Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lord's Day Message: Jesus, the Voice of the Shepherd

            When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
            “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
(John 17:1-11 ESV)

The Gospel of John tells us that when Jesus died the last thing he said was “It is Finished.”  In the greek translation of John’s Gospel, it is the single greek word “tetelestai,”  Tetelestai means much more than just being done with something.  It is a word of ultimate completion.  It is a word that suggests that something has reached the fullest extent it possibly can.  It is a word of wholeness.  It is a word of perfection.  That’s why it is so difficult to talk about the finished work of Christ in just a few words.  What he did was so huge and so complete and so perfect that to convey the one thing he did takes many words to express.

For the past several weeks we have been listening to various Voices of the Resurrection.  We’ve heard from Thomas, the Voice of Lingering Doubt.  We heard from Luke, the voice of Proclamation; we heard from Three Thousand voices of Unity; from Stephen, the voice of a Martyr; from Paul, the voice of Reason.  But the central voice of the Resurrection, the voice we most need to listen to, is the Voice of the Shepherd himself – the voice of Jesus.  And the central thing that Jesus said at the most critical moment in history was this one word: tetelestai.  It… is… finished.  In that moment Jesus sealed for all time the work he had done.

The moment before Jesus died was not the first time he had said that it was finished.  He first said it the night before, as he was in prayer.  

Most of us probably have Jesus’ prayer on Thursday night out of order in the narrative.  If I asked you where Jesus was when he prayed for his disciples my guess is that most of you would answer that he was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The reason is that we know that he did pray in the garden.  But John is quite specific about this prayer.  This prayer happened as he was gathered with eleven of the twelve, for Judas had already gone out to betray him.  When Jesus prayed this, he was reclining at table.  On the table before him was the Passover mean.  On this table was bread that Jesus had broken and given to his disciples and told them it was his body broken.  On this table were the four cups of wine that every Jew drank as part of the celebration of Passover every year.  The four cups each have a meaning in the Passover.  The first is the The Cup of Sanctification – based on God’s statement, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”  The second is The Cup of Judgment or Deliverance- based on God’s statement, “I will deliver you from slavery to them.”  The third cup is The Cup of Redemption – based on God’s statement, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”  When Jesus prayed this prayer, he had already raised the third cup – the cup of Redemption – and had said, “This is my blood.”  On the table, when Jesus prayed this prayer, there was The Cup Restoration, left undrunk. 

And yet, here was Jesus, reclining at table with his disciples, saying, “I have accomplished the work God gave me to do.  He used a form of the same word he would utter on the cross the next day.  I have accomplished… tetelestai.  I have wholly and fully done everything you sent me to do.  And there was a cup on the table that had yet to be drunk.  And when Jesus and his disciples got up from the meal, the Cup of Restoration was still on the table.  The fourth cup was still full of wine.  The meal was not finished, and yet Jesus said he had finished everything God wanted him to do. 

To understand what Jesus was telling his disciples both in words and in visuals is to understand what it means to be a Christian at the deepest level. 

The prayer in John 17 begins with Jesus laying out in one paragraph what has been accomplished and how, just so there will never be any doubt.  

First, Jesus’ work was finished at the right time.   He prayed, “Father, the hour has come.”  Paul tells us in Romans 5:6, For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.”  And the writer to the Hebrews says, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”  There was no other time that would do.  And throughout his ministry Jesus kept saying, “My time has not yet come…”  until this moment.  It was the right time.

Next, he affirms that he had done everything he did for the right reason.  The purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to “glorify the Son that the Son may glorify you.”  The writers of the Westminster Catechism got it right.  The first question they asked was, “What is the chief end of man?”  And the answer is, “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”  Do not mistake it.  The reason Jesus came was to do what he had been doing eternally.  He was the agent of creation.  All things were created through Jesus.  Everything in the physical universe was made through him.  And the reason was that the Son might glorify the Father.  That’s it.  That’s why you and I are here.  No other reason.  We are not here to build the church or to do good works or to love one another.  We are not here to grow civilization or to create beauty or to keep ourselves alive.  Those are all byproducts of the one and only reason we exist.  And Jesus came to testify to the work he had always and already done: to glorify God the Father.  That’s the right reason to live a sinless life.  That’s the right reason to suffer persecution and humiliation.  That’s the right reason to give yourself over to be nailed to a cross and to die.  That is the son glorifying his Father. 

