In the seventh Sunday of Easter, the lectionary points us toward considering how Jesus prayed. Some people suggest that Chapter 17 should be titled the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ as opposed to the ‘Family Prayer’ we tend to share during our Sunday services (do you remember those?).
Jesus is praying at a time when he is about to be arrested. He was aware that he was facing execution and chose to spend his precious moments talking to his Heavenly father. In verses 1-5 his thoughts are directed towards the glory of God’s salvation plan that was about to be fulfilled. In verses 6-19 Jesus turns his thoughts toward his disciples and being aware of the hardship they were about to face was concerned for them to be equipped in order to be able to face up to and indeed cope with the traumatic events there were to undergo. The final part of the Lord’s Prayer was a pray for all his believers. Here he pleads for unity among us, that he himself would be fully known, that heaven would be available to us, that we would have God’s love abiding in us.
I would like to concentrate on the first five verses which highlight Jesus’s appreciation and understanding of the situation. It begins in verse three with some DETAIL. Jesus begins by stating his knowledge of what eternal life is. It is based on knowing God the Father as the only true God and Jesus Christ who was sent from the Father. Eternal life cannot be recognised unless there is knowledge of the Father and acknowledgement of the Son.
Secondly, in verse four Jesus celebrates what has been DONE. He praises his father because he has accomplished all that was expected of him. Glory has been attributed to the Father because Jesus has finished the work he was given to do.
Thirdly, verse five has the triumphant DECLARATION, over the fact that Jesus was going to be reinstated to his rightful position, namely be in the presence of his Father with the glory he has with him before the world began.
Eternal life can only be known if we believe in the only true God and his Son. We also need to acknowledge that God’s salvation plan included his Son being a perfect sacrifice which pays the price of our sin, which sets us free to have an abundant eternal life which begins the moment we acknowledge God’s love that has been poured out in such grace and mercy that we can know we have been forgiven and set free to have an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father with no boundaries between us.
This Sunday is also recognised as Aldersgate Sunday when we Methodists remember the conversion of John Wesley. He was a very devout religious man, but he struggled to make sense of his faith, he knew something was missing. Samuel Wesley’s dying words to his son, John were “The inward witness, son, the inward witness, – that is the proof of Christianity.”
John wrote a journal and he records being challenged as to whether he knew Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
Saturday, February 7, 1736
Mr. Oglethorpe returned from Savannah with Mr. Spangenberg, one of the pastors of the Germans. I soon found what spirit he was of and asked his advice with regard to my own conduct. He said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?” I was surprised and knew not what to answer. He observed it and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused and said, “I know He is the Saviour of the world.” “True,” replied he; “but do you know He has saved you?” I answered, “I hope He has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.” But I fear they were vain words.
The struggle came to a head on Sunday May 24th 1738 and John wrote in his journal this account of how he came to know Jesus Christ personally and went on to embrace eternal life in all its fullness.
“I think it was about five this morning, that I opened my Testament on those words ‘There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature’. (2 Pet, i.4.)
Just as I went out, I opened it again on those words ‘Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God’.
In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The anthem was ‘Out of the Deep have I called unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my Voice’.
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given to me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me.
And the rest as they say is history. John reached that point in his life when his doubts turned to assurance. I wonder where you are in your relationship with God. John Wesley at one point was really struggling, he then appeared to be near yet so far and then his heart was strangely warmed. I wonder where you are in your relationship with God, do you have the proof of Christianity?