Series: The Other Lord’s Prayer
#2: “Is Jesus Glorified in Your Life?
John 17:6-10 (NRSV)
As any preacher can tell you, one of the challenges of being a pastor is listening to people’s critiques of you. But throughout my ministry I have had no greater critics than my own children. They have kept me humble! Growing up, our middle son Ben, often complained whenever I offered the Pastoral Prayer. “Why do you have to pray so long?”
I confess that I would sometimes get carried away and pray long prayers – long enough to cause my children to squirm or fall asleep. I suppose I’m still guilty of long prayers. But when it comes to long prayers, I can’t begin to compete with Jesus. According to John’s Gospel, Jesus was prone to long drawn out prayers, too. And at least his Disciples didn’t seem to mind.
This morning we are continuing our reflections in our sermon series on the longest prayer of Jesus we find in any of the Gospels. The entire 17thchapter of John is devoted to recording this prayer of Jesus; a prayer he offered to his Father on behalf of his Disciples, and through their witness, on behalf of all those who would later come to believe in Christ. We are humbled and amazed to realize that, in the final hours before he was to be arrested, tried and crucified, Jesus was praying for you and me!
Last Sunday, the focus was on God’s Glory, and that Jesus came into the world for the purpose of transmitting God’s glory to us. We heard Jesus ask that in the cross, the Father might glorify the Son, so that the world might give glory to God. The theme in the first five verses of the prayer was God’s Glory.
This morning, as we pick up with the 6thverse, the focus shifts. The emphasis isn’t so much on the status of Christ as the Son of God, as it is on the faith of the Disciples in believing in Jesus as the Son of God. The theme is not centered around God’s Glory – but on God’s Name.
According to the New Revised Standard Version which I’ve chosen for our scripture this morning, Jesus prays, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world…” “I have made your name known…”
Now, if you were to pull out your Bible and read this verse, there is a good probably it wouldn’t read exactly that way – it may say nothing about the “name” of God at all. Instead, many translations will have Jesus say something like, “I have revealed you to them…” I suppose that is an OK translation – In general, that’s what the verse means. But that isn’t what the Greek original says. Jesus literally prayed, “I have made your name known…”
Now, why is that significant? Because the “Name of God” has special meaning in scripture. To simply translate this verse, “I have revealed you…” misses a lot of the depth of meaning – we fail to see some of what Jesus is saying here.
If you have been in Bible Studies or heard many sermons in your life, you probably already are aware that there is great significance given to Names in the Bible – much more so than names mean in our day. So, what might Jesus have meant when he prayed, “I have made your name known?”
I think he probably meant it in a number of different ways:
First, in biblical times, names were more than mere labels, simply some random collection of syllables we use to distinguish ourselves from one another. A name in Bible times did “not simply mean the name by which a person is called. It means the whole character of the person in so far as it can be known.”1
Even today, we have this concept. We speak of trying to protect our good name, or making a name for ourselves. We lament when our name has been besmirched, or when we have brought shame on our family name. Our names and our identities are inseparable.
We see this in the names of those we read about in scripture: A name in those days had great meaning – it often described the circumstances of a person’s birth, a blessing upon the child, or their characteristics or the role they would play in the salvation story. For instance, consider the meaning of these biblical names: Adam = earth being; Eve = mother; Moses = saved from the water; David = Beloved; Daniel = God is my judge; Peter = rock; John = gracious gift of God; Jesus = God is my salvation. Their names tell us something significant about who they were as people.
Does your name have a meaning? Is it an accurate description of who you are?
So, names in the Bible often give us a clue as to the role the person bearing that name would play in the story of Salvation. They tell us something of their character, of who they really are.
If all this is true for human beings, it is even more true for God. When scripture refers to the name of God, it is speaking of God’s character and nature. When we know God’s name, it is a way of saying that we have been given a glimpse into who God truly is – God’s nature and character.
We see this throughout the scriptures; in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name put their trust in you.” Or, in Psalm 22:22, “I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters.” And as Isaiah envisions the new age to come, he quotes God as saying, “My people shall know my name.” (Is. 52:6)
So, when Jesus says that “I have made your name known,” his is really saying, “I have enabled people to see what the real nature of God is like.. .” It’s another way of saying , “Those who have seen me, have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
William Barclay, the great Bible commentator, expressed it like this, “It is Jesus’ supreme claim that in him, men see the mind, the character, the heart of God.”1
So, to say that by his life and death Jesus revealed God’s name, that means (first of all) that, as we look at Jesus we are given a glimpse into the very nature and character of God himself.
But there is a second meaning to Jesus’ words. The phrase “Name of God” may also refer to the Proper Name by which God is known.
Do you remember the story of Moses’ call, where the voice of God speaks to Moses from the burning bush? After being raised in the palaces of Egypt, Moses had killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating an Israelite slave. He fled into exile in the Land of Midian, where he established a new life for himself as a shepherd. One day, as he was caring for his flocks, he saw a burning bush that was not consumed, and heard the voice of God, calling him to return to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and liberate the Hebrew people. As you will remember, Moses tries to weasel out of the assignment, at one point asking, “If I go back, people will want to know the name of the God who sent me. What should I tell them?” And God answered by saying; “I am. Tell them ‘I Am’ has sent you.”
