St Peter's Church, Carlton Colville with St Andrew's Church, Mutford

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John 17:1-11

John 17:1-11

Here’s a quiz for you – Name the gospels in the order they appear in the Bible.  Simple really.  But that’s not the order they were written in and as you will have noticed they’re not the exactly the same, they were written at different times and more importantly by very different people for different readers.

Scholars think that Mark actually comes first in his writing. It’s a short gospel, fully of punchiness and wanting to get on with the story.  It’s very eyewitness, not that he was the only eye-witness of course. For Mark, there is no Christmas Story, he’s straight in with his message.

After Mark, comes both Matthew and Luke.  The compilers of the Bible decided Matthew should be first because he opens his gospel with a genealogy linking the birth of Jesus through Joseph back to the old Testament.   A bit like that TV thing… in the previous episode.  Matthew also writes for a Jewish audience who would be looking for a Messiah, and here He is!  Mind you, it’s Matthew who brings the pagan wise men into the Christmas Story.

Luke on the other hand, opens his take on the Gospel with an address to his reader Theophilus, who is not a Jew, but who needs to know what has been going on, as a Gentile. It’s Luke who writes for Mr Average perhaps, or even Mr Less than Average.  Luke brings the shepherds to the Christmas Story.

Scholars think that both Matthew and Luke either spoke to the same eyewitnesses as Mark, or even stole from his verbal Gospel, Ummmm!  But they also have a number of other stories that are not in Mark.  They are from an unknown source Q.  (Star Trekkers out there will know of another Q of course).

Clever people have come up with this book for people interested in this. The three gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels and this book sets up the three gospels against each other to show links and unique passages.

But of course, today we hear from the Gospel according to John.  John follows none of the previous three.  His aim is to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, and he writes much later on from the other three – when there has been time to think and ponder.  More of which anon.

But taking you back to when we were in church and when the Gospel reading is announced in our Communion Service, the reader says ‘Hear the Gospel ACCORDING TO’ and that’s important as we can then start to think about who the gospel writer is writing to.

In today’s reading from the gospel according to John, John puts us where there is nobody else!!!!  We are ear-wigging in on, or innocently overhearing, a conversation between the Son and His Father.

I can be really bad at that, both Sandra and Jonny would tell me off.  Jim and Linda were having a conversation next door recently.  Some how they got on to the Flintstones and they got through Fred and Wilma, and Barnie and…..and then they got stuck. Who was Barnie’s wife?  And what were the two neighbours children called?  Now there’s a quiz for you. And of course, I knew but I couldn’t just shout over the garden fence because that would admit I was ear-wigging.  Ok that’s a funny story but sometimes we can make good by supporting our neighbours by over hearing something. And Jesus was an expert in such matters, speaking to one audience whilst having his ear or overhearing the murmurings from around him.

So back to today’s reading where John places us overhearing this conversation.  For once the disciples, the Pharisees, the crowds, fade into the background and John invites us to overhear this intimate conversation.  We of course are not the ones being addressed but we are included in Jesus’ prayers.  This is a curtain raiser to the continuing life of God.  It’s a centerpiece of John’s gospel, Jesus praying to His father about what will happen after his physical departure from the world. Jesus praying that his father will continue to protect his disciples, continuing to protect us.

In some ways for John this IS Jesus’ final words, although it is placed before the passion and both his death.  Jesus, it seems, has already crossed the threshold, and has begun his journey back to his father. 

Jesus acknowledges that his life on earth has been to glorify his father.  And what work does he do to glorify his father? He makes God known.  Once asked to summarise his mission, a church leader replied: ‘To create opportunities for God’. Yes, that reflects the mission of Jesus.  Not to glorify himself, and let’s be honest death at the cross is hardly a glorious ending. It’s not just his intention to make God known that brings glory.  Glory comes when people respond.  So Jesus can say of his disciples, ‘they know that everything you have given me is from you…they have received your words and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you have sent me.’ Everything received from Jesus comes from God.

In the second part of the prayer, Jesus prays for the future welfare of his disciples. He passes on a baton and they are left after his departure in the world.  But they no longer belong in this world because they have been born again.  So they are aliens in the world, and their presence provokes trouble.  He asks, though, not that they be taken out of the world, but that they might be protected in God’s name.  What a prayer then for these times as Jesus’ disciples of the 21st Century, not that we will be taken but that we will be protected – in God’s name.  For they or we are sent into the world to fulfil the same purpose for which Jesus was sent into the world – to challenge the world. John 3:16 For God so loved the World, that he sent Jesus, for you, for me. (can’t you just hear those words in broad Yorkshire from Peter this morning?

Jesus’ work doesn’t stop though with the ending of his earthly life.  Yes a baton has been passed to his disciples to glorify God on earth.  But at this point in the gospel there is still more to come… Only by being lifted up on that cross can he draw all people to himself.  Only now can he pray that his disciples will be one, because he had laid down his life for his friends.

His prayer is part of the unity that Jesus shares with the Father: ‘that they may become one’. For many of us, both laity and clergy that can be taken to a call to pursue church unity in it’s purest form, tearing down our traditions and ways to physically become one church.  But that’s not what John means; it’s a prayer that we as followers of Jesus should be part of the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Just as the Father gives life to the Son, so Christians are one with one another and with the father and son as we have received this life.  Christ is not merely telling his disciples about life in union with him and how to attain it.  He is imparting it to them.  Christians are being incorporated with Christ in the life of God. Just as Jesus said I AM the way, not just a pointer or a road map, JESUS IS the life. All of this is based on Jesus relationship with His father.  That is the model of our own relationship to God.  Jesus brings this about – he draws all people after him into the sphere of eternal life, which is union with God.  It’s not tacked on after death.  We are not of this world now and then the next world after death, Jesus says it begins here and now.

However awkward, or embarrassed, we might find ourselves overhearing conversations, the prayer of Jesus to his father is one that we must hear and hear again to hear afresh the commission he gives to us and to rejoice in his continuing intercession for our protection and our strengthening.

And as to the Flintstones, neighbours who probably overheard each other and looked after each other? Fred and Wilma with Pebbles, Barney and Betty with Bam Bam.

How about the pets then?



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