true that there is only one God, we should not forget that there exists within the Godhead a distinction between Father, Son or Word, and Spirit. Secondly, (and this is probably more to the point) we must also remember the fact of the incarnation. The eternal Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, did, when the fullness of time had come, take on flesh and dwelt among us. When Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and prayed to the Father, he did so as a man. This is not God crying out to God, but the man Jesus crying out to God.  And he, as God’s uniquely begotten Son, addresses God as Father.

We are accustom to referring to God as Father. Jesus taught his followers to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Many of you have been taught to pray in this way from the time that you were young. But have you considered the significance of this? How can it be that we, lowly creatures as we are, are invited to call God Almighty, our Father?

Some, when they hear this title applied to God, think that it means nothing more than that God is our Creator. The title, Father, they think, means Creator, or source. If this were the case then all people could rightly call God, Father, for he is the Creator or source of us all. But there is more to the title than this. The title says something about our relationship with God. When we call God, Father, we are saying more than that he is our Creator. We are also communicating that we enjoy an intimate relationship with him. When we refer to God as Father are we not saying that we are in a right and proper relationship with him? We are in his love. We are under his care. God, if he is indeed our Father, and we his sons and daughters, smiles upon us. He is like a Father to us, and we are his children. The title, Father, is metaphorical. Just as an earthly Father loves, protects, encourages, disciplines, and instructs his children, so too God relates to those who are his.

Paul captures this idea when he says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14–17, ESV)

Notice that it is only those who are led by the Spirit – those who have received adoption as son’s – those who are fellow heirs with Christ – who are able to rightly cry out to God as “Abba! Father!” In John 8:44 Jesus spoke to those who did not believe upon him and said, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…” (John 8:44, ESV) So apparently, though God is indeed the Creator of us all, he is not the Father of us all. This has been the case from the moment that our first parents – Adam and Eve – fell from the state of perfection. All who came after them were either of God, or of the Evil One.

But the question still remains. How can we, lowly creatures as we are, be invited to call God Almighty, our Father? It becomes even more astonishing when we consider that, not only are we lowly creatures, but we are sinful creatures.

Please hear me. It is not as if some are children of God, and others children of the evil one, because of some inherent goodness or badness within the individual. It is not that some are better than others, and therefore have earned their place as God’s children. The scriptures are clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV) “All… are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.’ There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” (Romans 3:9–18, ESV)

Friends, this is our natural condition. We are fallen creatures. We are sinful creatures. We were born into this world, not at peace with God, but at enmity with him. Paul says that “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:3, ESV)

If this is true, how then are we able to cry out to God as our “Abba, Father”? How is that we have come to possess the status of sons and daughters of God?

The answer is that we are sons and daughters of God, not by birth, nor on the basis of our own goodness, but only through faith in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. Our sonship is based upon, and rooted in, our union with Christ, who is the uniquely begotten Son of God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16–18, ESV)

So Jesus, when he prayed, prayed to God as Father. Though it is true that Jesus was God with us – God incarnate – we must also remember that there is a distinction between God the Father and Jesus. It was the eternal Word of God who took on flesh (John 1:1, 14). Jesus was truly man – the uniquely begotten Son of God. We are sons and daughters only if we have faith in Christ. It is only if we are united to him by faith that we are heirs of God. We are adopted as sons only through Christ.  For “[God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…” (Ephesians 1:5, ESV)

The fact that Jesus prayed to God as Father might seem common and basic to us, but it is a fact that is foundational to all true religion.

Application:

May it never grow old to come to God and to call him Father.

Remember what you were by nature.

Remember what it took to bring about your adoption – the decree of God from eternity past, the accomplishment of that plan, the cross, the work of the Spirit in bringing you to faith.

And remember what a privilege is to have God as Father – his love, protection, encouragement, discipline, and instruction, not to mention our inheritance.

Jesus Prayed Being Mindful Of His Mission

Secondly, notice that Jesus prayed being mindful of his mission.

