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Sermon for John 17:6-19 - The Meaning of Life
Easter 7

In Act 5 Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Macbeth, he is on the castle walls, under siege by his enemies. A cry is heard from within the castle, and Macbeth learns that his wife has killed herself. There was a time when such a message would have chilled his heart, but at this point he is surprisingly stoic and accepting, resigned to the barren futility of life. He goes on to give one of the most famous Shakespearean speeches. Do you remember it? "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more."

Is Macbeth right? Is life nothing but a shadow having no substance, no meaning? Writers and philosophers since recorded time have tried to answer the question. I don’t think any of them have been successful in answering the question to everyone’s satisfaction. Some one once said that "Trying to speak about the ultimate reality is like sending a kiss through a messenger." I understand their point: Something of its truth is lost in the translation.

What is the meaning of life? A philosophical question to be sure but this is not only the philosopher’s question. It is a genuinely human question and therefore a question that we all ask. It might be a question that is asked in despair or hope, out of cynicism, or out of sincere curiosity and a deep desire to have goals and guidance in life. However we raise the question about the meaning of life, it is our most basic and fundamental question.

And so it comes as no surprise that Jesus deals with this question and answers it. Surprisingly, the answer is not given in the context of an argument with the Jewish leaders or in a discussion with his disciples, and it is not given in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus deals with so many fundamental issues. It is telling that Jesus deals with the meaning of life in the context of prayer.

In the context of what has been called, by many scholars, Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. [Pause] The Disciples are in the upper room, now. They have just finished the Passover meal and Jesus is thinking about his crucifixion which will occur within the next 24 hours. He knows he is about to leave his disciples alone in the world and he goes before God as a priest would, to intercede for them, to pray for them.

Listen again to his prayer. I am lifting out a few key verses: "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe, but I will remain in the world no longer…Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life…and this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." It is in this third verse that Jesus delivers the meaning of eternal life and in essence the meaning of life itself. He says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

In essence, Jesus says, "the meaning of life is this: that you have a relationship with God, and me his Son, Jesus Christ." And that’s the long and short of it! But, Jesus himself, understood just how difficult it was going to be not only for his disciples but for all of us to come to this very simple realization in life and so he prays for two key things. First, in order that we might understand the meaning of life…

1. He Prays for Our Protection from the World.

2. He Prays That We Might Know God.

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