|1||After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the
time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
|2||For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal
life to all those you have given him.
|3||Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
|4||I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.|
|5||And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I
had with you before the world began.
It’s good to be back here again. It was good to be here yesterday and to hear a number of people in the congregation not only talk about how God has worked through this church in the past, but what the Holy Spirit has laid on the hearts of many many people of what Central Pres can do in the next 10 years as you as a church continue to honor God.
The one disappointment I have is that I haven’t been able to bring my wife with me on these visits back here to Baltimore. You see, I have been very blessed with a very beautiful wife. It is not uncommon when we walk through an airport for someone to walk up to her and say, “Has anyone told you that you look like Sophia Loren?” You’re laughing. That’s the truth. She gets it time after time after time and, of course, I take all the credit for it. So, it’s just wonderful. And she and I have a little saying when she is all dressed up and we are going out and she just looks so special. I just kind of wink at her and say, “Image, is everything.” Now, you know that’s not totally true. I mean if you think about it, image without substance is hypocrisy. But substance without image often accomplishes nothing. We have come to learn in life that it is important that substance and image go together. In fact, all of us, as we get older, learn that the image we often have of ourselves, of who we are, of who we think we can be affects how we live. It affects how we think. It affects how we relate to other people.
We have come to learn that our image of ourselves is very important. The image of that which we want to accomplish often motivates people to do great things. For the athlete, particularly those headed for Sidney and the Olympics, often that image of crossing the finish line, of getting the gold medal motivates them to train day after day after day. For the business, it may be the image of achieving that office, or that position, or having your name on that company. Image is very important to us. It causes us to think certain ways, act certain ways and to be motivated. We have learned that many of those who survived the Nazi death camps were people who had a vision, an image of something that they still wanted to accomplish. To stand in a concert hall and play the violin. To go back to family that they wanted to see as they grew up, and wanted to see them accomplish certain tasks. To achieve some kind of accomplishment in this life. It was that image of what could be that kept them going.
Jesus, in the Bible, and God understand this. The Bible is filled with many images that often motivated people and kept them going. What I would like to talk about today is the image that we have of Jesus that affects how we function as a church. That affects how we function as individuals. That determines how effective or ineffective we will be in our service to God and the life of this church. Let’s talk about that image.
If you have bibles with you or you want to look in the pew bible on page 765, I would like you to turn to John 17. This is the night before he is going to be crucified. And John 17 is a prayer that Jesus is praying to his Father. In this prayer he prays for himself, he prays for his disciples, and he prays for us. I only want to look at the part of the prayer that Jesus prays for himself. Because when Jesus prays for himself, he asks his Father to do two things for him.
Look with me in John 17:1 “And Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” That’s his first request. Glorify me Father so that I 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 may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you have me to do.” Now Jesus comes to his second request: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
Jesus has two requests. Both of them related to the concept of glory. We know that when Jesus lived on earth he was probably familiar with three languages. In his every day life, he spoke Aramaic, but because Greek was the language of the Roman empire and Nazareth was near trade routes, he probably understood many of the concepts of the Greek language. In his first request, many believed that Jesus is referring to the Greek concept of glory. What that means is when you and I are glorified or when someone else is glorified or if God was going to glorify Jesus, it means those characteristics about us that are good, that are great, are to be revealed. And Jesus says father would you help the world to see those characteristics in me that honor you, that bring you glory. And then he talks about dying on the cross. In other words, Jesus is saying this, will the world please look at me and see that when I went to the cross, I was obedient to you. You remember that night when Jesus prayed this prayer, he said, “Father, not my will but, your will be done. I was obedient.” He said, “Father, will you help the world to see that I have committed the ultimate sacrifice. I have given my life for the entire world. Will you help the world to see that this is an act of forgiveness?” When Jesus was on the cross he said, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” He said, “Father will you help the world to see that I have loved the world?” No greater love has this than for a person to lay down his or her life for another. Jesus said, “Father help the world to see that in the cross I have demonstrated your characteristics.” Now it is very interesting. God the Father obviously has answered that prayer. For 2000 years we have seen the rise of Christendom first as it started in the Middle East and then spread across Europe and then came to North and South America. In fact, today they tell us that there is somewhere between 10 and 15,000 people a day in Latin America who decide to follow Jesus Christ. They tell us that there is about 10,000 people a day in Africa who decide to follow Jesus Christ. About 25,000 per day in China who decide to follow Jesus Christ. Because they look at him and they see that he has lived out the characteristics of God when he died on the cross for us. So his first request, Father glorify me, help people see your characteristics in my life and on the cross. The father answered that first request.
