WHY JESUS WANTS US TO BE WITH HIM
Seventh In a series by Dr. Rick Perrin on Jesus’ Prayer for You from John 17:20-26
“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory.” John 17:24
My mom and dad were married on November 10, 1942 in Shreveport, Louisiana. World War II was on, dad was finishing his training to be the pilot of a B-26 bomber, and Mom had ridden the train down from Pennsylvania to be with him. After their small wedding dad slipped into the barracks where he was assigned and dismantled his bunk. He shoved the other beds around until they filled the space so no one could tell he was missing. Then, against regulations, he moved into an apartment with his new wife. Quite naturally they wanted to be together. The weeks, then the days, then the hours sped faster and faster, until at last, the moment they dreaded above all others arrived. Mom told me how they stood on the corner clinging to each other as the bus arrived that would carry dad to the train which would carry him to Florida and the airplane he’d fly to Brazil, across the Atlantic, up the coast of Africa, and on to England and the deadly skies of Europe. They kissed, drew out a last lingering touch, and Dad climbed aboard. They didn’t know if they’d ever see each other again. As the bus hissed and pulled away, Mom stood there, eyes blurred, hand held in a frozen wave, thinking the same thought as Dad: “I just want you to be with me.”
This morning we come to the last portion of Jesus’ prayer for his church. And what we hear him saying to the Father is something amazing. He wants us—that is, you and me--to be with him. Turn with me to John 17:24-26. We’re going to examine the conclusion of Jesus’ prayer in three parts. 1. What Jesus Wants, 2. Where Jesus Wants Us, and 3. Why Jesus Wants Us With Him.
1. What Jesus Wants. In verse 24 Jesus prays, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am.” Notice this phrase, “I desire.” In John 15:14 Jesus told his disciples, “You are My friends.” John tells us in the first verse of chapter 13, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Jesus has told them that he’s leaving them in the world, that he’s going to the Father, and yet he prays, “I desire that they…be with Me.” Were there tears in Jesus’ eyes that night? There must have been in the disciples’ eyes. Oh, the aching heart that breaks with the desire to be with those we love, when the time comes that we are not going to be together. Have you experienced that? Perhaps it is death that has torn you apart from one you love. Perhaps it is leaving your first child at college and coming home alone. Perhaps it is a marriage that has ended in great disappointment. Perhaps it is only a journey. But we feel the pain, don’t we: “I desire that they…be with Me.”
It is important that we understand especially who the “they” is. Who does Jesus want to be with him? We’d like to think that he wants everyone to be with him, but that is not what he says. Jesus identifies those he wants with him in the first line of verse 24. “I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me.” It’s those the Father has given him that he wants with him. Up in verse 2 Jesus has already referred to this. The ones the Father has given him, he says, to them he has given eternal life. And in verse 3 he says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” In other words, the ones Jesus wants to be with him are the people given to him by the Father as a part of God’s eternal plan, who because of Jesus, have come to know God and have placed their faith in Christ as their savior. So, it’s not everybody Jesus wants with him. It’s Christians only.
There are lots of reasons why this makes no sense. I don’t know about you, but there are a number of Christians I have very little desire to be with in heaven. Are there certain Christians you really don’t like? Some Christians are just plain nasty. Present company excluded, of course! Let’s face this squarely. You and I are not particularly likable people either. Let’s be honest about our sin. Some Christians don’t need to have the facades they hide behind ripped off to expose their sin. Think about the words we say, the way we treat people, the selfishness, the anger we express. But some of us do hide successfully behind masks of spirituality. However, if people knew our secret thoughts and our hidden sins and our private motivations, they’d turn away from us in an instant. Then, there’s our brokenness. Dan Shoultz, the director of our counseling ministry, told me one time that something like ninety percent of us don’t need to look any farther back than our grandparents to find what we call dysfunctional behavior--drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, divorce. Those things have an effect on us. They twist our personalities and scar our lives. A lot of that is not readily visible to other people, but God sees it all. Why would Jesus ever want to have people like us with him?
Bill Mallonee is hailed as one of the best one hundred song writers in the world. I’m not sure you’d want to spend a lot of time with him. He too is a broken individual. In one of his songs he sings, “But the cross is big enough/ When your sins reach to the sky/ Hope the arms are wide enough/ To embrace one such as I.” Do you shed tears for your sin? You should, for it is sin that separates us from God. And yet, Jesus wants people like you and me. Have you been given to Christ by the Father? Do you belong to Jesus? Has he given you eternal life? He calls us to come to him by faith.
