That They Would Know
We’re going to dive right into this text here today, and wrap up this short series that serves as an introduction to the book of Acts, so I invite you to turn to John 17 with me today. And today it’s going to be really important that you have scripture in your hands. I wouldn’t normally recommend using your phone for the Bible, simply because of how much distraction is offered in our phones, but today, it’s all fair game.
In fact, I’m not going to put any scripture on the screen today. Well, maybe a verse or two here or there, but I really want your nose in the word today because we’re going to attack chapter 17 like it’s one big Bible Study. I’ve never done this before, haven’t really preached like this before, but I love this kind of Bible study. So, this room is now a living room. We’re all sitting on couches in a big circle, and I’m just facilitating the Bible study, okay?
And there are two reasons we’re doing it this way today – 1) is that I think the text lends itself to this kind of study very well, and 2) It is always my desire to help you learn how to study God’s word.
Again, if you’re a guest at River City, John 13-17 is a rather lengthy conversation between Jesus and his 12 disciples, where he starts telling them about what life will be like after he is crucified, buried, risen again, and then goes back to the Father. Multiple times, he has promised them a Counselor – someone else – who is coming to take his place, and Jesus insists that this will be to their advantage. The disciples don’t have all the pieces put together just yet, so they are struggling to understand where he’s going, why he’s going, and how he can be so sure that it’ll be better for them.
Then, halfway through, one of the disciples bounces from the room, because he’s agreed to betray Jesus, and turn him over to the religious leaders who want to see Jesus put to death for blasphemy – for calling himself God.
So, where we pick up in chapter 17, Jesus is just a few hours away from being arrested in the middle of the night, just outside the city of Jerusalem. But before that whole scene begins to go down in chapter 18, Jesus begins to pray.
This is one of the most amazing chapters in the whole Bible. We are about to read the words that Jesus prayed to his Father. Let that sink in for a second. Think about what I just said. We are about to read the words that Jesus, God the Son prayed to God the Father – Two members of the TRINITY HAVE A CONVERSATION!!!! right in front of the disciples, and perhaps one of the greatest miracles we never talk about is that somehow these 11 men listening in aren’t just being incinerated by the glory of it all. What we are about to read here is absolutely unbelievable. It’s insane that any of those disciples were coherent enough to write it down. Anyway, that’s what we’re reading right now. If that sounds boring or uninteresting to you, our security team will use the AED device on you to wake you up.
Now, because this is a prayer, here’s how I want to do this. I know Shiree just read this for us, but instead of studying through it verse by verse one at a time, we’re going to read it all again. Front to back.
But as we do, I’m going to let you in on how I approach the Bible when I sit down to study. Because reading the Bible is like digging for treasure. You can find arrowheads and things like that on the surface, and that’s exciting too. You can just read a scripture one time and find some pretty good arrowheads. But when you take time to read it again, slowly and carefully and watchfully, you’ll find a lot more the second time through than the first time. And if you read a third and fourth time, praying through things you’re reading, you’ll see words you didn’t see the first time through. That is because the Spirit is giving revelation to you. As you slow down and dig, He is opening your eyes to see and understand God’s word – real time! Pretty cool.
We don’t have time to do a full blown bible study session, but my goal today is to give you a taste of how this works so that you can do it on your own when you read the Bible for yourself.
When I study a passage in the Bible, one of the first things that catches my attention are phrases or words that get repeated. When you’re reading ancient writings, that is one marker you look for among others that can be a huge help to understanding what you are reading.
To speed things up, I have spotted two phrases that get repeated a lot in this passage. I’m going to put them on the screen and that’s what I want you to listen for and pay attention to as we go along. See how many of them you can spot, where Jesus says the Father gave him something, or where Jesus says he gave the disciples or gave people something. You can underline them or make a note – whatever. But look for these two things as we go along. Okay? Understand?
John 17:1-2 You saw those, right?
- What did the Father give Jesus in verse 2? Authority over all flesh, and what else does the Father give to the son? People. “Everyone you have given him.”
- What does the Son give to those people? Eternal life. You see what I’m asking you to look for? Okay, let’s hit it.
Alright, did you see those in there? The Father gave Jesus authority over all flesh, gave him people to save, and what else? (hit a couple on the list) And then what did you notice Jesus has given or done for us?
What has the Father given Jesus?
- Authority to save v2
- People to give eternal life to v2, 6 (2x), 9, 24
- A mission (“the work”, of giving eternal life to everyone the Father gave him”) v4
- His words v8
- The Father’s name (authority) v11, 12
- Love v23, 24, 26
- Glory v24
What has Jesus given or done for us?
- Revealed the Father v6, 26
- The Father’s words v8, 14
- Protection/guarding v12
- A mission v18
- The glory the Father gave him v22
- Shown us the love the Father showed him v23
Pretty wild isn’t it? I love this so much. We’ve already gained a lot from this prayer, but we’re not done. Let’s make one more pass through this, and this time I want you to look for two more things:
- What do the Father and Son want for believers? What do they want us to have or know? When you are praying for someone else, you often ask the Father to help them, or give them something, or be near to them… what does Jesus ask the Father to do for YOU? Or for these disciples here?
