Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2002
The Gospel: John 17:1-11
Sermon: "The High Priestly Prayer"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but 0on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one."
The High Priestly Prayer
Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 12, 2002
What does a sports team like a swim team, football or baseball team do at the end of the season? When teams win the Super bowl or the Final Four we see a huge celebration. Champagne corks fly in the locker room as the winning football team enters. A ladder appears on the basketball court and the net is ceremoniously removed from the basket one snip of the scissors at a time. In these cases there is a big celebration.
What do we do when we reach the end of a project or task? We have just finished the EOG'S. We have taken the last final or turned in the last paper of the semester. We have just finished a court case. We have just undergone surgery and the results are the best which we can hope. We might breathe a sigh of relief. We might walk around feeling very light and burden free, We just might have a little celebration with family and friends. We might even take a moment to thank God.
On the front page of Friday's News and Record there was an article about a woman named Patsy Foster. In the article I learned her son died of a lung disease in October of 1999. As a result of his death she took on a project. She decided to raise $25,000 dollars in memory of her son for the hospital. Her purpose was to help grieving mothers find a way to express their grief after losing a child. Two years later, she reached her goal. On Thursday, she stood in the hospital as they unveiled a plaque in memory of her son and her achievement. Her response as the plaque was unveiled was to gasp, then cry, and then thank God. She witnessed the end of her project with joy, tears, and thanksgiving to God.
Today's lesson is the beginning of a prayer that Jesus says at the end of their final gathering before he goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. This prayer is known as the High Priestly Prayer. While the name sounds very lofty, the prayer speaks to me in a more earthy way. Jesus has spent three years with his disciples. He has shown them a new way to see God. He has taught by word and action how much God loves us. On this final night, he has gathered his disciples together. We don't read it in this lesson, but this night is special. It begins with a meal that Jesus and the disciples share. Jesus then takes a basin and towel and lovingly washes their feet. Jesus explains to them the true meaning of servanthood, and the depths of God's love in these actions. Isn't it incredible to believe that God washed their feet? What an awesome act of love. Imagine God kneeling in front of us offering to wash our feet. Through this action he prepares the disciples for their ministry in the world. In addition, he promises that even though he is leaving there will be another. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will come to be with them.
Now the time of departure has come. Jesus' ministry among them is at an end. Jesus and the disciples have had their meal together. They have talked of the past, shared in the present, and looked to the future. There is one final thing to do. Jesus prays. He turns his face toward heaven and he prays. "Father, the hour has come, glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you...", are the beginning words of the prayer. Jesus knows the end of his earthly ministry is near. He offers all of the glory to God. He has shown everyone the love of God through his teachings and actions. These teachings and actions have opened the way to eternal life for all people. If we know the love of God in Christ, eternal life is ours.
Is Jesus breathing a sigh of relief? The task is finished. The work God gave Him to do is accomplished. He acknowledges the work is done, "I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do", Jesus says. One might think the prayer might end here.
But then, Jesus does something absolutely amazing. In this prayer, Jesus is still not done showing the love of God to us. Jesus begins to pray for the disciples. Jesus prays for us. God whom we glorify in prayer; God whom we come to with our successes and our defeats, in our joy and in our sadness, when we are healthy and when we are in pain, is now praying for us.
Jesus, our Lord and Savior, prays, "Now, they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me, I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one." Jesus prays for the protection of the disciples. He knows this world is not all rainbows and flowers. He knows what lies ahead for him, the cross. He knows what the world is like. So, Jesus, the Son of God, prays for the disciples. Jesus, God incarnate, prays for us. He prays for our protection in this crazy world. Even more amazing, He prays for us to know the fullness of the love of God. He prays for us to be one with God in love as He is one with God in love. What an incredible prayer. What an incredible gift to us.
On this night so long ago, there was no celebration with champagne. There was no award ceremony for the winning disciples. There was no plaque on the wall to commemorate the end of the project. There was a dinner with some close friends, an act of love, some teaching and one incredible prayer: some bread and wine, some water, some teaching and a prayer. Jesus' earthly work is complete. The work of the disciples begins. They are given bread, wine, and water. To God and for them an incredible prayer of glory, love and protection is offered. As today's disciples we continue in the work and the tradition of those early followers of Christ. We are invited to the meal. We are washed in water to be a part of the ministry of God. We are the recipients of the protection and love Jesus prayed for on that night so long ago. We come and we are fed. We are washed. We know that our God prays for us through the power of the Holy Spirit. In grateful response we give the glory to God. For we know that no matter what the world throws our way we have received the most incredible gift ever offered. We have received the gift of eternal life: a gift freely given through the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
To God be the glory, the majesty, the dominion and the power.