A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Easter 7

Rev. Doug Floyd

Easter 7
Rev. Doug Floyd
John 17

Today’s Gospel marks the end of the last supper. Jesus has been preparing his disciples to live as lovers and follow in the call upon them. Today he prays for them after his departure. We’re reading this after the Ascension, which was last Thursday evening. That event sets a context for our reflection.

Ascension Day always occurs on a Thursday, so it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It is an important remembrance in the church year because it sets the stage for Pentecost. On Ascension Day, we celebrate the enthronement of Jesus Christ. His physical ministry on earth is complete, but his ministry will continue through the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. The interconnection between Jesus and the church is so close that Hus church will be referred to as His Body.

If we read today’s Gospel in light of Ascension Day, we see Jesus praying for the coming leaders of the church who will carry on the ministry of Jesus. With this in mind, here is a quick overview of the prayer:

Jesus prays for his disciples.
Jesus gives his disciples the name of the Lord.
Jesus gives his disciples the word.
Jesus gives his disciples glory.
Jesus gives his disciples the love of God.

We begin with that fact that Jesus prays for his disciples. He doesn’t simply say, “The Lord’s will be done.” He lives out the statement from James 5:16. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”[1] We see multiple place in the New Testament where Jesus is praying for us.

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”[2]

Or Hebrews 7:25: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”[3]

Prayer is not magic but it is a reflection of the relationship between Jesus and the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. We participate in that prayer life when we pray. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays for the disciples, but He prays for all who will believe in Him through their word. So we are a part of this prayer.

In several places in this prayer, Jesus gives the disciples the name the Father gave him. He prays “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”[4] The Feast of the Holy Name is part of our church calendar. We celebrate it on January 1. A few years back when January 1 occurred on a Sunday, I preached on this feast. This forced me to meditate deeply on the holy name of God in Old and New Testaments. I was stunned at how important the name is. In fact, we pray it weekly and some of us pray it daily: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name.”

Jesus bears the name as part of His communion with the Father. He is the express image of the Father and carries the authority of the Father. He manifests the Father’s name in his words and deeds. When He prays for this disciples to be kept in the name, he is praying for them to be one even as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. In Christ, we are raised up in the communion of the Triune God and that same communion should manifest in and through us with one another. This is obviously a gift of the Holy Spirit, and we pray with Jesus that we might be one even as God is one.

Jesus gives the disciples His Word and words. As Fr. Les helped us to see a couple weeks ago, people can read Scripture and never encounter the Word of God. Jesus teaches the disciples that all of Scripture testifies of Him. To hear the Word of God, I must behold Jesus. In beholding Jesus, we behold the mystery of Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus reveals God. He reveals our hearts. He reveals redeeming grace. Through the word of the disciples and the words of God’s saints across the ages, we learn to behold the Word of God, we learn to behold our Savior and listen to His voice.

When Jesus speaks of giving them His word, he connects it to the world hating him and hating the disciples. He says, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”[5]

This is a good place to remind ourselves that when John speaks of the world, he typically is referring to people who reject Christ because their deeds are evil. Outside of Christ, we are part of this God-hating world. But he has come to redeems those who hate him. Listen to a familiar passage from John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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.”[6]

We are His family sent to reveal His love to a world that hates Him.

Jesus gives His glory to the disciples. Now this is a far-reaching statement. In verse 17, He prays for their sanctification, which is rooted in truth. The disciples of God are holy because of the work of Christ even as we are becoming holy through the work of the Spirit in Christ. This work of sanctification is healing and restoring our relationships. Sin and brokenness destroys relationships and will make it difficult for us to continue in relationships. When we come to Christ in faith, we still carry the wounds of sin. By His grace, these wounds will be healed. We will be changed in relationships with one another even as we are learning to love one another by the Spirit.

This brings us to the last point. Jesus gives His love to the disciples. In John 13-17, we read again and again of the love between Jesus and the Father, and how we are called to live in that love. He prays, 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” [7]

This love is bound up with the name of God, with the word of God, and with the glory of God. This love and glory and word and name of God is made manifest in the cross of Christ. This is being made manifest in us as we humble ourselves before one another and love with that cross love. We practice it among the church community. We practice it in the home. Husbands and wives. Parents and children. Brothers and sisters. Our flesh cries out and resists this kind of love, but this is the place where we will experience the deep joy of the Lord.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Jas 5:16.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:34.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 7:25.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 17:11.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 17:14–16.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 3:16–17.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 17:25–26.


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