- And then, how do we get those things that Jesus wants for us? What is our role as believers?
Ready for round 3? Come on, let's sift for a little more treasure here, this time I’ll start in verse 6.
So, let’s answer that first question: What do the Father and/or the Son want for us?
What do the Father & Son want for us
- Eternal life/Knowing God & his Son v3, 6, 7, 8
- Perseverance/Protection v15
- Joy v13
- Sanctification (being made holy/set apart) by your word v17
- Unity/Oneness to each other v11, 21, 22
- Union with Christ v21, 23, 26
- The world will know/believe v21, 23
- Jesus wants us to be with him where he is right now, to see his glory v24
- Ongoing knowledge of his name v26
- Loved by God v26
So let me put this all together, summarizing the essence of what I think Jesus is praying:
God wants us to know him. To know him for who he is – to know his name, The Great I AM WHO I AM, that he’s not up for discussion. There are no boxes or categories that he fits into. He just is who he is, take him or leave him. He is the sovereign and eternal Father, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished…(Ex 34:6-7) His heart for the human beings that he created is that we would know him, know his glory, know his purposes that he had in mind when he sent Jesus, and that we would know just how much he loves us.
So God gave Jesus authority over all people, every human being on earth, some who will receive his words and be transformed by them, and some who will not. Then, he assigns Jesus the work of doing what is necessary for people to actually have eternal life – which, of course, leaving his place in heaven to come to earth where he added “human being” to all the things he already was: born to a virgin, raised like a normal Jewish boy, grew up fully obedient to his earthly parents while perfectly obeying his Heavenly Father’s will… even when that meant being physically tortured and crucified and spiritually absorbing the wrath of God toward sinners. He taught the words of truth in the authority of the Father, all the while knowing he is dearly loved by his Father, and has both come from and is returning to a place of glory, where he will be exalted and revered and praised.
In his last three years, Jesus passed on everything he’d received from his Father to his disciples…12 men assigned to him by the Father, with one who would betray him. He shows them who the Father is, reveals the Fathers heart to them through his words and miracles and compassion, all the while protecting and guarding them from the evil one – except for Judas, and that was allowed so that it would fulfill the scriptures. He gives them purpose by sending them on the very same mission to make known the Father’s name to the world, even at the risk of their own lives, because knowing the Father by knowing the Son is what eternal life really is all about.
So Jesus asks the Father to restrain evil in our lives and in our world so that the evil one, our accuser, the devil isn’t able to accomplish everything he would like to accomplish. The Father and Son want us to joyfully live by a different standard of truth than the rest of the world – truth that is firmly and fully anchored in the word of God – and that we would be always learning, always growing, always putting into practice what we’ve learned in his word (that’s what sanctification means), especially the practice that Jesus taught us, which is to live with an “others first” mindset… To not let the little things of personal preferences and differences be something that defines us or divides us, but that we would be united to each other as we are united to Christ!
The end result of all of this, as the disciples faithfully live out the mission of carrying this grace and knowledge of God’s word everywhere they go, is that the watching world will be drawn to the Father and the glory of the Son – including us who are in this room today. And as we respond to the word of God, living by a new standard of truth, we too are drawn into the ongoing effort of making the Father known as we are united in Christ and with each other And the final outcome of all of this is that Jesus gets his desire met – his prayer in v24 gets answered – those who love the Father and obey his word are made ready to be with Jesus where he is, to see his glory, to know him and the Father for all of eternity!
So, the Father wants all of that for you – Now what do you have to do to get it? What do you have to do to have all of those things apply to you? Look at Jesus’ prayer, what were the things the disciples did in order to be part of this? We’ve seen the Father giving the Son a lot, the Son giving people a lot…what do the disciples do? I was only able to find three things… v6 and v8.
V6 = They have kept your word: obedience.
V8 = They have received (the words)
V8 = They have believed that you sent me.
Receive, believe and keep the word. Out of all that Jesus prayed, that is our role. The Christian life really isn’t all that complicated. Jesus even told us that – my yoke is easy, my burden is light. I’m not asking you to run marathons, I’m not asking you to climb mountains, solve brain teasers, or make a trip to a certain city once a year, I’m not asking you to kill your sheep, bulls, goats, etc anymore, I’m not asking you to paint blood on your doorposts…
The Father and Son are sovereignly overseeing all of these other things, and the only thing they ask of you is to
- Receive the word (James 1:21 – Rid yourselves of all moral filth… and humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls),
- Believe it is true (Romans 10:9 - if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved),
- and then Do what the word says and keep doing it (John 14:15 – if you love me you will keep my commands)!
Or as my wife put it when I was running all this past her this week: Our role is to trust and obey as he sends you out into the world with the message of hope.
Now, since we’re headed into the book of Acts, you might ask, well where does the Holy Spirit come into play in all this? Jesus didn’t mention the Spirit here in his prayer, but from everything we’ve read in the last three chapters about who the Holy Spirit is – the Counselor, the Advocate, the Helper, – we can pretty safely conclude that we can’t even do those three simple things without his help.
