May 8, 2016 Text: John 17:20-26
Dear Friends in Christ,
When I was a junior in high school I was in a one-act play that was performed before the whole school. The play was Neil Simon’s The Seduction. The interesting thing was that there were two other people in this play. One of my best friends played the husband, my old girlfriend played the wife, and as I was the friend trying to seduce the wife away from the husband. Anyway, in this play I had a lengthy speaking part where I was addressing the audience and telling them what I was about to do. When I first saw it written out, I didn’t think I would ever get it memorized. Thankfully God gave me a good memory and through my nervousness I was able to deliver this soliloquy to the audience. A soliloquy happens when the other characters are on stage and one character steps forward and delivers a message directly to the audience. The audience is invited in to hear the main plot point of the play.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God stepped up to the front stage of our lives and spoke like that? People often seek after a direct word from God. What would you want God to tell you? Career advice? Parenting wisdom? How to get along better with others? Who to vote for? Is this the year for the Cubs? We should be asking the heavenly Father for things we need, including wisdom to make good decisions. But God has already spoken to us through His holy, inspired Scriptures. Will we take time to listen?
Some of the most memorable scenes in a play or a movie are right before a character dies. Think Brian’s Song, Terms of Endearment, or Charlotte’s Web. They sometimes tell key information for the plot of the rest of the show. In the Gospel of John, there is an extended speech, a sermon if you will, that Jesus speaks right before he is betrayed and eventually crucified. On Maundy Thursday night, after His institution of the Lord’s Supper and before He is arrested, Jesus encourages the disciples to love one another, warns them of persecution to come, and promises them the Holy Spirit and a place he will go to prepare for them.
The climax to the sermon comes right at the end and is the Gospel lesson for today. In John 17:20 Jesus “steps to the front of the stage” and lets us listen in on a prayer directly for us. Lean in and listen to . . .
Jesus begins by asking the Father that we might believe in the apostolic Word. (v. 20) He’s speaking to the Father but is looking right at us. What He is about to do is to save you and me. He enables the disciples to hear and witness his words, ministry, and death and resurrection so they can preach and write them down for us. We are saved by faith in His Holy Word.
Jesus asks the Father that we might be one, united in time and place. (v. 21) This prayer is for the historical unity of the one Church. What we confess in the creed is we believe in the one catholic or universal Church. Our confession is a bold confirmation of faith that we belong to the One Church through the centuries and eternity. Jesus is also praying for those who do not believe that they would come to the Christian faith and believe in Him as Savior and Lord.
Jesus asks the Father that we might be united with Him and therefore with the Father. (v. 23) Our unity with one another can happen only when we are first united with Him, for his love and truth are the love and truth we give to others. Being united with God only happens after the sin that separates us has been removed. Our sin was removed at the cross by the death of Jesus.
Jesus asks the Father that we might look upon His crucifixion as His most glorious moment. (v. 24) It’s not the glory the disciples or we picture. We all have false dreams of glory. Some of the disciples wanted to be first in the kingdom of God. We want the glory of winning a contract at work or being first in some endeavor at school or having our “15 minutes of fame” in the public eye. But none of those things matches the glory of God, who has made us His. He owns all things and He gives his all for sinful human beings like you and me.
In the one act play I was able to get the wife away from the husband. I was able to get her alone and I went in for the kiss and . . . There is one thing I can tell you this morning. To know the Father and make him known (vs. 25-26) – that is Jesus’ mission, and in His prayer He makes it our mission as well. That was Jesus’ grand soliloquy, the prayer He let us overhear the night of his betrayal, and He still prays the same prayer for you today.