Sunday, May 12, 2013

John 17:20-26 Mother's Day, Seventh Sunday of Easter

It’s nice that on this Mother’s Day, when a lot of us are thinking about our families, Jesus would be talking about family too.  Maybe you didn’t think of it that way when you heard the Gospel read, but he was talking about his family.  He was praying to his Father, and praying for those who are children of God.  The idea of unity in this family was mentioned several times.  In fact, he was praying that everyone who believes in him would have such a close relationship that they are actually like one person.
This unity that Jesus wanted us to have in his family sounds a lot like what probably all of us wish our families could be like.  That kind of unity is a long shot down here on planet earth, though.  You don’t have to look any further than your own family.   My mom used to say that all she wanted for Mother’s Day was for everyone to get along.  A little help getting things done would have been good too. 
The problem can be a lot worse than kids fighting and wanting to play instead of doing chores.  I would guess that there are more of you than what I know who hear the word “family” and shudder.  You don’t think of unity.  Your family isn’t a safe place where you will always be loved.  It’s a place ripped up by sin.  Everybody, even people who don’t believe—everyone wants unity in good families and a peaceful world.  It’s a long shot.
It would help if God were in all of us, pulling us all together.  If I love God, and God is in me, and I know that you love God and God is in you too, then I have another reason why I would want to get along with you.  But even the church, with all the people who love God, is not united.  We have our squabbles and jealously too.
Take that all together—the fighting in our families and even in our church.  Perfect unity down here isn’t going to happen.  And as painful as all of that fighting is, and as much as we want unity, the problem is even bigger.  In heaven where God is, there is perfect unity.  Everyone gets along.  They are one.  This fighting and arguing and hurting each other doesn’t belong there.  Its what the people in hell do.
We have a real struggle.  It’s good to know that Jesus is praying for us.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
John 17:20-26

For a united family down here.
1.  Its horribly ironic that the closer we become to another human being, the more likely we are to hurt that person.  How many times have you hurt your brother, sister, parents, or spouse—even just yesterday?  Who is more likely to hurt you—your friends or family?  Probably family.  Sometimes it can be so bad that you don’t even want to be around them any more.
Sometimes you see a family that really seems to have it all together.  Mom and Dad love each other, and the kids are good.  They love being together.  They have their issues, but they always work it out.  Usually you don’t know what’s really going on behind the scenes in those families, but you want to be like them anyway.  Mostly I think of the old time TV families, like the Cleavers on Leave it to Beaver.  One of my favorites was always the Cosby Show.  Today, maybe you’ve seen Duck Dynasty, a reality show about the Robertson family and their business of making duck calls.  As much as they tease each other and irritate each other sometimes, they always get together for a big multi-family meal at the end of the show, and Willie always closes the show by talking about something that is great about their family.  I watch that and think, I want to have a family like that.
God has a bigger, better idea though.  He isn’t just looking for us to live in a happy, united family.  He wants all of our families to be united in one big happy family of God.
Jesus prayed for us.  He prayed that we would be united, all together in him, and that he would be in us.  He prayed that we would have the glory that he has.  I can’t tell you exactly what he meant by this, but I do know that when we listen and believe his Word, the Word that the apostles spoke and wrote, we will have a very close relationship with him and with God the Father.  We will be in God and God will be in us.  I don’t know how to understand that except that we will be super close to God when we believe his Word.  
Jesus said that he wants us to have this close relationship with him and the Father because he has given us the glory that the Father gave him.  He is talking about the glory of being the Son of God.  He has always been God, but when he was born as a man he was given the right to call himself not just a man, but the Son of God the Father.  He has given us the same glory, so that we can call ourselves children of God too.  It says that also in John 1:12, “To all who believe in him he gave the right to be children of God.
It’s amazing, but true.  Dysfunctional people like us and our dysfunctional families who often act like we belong in hell—Jesus has made us part of the family of God.  He paid the adoption price. It was the blood he poured out for our sins.  1 Peter 1:19 says that you have been redeemed, or bought for God, not with gold or silver but with the precious blood of Christ.
That’s a big price that Jesus paid to have us in his family, and it’s a price that he paid for the whole world—anyone who believes will be part of his family.  This is why he prayed for unity among his people down here too.  He wants the world to see that Christians have something special when we care for each other like one big happy family.  Then they will want to be a part of it, come to hear the Word, and Jesus will live in them and bring them into the family too.
2.  It was a big price that Jesus paid to have us all in the family, and you can tell how much he cares about the family when he prayed for us.  Its like he could see how dysfunctional we are down here, always fighting and hurting each other.  It just isn’t pleasant.  Sin rips us up.  As he prayed to his Father in heaven, he thought of how he would soon be in heaven too.  Thinking about how nice it is up there where everyone is united—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, and all believers who have died are one with them, God in them and they in God.  It’s one big super close happy family.  As Jesus thought about what it’s like down here, he prayed to his Father, “I want those you have given me [believers] to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”   Jesus prayed that we would be in heaven with him.
Jesus has such a close relationship with the Father that when he prays for something like that, we know its going to happen.  We are part of God’s perfect family, and we will be in heaven with Jesus.  In fact, Jesus was so sure of it that he could leave us and go ahead of us into heaven.  This last Thursday marked the anniversary of Jesus’ ascension, when he went back to heaven.  As he put it, he was going to prepare a place for us, and he will come back to bring us there.
Jesus prayed that we would be in heaven with him, and he is going to make sure it happens.  Next Sunday is Pentecost, when we remember how the Holy Spirit was given to us just like Jesus asked for.  Jesus asked the Father, and they sent us the Holy Spirit to remind us of Jesus’ words and teach us to obey, so that we will believe him and not fall away.  The Spirit guides us through life and counsels us with God’s Word, so that we will finally die in the faith and be taken up to be with Jesus in heaven, just like he prayed for.  He prayed for us to have unity with each other and with God, first down here on earth, and finally, perfectly in heaven.
I got away from talking about Mother’s Day and families, and for a reason.  I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day, and I hope what you heard today helps to pull your family together.  But that isn’t really the point.  Sad to say it, but our sins will continue to ruin Mother’s Day.  It’s a sinful world that we live in too, and plenty of women will never be mothers.  The point is that no matter what your family situation is down here, you are part of a perfect family up there in heaven.  You are part of the perfectly united family of God.  It isn’t perfect for you yet—you have to die and be taken to heaven first.  But until then, you have God living in you and drawing you closer to him and to your fellow Christians.  You have the glory of being able to call yourself a child of God.  You have all this because of your brother, Jesus, who prays for you.  Amen.