Sermon June 1/ John 17/ Eternal Life is to Know Jesus/ Vicar James Preus
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, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
Twenty years ago a children’s comedy came out entitled “Angels in the Outfield.” The plot of the movie revolved around a clownish baseball team that runs an unseemly winning-streak by the aid of angels. I watched this movie nearly two decades ago, yet one scene remained stuck in my memory. A young boy is convinced that his fate of having a real family depends on the success of a baseball team, so he prays for its success. Yet, what struck me as a child is how the boy addressed God in his prayer: “God, if there is a god…” While this film intended to entertain children with wacky characters in silly scenarios and not to instruct people on right Christian doctrine, this scene expresses a problem with how many view prayer.
Prayer is not a faithless act. No, prayer is a privilege God gives to his children. It is impossible to pray to God, the true God, without faith. Unless one has faith in the true God that person can have no confidence that God will listen to or answer the prayer. However, when one holds to the truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ, that person has the privilege and power to speak to God as a child speaks to his/her father. Jesus tells his disciples: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
If we want to know how to pray it is beneficial for us to see how Jesus prays. In our text, Jesus prays to his Father in heaven. Jesus is about to accomplish a great work (pay for the sins of the entire world). As any believer does before he begins a task (like traveling a long distance, building a fence, or writing a sermon), Jesus begins his work with prayer. When Jesus prays, he does not pray with uncertainty, grasping in the darkness with vain hope that God will hear him. Instead, Jesus declares to God the truth. Jesus prays for exactly what he and the Father have already decided will happen. Jesus says: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus is saying: “Father, the time which you appointed beforehand has arrived. As you promised, raise me from the dead when I have completed the task of dying for the sins of the world.”
Jesus leaves no room for uncertainty in his prayer. He prays that God would give eternal life to those whom God has chosen and promised to give eternal life. Jesus has certainty in his prayer, because he anchors his prayers in the promises of God the Father.
Following our Savior’s example, we Christians then pray to God according to his promises. When we pray, we first declare to God his promises to fulfill our prayer; that is we confess our faith to God. We pray that God would send us his Holy Spirit in Baptism, because God promises to send the Holy Spirit in Baptism. We pray that Jesus would come to us in the Lord’s Supper, because Jesus promises to be with us in the Lord’s Supper. We pray that God’s kingdom come, that his will be done, that he would give us our daily bread, that he would forgive our trespasses, that he would lead us out of temptation, and deliver us from evil, because God promises that his kingdom will come, that his will be done, that he will give us our daily bread, and that he will forgive our sins, and that he will lead us out of temptation and rescue us from evil. Our faith deals with certainty. That is why Jesus invites us to call God the Father ‘our Father.’ When we pray, we pray with certainty.
Have you ever begun to pray and by the end of the prayer you realize that you hadn’t been paying attention for most of it? “…give us this day our daily bread, I wonder what’s for dinner. Maybe we’ll grill? Will it be nice out today?” And the mind continues to wander until it’s interrupted with “forever, and ever, Amen.” Or maybe you hear a name in the prayers and you think, “I wonder how she’s doing? I should visit her. Actually, I haven’t seen so-and-so in a long time; maybe I’ll give them a call.” And before you know it your mind-wandering is interrupted with another collective “Amen.”
Why is it that when we try to speak to our heavenly Father our mind gets bombarded with a thousand thoughts, many of which are completely unimportant? I sadly, also experience this distracting phenomenon when I try to hear God’s Word. The devil hates it when we hear God’s Word in faith and he despises it when we address God in faithful prayer. Because we are God’s children we are no longer of the world. Yet, as of yet we are still in the world. This means that we must still live in this fallen world, corrupted by sin, where the devil prowls around like a lion seeking whom he may devour, until Jesus gathers us home. Satan would love to prevent us from living forever with Jesus and our heavenly Father. So he tosses trivial thoughts at us to distract us from hearing God’s Word and from praying to God in true faith.
Even more, Satan plants seeds of doubt when we hear God’s Word and when we pray. “Did Jesus really say that I have eternal life if I have faith? Does God really listen to my prayers? God must be tired of my constant prayers. Surely I am unworthy to pray to God, I have broken his commandments so many times!” Satan scatters these seeds of doubt to combat the seeds of faith Jesus plants with his word. What should I do when I doubt God’s promises? What should I do when I feel unworthy to pray to God? What should I do when I doubt whether God gladly hears my prayers and answers them?
