For this last Sunday in the Easter Season, the text is always from John 17, what has been called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. This year, when we focus on the Gospel according to Luke, we look at the last part of that prayer [John 17:20-26].
Looking at the structure of various books and sections of the bible, I have sometimes noticed a structure which follows the layout of the tabernacle or temple. There is a noticeable increase in holiness when one moves onward, getting closer to the end of the text, an obvious highpoint, some sort of revelation about the one true God of the scriptures. The ‘highpoint’ in tabernacle or temple terms is what is called ‘the Holy of Holies’ or ‘the Most Holy Place’.
To give a brief example, at the beginning of Leviticus, the text usually says, ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses… (4:1).’ Later it transitions to ‘The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron… (13:1).’ At the end of the book, the text finally says, ‘The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai… (25:1).’ Obviously much more could be said about that book and others.
What is interesting is that, in John 17, there are several times that Jesus uses the term ‘Father’ in the prayer. This title is not only at the very beginning. Jesus uses it in verses 1, 5, 11, 21, 24, and 25. Not only that, but in verse 11 Jesus calls him ‘Holy Father’, and, in verse 25, he calls him ‘Righteous Father’. This also seems to be a progression here. What is the point of calling the Father ‘righteous’?
The use of the two words in the rest of this gospel account seem to point out a noticeable pattern. The word ‘holy’ is certainly ascribed to God. In fact, the word is used five times in this account. The first, third, and fifth times reference the Holy Spirit (1:33, 14:26, and 20:22). The second time for the word references Jesus (6:69), and the fourth time, this chapter, references the Father. There is no doubt that the Trinity is holy.
The word righteous is used only two other times in this gospel account besides this chapter. And it never is in a title elsewhere in this account. In 5:30, Jesus says that his judgment is ‘righteous’ or ‘just’. In 7:24, Jesus says, ‘Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous (or just) judgment.’ Jesus seems, by his use of the word, to open it up for others.
Just how serious Jesus is about that may be seen in his previous use of the word ‘Father’, back in chapter 17, verse 24. In the original Greek, there is a big emphasis on ‘those you have given me’, that they ‘may be with me’. In the original language, the meaning does not change with the order of the words. What is up front is important. And those who are given to Jesus by the Father are important.
After Jesus uses the title ‘Righteous Father’, Jesus says that (v. 26), ‘I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known….’ This 'making known' goes in two different directions. It happened in the past, and it will happen in the future. And the purpose Jesus gives is wonderful: ‘…that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’
We do not go toward holiness. It has come toward us. And he brings his love with him. What more could we desire?