The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John.
Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)
How would you feel if God spoke to you and told you that you were going to do great things in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, or maybe somewhere else in the world?
I guess you would panic a bit, wouldn’t you? I mean, what about your job, and who’s going to look after the kids, and what about your bridge group next Wednesday?
It would be a bit scary.
I had a similar experience, you might say. Kind of.
I was in my final year in seminary, and I was staying on campus during the summer. There was a man, another Yorkshireman, originally from Doncaster, fifteen miles from my home town, and he was visiting from the Arctic. He was a priest, recruited in Britain by the Bishop of the Arctic, and he had ministered in the far North for, I think, seven years.
He was asked to speak at one of our morning prayer services. Which he did.
He spoke eloquently about serving the church in the North. He told about the great challenges, and the way they were being met. He talked about the great joy and satisfaction he got out of his ministry. He talked about the gratitude shown by the native population for the mission work that he did. And he talked about the great need for priests to work in the North.
I felt he was talking directly to me.
In fact I was sure he was talking directly to me.
And I began to panic.
Is this God’s way of calling me for service in the North, I wondered? I hope not. I can hardly stand the winters here in Southern Ontario.
Well, as it happens, I found myself in the wilds of Grimsby, so you know I didn’t go. North.
When I thought about it, I decided that maybe God wasn’t calling me to go North, after all.
But I still wonder, sometimes.
Did I go against what God had planned for me?
Jesus, just before his Ascension into Heaven, told his disciples, “ The Holy Spirit will come upon you with power, then you will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and everywhere in the world.”
Everywhere in the world? The whole world? Wait a minute!!
“ I can’t go out into the world. I am not prepared. I have never traveled more than a day’s journey from my home before. How can I go into the whole world?” One of them might have asked.
“I just told you that the Holy Spirit will come upon you with power. That is how you will go, and how you will glorify me.” Jesus assured them.
If God is helping you, then surely everything is possible.
We read in the Acts of the Apostles, that Paul and Silas, are doing what Jesus has commanded, and as a result, find themselves in prison, but they are miraculously released. (Acts 16:16-34)
And they are able to continue to go on their way spreading the gospel, and convincing people about the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, and how he died that we may be free of our sin.
Paul and Silas, are fulfilling what Jesus asked for his disciples as he prayed in that upper room.
And as we heard, in our Gospel reading, Jesus in that prayer for his disciples, prays, ” I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.” In other words, the blessing, and the challenge he asks for his friends, will be passed on to those who come to believe after listening to them.
He has earlier prayed “Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you.”
The glory that Jesus is talking about is the glory of the cross. Jesus glorified his father by obeying him in all things. Even to dying on the cross.
As it says, “In all things he did his Father’s will.”
That’s another way of saying that this man Jesus, lived for the Father. And he had such faith in the Father, and was so empowered by the Holy Spirit, that everything that he did, especially his death, did in fact, glorify God.
You know, we do a lot of self -glorifying, don’t we?
You may not think you do, but it’s a common human trait.
We seem to need to build ourselves up. The way we dress. The way we talk, carry ourselves, the people we mix with, the car we drive, the house in which we live, the schools we went to, the level of education we reached, all helping to elevate us in the eyes of other people – we hope.
It’s worse in America. It is never too long into a conversation, down there, before someone asks you what job you do. And if it isn’t something impressive, then you are going to be talking to yourself pretty soon.
I remember as a teenager, I had a particular friend who used to tell girls that he was a nuclear physicist.
So when we spied him spinning this yarn to a girl he was dancing with, if we could get close enough we would say something like, ‘ Hey Dave. How’s the job on the bins?” or, “How are the wife and kids?”
( Of course those were the days when you could hear yourself speak on the dance floor. And you danced close to your partner. )
What a relief it would be to be free of that eh? Not to care. Just to live as someone who is so at ease with oneself that we don’t care what the world thinks.
Jesus was so at ease with who he was, wasn’t he? He spoke in the synagogue before learned people; he gathered a group of followers around him and taught them as a rabbi would, this son of a carpenter.
