Seventh Sunday in Easter - 2021
May 16, 2021 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: John 17:6-19
All right, well, the children's message was clear as mud, so hopefully we can do the same with the sermon now! The Gospel of John has long been considered by scholars to be later reflection on the meaning of Jesus's words in life. And so scholars generally look to the Synoptics, the Matthew, Mark and Luke, to talk about what Jesus did and when and who he interacted with. And then the gospel of John is more revered as something to think about how the real early witnesses started to ponder what it actually meant for Jesus to do these things. It's not so clear cut, you know, but by and large, it seems to be the thrust of how scholarship talks about these things. There is a minority in scholarship that says John was actually the first gospel written. I don't know how they get there, but but there is that out there in the ethos.
But, John, is this -- I don't know if anyone can really read the gospel of John and truly understand what it says the first couple of times around, or even understand what it says after decades of scholarship and research. Because John is speaking to the things that we don't readily understand, more so I think, than the Synoptic gospels do. But grasping at some serious truths. And so we have the benefit of this Sunday of looking at John and First John, some of the things that we talk about in and the testimony of God is Jesus.
I think we can readily understand that the testimony of God is Jesus. And so everything that we can understand about God, we can look to Jesus to help us understand God better. Then he talks about this business of eternal life, and then there is these wordy things in the prayer that Jesus has for his disciples about God's Word being given to Jesus and Jesus, giving it to the disciples and how God's glory will come through in all of this. And sometimes I think we lose ourselves in the words. We lose ourselves in the words, and then we start to look at scripture as something to be decoded, uncovered. Anyone feel that way? Sometimes, especially when they're reading the Gospel of John? I feel that way when I read the Gospel of John, I mean, it does it sounds like code at times. And then, you know, you get to Revelation, of course, don't get me started on that. But I honestly think the Christian faith is more simple than we try to make it. And I think the way that we complicate it is in trying to decode and uncover The one way to look at it, The one way to consider it. If Jesus is truly the key then I do think that makes the message simple. Because we can see what Jesus did based on the gospel accounts. And what Jesus reveals to us is that we fundamentally misunderstand eternal life. And love.
We fundamentally misunderstand those two things and I think have over the centuries. And I think we will continue to do so. I'm not here telling you I understand it, therefore I'll share it with you. I've got some opinions. But it's not my testimony that matters. It's what Jesus has done for us that reveals God's will for us, and if you look to Jesus and you look at what Jesus did, Jesus was very loving. And very compassionate towards those that the religious elites tended to reject. And Jesus was very harsh. There might have been some condemnations to hell thrown out to the religious elites that were enforcing this against those that were cast out. We don't want to think about that because we want to follow this path and be good church people and do all this stuff so that we can know that we are doing the right thing. That would be foolish if I didn't consider it one of the reasons I went into the ministry. But we look at this world of pain and grief and suffering, and it is a world that fundamentally misunderstands God's promise of eternal life. And love.
I think everybody here knows that Jerusalem is on fire again, That Israel and Palestine are at war, once again. And I think it's probably a little too simple to say that there are good and bad people on both sides. I think if we can step up a level above that and realize that what is going on in Israel is a forced conflict. I think that might help better understand the situation there. In that we tried to create the nation of Israel in order to follow this one path that we think is true to satisfy scripture. Because we misunderstand eternal life and love.
Jesus Christ himself goes to the cross and dies for us. Not because we did anything to prove ourselves worthy. In fact, Paul says that all have sinned and fall short. The power of eternal life and love is that God does this anyway for us. And not so that we can be secure and feel good about ourselves, but to know that we don't have to worry about ourselves so that we can look outward, can look at a world in need, can look at people hurting and suffering and say, how can we love them like God loves us? It's a tall order. It's a difficult path to follow because it's not something to decode in scripture. But something that constantly looks inwardly. Because the demand of the love that God has involves sacrifice. I said, I think it's easier to understand, I didn't say it was easy to follow. But when you look to Jesus, that is what we are dealing with. Is somebody with the equality of God that emptied himself for you and for me. Only for the sake of eternal love. And it is the same Jesus that prays for you and for me.
To live in a world that naturally hates you because you believe what Jesus has done. Hates you because you will want to move in a direction that goes against what the world is trying to do. And this same Jesus prays for you, prays for me. Prays for all who struggle with this belief. Prays so that we might have joy. In facing off against the evil one. Our eternal life is something that we live now. It is a fullness of wholeness, as I was explaining to the children earlier. It's beyond time, it just is it is something that flows through you now, your eternal life is now. So that you can live in the agape love of God, the undying, unconditional love. So that you may be changed to look at a world that you can give yourself to. Knowing that you are not a part of the world, but yet you are here. God has called you. To know the truth about God's son, Jesus. To feel God's joy in the sacrifice Jesus has made. So that we may love as God loves. That really is the heart of the message. There's no secret code. There's no right, true path to follow in order to accomplish that. But to love as God loves us. So how do we do that? It's a good question, isn't it? How do we do that?
I think God has established the church for that purpose. To keep us bound together to one another in this love, to keep us gathered, to hear the message, to hear the promise, for us to remind ourselves of who God is in this world. And we fight that double-edged sword that we are gathered here as saints, but we are also gathered here as fallen humanity that fall into the same trap that we do in this world. And we try to find our pockets of power and greed and all of that. So it is an imperfect system, but God continues to use it and rely on it for you and for me, for the whole world to know what Jesus did and why it matters. So we are gathered here in this space, across the airwaves, so that we may live this life together. So we may live this promise together, so we may live this joy together. Not feeling bad in the ways we screw up, but coming together, being forgiven at the table, receiving the eternal life of God in us. So that we may be empowered. To try again and do the mission that we have been called to as a people. Not an easy task. It's not one we can do ourselves. But it's one God is calling us to do together. Let our joy be complete in Jesus, who was the one that gave himself for us. So that we may give ourselves to him. Amen.