- We can’t receive the word unless God first moves in our hearts, working the hard soil to make it receptive (Matthew 13), or as the prophet Ezekiel put it (Ezekiel 36:26-27), God needs to first take out that hardened heart of stone – that cold, dead, petrified heart that cannot receive the word, and give us a heart of flesh that can…or as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2 – he makes us alive together with Christ! So the Spirit enables us to receive the word.
- We also can’t believe the word unless what we learned last week from John 16 is also true, that the Spirit, the counselor, the Advocate, the Helper has the assignment of convicting the world of sin and righteousness. The Spirit uses the written and proclaimed word of God (either in a sermon, or a song, or a conversation, or a fellow believer in the Church, or a spouse, a parent, a child, a counselor) to point out where we have not obeyed or where we have stopped obeying. He points out where we’ve believed lies, and points us to what is true so that we can once again choose to believe the truth instead of a deception. He also uses the word of God to show us that Jesus is our righteousness; that we have been bought at a price, and that our redemption is happening real time as we speak, in and through the finished work of Jesus.
- And we can’t obey without the Spirit’s help. Ezekiel 36 goes on, where God says, I will put my Spirit in them and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. He will put his Spirit in us and cause us, yes he causes us, to follow his commands.
Maybe that’s why the Spirit is called “the Helper” and not “the Booster.” Judging by these four chapters, The Holy Spirit isn’t a booster pack in your life, as if he were an accessory that only a few people have, like heated steering wheels or a hot tub on the patio. He’s not something God gave us that’ll take your walk with Jesus from a 3 to an 8 or 9. It’s like Jesus was great here on earth, but he had to get out of the way to make room for the new and improved Jesus – now inside of you!
No, no, no. According to how Jesus is speaking to his disciples here in John 13-17, The Holy Spirit is not the fireworks that makes the Christian life more glamorous – the Holy Spirit is the power that makes the Christian life possible!
So in John 15:5 when Jesus says “You can do nothing apart from me” he wasn’t messing around. He really means it. Now, of course, people do all kinds of things apart from Jesus all the time – so what does he mean? We can’t stay attached to the vine or bear fruit without his help. We can’t serve those who don’t deserve it without his help. We can’t endure persecution without his help. We can’t see or repent of our sin without his help of conviction. We can’t recall or understand or desire God’s word without help. We can’t proclaim the word effectively without his help… We can’t do anything of eternal value apart from Jesus’ doing the work of making us clean by his blood, and his Spirit in us, constantly applying that work to us. He is the one who takes everything Jesus has done and applies it to us, some things all at once, some things little by little.
And so, thankfully, graciously, mercifully, Jesus Christ, who was ascended to the throne of heaven, with everything under his feet, given the name that is above every name, where everything in heaven and on earth is fully entrusted to his authority, this same Jesus who didn’t demand to be served while he was on earth, doesn’t simply go through literal hell for us, rise again, get back to heaven and sit down with a huge sigh saying “boy I’m glad that’s over with!” He doesn’t sit down and say, “I did my part – now you do yours.”
Look at verse 26 - Jesus prays: I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.
Jesus had been making the Father known to the disciples for the past 3 years in the things he’s said and done, he now he makes a promise to his Father that he will not stop making his name known to us until we fully understand just how loved we really are.
Everything Jesus did while he was on earth, and everything the Spirit continues to do in and through the global and local Church today is not simply so that we would do more for God! It’s so we would also be able to comprehend with all the saints…
- how high and how wide and how long and how deep is the Father’s love,
- and that we know the love of Christ which can’t even be put into words,
- so that at the end of the day, we would be filled with all the fullness of God – which is JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF!
So here are the response questions for today. Among other things, what Jesus’ prayer says that he and the Father want for us is that we would
- Know the Father’s name/his love
- Be united to each other
- Be sanctified by the word
So as we move into response today, I want to ask you to something we haven’t done in quite a while, and that is to get into groups of 3-4 people, circle up your chairs with someone close to you, and we’ll pray together out loud here.
I do realize and acknowledge that not everyone will be comfortable with this, and so if you just absolutely 10 out of 10 do NOT want to do this, I’m not going to come around and force you to pray. But an important part of being in the family of God is that we have the opportunity to talk to our heavenly Father together.
So, quickly get into your groups.
- Rejoice in the Father’s love! – He’s given us his Son, he’s given us his word, he’s given us his Spirit… rejoice in those things, thank him for all that he is
- Pray for unity in the Church – A big part of Jesus’ prayer in those last 6-7 verses is that everyone who believes in him would be one, that we would be unified in our love for each other, for the word, and for the Father. Let’s ask him for that
- Lost would be saved – Jesus sends his followers into the world, because it is his heart to make the Father’s name known to more and more people. So pray for opportunities this week, pray for someone by name if you want to that you know needs to receive, believe, and obey the gospel, pray for our city or the city where you live.
Make sure one person in your group doesn’t get stuck praying for all three… take turns on these and then we’ll close with a song.