He stood up to those in authority, he reached out to those who were scorned by society.
And finally, he went to his death on the cross, in supreme obedience to His Father’s will.
He needn’t have, you know. He could have said, “No.” He could have stayed away from Jerusalem. Avoided it.
As I avoided the Arctic?
But if he had done so, then God’s plan would have been thwarted.
His death would show us the length to which God would go, in His great love for us, and in His wish to save us.
And now we see Jesus sending his disciples out into the world – the whole world – to face dangers similar to the dangers he himself had faced. They would be hated. They would challenge the evil powers of this world, and put their lives at risk.
And how are these men, who haven’t shown signs of great bravery yet, going to do this?
How are they to handle all the stuff that’s going to come their way?
Because make no mistake about it, they will face danger. Their lives will be forfeit, some of them. Some will be thrown into prison, as we have heard today, others brought before tribunals, some flogged, thrown out of town.
Some would be killed.
How will they handle this?
Shouldn’t God protect them? Keep all harm away from them?
Note that when Jesus prayed for his disciples, and this is important, he prayed, not that they should be taken out of this world, not that they may find escape, he prayed that they may find victory.
Christianity was never meant to have us withdraw from life, but to equip us better for it; never meant to release us from problems, but a way to solve them; never meant to offer us an easy peace, but to be triumphant in warfare against evil; never meant to offer us a life in which we escape our troubles, but a life in which troubles are faced and conquered.
Linus and Charlie Brown were walking along one day, and chatting with each other. Linus said, “ I don’t like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. In fact, this is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.”
If you had run away from every problem that came along in your life, where would you be today? Back in the womb!
See how your mother would like that.
God doesn’t promise no problems. He promises us the courage to face them, and the ability to overcome them.
As Christians we are not supposed to be of this world, but we do have to live in it – and the world is where we meet those problems, it’s where Christianity must be lived out.
God has chosen us and dedicated us in his service. He doesn’t expect us to carry out that great task out of our own strength, however. In fact, He graciously fits us for whatever task faces us, if we can just place our life in His hands.
I was speaking to a young mother once. I remember her saying then, that having two young children to look after was very hard. And she looked tired.
She said she didn’t have any family nearby who would take the children off her hands for just a little while.
Then some time later, I saw her again, and we chatted for a few minutes. She told me again how busy she was. She worked week-ends, and had a part-time job she did from home, and then of course she had the two babies to care for. And she did housework, and meals, and so on. And she couldn’t talk for long, as she had the laundry in.
I bet that if you had told that young woman how much she would accomplish, once she became a wife and mother, she would have laughed in your face.
Don’t tell me that God doesn’t equip people when he gives them big jobs. And one of the biggest job is that of mother, isn’t it? That’s why today we remember to give thanks for them on Mothers’ Day. And why we do love them.
And we do. And I do – give thanks for mothers.
Mothers who put the welfare of their kids ahead of their own needs.
God equips us to handle sorrow, and suffering, and all sorts of hardship. I can tell you from my own observations that I have seen people face great challenges, such that I thought they would never be able to handle, and yet, by the grace of God, they did.
He is there in our life struggles. He is right there in the dirt with us, guiding us, helping us to make it through life.
We have just got to let Him in.
Life isn’t fair, you know.
Ask those forced to leave The Ukraine. And those who are still there, fighting against evil.
Ask those victimized in other areas of conflict, such as Syria, and Afghanistan.
Whether we are engaged in some grand design, telling the world about our Saviour, and his love or whether we are just trying to make it through life’s trouble and turmoil, we can reach out to him.
That’s why God had Jesus Christ choose us to share in his eternal glory. Chose us – you and me. We didn’t choose him. He chose us.
We will suffer for a while, but God will make us complete, steady, strong, and firm.’
If we hang in with Him.
And hanging in with Him we will bear witness to His everlasting love and care, evidenced in the life and death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.
Witnessing to Christ – serving him in some specific endeavor – or just making it through a difficult time, day by day.
But always with His help.
I don’t know about you but I couldn’t make it without.