The Fifty-First in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
The Passover celebration is over, and the time has come for Jesus to depart from the upper room. Throughout his last moments with his disciples, Jesus has been preparing for them what he knows is sure to come–his crucifixion, death, and burial. In the famous words of John 3:16, John describes Jesus’ messianic mission as the chief sign of God’s love for a lost and fallen world. God will save all those who trust in Jesus. Several verses later John declares that Jesus brings the light of God (the truth) into the world. Sadly, however, the world rejects this light (Jesus) because people prefer to remain in darkness (unbelief) rather than have their sinful deeds exposed. In fact, Jesus warns his disciples that the world (which in John’s Gospel refers to the way non-Christians think and act) will hate them, because the world hated Jesus first. And so before Jesus departs, he reminds the disciples that even though the world will hate them, and that in the world they will experience many difficult trials and tribulations, nevertheless, Jesus has overcome the world, and that he will indeed cast out its ruler (who is Satan). Jesus will overcome the world not through the manifestation of raw supernatural power. Jesus will overcome the world and cast out its ruler by dying upon a cross and then being raised from the dead on Easter Sunday.
We are continuing our series on the Gospel of John, and we now come to the end of that section of the Upper Room Discourse (chapters 13-16) in which Jesus gives his final instructions to his disciples. Jesus’ time with the disciples is nearly up, as Jesus’ three-year long messianic mission now draws to a close. Because his disciples are struggling with the news of Jesus’ imminent departure, as well as questions raised by the new information given them by Jesus, Jesus has delayed his fateful walk across the Kidron Valley to an olive grove known as Gethsemane as long as he can. Jesus knows that after he arrives in Gethsemane, he will be confronted by Caiaphas (the Jewish high priest), who will be led to Jesus’ location by Judas, one of the twelve who will betray him. Jesus will be arrested, and then he will face trial before the Sanhedrin, then before Pilate (the Roman governor), before being put to death the next afternoon as the Passover draws to a close with the slaughter of the Passover lambs.
Throughout the Upper Room Discourse so far, Jesus has alluded to the events soon to come using the language of an Old Testament prophet–his words are packed with echoes from Israel’s prophets (especially from Isaiah). In the closing section of chapter sixteen (vv. 25-33), we find Jesus’ final words of exhortation to the disciples, this time centering in his promise to overcome the world which hates him enough to put him to death, and which will hate all those who follow him (those who trust in Jesus). Jesus encourages his discouraged disciples by informing them that he “has overcome the world.” Accepting this truth will require great require faith on the part of the disciples. Before Jesus overcomes the world, it looks very much like the world has overcome him.
Having given them all the information they can process, the time has come for Jesus to do the single most important thing he can do for his struggling disciples–offer what is known as the high priestly prayer on behalf of the disciples, and all those who will come to faith in him. Our Lord’s high priestly prayer (found in John 17) is truly remarkable, and much like the prologue to the Gospel (vv. 1-18), Jesus’ prayer very effectively summarizes the major themes of entire gospel. Lord willing, we will spend several sermons working our way through John 17 and the details of our Lord’s prayer on our behalf.
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