It’s the second request, however, the one that we often don’t think about. You will notice that he says in John 17:5, “Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had before the world began”.. In other words, here he is using the Hebrew concept of glory. He learned Hebrew in the synagogue. In the Hebrew mind the concept of glory was that burning shining light that had led Israel through the wilderness, that centered on the tabernacle, that entered into the temple that Solomon built. He said, “Father give me that glory back.”
When I was growing up I saw all kinds of pictures of Jesus. In fact, every Sunday in our church when the pastor would get up to preach, behind him was this great big picture of Jesus. He was pictured as a shepherd. A very well groomed and clean shepherd, but he was pictured as a shepherd. He had little sheep in his arms, some sheep around his feet. They were also very clean and well groomed. But there was that picture of Jesus as the shepherd. I can remember opening my Sunday school literature and seeing pictures of Jesus knocking on a door. Most of us are very familiar with the artist Solomon who gave us a picture of the head of Jesus Christ. If you have been around churches any length of time you have seen pictures of Jesus. We know as early as 200 A.D. in the catacombs as Christians were hiding from the Romans they drew pictures of Jesus on the walls on those caves. But what is most interesting is that nowhere in the gospels are we given a description of Jesus. We don’t know if he was tall. We don’t know if he was short. We don’t know if he was stout. We don’t know if he was slender. We don’t know if he had sharp features or softened features. We don’t know the length of his hair, the color of his eyes, the size of his ears. There is nothing told to us about Jesus in the gospels. Even though in our pictures we have often been given an image of Jesus. But I don’t know if you’ve thought about it. In the bible, we do have a description of what Jesus looks like today.
I would like you to just listen as I read to you this description. It is found in the book of Revelation Chapter 1, John says, “I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lamp stands, and among the lamp stands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in the furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all of its brilliance.”
Jesus said, “Father give me back the glory I had before I came to earth.’ And the Bible says that when Jesus went back to heaven, that’s exactly what the Father did; and for 2000 years Jesus has looked like the description we have found in Revelation 1. Brilliant white hair, burning eyes, a face shining like the sun because the Father gave him back his glory. That’s interesting. Because if I think about it in my life, that’s not usually the image I have of Jesus Christ. The image I have of Jesus Christ is the image of the gospels often represented by the pictures I saw in Sunday school literature. Now make no mistake about it. That image of Jesus is very, very important. Because it is that image of Jesus that tells us how to live. That tells us how we ought to act. For example, in those days when Jesus was living, most weddings took anywhere from 4-7 days. Now they didn’t celebrate weddings like we do. Where the wedding starts at 1:00 and then the reception comes and you are home by 6:00. In those days, you went to the wedding feast that went on for 4,5, 6, 7 days. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly care to go to weddings. I mean the ceremony is nice, if it’s short. You know, but then the reception. You have to stand around and talk to people you don’t know and you have to make small talk. Some people like it. In fact, I am suspicious of people who like weddings, you know? Who likes to stand around the reception and talk to people? But Jesus was one of those kind of people who liked weddings. We know in Canaan that he hung around the wedding feast so long that when they ran out of wine he made some more. I mean if it had been me I would have said, “Good. Guys, let’s go home.” He was a person who liked to be with people. In fact, his critics said to him, “Jesus you spend all of your time at parties. You drink too much, you eat too much, and you hang around with common people.” Well that’s the image of the Jesus of the gospels.
