In this confusing environment where there are competing religions giving different accounts of God and where the prevailing orthodoxy is secular liberal humanism, which tells us that all religions are to be treated the same and of equal value - how can we be confident that to put it bluntly that Christianity is true? Is Jesus’ account of who God is, the definitive and true account? There may be several things to take into account but in the end it comes down to - well who and what you trust? When you hear the words of scripture do you hear and recognise the voice of the good shepherd?
Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. In today’s gospel Jesus says “Father I have made your name known”. Now “name” is used in a very special way in the Old Testament. It doesn’t mean a name by which someone is called it means the whole character of a person.
In the first few verses of our gospel reading today that is what Jesus is saying to the disciples – that in his body and speech He has revealed the whole character of God as far as we can understand it. He has made His name known.
So we should know that our Christian discipleship is based on the realisation that in Jesus’ words we hear God’s voice, and in Jesus’ deeds we see God’s action. So when we hear Jesus’ commands we obey them for we recognise God’s voice.
When we begin to trust, we can be confident that in following Jesus we are following God.
After three years active ministry we could say that the results of Jesus’ life were pretty meagre. True there was a wider circle of followers but the inner circle consisted of twelve Galilean peasants – one of whom betrayed him and Jesus ended up being executed.
And yet Jesus was confident. He had confidence in God but He also had confidence in humanity. He trusted God and He trusted us to carry on the work he started to spread the truth of God throughout the world. As Bishop Mark said at the confirmation service last Thursday – He is counting on us!
And it is for us disciples that he then prays. A Christian disciple is a person given to Jesus by God by means of a movement of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Jesus prays for us who are “in the world”, and in John’s gospel “world” means “human society without God”. We are in this world and Jesus is praying for us that we may keep faith and win the world for God by bringing it back to the way of Christ.
Jesus doesn’t call us “out of the world” he wants us to get stuck in and wants to equip us to lead a Christian life within it as faithful witnesses. It is in the world that we live out our faith. We are not to disown the world or try to retreat from it but to affect it as salt and light.
We don’t do this on our own. We do it in the strength of the Holy Spirit which is the Spirit of Jesus.
Jesus also says that “He has been glorified in us”. How do we do that? In the same way that a successful athlete brings honour to their trainer, or a great scholar brings honour to his teacher, a transformed human being bearing the fruit of the kingdom brings glory to Jesus. It is a testimony to the truth.
Christianity is in essence a missionary faith. Jesus was sent by the Father, and in turn Jesus sends us.
To be sent effectively means we must have something to proclaim, something to give. The first and most important thing we can give is an accurate picture of what God is like. The full truth of God is in Jesus Christ and no other.
Jesus said. “I am the way, the truth and the life.”