Jesus’ Great Declaration of Truth

Scriptures: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Guest speaker: Phillip Leipold

Jesus’ words, as given to us today in the Gospel of John, are very dramatic words. And though they are part of Jesus’ prayer to God, as he approached his time of suffering and great sacrifice, they majestically and dramatically tell us the truth of our Christian faith, and of the relationship between Jesus and God.

As we contemplate the words we heard today from the Gospel of John, we should see that we are to continue the work begun by Christ. In John 17:4 Jesus said, in his prayer to God, “I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” The apostles and we are to continue the work begun by Christ.

Are we helping to finish Christ’s work? Are we sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet? The great truth of the gospel is declared to us today, in our reading from the Gospel of John. Through belief and faith in Jesus as our personal Savior and Redeemer, we will be given eternal life.

Jesus describes for us that life eternal. In John 17:3 we read “and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only one and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” In his prayer, as recorded in the Gospel of John, Jesus is praying for his disciples.

He is praying for those whom God had given him and who believed in Jesus and knew the truth. The truth that Jesus came from God, as His messenger and Messiah.

As believers in the truth of Jesus’ message, the words of Jesus’ prayer apply to us just as they did to Jesus’ apostles. The great truth of Christ, as given to us in today’s Gospel reading, applies to us.

Jesus finished the work that God had given him to do. Then the apostles, as instructed by Jesus, as we have read many times from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told his apostles to continue the work that he had done, by making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Now it is we. We are the ones who are to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. How are we doing? As believers in Christ, as people baptized by the water and by the Holy Spirit, we have the power given to us by God to make a difference in the lives of others.

Christ commissioned us. He commissioned you and me, to bring people to the knowledge and love of God, by sharing with others portions of our individual faith journey. I believe that I am now more at peace than at any time in my life.

Maybe there’s a good number of reasons why that is so. There probably are. But I believe that the increased peace that I find in my life is in direct proportion to the strengthening of my faith over the years.

Those of us who find a strong benefit in our lives in following the teachings of our Savior Jesus, and who have found the peace of Christ, should be compelled to share that peace and that faith and that hope to everyone we meet.

Certainly there have been times in the lives of all of us when we might have wanted to share our faith with others. But all too often, so it seems, something stops us. Many people have written about the difficulty of Christians witnessing for Christ.

Howard Hendrick said, “In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering.” The publication Our Daily Bread offered the following story about T. H. Huxley, a well-known agnostic.

Huxley was with a group of men on a weekend retreat. On Sunday morning, while many of them were preparing to go to church, Huxley approached the man known for his Christian character and said, “Suppose you stayed here with me and tell me why you are a Christian.”

The man, knowing that he couldn’t match wits with Huxley, was reluctant to agree. But the agnostic said gently, “I don’t want to argue with you. I just want you to simply tell me what this Jesus means to you.”

The man did. And when he finished, there were tears in the eyes of T. H. Huxley as he said, “I would give my right arm if I could believe what you just said.”

As is suggested by the story about T. H. Huxley, there certainly are times when we do share our faith with others, and we do sometimes find success in those efforts.

Sometimes we are sharing with others the good news of Jesus Christ, and we do so in a very direct and vocal way, in the way the Christian did when he dealt with T. H. Huxley. We certainly need to continue seeking the courage to speak out for our Savior Christ.

However, sometimes we are able to share our faith with others in a more indirect and silent way. According to the book Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, Francis once invited a young monk to come with him to town to preach.

Honored to be given the invitation, the monk readily accepted. All day long, he and Francis walked through the streets and byways and alleys, and even in the suburbs of the town that they visited. They rubbed shoulders with hundreds of people.

At day’s end, the two headed back home. Not even once had Francis addressed a group of people in a preaching fashion. Nor had he talked to even one person about the content of Christ’s gospel. Greatly disappointed, his young companion said, “I thought we were going to town to preach.”

Francis responded, “My son, we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We were seen by many, and our behavior was closely watched. It is of no use to walk anywhere to preach, unless you preach everywhere as you walk.”

Certainly we need to find the courage to speak to others about faith and the blessings of accepting Christ. We need to share with others the blessings of living according to Christ’s teachings. We also need to remember that how we live our lives often speaks louder than any words we ever say.

The Gospels that we read each Sunday could be described as a God-inspired record of those who witnessed the events of Jesus’ life and heard Jesus’ teachings. It is Jesus’ teachings that we are to use as our companion and our guide through life.

Like the people described in the Gospels, we are to be witnesses for Christ. Jesus said “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus did not say to us, “you may be” or “you might be my witnesses,” and he most certainly didn’t say “you should think about being my witnesses.”

No, instead Jesus said, “You shall be my witnesses.” All of us need to remember those words of Christ. We are witnesses for Christ. I hope we are. Are we continuing the work begun by Christ? I’m quite confident that some of you do share your faith with others. And you may share your faith with others more often than you realize.

Witnessing is most often done through loving care and personal concern and storytelling, which all of us at least sometimes do. Your witnessing and loving care and concern might be a phone call to or a personal visit with a friend who is going through a difficult time. Witnessing might be in sharing a cup of coffee with a neighbor who has lost a loved one. It might be a visit with a relative or friend in the nursing home or in the hospital.

In the course of our various visits, maybe over that cup of coffee, we might express our concern over our friend’s or our relative’s difficulties. And we might offer prayer to God on their behalf. There probably are times when we share the hope and the peace that we have found on our Christian journey of faith.

The fact is, all of us do witness. And we all witness more than we sometimes realize. I’m confident, however, that we can all find opportunities to share our faith and the peace of Christ with others more often than we do. We can all do better.

May God help all of us to think more seriously and more often about Jesus’ great declaration of truth that is given to us in today’s Scripture. And may all of us learn to more often share with others that great truth as given to us by Christ.

It is through the confession of our sins and the acceptance of and belief in Jesus as our personal Savior and Redeemer that we shall receive life eternal. Jesus said, “and this eternal life is that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

As Jesus tells us, someday, as true believers, we will meet and know God and Christ. May Jesus’ great truth be cemented on our hearts, and may we be the witnesses for Christ that Jesus asked us to be. Amen.

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