Famous Last Words

Note: I had been asked to keep sermons to 15 minutes maximum. While preaching this sermon I was scanning ahead to find parts I could leave out in order to fit the time limit which distracted me and meant that the recorded sermon leaves out segments of the printed sermon. I won't do that again!


Look up on the internet and you can find lists of what purport to be the last words of people.  When I looked them up I have to say that they are, on the whole, not very profound or inspiring.  Here’s a sample I found.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Utter nonsense”

Elvis Presley said, “I’m going to the bathroom to read”

Nostradamus said, “Tomorrow, I shall no longer be here”

Winston Churchill said, “I’m bored with it all”

George Harrison said, “Love one another”

Steve Jobs said, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh Wow”

Harriet Tubman said, “Swing low, sweet chariot”

Jesus said, “It is finished”

Jesus had more time before he died to give some more thought to what to say because he knew God’s plan for his death and that it was soon to come. On the eve of his death Jesus prayed for his disciples and then prayed for you and me.

There are some wonderful prayers recorded in the Bible but the one recorded in John chapter 17 consists of Jesus’ own words that he prayed to God his father. There is a very real sense of privilege that we have been able to listen in to such a personal prayer. How comfortable are you overhearing someone’s personal prayer? That’s what we are invited to do here.

As I thought about this prayer I became more and more moved by it and began to wonder if I was being too presumptuous by seriously thinking that I could speak about it to you. But here it is, Jesus own words recorded in the Bible as part of God’s purpose that we should learn from it, to be better equipped to be believers.

It is the only long, continuous prayer of Jesus that has been recorded, full of sensitive, deep, moving and meaningful ideas. Genuine prayer reveals a person’s innermost being and this prayer has the intimacy of the relationship Jesus has with his Father.

In it Jesus prays about his concern to do his Father’s will, to fulfil his purpose on earth, to bring glory to the Father who has graciously glorified Jesus among us.

When we pray it is as a child to our Heavenly Father, God Almighty, our creator.  When Jesus prays it is to his Father but not as an inferior to superior but as an equal with a relationship and status which is absolutely unique.

See some of the ways in which his prayer is different to ours. 

He differs from us when he asks God to glorify him, acknowledging that God had granted him authority over all people and that he, Jesus, may give eternal life to all those who are given to him. He says that he has brought glory to God on earth by finishing the work he was given to do.  Now he expects to return to the glory he had with Father God before the world began.

Uniquely, Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, God in the flesh could pray like that.

Wonderfully, amazingly he included a prayer for you and me.

In John 17:6,9,20 ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. I pray for them. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 

And then he went on to pray ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message

It is wonderful to know that amongst his last thoughts Jesus prayed for a specific group of people, people who had been given to him out of the world and added people like us who would also come to be called out of the world and into his kingdom as we believe the message of his disciples.

On the eve of his death Jesus prayed for you and me.

But it’s a bit startling to notice that he explicitly did not pray for the rest of the people. He said, “I am not praying for the world.

By the world Jesus included the world, the earth that he had created and had come to live on for some 30+ years.  He was about to be killed and to leave this world to return to his place as the ruler at the right hand of God the Father.

But in this prayer Jesus is also using the word world with another meaning. He meant more than just the physical world because he prayed for people he said God had given Jesus out of the world, and that they would not be taken out of the world. He prayed that his followers would continue to live on this world but somehow not be of the world.

When Jesus prayed I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world (John 17:11) he was acknowledging that in the near future he was going to be killed and that then he would leave this earth and return to heaven. Of course, when this happened his followers continued on with their usual earthly lives. Here he is talking about leaving the planet we live on, what astronomers call Earth, what we might mean by world.

At the same time he prayed that we would be protected from the evil one.  

Back in chapter 8 of John’s gospel Jesus was being attacked by the Pharisees and other authorities and there was a real communication problem. “Why is my language not clear to you?”, Jesus asked them.

The answer he gave is, “because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The evil one, the devil or Satan is referred to as “the god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

This is what he meant when he prayed for his followers and described them as having been taken out of the world, as being not of the world. As being swept up from the ways of life, the ways of the world, being under the impression of the evil one. Taken from one way of living into Jesus’ way of living

Jesus prayed, ’Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3)

Here we are reminded that while the god of this age is misleading and confusing a lot of people. Nonetheless Jesus is so much greater, having complete authority, including the authority to grant eternal life to people and it is for these people, it is for us, that he prayed.

It is to us that Jesus has revealed God. We were given to Jesus and have obeyed the word of God - we have accepted the word of God as Jesus revealed it to us. We believe God sent Jesus to us.

We have been set apart from the world to serve the purposes of God, that is, we have been sanctified, forgiven, made holy, made like Jesus.

Just as Jesus had been sent into the world Jesus sends us and he prayed for those who will believe in him through our message.

This way we bring  glory to Jesus. Every time someone hears the truth about Jesus, repents, turns to Jesus as saviour and Lord there are celebrations in heaven and Jesus is glorified, honoured, exalted.