From that day on, the Hebrew people have accepted as the Proper Name of God – a name that is really no name at all; a name that in Hebrew is spelled YHWH, Yahweh (Jehovah in our English Bibles). It was as if God was saying, “No name is adequate to capture my character, my nature. It’s enough that you just know that ‘I Am.’” Now why would God be so evasive with Moses?
God refuses to give an actual name to Moses because of another commonly accepted idea the ancient people had about names. As we have already seen, names and the persons they name are almost interchangeable. That led to the belief that if you knew someone’s name, that would give you some mystical power over them. We even see that in modern times there are those who believe this – for instance, voodoo. You could use a person’s name in curses, in blessings, in incantations.
Moses and the Israelite people would have loved to have served a God with a name. In fact, so would we. With that name we could be in control, we could make God do our bidding. But God wasn’t about to let the Israelites believe he could be manipulated or controlled. He wasn’t about to give them a name. And so he answered, “I Am.”
I suspect that Jesus may have had this in mind, because all throughout the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus referring to himself with those words. Over and over again, he uses the phrase when speaking of himself: “I am the Bread of Life.” “I am the Living Water.” “I am the Vine.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” It’s as if Jesus was saying to anyone who was listening, “I Am – God!” It’s no wonder he gets into so much trouble with the religious leaders. He is making a claim that was considered blasphemy!
When Jesus says in his prayer, “I revealed your name” to my disciples, he may as well have been saying that he was indeed the Son of God, who along with God, was worthy of Glory.
But I think he may have been saying something even more meaningful. And that is that in Christ, the God who refused to be known completely by the Jewish people, now can be fully known through Jesus.
You see, the name God gave Moses was considered holy… So holy, it was not to ever be spoken. This was probably to make sure God’s name could never be taken in vain, breaking one of the 10 Commandments. There was only one exception: God’s name was allowed to be uttered by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and then, only in the confines of the Holy of Holies of the Temple. It was a name that was veiled in mystery.
But, of course, the name did appear in written form in the scriptures. How would they guard against the possibility that it might be accidentally voiced? What they did was to substitute the Hebrew word “Adonai,” a generic word for God, often translated “Lord.” Every time a person would read from the Torah and came across the name of God, Yahweh, they would substitute the word “Adonai.“
We have this reflected in most English Bibles. Wherever you see LORD (all caps), you can know that in Hebrew, the name of God appears there.
This emphasis on the holiness of God’s name only served to reinforce the idea that our God is distant and unapproachable – that he is unknowable.
But Jesus says in the prayer, “I have made your name known.” He was telling us that the unknowable God, veiled in mystery, is knowable after all.
Or as Paul writes in Ephesians (2:13): “In Christ Jesus you, who once were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Listen to the way William Barclay put it:
“In the time of Jesus the name of God was so sacred that ordinary people were not even supposed to know it, far less to speak it. God was the remote invisible king, whose name was not for ordinary men to speak. So Jesus is saying: ‘I have told you God’s name; that name which is so sacred can be spoken now because of what I have done. I have brought the remote, invisible God so close that even the simplest people can speak to him and take his name upon their lips.”1
Wow! All that from verse 6 of the prayer. But with that understanding, the other four verses of our text make more sense. This is what I hear Jesus saying in this part of his prayer: “Because Jesus has revealed God’s nature and character to us, we accept as truth that Jesus is the Son who has come from the Father. Therefore, we now belong to God, and our lives are to give glory to Christ.”
Did you catch the movement there: verse 6-10 actually map out the journey any person makes in coming to faith: 1) Christ reveals God’s love to us, 2) we accept Christ as Lord and Savior. 3) As a result we belong to God, and 4) our lives give glory to Christ.
So, where are you along that journey of faith? Have you looked to Jesus, allowing him to reveal the love of God to you? If so, have you taken the step of accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior? If not, my prayer is that you will do so today.
And for the rest of us, which may be most of us. We already have accepted Christ, and know we belong to God. For us, the challenge comes in verse 10, where Jesus says “I have been glorified in them:” Do our lives give glory to Christ? Can those around us look at our lives and see Jesus? If not, then something is wrong, and we need to make it right this morning.
It may be that Christ is not being “glorified” in your life. Maybe you’ve asked Christ into your heart. Or perhaps, you did at one time, but realize that the life you are living today doesn’t bring glory to Christ. In a few moments as we sing our final song, you will have the opportunity to come forward to the altar to make things right again in your relationship with God.
In closing, listen with fresh ears to this part of Jesus’ prayer, this time from The Message bible, and take Jesus’ words to heart:
“I spelled out your character in detail to the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; Then you gave them to me, and they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything you gave me is firsthand from you, For the message you gave me, I gave them; and they took it, and were convinced that I came from you. They believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I’m not praying for the God-rejecting world but for those you gave me, for they are yours by right. Everything mine is yours, and yours mine, and my life is on display in them.”
May it be said of all of us, that the life of Christ is on display in us. Amen.
1Barclay, William. The Gospel of John, pp. 209-211