Jesus came at the right time and did all that he did for the right reason.  And he was the right leader.    Jesus said this was all possible, “since you [since God] have given him [Jesus] authority”.  At the end of Matthew’s gospel the resurrected Jesus’ parting words to his disciples are these, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Because God has given me all authority and I have acted for the right reason at the right time, YOU go in that authority for the right reason.  YOU go and glorify God.  You make disciples who glorify God.  You baptize because turning from your sin glorifies God.  Jesus was the right leader with the right authority. 

But to glorify God not only takes the right leader.  It takes the right people.  Out of all the people on earth, did it ever strike you as strange that God would choose you?  Look at yourself.  Are you the best possible person to be appointed as an Ambassador for Christ?  Are you the best possible person, are we the best possible church?  Are the churches everywhere on the planet the best possible churches for God to use to glorify himself?   Out of all flesh, God chose you.  Out of all people, God chose you to be a church together.  Out of all the places on earth God chose Concord Heights for you. 

Why?  Because at the right time, for the right reason, the right leader brought the right people to bring about the right outcome.  If we take it as the central truth of Christ that the son came to glorify the Father, then the thing he did that glorified God the most was to make eternal life possible for all who believe. 

That is why he left the fourth cup on the table undrunk.  Had he finished the Passover at that moment he would have drunk judgment on all who were yet unborn who would live in all the ages until the end of time.  But Jesus drank the Cup of Redemption last, leaving open to all who come the invitation to do as his disciples had done that night and to be seated at the table along with him.  When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he accomplished Eternal Life for all who believe… every person the Lord brings to know him… for all time.  He will finish this Passover when he sits again at table, not in an upper room, but at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb on the last day.  And seated at table with him, glorifying the Father to the fullest extent, will be 100% of everyone who has received the word of Salvation. 

The next paragraph of Jesus prayer is nothing more than Jesus, six times, affirming the work of the Father, the work of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is what is called a doxology.  It is what happens when you have run out of words because you are overwhelmed by the greatness and glory of the God who is there, who has spoken, who has sent his Son, who accomplished Eternal life for all who believe, who raised Jesus from the dead and who you realize has also raised you from the dead.  When you are run over by the grace of God all that is left to say is Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.  As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.  World without end.  Amen!  Amen! 

Doxology is what happens when you begin to glorify God the way you were designed to.  Doxology is what happens when you glorify God and enjoy him forever. 

It really cheapens the experience to say that a doxology is a brief statement of the truth of the Trinity that glorifies the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  But listen to how Jesus gets wrapped up in it, as six times he affirms everything we just talked about:

The work of the Father (The people you gave me)
The work of the Son (I manifested your name)
The work of the Holy Spirit (Out of the world)

The work of the Father (Yours they were)
The work of the Son (and you gave them to me)
The work of the Holy Spirit (they have kept your word)

The work of the Father (everything that you have given me is from you)
The work of the Son (I have given them the words that you gave me)
The work of the Holy Spirit (they have received them and have come to know)

The work of the Father (All mine are yours)
The work of the Son (And yours are mine)
The work of the Holy Spirit (and I am glorified in them)

The work of the Father (I am no longer in the world)
The work of the Son (but they are in the world)
The work of the Holy Spirit (and I am coming to you)

The work of the Father (keep them in your name)
The work of the Son (which you have given to me)
The work of the Holy Spirit (that they may be one, even as we are one)

The Cup of Restoration is still on the table.  The Shepherd prayed that there might be one flock.  As you come to the table today there are millions and millions of people for whom Jesus died who have not yet heard the word of Salvation.  We will not all be one until every believer in Jesus has glorified the Son to the fullest extent.  Go out among them.  Tell them that the Son glorified the Father and that he is glorified in you.  Tell them how you met Jesus and what he has done in your life.  Tell them while the cup of Restoration is still on the table.   Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 


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