7th Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 566:1-3, 6; 461:1-3, 5, 8; 587
Text – John 17:8
For I have given them the words that You gave me, & they have received them & have come to know in truth that I came from You; & they have believed that You sent me.
KNOWING IN TRUTH
Last week’s sermon was titled The Spirit of Truth. Today, Jesus is concerned about our knowing in truth. Sinful creatures that we are, you & I like to feel that we know it all. Sure, we won’t claim to know anything about astrophysics, but that’s not relevant in our day-to-day existence. When it comes to groceries & the cost of gas, it’s nice to feel that we know it all.
In the school of hard knocks, experience teaches that we do not know it all. As each of you can testify, it is not an easy lesson to learn. Not that it’s as complicated as astrophysics. The fact is, we do not want to learn that lesson, which reveals a common sinful tendency within us. We do not look forward to the unfolding of God’s plan & will in our lives.
The setting of this Gospel reading is Maundy Thursday. Jesus is looking forward to the unfolding of His heavenly Father’s plan, & He is doing it in a mood of hope & joy. At the time Jesus is praying this prayer, the disciples have no clue what’s coming, but 2000 years after, you should know. Are you connecting the dots? Jesus is looking forward to His death on the cross.
And, as Jesus always does, He looks out for, & prays for, not Himself but His disciples. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you pray? I expect most of you would pray for your family & friends, at least by the end of the prayer.
By the end of His prayer, Jesus also prays for everyone who would one day believe in Him through the words of His disciples. That includes many, if not all, of us here today. Since the ending of Jesus’ prayer is not in the Gospel lesson, I’ll read parts of it: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you & I are one – as you are in me, Father, & I am in you… I have given them the glory You gave me, so they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:20-22 NLT)
As Jesus concludes this prayer, just before He is betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is praying that all believers would be one even as the Holy Trinity is one. And He says He accomplished that for us by giving us the glory that God the Father gave to Him. Look around you. What you see right here & now, this is the glory of God.
This is certainly not how the world would define glory, but this also may not be how you define glory. You know of churches that have far more entertaining programs going on. You know of churches that have many more people showing up to worship. You know of churches that have children in Sunday Schools & volunteers to teach them.
You know of congregations that have an amazing music ministry, that have elders who visit their members, that have human care teams reaching out to their shut-ins or to those spending time in the hospital. You know of congregations that have thriving youth ministries. And because you know of those churches, you fail to see the glory of God right here, right now.
Even if you do not believe you know it all, you do believe that you know something. And this is not how you would define the glory of God. For that Jesus forgives you, because His glory was to follow the path of lowly service culminating in the humiliation of the cross. That is the glory that God the Father gave to Jesus, & that Jesus gives to you & to me.
Historically, Lutheran theologians have always understood God’s glory in this life to be a theology or a ministry of the cross. St. Paul wrote of that in his letter to the church at Corinth:
“For Jews demand signs & Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews & folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews & Greeks, Christ the power of God & the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV) Those who are called are those who know in truth. As insignificant or hapless as this congregation may appear this is the true glory of God because Jesus says it is. As broken as your lives & service to God may be, you have the true glory of God because Jesus gave it to you. So the night before Jesus is crucified, He prays to His Father:
“…I have given them the words that You gave me, & they have received them & have come to know in truth that I came from You; & they have believed that You sent me.” (John 17:8 ESV) Jesus contrasts the disciples, who received the words from the Father, with others who rejected those words. Jesus highlights that His disciples know in truth that He came from God.
Last, Jesus describes His disciples as men of faith who believe that He was sent by God the Father. To know in truth is, as verse 3 tells us, “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, & Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV) You know that your Redeemer lives, & knowing Jesus is to have the true life that your Creator intended for you.
And since you have the glory of God, given to you by Jesus, you can be, you will be, & you already are a witness of the heavenly Father’s love for sinners. That is the chief aspect of God’s glory, that He sent Jesus not to condemn the world, but to save it. The Holy Spirit points out our sins & calls us to repentance, not to crush us but to give us forgiveness & life.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve lost their relationship with God by disobeying Him. Jesus came to restore that relationship, that oneness with God, through His perfect obedience. Jesus prayed, “I have given them the glory You gave me, so they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22 NLT) Our relationship with our holy heavenly Father has been restored.
That is what the Son of God prayed for the night before He went to the cross. This is what the Father gives in answer to that prayer. God glorifies Himself as He saves sinners by giving them what they do not deserve – everlasting life in paradise. God is glorified when we believe in Jesus as Messiah, & know the Father through Him. God is glorified when His people in the world are kept by His word – the word that Jesus gives to us. In the prayer from the Gospel reading, Jesus & His Father encircle & embrace us. They also invite us to learn to pray for one another.
As our saintly nature lives, we admit that we often fail to look forward to the unfolding of God’s plan & will in our lives. Too often we prefer our own plan & will. Our sinful nature causes much anxiety in our lives, so Peter wrote in the Epistle lesson:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV) Here’s an account of what that may look like in real life.
There was a famous actor giving readings to an art & literature group. One of the ladies present asked if he would recite the 23rd Psalm. He did so eloquently, with masterful flourish & diction. When he finished the entire assembly applauded him. Then, someone noticed an elderly pastor standing near the back of the hall. They asked him to recite it as well.
He demurred, saying he was no great speaker, but they finally convinced him to try. His speech was haltering, his manner was not ostentatious. Yet, when he finished, everyone was silent. Something had happened to the group. Afterwards, one of the audience asked the actor, “What happened back there? What was the difference in your two presentations?”
The actor replied thoughtfully, “I knew the psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.” 2000 years ago, Jesus prayed that you too would come to know the Shepherd. Amen.
I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living head. He lives to bless me with His love; He lives to plead for me above; He lives my hungry soul to feed; He lives to help in time of need. Amen. LSB 461:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet