Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Friday Hour at the Cross Service with Meditations on John 17, 19

Order of Service

Welcome to our Hour at the Cross Service.

Yesterday, at our Maundy Thursday Communion, we thought about Jesus’ final words to his disciples before his death, as they are recorded in John chapters 13-16.

Today we’re going to think about the passage which follows, Jesus’ prayer as recorded in John chapter 17, and then John’s account of Jesus’ death, from chapter 19.

You might like to have the passage open in front of you.

In the pew Bibles, it’s page 1085. John 17.

There’ll be some periods of silence during the service in which we can think and pray.

You might find the pew Bibles and the hymn books useful resources for those times.

Hymn 1:

The Collect for Good Friday (T&S p307)

A Puritan Prayer reflecting on the cross from a collection known as The Valley of Vision

Love’s Lustres at Calvary (p42)

Reading: (1) John 17:1-5

In this chapter, we stand on holy ground.

We are privileged to hear the Son address the Father.

There is no closer relationship in the universe than the eternal bond between Father and Son.

Both are fully God.

They are perfectly united in love and will.

It is their relationship with one another that sets them apart from one another.

The Son is all that the Father is, except Father.

The Father is all that the Son is, except Son.

Here is a fathomless mystery.

And we are privileged to listen in as the Son made man addresses his Father.

Here is another longer, fuller Lord’s Prayer which is more fully and particularly the Son’s, rather than his model the church’s praying.  

And this conversation between Son and Father, as the Son faces his death is appropriate, because Jesus has come to draw us into the family.

If we believe, John has told us, we can become children of God, born of God, given access to the Father and the full rights as heirs.

In Christ, we too can come freely and confidently into our heavenly Father’s presence and speak to him about anything which is on our hearts.  

The Son uniquely and eternally lived in the glory of the Godhead.

As the Word, he as with God in the beginning – even towards the Father, oriented to him.

From all eternity, he was at the Father’s side, in his bosom.

Before the world began the Father and the Son enjoyed an unclouded glory together in the Holy Spirit.

The Son has glorified the Father and the Father glorifies the Son – each seeks the glory of the other.

The Godhead is a community of mutual love and glory and exaltation.

The self-giving love which motivates the cross, is in fact the very heart of the life of the Triune God who is Love.

Jesus’ saving work means that we too can know the glory of God.

The Apostles saw the glory of God in Jesus and put their faith in him.

And the prospect for all Christians is glory, when at last we will see Christ face to face in glory.

Jesus’ mission is the movement from glory to glory via the cross – from heaven to earth and back again.

The Son came from the Father and is returning to the Father: from glory to glory.

But the cross too will be the strange and hidden glorification of the Son as he is lifted up, exalted from the earth.

From glory to glory via glory, displaying glory, for our glorification, to the glory of God.

Jesus’ earthly ministry is nearly complete.

He has perfectly and sinlessly glorified his Father.

He has faithfully run his race.

Only the home straight lies before him, but it is the most gruelling leg of the journey, a journey which involves being lifted on high, but which we could also call going down into the depths.

Jesus will go into exile, into darkness, cut off from the blessing of God’s love, baring the curse of God’s wrath.

The Son has been given authority over all people that he might give eternal life to those whom God has given him.

Jesus will perish on the cross that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life.

This eternal life is to know God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death restores our friendship with God.

The great barrier of sin is removed for all who will trust in Jesus.

So this eternal life – knowing God - begins the moment we believe.

Yes, it goes on beyond the grave, but it is not merely the continuation of life:

It is not just quantity of life but a new quality of life:

The spiritually dead are made alive – alive to God, enlivened, vivified by his powerful Spirit.

Believers are born again into a new life of friendship with God, joining the glorious fellowship of God the Father and God the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, made members of the very family of God.

It was to this glorious eternal life that the Lord Jesus looked as he faced the cross.

Hymn 2:

Reading: (2) John 17:6-19

God’s people are those whom the Father has entrusted to the Son out of the world.

They obey the Father’s words and accept Jesus’ words.

They know and believe that Jesus was sent by the Father.

Handed over by the Father to the Son and kept in their double-hold, believers couldn’t be more secure.

But they live in the world – not yet in heaven or in the renewed creation.

What Jesus calls “the world” in this passage is not so much the created world, which we know God made and which is good, and which he will redeem, but the world as opposed to the church, the fallen world which is in rebellion against its Maker.

Jesus is soon to leave this world, but his disciples must remain in the kind of world that has crucified its Creator.

So Jesus prays for his disciples’ protection.

God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayers.