2. Where Jesus Wants Us. Jesus says that he desires that we should be with him. Let’s see where he wants us to be. In verse 24 he says he wants us present with him. He wants us beside him. This is the longing for companionship. Please understand that Jesus’ desire does not grow out of some loneliness on his part. Jesus does not need us. He is, remember, one of the three Persons of the Trinity. A fellowship exists among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that is completely satisfying and fulfilling. As God, Jesus is never lacking in anything. He is not like us, made for relationships but cut off from others and grieving and anguishing over being alone. Jesus enjoys a complete relational wholeness within the Godhead. When Jesus expresses a desire for us to be in companionship with him it is because he has paid with his suffering, with his very life, so that he could rescue us. His desire for us to be with him grows out of the great sacrifice that he made to save us. He loves us. Therefore he wants us with him.
The place where he is, and where he wants us to be, is not in this world. In verse 16 he says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” We are so focused on life in this world that many of us expect that Jesus is talking about us being with him in this world. We want him present in our homes, and in our business, and expect that he will trot along with us in our amusements. How many of you went to the Okra Strut yesterday, or to a football game? Several of our members are away this weekend because schools have given kids Monday or Friday off. Was Jesus with you in those places and in your activities? In a sense he was. But he says in his prayer that he, himself, is going to heaven, and we are remaining here. So this togetherness he is talking about must mean something more than that the unseen Jesus was present with you at home or at work or at the game. Jesus is saying he wants us with him in heaven!
He started talking with his disciples about this back in John 14. There he says, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (v 2-3) If you drive through the Amish countryside near Lancaster, Pennsylvania you will notice the big farmhouses they have built. Many of them have several wings. The parents or grandparents built the original house, and when their children grew up and married, the son would bring his bride back to the family farm. They’d add a new wing onto the original farmhouse for the young family to live in. And they’d keep adding on as many times as they needed to accommodate each new generation. That is a picture of what Jesus is describing in John 14. There is the Father’s house, and Jesus has gone to build as many new wings onto it as he needed to provide for his people he desires to be with him.
Modern day Christians do not have as much interest in heaven as earlier generations did. Perhaps it is that life has become so comfortable here that we do not feel the need to think much about what our future dwelling place is going to be like. I will admit that I feel a great frustration sometimes when I come to talk about heaven. Many of us would rather hear about how to improve our lives here—as if we were going to live in this world forever. Many of us seem to be quite content with the degree of companionship we share with Jesus here and now, and we don’t feel much tug to be with him in the way he says he wants us to be with him. Greg Laurie is the pastor of the fifteen thousand member Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. On July 24 his thirty-three year old son, Chris, was killed in an automobile accident. I’ve tried to comfort parents who have lost a child, and I don’t think there is anything much harder to go through than that. Greg Laurie had organized a crusade at which he was scheduled to speak just three weeks after Chris’ death. Many wondered of he would cancel, but he didn’t. He stood before the overflow crowd of some 29,000 people and said to them, “I’ve talked about heaven my whole life, and I’ve given many messages on life after death. And I’ve counseled many people who have lost a loved one, and I thought I knew a little bit about it. But I have to say that when it happens to you, it’s a whole new world.” He wrote later, “Just saying those beautiful words from the Bible about where our loved ones in the Lord go when they die encouraged me.” (Christianity Today, October 2008, 17-18) Look ahead. Jesus wants us to be with him in heaven.
3. Why Jesus Wants Us With Him. Jesus concludes his prayer by revealing why it is that he wants us to be with him. It is not just sentimentality. He expresses three reasons for wanting us with him in heaven. The first reason is so that we see Christ’s glory. In verse 24 Jesus says, “I desire that they…be with Me…in order that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” As God Jesus possesses glory that you and I have never imagined. He’s talked about it, but we’ve never seen it. On the last trip Barb and I made to visit our sons and their families, we did the round-robin, stopping at each of their homes. On this trip, each family had made some improvements to their houses. One had remodeled their mud room. Another had painted the living room. The third had put up molding around the ceiling and painted. We had already heard all about what they had accomplished, but that wasn’t good enough. They wanted to show us. We had to see it. And so we did the tour and uttered the appropriate words of praise and approval, for each of them had really done fine work. Their homes looked beautiful. And Barb and I were proud of them.
