“Making Known God’s Name”
May 8, 2016: The Seventh Sunday Of Easter
Acts 16: 6 – 15/Psalm 98/Revelations 22: 12-17/John 17: 20 – 26
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
Making Known God’s Name. This is the promise of Jesus in the last verse of the gospel reading today, saying in His prayer to the Father that He had already done it and would continue to do it.
The Gospel readings in the Sundays of Easter are very rigidly set for us, year after year. Every Easter Sunday, we read the Resurrection. Every 2nd Sunday of Easter, we read from John 20, the story where Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday. Every 3rd Sunday of Easter, the Gospel tells of another appearance of Jesus on Easter Sunday, either from Luke 24 or from John 21. Every 4th Sunday of Easter we read from a portion of John 10, which shows Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Every 5th Sunday of Easter, it is Jesus’ teaching about love from His words in the Upper Room. On the 6th Sunday of Easter, it is about God’s love or God’s peace, again from His Upper Room teaching. And on the 7thSunday of Easter, every year, the Gospel is from John 17, Jesus’ Maundy Thursday prayer.
Today, we see in this prayer where Jesus prays, “I have made Your Name known to them, Father, and will make it known.” What is the big deal? Why is this so important that Jesus makes the Father’s Name known to us? In the beginning of this portion of the prayer, Jesus makes it clear that He is praying for us - all believers. He says, “Father, I pray not just for My twelve apostles, but for everyone who believes in Me through their word.” How many of us have believed Jesus through the words of the apostles? Through the apostles Paul, John, Peter, Mark, or Matthew … We are all here because we believe in the Father through their word, the Bible.
Why has Jesus made His Father’s Name known to us? It is, as Jesus said, “So that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” The reason we should know God’s Name is so that His love can be in us. Christ can be in us. Those are not small issues. If you want the love of God in you, first, you have to know God’s name. Jesus Himself is speaking, “If I am going to be in them, if Your love is going to be in them, first of all, they have to know is Your Name. So Father, I’ve got to do this really important task: make Your Name known to them.”
When we talk about the Name of God, we are not talking about what we call Him by, as if He introduces Himself with the words, “Hi, My Name’s God. I created the universe. How are you?” We understand that a name means nature or alternatively, reputation. If you have a name for being strong, that is your nature to be strong. One of God’s many names is Peace, Jehovah Shalom; this means that He is a God of peace. His nature is peace and He has a reputation for being a peaceful God. It is like the expression that somebody is going to “make a name for himself”: it means making a reputation for himself. It doesn’t literally mean to invent a name, like a lot of people do when they name their children: Rashakio, Thelenius, or Tove-Lo. (A name someone actually made for themselves) But figuratively, to make a name for yourself means to make a reputation for yourself. If we want to know God’s name, it means to know His nature and to know His reputation.
When it comes to what people know of God, most of them just say what they think or hope God is like. They don’t take a lot of time to search the Scriptures, to come to God in prayer and say, “God, show me Your glory. Show me who You are.” They go on with life and they say, “I believe this is God’s nature.” Basically, they just say what they think what it is like or what they hope God is like based on what they need Him to be at the moment. For instance, if a husband makes a big mistake and his wife is really mad at him, he says, “Honey, please forgive me. You’ve got to understand that God is a loving and a forgiving God. He forgives all sorts of stuff. That is just the way God is. I know that it is true and I need it to be true in this case, so please, forgive me.” But if we are angry with somebody else because the person has hurt us, we say, “Why should I forgive you? You know, God is a God of vengeance. ‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord, and if God can take vengeance, I am going to also because that is who God is. God is a God that takes sin seriously.” We seem to think that God’s nature is based on what we need it to be at the moment.
Years and years ago, when I was a young fellow in Church, a visiting preacher came with a very interesting testimony. He said that at one point in his life he had a fatal disease, and he promised the Lord, “Lord, if You heal me from this disease, I will be Your man. I will go for You. I will be a missionary. I will answer your call.” The Lord said, “It is a deal. I will heal you and you will be My missionary.” One of the ladies in the Church said, “That is ridiculous! That can’t be! God doesn’t make deals.” As a little boy, I said, “I believe this lady. She is a choir member, a respectable person. Okay, God doesn’t make deals.”
Later on, I remembered the story when Abraham said, “God, if I find fifty people in Sodom who are righteous, will You spare the city?” God said, “Yes, it is a deal.” Then, Abraham said, “Lord, how about forty?” God says, “It is a deal.” Abraham said, “How about if I find thirty?” God says, “You’ve got a deal.” It was like that all the way down to ten. How, then, can we say that God doesn’t make deals? God made a deal with Abraham right there in Genesis. The lady in the Church said, “It doesn’t seem right to me that God would make a deal, so God doesn’t make deals - because I don’t think He should.”
