Tuesday, April 04, 2017
"This is Eternal Life" Sermon: John 17:1-5
“This Is Eternal Life”
April 2, 2017, Second Reformed Church
What is eternal life? If someone came up to you and asked you what eternal life is, what would you say? Would you tell them that it is being alive in a perfect physical body with Jesus in a perfect world? Would you say anything else?
Jesus finishes teaching the Eleven, and then Jesus turns to pray. This prayer is called, “the High Priestly Prayer,” and, Lord willing, we will see why that is in the coming weeks. Today, we are looking at the opening of Jesus’ prayer and considering what “eternal life” means.
And we see, first, Jesus asks His Father to glorify Him, so He may glorify His Father.
“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, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.’
When Jesus finishes His teaching of the Eleven, He turns to prayer before heading to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus lifts His eyes to Heaven – in that moment, Jesus entered into the presence of His Father in Heaven – He takes His requests to His Father and does not remain among men – and says, “Father.” Notice, Jesus does not say, “Our Father,” or “the Father,” no, Jesus is speaking directly, lovingly, confidently to His Father – the First Person of the Trinity – Who with the Holy Spirit – He has enjoyed eternal communion from before time and space and the material realm existed. Jesus is addressing His Father, with Whom He has perfect agreement in mind and will. There are going to be no surprises, no refusals – Jesus and His Father are One – the One True God.
And Jesus says, “the hour has come.” After hearing Jesus say again and again, “it is not my time,” “the hour has not yet come,” now the hour has come. The hour has come to leave His Eleven. The hour has come to leave His disciples. The hour has come to be handed over to evil men. The hour has come to be mocked and beaten and tried and convicted. The hour has come to be hit and spat upon and to be flogged to the bone. The hour has come to be deserted and crucified. The hour has come to die. The hour has come to physically rise and meet with the women and the Eleven and over five hundred again. The hour has come to ascend bodily back to the Father and sit at His Right Hand.
And Jesus asks His Father to glorify Him – in this hour – that He may glorify His Father.
We may remember when we talk about glorifying, we are talking about showing something immense to be who or what it is. We are using a telescope to make it possible for us to understand and appreciate the stars and the galaxies.
So, here, Jesus is asking His Father to use the horrific events that were to happen over the next few days, the Resurrection, and then His Ascension to focus the understanding of Who He is and what He has done for all those who will believe. Jesus asks His Father to use these final great events in the salvation of His people of show Who Jesus is and what He did to accomplish and merit salvation – clear – brilliant – glorious. And, as His Father does that, the mercy and love and power of the Father will be seen as His Father pours out His Wrath and then physically raises Jesus and brings Him bodily back to the throne of the Son in Heaven – as was His plan – with the Trinity – from before the foundation of the world.
The reason Jesus asks His Father for this is that the Father gave Him all authority and a people to merit salvation for. Jesus asks for His character and mission to be clarified before those who believe – and we who would believe – and those who will still believe, so as God the Holy Spirit convicts them of sin and causes them to believe, they will recognize how awesome Jesus is in Who He is and what He has done – and they will be humbled and worship His Father seeing the great sacrifice His Father gave and the love with which He had to save a people for His Son.
Jesus says, “Father, as I go through this horror, which I so despise, but I rejoice in because of what it will accomplish, show the greatness of My salvation, and show the greatness of Your love in salvation. Let people not be confused when God the Holy Spirit regenerates them, but let them be overwhelmed in amazement of what has been accomplished to save the people You gave Me.”
You know, there are certain theologians and ministers who say it was never God’s plan and it was never Jesus’ plan to go to the cross. It all went wrong, and God had to quickly work out a “Plan B” by bringing Jesus back from the dead.
Of course that’s nonsense – the whole Scripture speaks to this being God’s plan from the beginning and Peter says in his sermon at Pentecost that God ordained everything that happened to secure the salvation of those who will believe.
But even a more perverse denial comes from those who say that the clear biblical history is nothing but a record of “cosmic child abuse.” There are people who say that the crucifixion never happened, because if it did, it would prove God to be a sick and unfit Father. They say that offering Jesus up as a sacrifice – as a substitute – would be abuse by His Father.
The people who say such appalling things don’t know the difference between love and abuse. God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son to be our Sacrifice – to be our Substitute – so His Father could fulfill justice in His holiness – punishing sin – as it is clearly required in the sacrificial law – blood must be shed – and so His Father could show His incredible love and mercy for us – John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I John 3:1a, ESV). Why? Because the Father has adopted us. How can that be? Because the Father sent His Son to bear the wrath due us for our sins and credited us with the merit – the righteousness – earned by His Son Jesus.
So, Jesus asks His Father to make it blazing clear that what the Triune God has done is show justice and love and mercy and grace – to the Glory of God Alone – that you and I and everyone who ever believes would be saved through the free and willing sacrifice of His Son.
And then, Jesus gives the answer to our question:
Second, eternal life is to know the Father and the Son.
‘And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’
What does this mean?
It certainly means that we are to know that God is the One God – the True God – in Whom there is no falsehood. It means we are to know about this God – Who He is and what He has done – all that we can understand from nature and from God’s Word – especially through the opening of God’s Word to us by God the Holy Spirit. It means we are to know Who Jesus is – historically – and through God the Holy Spirit opening our eyes and causing us to believe in Jesus as our God and Savior – the One God the Father sent to be our Savior and Substitute. But this is only a secondary meaning of what Jesus is saying – He is not saying – of first importance – that we are to know facts about God the Father and Jesus the Incarnate Son. What Jesus is saying about eternal life is much bigger.
We are closer to the mark when we consider that we are told that Adam knew Eve and she bore a son. We understand that the word, “knew,” in this context has to mean something much more than “just getting to know about each other.” It does not mean something like, “Adam asked Eve where she was brought up and she bore a son” – that wouldn’t make any sense.