Notice that Jesus prayed to the Father saying, “Father, the hour has come…”

In John 2:4 Jesus spoke to his mother, saying, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” In 4:21 Jesus spoke to the women at the well, saying, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…” In 5:25 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” In 7:30 we read, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” Also in 8:20: “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” (John 8:20, ESV) But now we hear Jesus pray to the Father saying, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…”

This proves that Jesus came to this earth to accomplish a very particular mission. There was obviously an “hour” that he had his sights set upon.

In a way, all that Jesus did in his life was in fulfillment to his mission. He was obedient to the Father in an active way. By this I mean that he did everything that the Father called him to do – hspoke the Father’s words; he preformed the Father’s work; he kept God’s law – he was actively obedient. And he was also obedient in a passive way. By this I mean that he submitted to God’s will in every respect – he was God’s faithful servant – God’s obedient Son. In this sense Christ’s mission was carried out from cradle to grave.

But as true as this is we should also acknowledge the significance the “hour” that Christ constantly made reference to. The “hour” clearly refers to his glorification through his death, burial, and resurrection. Christ came to die. He was, from the beginning of his life, the Lamb of God who came to atone for the sins of the world. His hour had come. The apex, the heart, the pinnacle of his mission was now at hand. He would go to the cross the next day.

Notice also that Jesus was mindful of the fact that, because of the fulfillment of his mission, the Father had given him authority over all flesh.

Let’s think about this for a moment. It is common, I think, for people to assume that Jesus, when he died and rose again, earned salvation only, and was given authority over the church only. It is indeed true that Christ, by his life, death and resurrection, earned salvation for those given to him by the Father from before the foundation of the earth. And it is indeed true that Christ, by his life, death and resurrection, was given authority over the church. He is indeed Lord of the church! But do not miss the fact the that his Lordship extends beyond the church, to cover all. He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14).  He is the Sovereign one. To him was given the authority to judge. He was seated at the Fathers right hand until his enemies should be made his footstool.

This is why I read Psalm 110 at the beginning of the sermon. The New Testament makes it clear that this Psalm was ultimately about Jesus. See Matthew 22:24 and 26:64; Mark 12:36, 14:62 and16:19; Luke 20:42 and 22:69; John 12:34; Acts 2:34; Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 5:6, 6:20, 7:3ff., 8:1, 10:12, and 12:2. All of these passage either direct quote or strongly allude to Psalm 110 and apply what is said there to Jesus Christ. And what does Psalm 110 speak of? David hears the LORD (YHWH) say to his Lord (Adon), “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1, ESV). And “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” (Psalm 110:4, ESV) And “The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.” (Psalm 110:5–6, ESV)

Psalm 110 is about Jesus Christ. He has authority, then – not just over Christians, and not just over the church – but over all flesh.  He, through his active and passive obedience, has earned this position.  He humbled himself, did he not? He humbled himself and was obedient even to the point of death. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11, ESV)

So there is a sense in which all people have Jesus as Lord. I am not saying that all people submit to him, or honor him, as Lord. But he is Lord nonetheless!

It is true, Christ has been given authority over all flesh. But notice here that, more specifically, his mission was to give eternal life to those given to him by the Father. Look again at verse 1: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” (John 17:1–2, ESV)

Jesus prayed to the Father being mindful of his mission. And what was his mission? To give eternal life to all whom the Father had given to him!

What is Jesus talking about here? Those of you who have been through the study on covenant theology know that Jesus is referring to what theologians now call the Covenant of Redemption. John’s gospel makes it abundantly clear that a covenant, or agreement, was made between the Father and Son before the world was created. And what was the agreement? To say it in a most succinct way, it was that the Son would earn salvation for a particular people given to him by the Father. When was this covenant made? Before creation. Who were the parties involved in this covenant? The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And what were the terms of this covenant? The obedience of the Son (active and passive). And what was the reward? Eternal life for all those found trusting in the only begotten Son of God, who is the Messiah, God’s faithful servant.

