The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 17:1-11

THIS IS THE THIRD SUNDAY IN A ROW WHERE THE GOSPEL RECORDS THE WORDS OF JESUS TO HIS DISCIPLES IN THE UPPER ROOM ON THE NIGHT HE WAS BETRAYED. THE PAST TWO SUNDAYS WE HAVE LOOKED CLOSELY AT JESUS’ WORDS TO HIS DISCIPLES; “LET NOT YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED,” AND, “IF YOU LOVE ME YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.” NOW, HOWEVER, THERE IS A CHANGE; JESUS IS NO LONGER SPEAKING TO HIS DISCIPLES, BUT LIFTS UP HIS EYES TO HEAVEN TO PRAY TO THE FATHER FOR HIMSELF AND FOR HIS DISCIPLES. THIS IS NOT A SERMON OR A LESSON, AND THERE IS NO TIME OR PLACE FOR HIS DISCIPLES TO INTERRUPT OR ASK QUESTIONS AS THEY HAD BEEN DOING. THIS IS JESUS’ PRAYER, AND THE DISCIPLES ARE PRIVILEGED TO LISTEN IN AS JESUS PRAYS. WE KNOW HE OFTEN WENT OFF BY HIMSELF TO PRAY, AND EVEN, WHEN ASKED, TAUGHT THE DISCIPLES HOW TO PRAY IN WHAT WE CALL THE LORD’S PRAYER, WHICH REALLY SHOULD BE CALLED THE DISCIPLE’S PRAYER. WHAT WE HAVE HEARD THIS MORNING IS THE LORD’S PRAYER, AS HE PRAYS FOR HIMSELF, HIS DISCIPLES, AND US. EVER SINCE CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, IN THE FIFTH CENTURY COMMENTED THAT HERE JESUS IS PRAYING LIKE A GREAT HIGH PRIEST, THIS HAS BEEN KNOWN AS THE CHRIST’S HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYER. JESUS IS OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.

IN THE OLD TESTAMENT THERE WERE THREE HOLY OFFICES ORDAINED BY GOD; PROPHET, PRIEST, AND KING. ONLY THOSE CALLED BY GOD, AND PROPERLY ANOINTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT SHOULD HAVE ENTERED INTO THESE OFFICES. ALTHOUGH JESUS IS THE PERFECT FULFILLMENT OF ALL THESE OFFICES, HERE HE FUNCTIONS IN THE OFFICE OF HIGH PRIEST. THE WORK OF THE PRIEST WAS TO MEDIATE FOR MAN TO GOD. THE PRIESTS CARRIED OUT THEIR WORK AT THE TEMPLE WHERE THEY WOULD TAKE THE SACRIFICES THE PEOPLE BROUGHT TO THEM AND PRESENT THEM TO GOD. THERE WERE ‘THANK OFFERINGS’ OF INCENSE OR SMALL ANIMALS WHICH WERE SACRIFICED AND BURNED, ‘MEMORIAL OFFERINGS’ WHICH WERE WAVED ABOVE THE ALTAR, BUT MOSTLY THERE WERE ‘SIN OFFERINGS’ OF LARGER ANIMALS, EVEN CATTLE. THE PRIEST WOULD TAKE THE ANIMAL FROM THE SINNER, PRESENT IT TO THE LORD, SACRIFICE IT, THROW SOME OF THE BLOOD ON THE CURTAIN BEFORE THE HOLY OF HOLIES, THEN SPRINKLE SOME OF THE BLOOD ON THE PENITENT AND SAY, “THE LORD HAS FORGIVEN YOU ALL YOUR SINS.”

THE HIGH PRIEST, HOWEVER, DID NOT JUST MEDIATE FOR A MAN OR WOMAN, OR THEIR FAMILY. HE PERFORMED ONE FUNCTION ON ONE DAY OF THE YEAR ON BEHALF OF THE ENTIRE NATION, THE DAY OF ATONEMENT. ON THAT DAY, HE WOULD TAKE A LAMB AND SACRIFICE IT AT THE ALTAR. THEN, WITH A ROPE TIED TO HIS FOOT IN CASE HE WAS STRUCK DEAD BY GOD, HE WOULD CARRY THE BLOOD INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES AND POUR IT OVER THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. IN THIS WAY, HE WOULD ATONE FOR THE SINS OF ALL OF ISRAEL BY ONE SACRIFICE.