What Jesus is saying is that eternal life is – the meaning of eternal life, the essence of eternal life, the being of eternal life, what makes eternal life eternal life – is that you and I and everyone who believes throughout time and space become intimately acquainted with and united to God the Father and God the Son – and God the Holy Spirit as well.
Now, Jesus is no suggesting anything as crass as sexual relations – after all, only the Son has a human body, the Father and the Holy Spirit remain purely spirit. What Jesus is saying is that eternal life is becoming one with God in purpose, in will, in mind, in joy – we don’t become God or gods, but we are one – we are united with God – we ultimately – in the Kingdom – perfectly want what God wants and we have our joy in seeing God being shown for Who He is. Eternal life is having all joy and meaning in obeying and thanking and enjoying God for Who He is in Trinity.
So, we begin to experience eternal life now as believers as we seek to do God’s will and thank Him and rejoice in all the things that make Him happy. Our eternity of joy – our everlasting joy – is only and always found in God.
So, to experience eternal life – now – to the fullest, what ought we do?
We ought to be in prayer to our Father, in Jesus’ Name, through the Holy Spirit, as God has taught us in His Word. We can’t have an intimate relationship – eternal life – without communicating. God has called us to pray, and He has promised to give us everything we pray for in Jesus’ Name that is according to His Will – and the Holy Spirit helps us to pray so our prayers will be answered and according to the Will of God.
We ought to be in worship together as often as possible, so we can grow and encourage each other in the faith, and so we gather together as the people of God that the Father has given to the Son to save by His work and through the Holy Spirit.
And, we ought to be in the Word of God – reading it alone, with other Christians, and hearing it read and preached, so God the Holy Spirit will increase our eternal life and joy in knowing God in Tri-unity – experiencing to the greatest extent that a human can what is that relationship among the Persons of God and the joy and love that is among Them.
Eternal life – which begins when the Holy Spirit causes us to believe – when He regenerates us – is a personal relationship of mutual communication, love, loyalty, and devotion that the people of God enjoy with the Trinity.
Eternal life is a personal relationship of mutual communication, love, loyalty, and devotion that the people of God enjoy with the Trinity.
And if salvation is completely the work of the Sovereign God and God desires to save a people for Himself that we would have eternal life – this intimate everlasting relationship of love – with Him, then this is another proof of the absolutely security of our salvation. Our salvation and our unity in eternal life with God is God’s plan from before the foundations of the world – in doing this, He finds the most glory, and God will not allow another to take His glory from Him – He will not allow those who truly believe by the work of the Holy Spirit to undo that spiritual resurrection.
All those God intends to save will be saved, our salvation is secure, and we begin the relationship of eternal life now and grow into its perfect joy at the return of Jesus.
Third, Jesus says He glorifies His Father through His obedience.
‘I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.’
Jesus glorified His Father on earth – Jesus revealed more of Who God the Father is and what His plan is to be just and justifier, righteous and merciful – by doing all those things that God sent Him to do – to accomplish salvation and fulfill all of the Scripture.
Again, we see that the Son’s Incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, were not forced on Him. Jesus was not abused into being our Savior. The Father loved the world and the Son chose to be the means that we would be saved.
Is it any wonder that Jesus told the Eleven over and over, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands”?
If we want people to know Who Jesus is and what He has done – fi we want to spread the Gospel – which is a command we have been given – if we really love Jesus, we will obey Him.
The Psalmist writes:
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
“who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
“You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
“Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
“Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
“I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
“I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!” (Psalm 119:1-8, ESV).
American children – at least since I was a child – have tended to look at rules and commands as harsh things to be avoided – and we know there are foolish and awful laws in the world. But the Law of the Lord is perfect, beautiful, better than gold, sweeter than honey, the fount of all joy – read all of Psalm 119 to hear the Psalmist gush forth with praise and thanks for the Law because it is good and – for those who believe – it helps us to know God and to do what is pleasing to Him and what brings joy to us.
Finally – in our introduction to this prayer – Jesus asks His Father to unveil Jesus’ Glory.
‘And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.’”
We may remember that the author of Hebrews says we are to be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV).
The Son was glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit from before the Creation, but in order for the Son to Incarnate and live among us, He needed to mediate His Glory – He needed to veil it through His body so it wouldn’t kill us. As we remember, God said that no one can look at Him and live. So, for us to look at the Son and live, He had to veil His Glory as He lived among us on earth.
As Jesus faces a most horrific death, He despises it, He hates it in the extreme, but He goes through it for the joy of saving the people God the Father gave Him and because He would return to the Right Hand of the Father – “with the glory He had with God before the world existed.”
So, notice: the Son of God existed before the Creation and was glorified by His Father, so They can only be the same, one God. If the Father glorifies the Son, the Son must be greater than or equal to the Father – He cannot be less than the Father. And no one is greater than God, so He is the same, One God.
Jesus looks forward to the results and to the end of His work on earth – not because He doesn’t love us, but because what He suffered was unimaginable, and He longs to be back with His Father. He wants to return to His Father and to His throne – to be done with the suffering and be physically raised from the dead and exalted back to His rightful spot.
Which is exactly what happened – as Paul commends to the Philippians:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV).
So, let us understand that eternal life is not merely the physical resurrection into the restored Creation and the Kingdom of God with food and friends and family, but the real, intimate unity among all believers and the Triune God as we become and are one in purpose and will and love and joy.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, it is difficult to imagine all of what it means to be united with You in Trinity, and yet Your Son said that this is eternal life. Help us to seek You through prayer, through Your Word, through gathering together for worship with each other, and help us to obey You that our love would be proved and our joy made full. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.