This was Christ’s mission, “to give eternal life to all whom [the Father had] given him.” This is the mission that he, in fact, accomplished. He earned eternal life for those given to him by the Father. He made atonement for their sins. And gives eternal life to them in time through the ministry of the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to sinners as he, in conjunction with the preaching of the gospel, draws sinners to faith in Christ and repentance from sins. The mission of Jesus was to “to give eternal life to all whom [the Father had] given him.” This is the work that he has indeed accomplished.

Notice that Jesus also tells us what eternal life is. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV)

So what does it mean to have eternal life? At its core, eternal life is this: the knowledge of God and of Christ Jesus. To know God and the Christ whom he has sent is to have eternal life.

And you thought eternal life was about streets of gold, pearly gates, and harps. You’ve missed the point, I think. Eternal life is not so much about going to a place as it is about knowing a person. And notice, it is not knowing about a person. No, it is about knowing a person – it is about relationship.

You say, well which is it? Is it about knowing Jesus, or is it about knowing God the Father? Both! To know Jesus is to know the Father, and if we are to know the Father we must know Jesus, for he is the way the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him. He is the one who has made the Father known.

The thing that makes eternal life, eternal – the thing that makes paradise, paradise, is God! He is the source of all life. Apart from him there is no life at all. And thing that makes life good, and pleasant, and to be desired, is God! He is what makes heaven, heaven. Friends, we were made to know him. We were made to worship him. We were made to have communion with him. Augustine was right when he said to God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

From the beginning Christ had his sights set upon the cross. He, through his active and passive obedience, was given authority over all flesh. In particular he came “to give eternal life to all whom [the Father had] given him”. “And this is eternal life, that [we] know… the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [he has] sent.” Jesus prayed being mindful of his mission.

Application:

To the Christian: Look at what Christ has done for you! Look at what he has earned!

Also, pray like him, being ever mindful of your mission. Your mission is not the same as Christ’s, but it is certainly connected to it. “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9–10, ESV)

For the non-christian: Repent and believe upon Christ for the forgiveness of sins! Life eternal is found in him, and in him alone.

Jesus Prayed For His Own Glory And For The Glory Of  The Father

Notice thirdly, that Jesus prayed for his own glory, and for the glory of the Father.

His prayer begins and ends with this request. Verse 1: “…he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…” (John 17:1, ESV) Verse 5: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5, ESV)

When we speak of the glory of God we are talking about his splendor. He is holy and righteous and pure. He is radiant, full of splendid light – he is glorious beyond compare. In the song of Moses the prophet asked, “Who is like you, O Lord…? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11, ESV) God is glorious.

And notice in verse 5 that Jesus Christ claims to have shared in the glory of God before the world existed. How so? Not in his humanity, but in his divinity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, ESV)

And he is now praying that the Father would glorify him. How will this happen?

One, through the cross. It is ironic, I know, but it was upon the cross that Christ was glorified, and God through him. His suffering was his glory for the simple reason that it was there on the cross that the extreme love and the pure righteousness of God was displayed.

Two, Christ would be glorified through his ascension to the Fathers right hand.

I’ll let Paul wrap this up for us. Philippians 2:5:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, ESV)

Application:

Brothers and sisters, may we, like Christ, live for the glory of God? Jesus Christ, from the cradle to the grace, was bent on bringing glory, honor, and praise to the Father. So too should we!

Never would it be right for us to pray, “Father, glorify me”. Jesus Christ is unique in this regard. It was right for him to say, “Father glorify your Son”, given his unique position as the only begotten Son – we should not ask to be glorified. But perhaps we should pray, Lord refine me. Purify me, grow me, use me. Bear fruit through me, all to the glory of your most holy name. 

Conclusion

Father in heaven, you are worthy all praise. You have been gracious to us indeed. Thank you for sending the Son to earn for us eternal life, which is the knowledge of you. Thank you for sending the Spirit to apply it to us. Lord, be highly exalted through your people as we live in obedience to you in this world, pointing always to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. Amen.

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