This is very common for us when it comes to what we know of God, but Jesus said, “That is not good enough. If My love is to be in you, if I Myself would be in you, then you need to know the Father’s Name.” This is why Jesus said, “I am taking this matter of showing Your Name to Your people seriously, Father.”
Today, I want to show you one specific thing about Jesus’ nature. There are countless things to know about Him, but I will focus on just one today, from Revelation 22:13. Jesus is explaining here His name, His character, His nature and who He is. He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” He says the same thing three times in three different ways to make sure we get it. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; Omega is the last letter. So when He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” He is saying, “I am the beginning of the alphabet; I am the end of the alphabet.” He says, “I am the first and the last.” Then, He says, “I am the beginning and the end.” What does Jesus mean when He says that He is the Alpha and the Omega? He is saying that what He starts, He finishes. This is the nature of God. Jesus finishes what He starts. If He begins a good work in you, as St. Paul said to the Philippians, He is going to carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Jesus finishes what He starts. If He starts a work in a nation like the Philippines, He is going to carry it on until He finishes it. If He starts a work in the Cathedral of the King, He is going to keep on until He finishes. He is not just the Alpha; He is not just the guy who starts a bunch of projects and leaves them lying around half-finished. He is the Alpha and the Omega; He finishes what He starts.
Another way to put it is this: “Whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets.” If Jesus prays a prayer, He is not just going to pray it and forget about it because whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets. We need to hang on to this. We are dealing today with Jesus’ prayer of John 17. Usually, we pray for what we want; we don’t pray for what we don’t want. We don’t pray, “Lord, I pray for sickness.” What does Jesus want? What did He pray for? In John 17, first of all, He said, “Lord, I want all those who believe in Me to be one.” Secondly, Jesus said, “I want them perfected in unity.” This is pretty hard. We have been working on this for 2,000 years and we are not there yet. Sometimes I think that we are getting further away rather than closer. The third thing that Jesus said is that He wants us where He is. We think it is simple. We are going to die and Jesus is going to take us to heaven; no problem. We’ll be where He is. This is part of what He means, but He also means to be at the level He is. It is not the location but the level. He wants us to be where He is spiritually. How could we be where Jesus is? Not in His divinity, but in the humanity of Jesus Christ, our human nature can be on the spiritual level where His is because He is also a man just like us. We can’t be His divinity, but we can be like His Incarnate nature.
When Jesus says, “I want them to be where I am,” we are to be targeting the same spiritual level as the man, Christ Jesus. It is not easy anymore. It is not as easy as closing our eyes, getting buried and brought to heaven. It is tougher now. We’ve got to live a life of self-sacrifice like Jesus did. Another thing that Jesus wants is in John 6:39, “It is the Father’s will that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but I raise it up in the last day.” God wants that of every person He has given Jesus, none is lost. Out of everyone here today, the Father doesn’t want Jesus to lose a single one, but to raise them up on the last day. This involves a lot of our free will and our choices, and yet, as the Father’s will, nobody gets lost.
How can any of that ever be? How can all of us be one? Perfected? In unity? Nobody lost? Us at Jesus’ level? It seems impossible, but remember, whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets. It may seem impossible, but if Jesus prayed it, Jesus is going to get it. He has a plan. How is it going to happen, especially the unity part? How can we be one with people that we can’t really trust to do things the right way all the time? If everybody was perfect and everybody did things just the way they are supposed to and never made mistakes, and got everything just right and never got anything wrong, it would be easy to be one with them. But how can we get there? How can that be? How can we be one with someone we don’t trust? How can we depend on someone we can’t trust? What is Jesus expecting?
Tomorrow is Election Day and we all have probably picked our candidates by now. But do you really and truly believe that your candidate is able to do everything they say that they are going to do? Do you really and truly believe that your candidate is willing to do everything they say that they are going to do? Do you really and truly believe that they are evenintending to do everything they say that they is going to do? I don’t think so, because the candidates are human. Sometimes, they are going to say stuff by mistake.
At a campaign rally, there are so many things that are happening which a candidate is involved in: shaking hands, kissing babies, posing for photo ops, posing for more photo ops, and in the middle of it, somebody asks the candidate, “Do you think that by the end of your term, you can cut the budget deficit of the Philippines by half?” and, preoccupied with all the other things, they answer, “Sure I can,” often without even thinking what they are saying.