This is an illustration of what Jesus is talking about in verse 24. He wants us to see his glory. He wants us to see him as he really is. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about Christ’s return in II Thessalonians 1:9-10. He talks about “The presence of the Lord and…the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” What we know about Jesus is what the Bible teaches us about his earthly ministry. He came as a baby laid in a manger. He lived as a humble carpenter. He endured the hardship of the cross. We see him as a man. We have placed our faith in him as our savior, but we’ve never seen his full glory. Jesus wants us to see him, so that we will have our faith in him fulfilled. If you’ve ever wondered whether your Christian commitment is worth it; if you’ve ever doubted whether Jesus is who he claims to be; that will be all be swallowed up in the revealing of his glory. Jesus wants to say to us, “See, I told you so! It’s all true, and so much more beside! I want you to come and see my glory!”
The second reason why Jesus wants us with him is that we are the Father’s gift. Again back in verse 24 Jesus says we are those “whom You have given Me.” We are the Father’s gift to the Son. And we must mean a lot to Jesus. He must value us highly. I was paging through the latest issue of Forbes magazine. It’s the issue featuring the four hundred richest people in America, so you can gain some idea of the emphasis of this edition. One of the problems of being very rich is, what can you give someone who’s very rich, that has any value to them? A car? They have the best cars in the world. Jewelry? They have diamonds galore. Land or buildings? These people can buy anything they fancy. What can you give them? Well, I found out. On one page I spotted an ad for a watch. Not just any watch. A Patek Philippe watch. I’d never heard of a Patek Philippe watch. I don’t know how much one costs, but I doubt that you have one. In the ad was a picture of a very suave looking man in his middle forties and beside him was his son, who looked to be about eighteen. Frankly, the man was a bit too smarmy for my taste. Below was a picture of a watch with the slogan, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.” Jesus has everything in the universe. All the glory of God is his. He could have a billion Patek Philippe watches if he wanted. What can you give to Jesus as a gift? What did the Father give the Son that would have value to him? You. And me. The indication of our value to Jesus is that he desires us to be with him. Let me emphasize this again. What did the Father give to Jesus that had value? You. Believe me, it’s not because you’re a wonderful person!
Third, Jesus wants us with him so that we become like God. Jesus says in verse 26 that he will make God’s name known to us so that “the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” In other words, Jesus wants us to be with him so that we may know more about God, so that we may experience fully the love of God, and so that he may be in us in a way that can never happen in this world. C. S. Lewis put it like this in Mere Christianity: “God said that we were ‘gods’ and he is going to make good his words.” The second-century theologian Irenaeus said, “Through his transcendent love, our Lord Jesus Christ became what we are, that he might make us to be what he is.”
Many in our congregation remember Jimmy Jordan. Jimmy was one of the key reasons I came as pastor to this church. We were riding in a car and he was showing me around town, and he began to talk about himself. He told me how he was a drunk. We have a member today who remembers delivering newspapers to a bar and every afternoon Jimmy was in there drinking. It got so bad that a doctor told Jimmy if he didn’t stop drinking he’d be dead in six months. That got Jimmy’s attention and he fled to Jesus. He asked for forgiveness and that God would deliver him. And God did. Jimmy said that very day the desire to drink was taken away from him. But he added, “Rick, it was two years before my mind cleared.” He became involved in church and began to serve God. He was especially concerned to tell others how they might be saved, and led our evangelism ministry. . I was with Jimmy when he led his last two people to Christ on a visit just before Christmas one year. And then God took Jimmy to heaven. So powerful was Jimmy’s conversion that the congregation eventually elected him to be an elder. As I heard his story, I decided I wanted to be the pastor of a congregation that had a man like that in it. Was Jimmy perfect? Far from it. The scars of his sin still lingered in places. But today he’s come to know God more than he ever did here on earth. He has been filled up with the love that God has for him, more than he ever knew here on earth. And he’s a different person now, completely healed, totally perfect in every way.
Do you want to know God more than you do? Are you satisfied with how much you love him? Do you desire to be a better person than you are now? Or is the present level of your faith good enough? The apostle Paul was so passionate to see the world come to Christ and was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ and the gospel, because he was amazed at what Christ had done for him. He wrote, “I am the chief of sinners, for I persecuted the church of Christ.” He could never quite shake what he had done before he became a Christian. And he could never take for granted that Jesus had reached out and saved him. At the end of his life he was still marveling. He wrote, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:8) If you desire to be with Christ as he desires to have you with him, you’ll receive that crown too. If your heart is filled with a longing for Jesus, that longing will transform your life—now, and even more when you are with Jesus!
Preached by Dr. Rick Perrin on September 28 2008 at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, 5637 Bush River Road, Columbia SC 29212 and Northwest YMCA on Kennerly Road Tel. 803-772-1000 www.DiscoverCornerstone.com Copyright 2008