He prayed that we would be unified, to be one in the way that he was one with his Father.

He asks for us to be like he was with his Father; Jesus in the Father and the Father in Jesus. He wants us to be one with him, one with the Father, one with Jesus. That we may be in Jesus, be in the Father, Jesus and the Father in us. He asks that we would be so close to Jesus and to God that the world will believe that God sent Jesus and that he has loves us in the same way that God loved Jesus.

He prays for our protection from the evil one and says that just as he has made God known to us he would continue to do so.  That way the love God has for Jesus will be in us and that he himself will be in us. 

He has given us eternal life and prays that we will be with him, where he is, and see his glory as our eternal life extends to us going to our place in heaven, too.

Who is there who could realistically pray a prayer like this?

Only the one person who could refer to himself as the Son of God, the person who had been granted authority over all people.  He is speaking as if he were God himself.

The first words inJohn’s gospel talk about him in these terms: (John 1:) 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

Who else could pray as Jesus did in John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Jesus was there, taking part in the creation of the universe with God before the world began.

You have to decide what you think of Jesus and, logically, you have to conclude that he is either mad, bad, or he is God in human form. No one can make the claims he did unless they are  mentally unhinged or a deceitful, evil person or they are telling the truth.

Who else could claim to be able to grant us eternal life except the one who rules eternity? If you know someone other than Jesus who makes this claim then find out which misguided cult they belong to.

He said, Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (V3)

Do you have eternal life? If you have, this is because Jesus has revealed God to you. You know the only true God because Jesus has made him known to you.

Jesus said to his Father, God, “6 ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

Of course we obey what Jesus tells us to do because his teaching comes directly with the full authority of God himself.  

We have complete certainty that Jesus came from God, that God sent Jesus. Don’t we? 

How has that come about? That’s because when Jesus revealed God to us it was because God had given us to Jesus and he did that when his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus as our helper opened our eyes, cleared the veil covering our minds.  He explained this in John 14. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth lives in us and with us.

See how we are totally dependent on God, on Jesus, on the Holy Spirit? On God  the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. One God, one Lord.

While Jesus was on earth he protected his followers but he could not remain physically with them.  Had come to die, to be buried, to be raised from the dead and then ascend to his place with the Father. Who was to protect his followers then?

So he prayed to the Father to protect us his followers by the power of his name. There’s power enough in the name of God, the name of Jesus, to protect us. There’s power enough in the Holy Spirit who is God himself who is still in and with us!

How complete, how thorough is God’s love for us!

Jesus disciples asked him to teach them to pray and he taught them what we call the Lord’s Prayer but as we look at this prayer of Jesus we can learn some pointers about praying.

See how he prayed with confidence.  He knew his relationship with God the Father and could comfortably bring his praise and requests. We can do much the same.

(Hebrews 10:19,22) Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 

But we have the same motivation that Jesus had. We bring praise to God, acknowledging his goodness and greatness. We seek to bring him the recognition, the honour he deserves. We seek to glorify God our Father and God the Son, our saviour. We seek to know him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

We want to know what God wants us to do while we are on this earth. We want to be able to say as Jesus did, “I have finished the work which you have given me to do”. We want to hear the words, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.”

We thank our Lord that we have been taken from darkness into light, from death to life, into Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. We are a special people called out of the world, in the world but not of it. 

We are a special people called to be in unity as the people of Jesus. We live with Jesus in us and us in him.

We know that we have been taken out of the way of those still led by the god of this world, the evil one, the father of lies but we know how much he still impacts on us. We need protection! We are so thankful that Jesus prayed for us in this great prayer and asked that we would be protected by the name and authority of our loving, powerful Father and his Holy Spirit. 

How wonderful that assurance, confidence and safety is ours.  Remember Romans 8:31-35

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No-one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 

You see, not only did Jesus pray for us in the hours before he died he continues to do so! Even now, at this moment, in the moments when we pray, in every moment day by day Jesus is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us, loving us, protecting us!

We know that Jesus was a “man of sorrow and acquainted with grief” yet he spoke of of the full measure of his joy and asked that we might have the full measure of his joy, his joy! within us.

We give thanks that we have the word of God brought to us by Jesus and through him and the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

We love him because he has given us eternal life and is in the process of changing us, sanctifying us by the truth, to live in accordance with the truth Jesus gives us and that this eternal life will extend into eternity with Jesus in his presence and with God our Father.

This prayer has been recorded for our benefit by the apostle John and it is the last part of what Jesus told his disciples when they gathered for the passover meal, the Last Supper. When he prayed we are told that he looked towards heaven and prayed.

We are more likely to have been taught to bow our heads and close our eyes and then we mumble our prayers into our laps.  But Jesus had the confidence to raise his eyes and pray with expectation, looking to God the father with heart, mind and attitude. I think that’s one more thing we could learn!

1650 Modified: 13-05-2024
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