Sometimes our prayers are stupid or selfish or self-contradictory or faithless.

Sometimes they are not according to God’s will.

But Jesus only ever prayed perfect prayers.

So I take it we can be confident that the Father will answer this prayer of his Son.

The disciples will be protected by the Almighty power of God’s name.

That’s protected!

There is no more powerful power, no mightier name.

Not that God’s protection will insulate us from all suffering:

We follow a crucified Saviour, after all.

But the Son and the Father will infallibly keep all those for whom the precious blood of God is shed.

The world and the evil one may do their worst, but the Christian is ultimately safe.

They can torture and kill the body, but God is in the resurrection business.

Our lives, our souls, are safe in Jesus’ all-powerful nail-marked hands.  

The believer can have a joy even in the face of death which the world cannot give and which the world cannot take away.

Jesus’ disciples are to be in the world yet not of the world.

They are the salt of the earth which must not lose its saltiness.

The church is to be in the world, but the Christ rejecting world is not to infect the church.

The church is God’s agent for the transformation of the world and if she is to be any use to the world she must remain both open to the world and related to it, but also pure and distinctive from it.

The church is to be sanctified, set apart, made holy by God’s Word of truth that she might play her part in the sanctification, the transformation and conversion of the world.

Jesus sets himself apart to the death of the cross that his church might be set apart.

Jesus dies for an unholy people to make us holy.

By his blood, we are cleansed.

He finds us in our filthy rags, and makes us his beautiful bride, washed and radiant, without stain or winkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless.

As Jesus was sent into the world, so he sends his disciples to continue the transforming, sanctifying, glorifying, saving mission of Father and Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hymn 3:

Reading (3): John 17:20-26

Jesus prayed for you and me as he went to the cross.

What an astonishing thought that is!

He had us in mind as he went to his death – that death which was for us.

He wants you and me to be with him in the glory of heaven.

That’s part of the reason that he came, the reason why he will die: for you, for me.

And Jesus prays that his church may be one as the Father and the Son are one.

There could be no closer nor more perfect unity.

There is one church.

That’s a spiritual reality.

One Lord, one body, one faith, one hope, one baptism.

The church is a seamless robe.

But we must admit it is a ragged and torn one too.

Jesus prays for the kind of church unity which the world can see and which proves Jesus mission of love.

We have a long way to go before this prayer is fully answered!

Let us pray that we might preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.

Let’s pray too for the greater visible unity of the church in the truth of Jesus’ word.

Jesus’ whole ministry has made the Father and his love known, but now as he goes to the cross he shows the full extent of his love.

It is incredible that in Christ, the Father has the same love for us which he has for his eternal, spotless, well-beloved Son.

That is a love to bask in, in which to glory.

We are sometimes far from lovely, but the Father sees us in the altogether lovely Son.

The Father loves us as he loves the Son with an infinite, boundless, delighted, almighty love – a love without beginning or end or limit, an everlasting, incomparable love – a love which is long and high and deep and wide beyond measure.

Music: Oh the deep, deep love – Sovereign Grace 30 – track no. 7

Reading (4): John 19:16b-37

Jesus dies as the King of the Jews, but the notice above the cross in Aramaic, Latin and Greek is perhaps a hint that Jesus is the king of all the nations.

He is king, of course, whether we like it or not – recognise it or not.

Though as he dies, it takes the eye of faith to see in this dying man the glory of the Maker.

On the cross, the creator is uncreated, undone.

The Resurrection and the Life expires and dies.

The fountain of life is poured out for us.

The spring of Living Water thirsts and is dried up.

And because he himself is parched, streams of life-giving water flow from his side.

Sinners plunged beneath the flood of his blood lose all their guilty stains.

All in fulfilment of the Scriptures.

Jesus is the righteous man of Psalm 34:19-20 who suffers unjustly.

Even though he dies, the Lord ultimately delivers Jesus and protects all his bones.

Like the Passover Lamb, none of his bones is broken.

At last “It is finished!”.

The saving work of Christ is completed.

The price for sin is fully paid.


It is done!

All that is needful hath been.

He “made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world”.

And that finished work creates a new family of many mothers and sons and brothers and sisters and fathers in the church.

Jesus’ death draws us even into the glory of the divine family of Father, Son and many children, or younger brothers, bound together by the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing more terrible or more glorious than the cross of Christ.

May it be our glory and our delight, our comfort, and hope and joy and peace. Amen.

Intercessions (T&S p316)

The Lord’s Prayer in its traditional form (?)

Hymn 4:

Concluding Prayer (T&S, p320)

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