• Seventh Sunday of Easter
    Published: Monday 17 May 2021 09:26:AM
    Author: The Revd Dr John Stopford

    John 17: 6 - 19.

    As with many passages in the bible this passage from John’s Gospel may seem rather strange to us, but it would not have been at all strange to those who heard it at the time.

    Jesus was giving a explanation of the work that he did while with us here on earth. He says to God: "I have made your name known.”

    To us that might seem that he had simply told people of God but there are two significant ideas here, both of which would have been quite clear to those who heard this for the first time, but might not be immediately clear to us.

    There is an idea which is an essential and characteristic idea common in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament ‘name’ is often used in a very special way. It does not mean simply the name by which a person is called; it means the whole character of the person in so far as it can be known. The Psalmist says: "Those who know your name put their trust in you" ( Psalms 9:10 ).

    Clearly that does not mean that those who know what God is called will trust Him; it means that those who know what God is like, those who know his character and nature will be glad to put their trust in Him.

    The psalmist says: "Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; but we boast of the name of the Lord our God" ( Psalms 20:7 ). This means that he can trust God because he knows what he is like. The Psalmist also says: "I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters" ( Psalms 22:22 ). This was a psalm which the Jews believed to be a prophecy of the Messiah and of the work that he would do; and it means that the Messiah's work would be to declare to all people what God is like.

    It is the vision that was given to Isaiah that in the new age, "My people shall know my name" ( Isaiah 52:6 ). That is to say that in the golden days all will know fully and truly what God is like.

    So when Jesus says: "I have made your name known," he is saying: "I have enabled men to see what the real nature of God is like."

    It is in fact another way of saying, as Jesus says to Peter recorded in John 14: 9, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father". It is Jesus' supreme claim that in Him men see the mind, the character, the heart of God.

    But there is another idea here. In those times when the Jews spoke of the name of God they meant the sacred four-letter symbol, the tetragrammaton as it is called, IHWH. That name was held to be so sacred that it was never spoken, except by the High Priest when he went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement.

    Now this does get a bit complicated, rather like line of duty if you watched it where the letter H was also significant.

    These four letters IHWH stand for the name Yahweh which we sometimes translate as Jehova, or sometimes Elohim, I have seen it suggested that in fact there are 72 different names which have been used for God.

    In the Hebrew alphabet there were no vowels. Later the vowel sounds were shown by little signs put above and below the consonants. But the four letters IHWH were so sacred and should not be spoken so the vowels of ‘Adonai, meaning Lord, were put below them, so that when a reader came to IHWH they would read, not Yahweh, but 'Adonai.

    That is to say, in the time of Jesus the name of God was so sacred that ordinary people were not even supposed to know it, far less to speak it. God was the remote, invisible king, whose name was not for ordinary people to speak.

    So Jesus is saying: "I have told you God's name; that name which is so sacred can be spoken now because of what I have done. I have brought the remote, invisible God so close that even the simplest of people can speak to him and take his name upon their lips."

    It is Jesus' great claim that he showed to men the true nature and the true character of God; and that he brought Him so close that even the humblest Christian can speak his name.

    A massive thing from that small phrase,
    "I have made your name known.”

    This passage also tells us much more about Jesus and why God sent him to us here on earth as a disciple of God.

    What does that mean, a disciple of God?

    It means that through Jesus the Spirit of God can move our hearts to respond to him.

    The glory of God has come to us through Jesus.

    The patient whom he has cured brings honour to the doctor; the scholar whom he has taught brings honour to the teacher; the athlete whom he has trained brings honour to his trainer. Those who Jesus has brought to know God honour Him.

    But it goes further the disciple is the man who is commissioned to a task. As God sent out Jesus, just as Jesus sends out His disciples.

    And here we have yet another difficult passage. Jesus begins by saying that he does not pray for the world; and yet he came because God so loved the world.

    As we have seen in other parts of John's gospel the world can be seen as "human society organising itself without God."

    What Jesus does for the world is to send his disciples into it, to make the world aware of God in order to lead it back to God. He prays for his disciples in order that they may win the world for God.

    Further, this passage tells us that Jesus offered his disciples two things.

    He offered them his joy. All he was saying to them was designed to bring them joy.

    But he also offered them warning. He told them that they were different from the world, and that they could not expect anything else but hatred from it.

    Their values and standards were different from the world's.

    This is not the only time where Jesus tell them that following him will not be easy.

    Still further, in this passage Jesus makes the greatest claim he ever made. He prays to God and says: "All mine are yours, and all yours are mine."

    The first part of that sentence is natural and easy to understand, for all things belong to God.

    But the second part of this sentence is the astonishing claim--"All yours are mine." Luther said: "This no creature can say with reference to God."

    Never did Jesus so vividly lay down His oneness with God.

    Although it might seem difficult and convoluted to us, for those who were listening at the time they can have come away with no other understating than that Jesus was very clearly confirming for them that He was the messiah they had been expecting, and the message it has for us is that Jesus truly is the Son of God, fully that integral part of the Triune nature of God, Father, Son and Holy spirit.

    We know His name, and we can put put our trust in Him.

    The YouTube link is