One of our churches in Northern California had a young couple start to come to the church. They were married quite young for people in this day and age. The husband was 20 and his wife, new bride was 19. These people didn’t know Jesus. They really had never come to church before but they started coming. As a young couple they had made some serious mistakes financially. They had gone to that proverbial used car salesman who had sold them the lemon and charged them, really, an illegal and unfair interest rate, but they didn’t know. The car kept breaking down and they kept trying to make car payments and they were struggling financially. They started to come to one of our churches and some people took interest in them and learned what had happened. The deacons met and said we’ve got to help this young couple out. It so happened that one of the deacons was a police detective, he said, “I’ll take care of the loan issue.” Another deacon happened to know a lot about cars, he said, “I’ll go with this couple down to the car auction, we will buy them a good car, work on it, and make sure it runs well for them.” Then the deacon’s decided to buy the car for this couple even though they were new to the church and didn’t know Jesus Christ personally. Saturday came and the man who was going to buy the car called the pastor. He said, “Pastor, I’ve got a problem.” The pastor said, “What’s the problem?” He said, “Well, the car auction is tomorrow morning during our worship hour. What am I supposed to do?” This young pastor understood the image of the Jesus. That’s what he focused on. He said, “You need to know that tomorrow morning Jesus will meet you and this young couple at the car auction. You need to be there. You need to show them the love of Jesus Christ as you help them with their need.” It is very interesting. To my knowledge that young couple still doesn’t know Jesus personally, but they have already brought four other young couples who don’t know Jesus to that church because they say this church loves us, this church cares for us. Well, that’s part of the image of the Jesus of the gospels.
Another example of the image of the Jesus of the gospels is that Jesus didn’t get along too well with religious people. In fact, I’ve noticed that every time in the gospels that Jesus showed up at a religious event, one of two things happened. Either the demons start to act up, or Jesus basically rebukes the crowds. I’ve often wondered if Jesus was here today I think we would be better off he wasn’t here, because it would say we are doing what’s right. Because if he showed up here, he would probably say look, prayer is important, reading the word of God is important, gathering together is important. But what’s really important is what you do when you leave here. What you do with the poor and what you do with the resources and what you do with people who are struggling with life. That’s where real religion gets flushed out as we deal with what happens as we leave church.
That’s part of the image of the Jesus of the gospels. But I want you to notice that’s not the image of the Jesus of the book of Revelation.. The Bible tells us that when John saw Jesus with his glory restored that he saw him standing in the midst of a circle of seven candlesticks with candles in them and the candles were lit. As we read on, we realize that those 7 candlesticks represent 7 churches and Jesus was saying, “I have come to give a message to those churches. And the message I am going to give is a message of judgement. For you see, those churches are not doing what I want.” You see, Jesus in a sense also has two bodies. The body that he had here in this first coming in the gospels where he came to do the will of the father to provide redemption for the world. He still has that body. But he has left another body here called the church. That church is to do what Jesus did in his first body. To honor the Father by providing redemption for the world. And the thing that the church has struggled with for 2000 years is that we often miss why God put us here. Jesus had come back as a judge to those churches to say, “If you don’t change, I will extinguish the light of your candle. You will become ineffective as a church.”
And we struggle with that today. You see we live in a world, particularly in the United States, that is driven by consumerism. We are always saying, “What will this do for me?” What’s interesting is, that is often why people come to church. People come to church with a teenager, and they want to make sure the church has a great youth group. If we come to church with young children, we want to make sure that our children are ministered to. If we come to church and we want a certain kind of worship, we are looking for that kind of worship. Most people come through the door of the church saying, “What will this church do for me?” Now hear me well. The church should be providing services that will help people. To help our children meet God and meet Jesus, and our young people to know God. But that’s not why God put the church here. God put the church here to reach this world for Jesus Christ. God says, “The reason why I want to meet your needs is not so you can have more and more and more of your needs met, but I want to meet your needs so that as your needs are met, you can begin to give up. You can begin to sacrifice. You can become the kind of church that reaches out and touches communities for Jesus Christ.”
