May 24th Sermon “Final Words”

Final Words

John 17:1-11

 

1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

Final Words

John 17:1-11

 

On the Sunlife website, an UK Insurance company, they posted

 

“The most famous sign offs in history”

 

The site states,

“When famous people die, their last words often go down in history as pearls of wisdom or funny one-liners. Ever thought what you’d want your last words to be? Would you want to be remembered as witty, wise or just plain wacky? Here’s a selection of some of the most famous last words ever uttered to inspire you.”

 

I’ll just lift up a few of them:

 

1. Beethoven reportedly said before leaving this world:

“Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.”

 

2. Marie Antoinette’s last words were:

“Pardon me sir. I meant not to do it.”

 

Apparently as she was being led to the guillotine, she accidentally stepped on her executioner’s foot and respectfully apologized to him. Seconds later he chopped off her head.

 

3. Nostradamus simply said:

“Tomorrow I shall no longer be here.”

 

As you may know Nostradamus’ is often credited with visionary powers and able to predict the future. After he made this statement, he was found dead the following day. On the day of his death, Nostradamus was working on a writing about the end of the world.

 

Finally

4. After turning 90 years of age Winston Churchill quipped:

“I’m bored with it all.”

 

I guess, after having done so much in life, he felt he had done enough.

 

Perhaps these final words do have a way of reflecting the life that was lived. Maybe that is what makes them noteworthy. There is something in our thinking that suggest that a persons last words should somehow sum up the meaning of life for them, and somehow, we should learn something as well in hearing them.

 

These words within our scriptures come as Jesus final prayer as the Last Supper is coming to a close. What follows is Jesus and his disciples departing and walking to the garden of Gethsemane and then Jesus arrest. So, these words are in a manner of speaking the thoughts that reflect Jesus final farewell to his disciples –his deeper wishes and hopes -in some ways, his last words.

 

Now, were these the actual words that Jesus spoke? I have to argue that they probably are not. The gospel of John was written somewhere in the latter half of the 1st century probably around 95 AD. That would be some 60 or more years after the last supper occurred. To remember a prayer verbatim over an extended time seems unlikely. Also, these words do not sound like Jesus usual direct and pithy style. Think of the Lord’s Prayer in comparison. John’s text has a way of sounding circular and when I read it sometimes, I feel like asking myself, what did I just read. What was trying to be said there? There is some serious content, but the words have an annoying way of being rather indirect.

 

Well, I would like to think that these words do reflect the nature and meaning of Jesus final moments that he shared with his disciples, but I also think that the moment is being used in a literary way by the author to reflect and sum up something about the nature of Jesus life and the message that the writer wants to share. The writer is speaking as much to the meaning of the moment as to the history of what was actually said and done. They are final words with meaning. So, what are these final words about?

 

In verses 1-5 Jesus’ words are reflecting his person and his mission. Verse 5 states the eternal and co-divine nature of Christ.

 


John 17:5, “So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.”

 

More than the other gospels, John’s gospel is quite plain about the preexistence and nature of the Christ. In the beginning of John’s gospel John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”

 

This word of God represents that tangible creative nature of God’s being. In the trinitarian understanding this is the second person or nature of God and fully revealed in human form through Jesus. I know that all moves into a heavy theological area, that mostly is more than what most people want to deal with.

 

But think for a moment of the life implications of this claim. The gospel is telling us that the God who created the universe came to be with us in a direct way.

 

I stumbled across a YouTube video from a man who was telling his story of nearly dying in Vietnam. He said he wasn’t a real religious person, but as he felt his life slipping away he did not encounter fear or pain, but rather he found himself in the presence of a loving God. As his awareness of the universe expanded (his basic description) he found an immense presence smiling upon him as baby born into a new realm. Then God told him he wasn’t ready yet to be there and sent him back. One of the lessons he came back with was that God is real and God is so much greater and loving then anything we can conceive.

 

Ok, to some extent I question near death experiences, but I do think we learn something. What I believe is that we don’t have to die to know this all powerful, immense, and loving God. We don’t have to go to God to understand something about God, because the scriptures tells us God has come to us.

 

Secondly God came so that we might know him and be able to have a relationship with him. Verse 2 tells us that Christ came to give eternal life, and verse 3 states, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

 

Our faith is about the relationship. I read one comment that said heaven is not about kingship but about kinship. It is about being in relationship with God and one another. Sometimes the most heartwarming or heart-rending stories revolve around relationships gained or lost. Hallmark TV makes a living off telling stories of people who through some means find reconciliation within their relationships. We recognize the depreciation of life when we are unable to connect with those we are closest to in life, and we agree upon the value of being in relationship. Well, God is about reconciliation and being connected. That life together is not just for a lifetime, but for a forever.

 

This in many ways sums up the reason for Jesus life, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and the Holy Spirits presence in life. What is the meaning of life? Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is good why is there evil, disease, and death? I do not know, but I do know that the story is telling us that God is working through it all, and in spite of it all to give us eternal life. Jesus lived and taught that we might hear and believe. Jesus was put to death and because of this loss we all have gain. In our text Jesus is seen knowing what lies ahead of him. He would soon not be in this world, but the commentary to this whole scenario of the troubling days that were to come is that this happened so that you and I may believe and have life in Jesus name.

 

Therefore, Jesus final words are a prayer that God’s plan maybe fully accomplished in his disciples and you and me, and all who might come to believe. The scriptures do not refute the reality of the hardships within this life. During the past few weeks we have had to deal with loss. Both churches I minister to have lost people that have been or were once members of our congregations. We have heard of other deaths of friends due to Covid 19. As a nation we will be in mourning for the thousands that have died, and the truth is that this virus is still among us. Even as we look toward returning to some measure of normal there is still the concern of illness in our world. Still our time is not completely unique. Illness traveled around our globe in 1917 and 1968 as well and resulted in many deaths.

 

But I just want to say that there is something even older and more powerful than these illnesses, and that is the hope that is ours for life. This dusty old world doesn’t dim the glory of God’s gift. Whatever hardships we face; in spite of it all, and by grace maybe even because of it, God is at work and restoring life to all.

 

Therefore, our final words should reflect the certain victory that is ours. How will you sum up life when it is all said and done? What meaning will you put upon the days you have lived and the troubles you have faced? There are times when I think that I will get to heaven (God willing) and turn around only to ask God, “Just what exactly was that all about?” Life! What did I just experience? But my hope is that I will discover that I spent my time and struggles caring for the more important meanings within this existence. That I have somehow been responsible for sharing the story of eternal life in Jesus name with another, and instead of just wondering I will be able to say, Aha! I knew it! Life is always about just the one story! The story of the one who lived and died for all, so that all may live and know God! That is the final word upon which we can stand, found within the first word through whom all things were created. That is the word in which we can celebrate! Amen.

 


 

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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