NOW, IN THE UPPER ROOM, JUST BEFORE HE WILL GIVE HIS BODY OVER TO BE SACRIFICED AND HIS BLOOD TO BE SHED, OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST PRAYS. HERE WE SEE OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST INTERCEDING FOR HIS DISCIPLES, AND FOR ALL WHO WILL COME TO BELIEVE THROUGH THEIR WORD. FIRST, HE PRAYS FOR HIMSELF, THAT THE FATHER WOULD GIVE HIM THE STRENGTH TO BE BOTH THE WORTHY HIGH PRIEST AND SACRIFICE. “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.” IN ALL THAT HE HAD DONE, HE GAVE GLORY TO HIS FATHER, AND ETERNAL LIFE BEGINS IN TRUSTING IN THE FATHER AS HE IS MADE KNOWN THROUGH HIS SON. NOW, WITH HIS LAST AND GREATEST WORK BEFORE HIM, HE PRAYS THAT THE FATHER WILL RETURN HIM TO THE GLORY HE HAD BEFORE TIME BEGAN. THAT GLORY, HOWEVER, AS HE WELL KNOWS, CAN COME ONLY THROUGH HIS SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS.

HE PRAYS FOR HIS DISCIPLES, “THOSE WHOM YOU GAVE ME FROM THE WORLD.” AS THE DISCIPLES, AND WE, HEAR HIS PRAYER, THEY, AND WE, AWAKEN TO THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THEY DID NOT COME TO JESUS, BUT GOD THE FATHER, BY HIS SPIRIT, GAVE THEM TO JESUS. THEY, AND WE, WHO BELIEVE AND TRUST IN THE WORD OF JESUS, WHO IN HIS PERSON SHOWS US THE FATHER, TRUST AND BELIEVE BECAUSE WE BELONG TO THE FATHER. “ALL MINE ARE YOURS, AND YOURS ARE MINE; AND I HAVE BEEN GLORIFIED IN THEM.” BY OUR BELIEF AND TRUST THAT GOD IS IN JESUS, AND JESUS IS IN THE FATHER, WE GIVE GLORY TO JESUS, AND SO GLORIFY OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. HIS PRAYER FOR HIS DISCIPLES, AND ALL WHO BELIEVE AND TRUST IN HIM IS THIS; “HOLY FATHER, PROTECT THEM IN YOUR NAME THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN ME, SO THAT THEY MAY BE ONE, AS WE ARE ONE.”

THIS IS THE PURPOSE OF ALL THAT JESUS HAS DONE, AND THE PURPOSE OF HIS SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS; THAT WE MAY BE ONE AS HE AND THE FATHER ARE ONE. ALL HIS PRIESTLY WORK WAS DONE FOR US. HE LIVED HIS LIFE AS A REPRESENTATIVE FOR OUR LIVES. HIS PRAYER IS OFFERED AS THE MEDIATION BETWEEN US AND THE FATHER. HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS IS IN SUBSTITUTION FOR OUR DEATH BECAUSE OF OUR SIN. HE IS THE HOLY SUBSTITUTE FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL. IN HIM, WE BECOME MORE THAN WHAT WE WERE BEFORE; WE BECOME ONE IN HIM, AND THROUGH HIM ONE WITH THE FATHER, AND ONE WITH EACH OTHER. IN HIM, WE ARE MADE INTO THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS, AND AS PRIESTS, WE ARE THE MEDIATORS BETWEEN ALL PEOPLE AND GOD.

AS THE PRIESTS OF GOD, WE PRAY AS OUR HIGH PRIEST PRAYED. WE PRAY FOR OURSELVES, FOR OTHERS, AND FOR THE WORLD. WE PRAY FOR OUR CHURCH AND ITS MISSION, AND FOR ALL PEOPLE TO COME TO KNOW THE TRUTH THAT JESUS IS GOD, AND TO LIVE THEIR LIVES IN THAT TRUTH. WE PRAY FOR TRUE UNITY, NOT BASED ON OUTWARD THINGS LIKE DENOMINATIONS, BUT THE TRUE UNITY THAT COMES WITH BEING ONE IN CHRIST.

AS THE PRIESTS OF GOD, WE SACRIFICE. AS OUR HIGH PRIEST GAVE HIS ALL, SO TOO DO WE STRIVE TO DO THE SAME, WEAK AND IMPERFECT AS WE ARE. WE OFFER OUR SACRIFICES NOT FOR SIN, BUT IN THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE. ALL OUR SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS ARE OUR JOYFUL RESPONSE TO HIS SACRIFICE, AND WE RETURN TO HIM OUR GIFTS FROM THE MANY GIFTS WE HAVE RECEIVED. THROUGH OUR SACRIFICES WE BLESS OTHERS AS WE HAVE BEEN BLESSED. WE EVEN OFFER UP OUR BODIES AS LIVING SACRIFICES TO HIM.

THROUGH OUR PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES, WE LIVE OUT OUR TRUST AND BELIEF IN HIM, AND, IN SO DOING, THE PRAYER OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST IS ANSWERED. THE SPIRIT OF GOD HAS MADE US ONE IN CHRIST, BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF OUR LORD, AND THE CHILDREN OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER. WHAT MORE CAN BE SAID THAN, GLORY TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

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