Lectionary Sermon for Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:20-26 We are loved

John chapter 17 is about a prayer, a prayer that Jesus prayed on the night before his crucifixion. It is a prayer for the disciples, but it is also a prayer for us.  

Jesus says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Jesus knew his work would continue. Jesus knew that we would be given the same opportunity as the disciples who were with him. Jesus knew there would be those in the future who would believe.

For the last three months, I have been learning what I can about open theology. The basic premise of open theology is that God does not know the future. I cannot accept open theology. I believe it makes time the ultimate power in the universe. Open theology believes the future is about possibilities. This I agree. I believe the future has limitless possibilities and that God knows all the possible choices a human being can make, and God does work to influence our choices for our good but does not make us choose. I agree with open theology that the future is not completely set except for the ultimate intention, the prime purpose of God.

In his prayer, Jesus prays that the Father will provide what is needed to be in the world but not of the world. Jesus prays that the Father would work to bring us to unity with the One God who is three. Jesus prays that we can be one in and with the ultimate intention, the divine prime purpose of God.

Jesus lets us know that his prayer, his plan, and his purpose if for us to know the love of God and to live in the light of this love in a world that is filled with darkness. Jesus lets us know that we learn to live as we were intended as we learn more about God.

We have even a more difficult path. The disciples were present with the Lord. They saw Jesus do things that could only be explained as being done by God. They heard his words themselves. We cannot be like Thomas and feel the wounds in Jesus hands and side. We cannot be like Peter and have breakfast with Jesus. We cannot be like Mary and pour ointment on Jesus’s feet as an act of love and worship. We must trust in God’s word and to trust in the Lord to make God’s promises real to us. We must let this faith live in us without the benefit of our five senses. Jesus says we will be blessed. As it is written, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn. 20:29 ESV)

Jesus also knows how hard this life will be. Jesus knows how hard it will be and wants us to know he knows what we face. Earlier in the prayer, Jesus says this, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (Jn. 17:15 ESV) Jesus knows what we are up against. Jesus also wants us to know that we do not fight this fight alone. Jesus wants us to know that God will be with us through all we face. What we experience God experiences.

Our God is not a distant deity. Our God is not a far-off Father. Our God loves us so much that God is willing to live in us and with us, not as a possession but as a companion.

In verses 22-23 Jesus says, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, what they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

In a time in which the world looks at us as consumers, income producers, objects for personal pleasure, beings needed to be controlled, God looks at us with love, an intention of love, a desire of love, a gift of love, and a promise of love. God does this knowing our limitations, our prejudices, our tendency toward selfishness, our being prone to violence, and our egos and still loves us.

God not only loves us but wants us to transcend our sinfulness and grow toward the goal God has for us, perfection. This perfection is not a perfectionism in which we feel we must do things just right, think in a specific perfect manner, or depends on our ability to be perfect in any way. It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to perfection in the intention, desire, and actions of God. We are made perfect in love.

Listen to what our Lord says next, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Jesus speaks not only of the reality we now live in but in the ultimate reality that God has purposed.

We did not come into existence by accident. We were created for a purpose. This is a truth revealed throughout the Scripture by the Psalm, Prophet, and Promise. The psalmist says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:14-16 ESV) The prophet tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11 ESV) And then there is the promise, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (Jn. 14:2-3 ESV)

We were made to be with God, to be loved by God, and to have the ability to love and enjoy God in all the glory which God wants to share with us. This is the great mystery that is experienced, not just known. God has walked with us so that we can walk with God.

Then, Jesus gives us insight into what will be beyond what is to come. Jesus says, “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn. 17:25-26 ESV)

Jesus’s mission was the revelation of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom created in which we can play an eternal part. Jesus is still revealing this truth. Jesus has revealed the very nature and desire of God. God wants us to move beyond this world of moral and spiritual failure that leads to suffering and death. Jesus wants us to know the love of God for all eternity. We are offered the opportunity to be the chosen, the redeemed, the saved, and the transformed. This is what God wants. Since it is what a loving, caring God wants, it will never be forced. It must be willingly received. This is the call to follow Jesus. Jesus makes himself known to us through love and for love. The issue then is about our acceptance or rejection of this love. This is your right, your power, your choice. What will it be?