You see the image of Jesus for 2000 years of the church, is not the image of a shepherd. It is not the image of Solomon’s head of Christ, but it is the description of Revelation 1 where Jesus first of all stands as a judge, but he also stands there as a victor. As a conqueror. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going into battle, I am not too thrilled if the general is Woody Allen. I will follow George Patton. I will follow Mel Gibson in Braveheart.. I want somebody who is going to lead to victory. I want somebody who is going to win. And Jesus stands there with the glory that the Father gave him back and he says to the church, “It’s time to take the world back for me. It’s time to redeem our communities. It’s time to change the world. I have come as the glorified Jesus to lead my church to victory. To lead my church to become the kind of entity that will change the world.”
One of our churches in Northern California is in the city of Vallejo. And Vallejo is a very depressed area since the Navy pulled out its major naval base for almost the entire West Coast. There is a little church there struggling often saying, “Jesus help us. We feel like the humiliated Jesus.” In the last three years, they have gotten the image of the glorified Jesus. They’ve said, “We are going to take this community back for Jesus Christ even though most of the people here don’t even speak our language.” They have begun to serve breakfast from 3-5 a.m. on Saturday mornings as they have ministered to people who are prostitutes and pimps and people who are out doing other kinds of things at night the police don’t like. They have discovered 8, 9 and 10 year old kids playing on the street from 3-5 in the morning. And as they have offered breakfast and said we want to serve you, the top gang leader in the that city has met Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. It has changed his life. It is beginning to change the whole way that people look at that city. Because they have gotten a glimpse of the glorified Jesus of Revelation 1 who says to the church, “Follow me, and we will take the world.”
Cali, Columbia for years was known as the center of drug trade both for North and South America. It was a city known for its violence. They had an average 15 murders per day in the city of Cali. It was run primarily by seven drug lords. The church of Jesus Christ in Cali, the churches were small and ineffective and often had no impact on that community. A young pastor came to the city of Cali. He realized that not only were the churches weak and ineffectual, but they couldn’t even cooperate together. He began to go to pastor after pastor after pastor and say we need to come together and pray. Through his efforts, and the efforts of others, on a Friday night they filled an entire soccer stadium with Christians from the city of Cali from all kinds of churches to pray for that city. Newspapers reported on Monday morning for the first time in recent history that anybody could remember on Saturday and Sunday night there were no murders in the city of Cali. That next week one of the top drug lords fell. The churches began to grow. The churches began to thrive. A neighbor of this young pastor who had a dispute and didn’t like this man and didn’t like what was happening, put out a contract on him, and this young pastor was murdered in front of his church. God used that and martyred him to galvanize the church and to cause the people to say we are going to take the city of Cali back for Jesus Christ. Within a year, six of the seven drug lords were in prison. The mayor was saying how can we work with the church. What changed? It was their image of Jesus Christ.
We need the image of the Jesus of the gospels to tell us how to live, but we need the image of the Jesus of Revelation 1 to say he comes as a judge not only for the church, but against the world. And he is our leader, and he is our victor. And as we just sang, when we follow him we will ride with him on the clouds and we will see his face shining as brilliant as the sun. And I believe God is saying to the people here at Central Presbyterian Church follow the image of the Jesus of Revelation1 and become that church in the city of Baltimore that says, “We are going to take this community back for Jesus Christ, because that’s the image of Jesus for the last 2000 years.” He said, “Father, give me back my glory,” and the Father gave it to him. He stands here today to say, “I want to lead my church to victory and I want this church, and all my churches, to follow me and to fight against the forces of evil and to take back this world for myself because I stand before you today,” Jesus says, “as the glorified Jesus, the heavenly Christ who has come back to work in this world through his church.” I pray today that we might follow the image of Jesus of Revelation 1. Will you bow with me in prayer.
Father, help us today to recognize that when Jesus Christ came to this earth as this weak and humble and lowly servant, that that’s so important. That’s the attitude we are to have. That’s the character we are to follow. But when we look at your church, help us to recognize that we follow the glorified Jesus. The one who did everything you asked and because of that, you have returned your glory, his glory to him. Help us Father, to have that image of Jesus Christ in our minds for it is in his name that we pray, Amen.