However, even though you know that they are not going to keep all their promises, you are still going to vote. Why? You don’t vote because you trust the candidates. You vote because you have faith, not in the candidate, but in the political system. If they do get totally off the wall and crazy, they are going to get dealt with somehow or the other. There is a system of check and balances in our government that, as crazy as it gets, and crazy as it has gotten, there is still a certain amount of restraint in government. We think it is bad, and it is, but it could be a lot worse. In many places it is. There are restraints in the system, and because we have faith in the system, we vote. It is not because we trust in the politicians. If we have trust in the politicians, we are foolish.
Bringing it to a broader dimension, look at the persons around us. Can we always trust them to do the right thing one hundred percent of the time? Can we trust that they can do it right and perfectly every time? This is life and human nature. People don’t always say things that are true – sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose. In today’s reading from the book of Acts, the chief magistrates brought Paul and Silas to the authorities and said, “These men, being Jews, are leading the city in an uproar.” This was only a half truth. Half of Paul and Silas were Jewish; half of them were Romans. The half-truth said, “As Jews, the men can beat Paul with rods.” But the other half truth was that as Romans, they couldn’t touch them. They conveniently forgot that half.
We can’t believe everything that we hear. We can’t count on everyone to get every word right, either accidentally or not. It doesn’t matter which; but that being the case, that is the way it is with truth. I hear untruths every day – accidental and not accidental. You see, people fall short of perfection all the time. So, if this is the case amongst us (and we are churchgoing people), how in the world can we ever be perfected in unity? How can we be in unity with people who mess up now and then? How can we be perfected in those who make mistakes or who don’t get it right all the time? How can Jesus ever get what He wants? How can we be perfected in unity if we, His people, are not yet perfected? The good thing is that whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets because if it were up to us to bring it there, we would be in big trouble. If it were up to us in being perfect, Jesus would be waiting for a long, long time. How can Jesus get what He wants when none of us are perfectly trustworthy? It is not just because we mean to be untrustworthy, but because we mess up sometimes.
There are two things that I want to leave with you. The first one is what I have already said: whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets. But how can Jesus get what He wants: We being one, we being where He is, perfected in unity and none of us being lost in the midst of our imperfection? How can this ever be? This brings me to the second point I want to make today: It is not a trust issue, but a faith issue. I was shocked when I heard this from the Lord a few days ago. If it is a trust issue, there is no hope because we are not going to get there. If we are trusting man to be perfect, the Bible says over and over again, “Do not trust in man.” Trust in God, but do not trust in man. Put your trust in Jesus that Jesus is going to get whatever He wants. If He wants us perfected in unity, He is going to get it. If He wants us one, He is going to get it. If He wants none of us lost, He is going to get it. If Jesus wants us in the place where He is, He is going to get it. But it won’t come through us getting together based on our trust in each other. We are going to be so disappointed day after day, year after year and decade after decade. It is a faith issue.
St. Paul says that there are three great things which remain: faith, hope and love. Trust is not even on that list. We put too much trust in trust. I am not against trust; it is a wonderful thing; but trust belongs to God. When I begin trusting in man, I am going to be hurt sooner or later. It is a matter of faith, not of trust. This is confrontational to me, but we are butting our heads against the wall, going nowhere, seemingly going down the drain and getting smaller and smaller, less and less influential, because we are trying to approach the problem from the standpoint of trust. This was never what we were supposed to do. It is an issue of faith. It is in faith that our Lord Jesus is going to get what He wants and He wants us perfected. He wants us walking in love with each other. He wants us preferring each other. He wants us to forgive each other. All these things lead to unity and if we want to be one, this is how it is going to be done. It will never happen if we are trying to make it through trust.
It is a faith issue; faith in God alone; faith in God above. If you put your faith in Him, you will not be put to shame. It is not about us and our weaknesses and our failures. Trust that Jesus is in charge.
In the Feast of Ascension last Thursday, we saw that Jesus has ascended above everything. Everything is under His feet and He has all authority, and this is why whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets. By faith we are with Him in the heavenlies. Through Him, we can put our faith, not in the systems of man such as government, but in the fact that Jesus is on the throne and Jesus says, “I want you to be one.” Good enough for us, we are going to be one. Jesus says, “I want no one to be lost.” Good enough for us, if we have faith, we are not going to be lost.
Whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets, because He brings it about not by trust, but by faith. Today, I am talking about faith. Brothers and sisters, it is a faith issue, not a trust issue.
How do we respond? Let us think on the issues that we face in the Cathedral of the King; if they are actually faith issues, how do we respond to that? How does that affect our approach to issues? How does it affect our opinion of issues? How does it affect your action toward issues? We have been approaching situations as trust issues. We have been approaching them the wrong way. We have to reshape our thinking and change our approach. We must begin to deal with situations from a standpoint of faith, not trust.