Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 17:20-26 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
There are those times in a play or a movie or TV show when a character steps forward and speaks directly to the audience. Though the other characters are on the stage, they become motionless and the spot light shines directly on the lone character as he delivers his message to the audience. It is called a soliloquy.
That is something of what we have here in our text today. The apostles are still on the scene, but Jesus steps out and prays directly to His Heavenly Father. The spotlight is on him and the apostles remain silent in the background as he pours out his heart to God, and we listen in to his prayer, because at this point in the prayer he prays for us; not just the Apostles who were there, but for those of us who would believe in Him through the word of the Apostles, that is, Holy Scripture.
What makes this even more dramatic, is that this is the final discourse of Jesus before he is arrested, tried and put to death. These are his last words, his will and testament which he gives to us. In this prayer he reveals the passion of God’s heart and we finally come to understand what is the will and purpose of God’s creation of mankind, and what is the purpose of Christ coming to earth, being made man, suffering, dying and being raised from the dead.
What we hear is that the deepest desire of God’s heart is for us to be one with him. He created Adam and Eve to live in communion with him so he could give them his love. This was the purpose of creation in the first place. The Holy Trinity has a unique relationship of love. Three persons in one being; in one God. That unity of the three-in-one, that communion, that love is extended in creation to include us, humans. That is what the creation was all about in the first place.
We see that all through Scripture. God had Moses build the tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant inside. It was God’s house where he would dwell among his people in a cloud above the Ark. The tabernacle was portable, like a tent, so God could go with them as they traveled through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. There, in the promised land, King Solomon built a temple where the name of God would dwell above the Ark of the Covenant. It was a permanent house where God lived among his people. And today, here in this sanctuary, is the altar, designed after the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God dwells among us and comes to us in flesh and blood in the Sacrament.
Here, at this altar in this Sanctuary we eat his body and drink his blood so that he comes into us and dwells within us in oneness and communion with God. As Jesus prays, “just as you are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” That as he and the Father are one, we might be one with them. This prayer is answered in worship before this altar in the Holy Sacrament.
And Jesus prays for the unbelieving world the same way. “That we may become perfectly one, so that the world, the unbelieving world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” He prays for the unbelievers to come to faith through the witness of the Apostles, the word of Scriptures, so that they too may become one with him. For this unity with God can only happen when one believes in Him, Jesus Christ.
You need to be one with God. You need to come to the altar every Lord’s Day to receive Jesus, because apart from Jesus you are dead in trespasses and sins. When Adam and Eve sinned, God cast them out of the Garden, away from his presence. For nothing unholy can exist in the presence of holiness. No sinner can be in the presence of God and live. Sinful man was excluded from the presence of God, shut out of the garden and destined to die, to return to the soil from which he was made.
The unity and communion Adam had with God, was now destroyed. Man had become the enemy of God. Man deserved God’s anger and eternal punishment. Hell had become our destiny. God was displeased, angry, a condemning judge. You were separated from God and destined to hell, because you are a sinner.
And there is no way you can change that. Not any more than an apple tree can change itself into a peach tree. But God’s heart was broken. God’s eternal desire was to be one with man, to be in communion with mankind. To abide in man. To give mankind his love and blessing. This is the passion of God; the desire of his heart. This is what motivates him to do everything he does. It is his passion. Loving us, blessing us, bringing us to be with him in eternity is everything thing he does.
To become acceptable to God and live in his presence there must be a change. But only God can change who you are. Only God can make you holy again. And holiness comes only by death, because the wages of sin is death and eternal punishment. So God came into our world. God became a man and dwelt among us. Now his dwelling place moved from the Temple in Jerusalem, to the man, Jesus Christ. For in Him the fullness of the godhead dwells bodily (Col 2:9). In Jesus, God became man so that he could live under the law and obey it completely. Jesus fulfilled the law on your behalf. Jesus loved God with all his heart and he loved his fellow-man as himself. He healed the sick, cleansed the leper, taught God’s word, cast out demons, fed the poor, and raised the dead all on account of love, loving his neighbor as himself. In short, Jesus did everything God has commanded you to do. He fulfilled the law of God perfectly on your behalf.
And he suffered for your sin. The wages of sin is death, so he died in your place. We deserve the wrath of God and his eternal condemnation, so he received God’s wrath and his eternal condemnation on the cross in your place. For us. So that now, sin has been paid for, the wages of sin have been paid. And the commands of God have been fulfilled. All that God has commanded us to do, has been done, accomplished. Therefore, YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN and God proclaims you holy and righteous in his sight, all based on the death of Jesus.
Jesus did it all for you in order to fulfill God’s deepest desire: to be at one with us. For now, on account of the perfect obedience, the suffering, the death, and his punishment in hell, Jesus has made us acceptable to God. God can receive us back into his presence and into his love in baptism. We can become one with God in baptism. We can be in him and he in us in Holy Communion. On account of Jesus’ death and resurrection God has accepted us back and we can be with Jesus where he is for all eternity. And we can receive and experience his glory and love.
This is what Jesus came to do for us. This is his most earnest desire. This is what he is praying for us today as he sits at the right hand of God the Father and governs all things. And this is what he has given us in baptism and keeps giving us in Holy Communion. There he comes to be in us and we in him.
It is for this reason that we come to the altar today, for him to dwell in us. It is for this reason that we hear and receive his word, that he may dwell in our midst. It is for this reason that we proclaim the good news of Jesus to all the world, and take the message of his love to those who do not believe, to those living in sin and separation from God, so that they too may become one with God and dwell in his presence for all eternity.
May this prayer of Jesus be fulfilled in us today and in all the world through the work of the Holy Spirit who came into your heart at baptism and continues to come to you in the Lord’s Supper and goes out into the world through your proclamation of the Gospel. Amen.