In such a case, look at the promises God gives through Jesus. Jesus promises that whoever knows the true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent will have eternal life. Jesus promises that God the Father loves you! Jesus promises that although you will have tribulation in the world, he has overcome the world. Jesus promises that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. The devil lies so that you doubt your place with God. Jesus tells the truth so that you are certain that you are a child of God.
Martin Luther said in a sermon on this same text:
“It must invariably follow that if I know that Christ was sent by the Father for my sake and given to me, then I may freely and joyful conclude that He is my gracious and kind Father, who has put His wrath entirely out of mind.”
Jesus prays for us. He prays: “Keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one.” Jesus is our High Priest. In fact, this prayer is called the High Priestly prayer. A priest makes intercession for the people. Jesus makes intercession for us. Jesus mediates between us and the Father. Jesus prays to God on our behalf, petitioning for our eternal welfare. However, unlike a priest, who burns a lamb or some grain and oil, Jesus offers himself as a bloody sacrifice on behalf of all of us. Jesus prays for us for the sake of the work he has done. God the Father accepts Jesus’ work, because Jesus accomplished it perfectly, just as God the Father designed it when he planned our salvation.
Jesus had glory with God the Father before the world existed. The Greek text says: “before the cosmos existed.” The cosmos encompasses everything created. There existed nothing created when God the Father glorified Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God shared in the glory of God the Father from eternity. However, Jesus left his glory. Jesus took upon himself the sins of the entire world. Jesus was punished for our sins. Jesus did nothing to dishonor God. Throughout Jesus’ ministry he did nothing but glorify God with his true teachings and mighty works. Yet Jesus was stripped of the glory he shared with the Father from eternity. Jesus shed his glory confident that the Father would glorify him again and raise him from the dead. The Father did glorify Jesus by raising him from the dead. And Jesus glorified the Father by accomplishing all the work the Father sent him to do and by bringing his people back to him. So the Father glorifies the Son and in turn the Son glorifies the Father. In the same way, Jesus glorifies us and in turn we glorify him, as Jesus says: “I am glorified in them.”
But how do we glorify Jesus? Jesus is God. He is one with the Father. How can we, who are plagued with doubt and constant distractions, glorify God? We are God’s children. God is pleased when we his children obey his commands: love our neighbor, work honestly and are content with our wages, and raise our children in the true faith. God is pleased with all of these on account of our faith in Jesus. Yet the best way to glorify God is to confess our faith. When we confess our faith we give God the glory for saving us.
Listen to the words of the Gloria in Excelsis (Glory to God in the Highest) from Setting 3 of the Divine Service:
“Glory be to God on high: and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty, O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us…etc.”
There is no greater way to glorify God than to believe his word, receive his gifts in faith, and to confess our true faith. When Jesus won for us salvation, he glorified the Father. When we proclaim what God has done for us through Jesus, we give glory to God. Throughout Scripture people of God give glory to God by recounting the good things God does for them. Psalm 103 (which is the basis for the musical piece the youth choir is working on) famously proclaims: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” And how does the Psalmist David bless the LORD? He confesses his faith in the LORD’s promises: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”
Jesus teaches us to anchor our prayers in the promises of God. God promises that we have eternal life if we know him through Jesus. Jesus joins us with the glory he shares with the Father. He does this by bringing us to faith in his promises. We in turn, glorify God by confessing our faith in God’s promises. God’s promises are the foundation of our faith and prayers.
Let us pray:
“Amen, that is, so shall it be.
Make strong our faith in You, that we
May doubt not but with trust believe
That what we ask we shall receive.
Thus in Your name and at Your Word
We say, “Amen, O hear us, Lord!”
 John 16:26-27
 John 17:6-9
 Acts 2:38; John 3:5; Mark 16:16
 Matthew 26:26-28
 1 Peter 5:8
 John 17:3
 John 16:27
 John 16:33
 John 3:16
 Luther’s Works AE 69:37
 John 17:5
 John 17:10
 John 17:11
 LSB 187-89
 Psalm 103:1
 Psalm 103:10-13
 Martin Luther ‘Our Father, Who from Heaven Above. LSB 766. Stz. 9.