Black Friday has become something of an American tradition. As much as decry the holiday distraction, it’s hard to resist the siren song of the deal of the century. Today’s religion is one of consumerism. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a bargain. The problem comes when we let our identity be ruled by things. “[Where] do we derive identity today?” asks Barry Taylor, artist and professor:
“I contend that it is largely derived from our imagination. We shop for ‘ourselves’ in the marketplace of ever-expanding ideas brought to us when we enter cyberspace or media culture, or when we engage with the seemingly endless possibilities presented to us by a global consumer culture.” (Barry Taylor,Entertainment Theology, p. 46)
In John 17, Jesus concludes His time with His disciples. His “commencement speech” now over, He kneels in prayer. It’s often been called the “high priestly prayer.” Jesus is performing the role of a priest—praying before the sacrifice is offered. But now, the sacrifice being made is Jesus Himself.
JESUS PRAYS FOR HIMSELF
John 17:1-26 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Jesus had previously said: “when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). The hour was now upon Him. Jesus’ death on the cross would be a payment for man’s sin, but also a clear display of God’s incredible power. This was God’s plan all along. Even Christ’s suffering was an integral part of God’s plan to reveal Himself to the world.
JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS PRESENT DISCIPLES
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
What does it mean to be “sanctified?” To be “consecrated?” It connects to the idea of being “holy.” Usually we think of the word “holy” as meaning “really, really good.” But in the Bible, the word “holy” carries the idea of being “set apart.” Being different. So when Jesus prays for His disciples, He prays that they be clearly represent His truth to the world around them. And they do that not by being physically separate from the world, but by being “not of the world.” Christians are called to pour into the culture around them without being tainted by it. That’s what it means to live on mission. And it’s the same call that is issued to Jesus’ future disciples.
JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS FUTURE DISCIPLES
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Anyone who believes in Christ becomes His disciple. And any disciple of Christ is called to reveal God’s significance by making other disciples. Do you notice the radical nature of Christian community? Jesus says that Christian unity is meant to mirror the unity found between God the Father and God the Son. This is a oneness we could not comprehend apart from the Trinity itself. The Trinity says that God exists as an eternal community—Father, Son, and Spirit. All three are unique, yet all three are God. I realize that’s hard to grasp. But just because our understanding can’t be perfect doesn’t mean our understanding can’t be accurate. Jesus is praying that Christian unity would be a reflection of the Godhead.
That’s hard. Too often we get lost in the endless sea of preferences. If we define ourselves as consumers, then we define ourselves by style. Worship styles, preaching styles, clothing styles, you name it. What complicates this further is that so often style becomes associated with a generation, such that style gaps become generational divides. We can’t bridge this chasm through style alone. We build unity by shifting our focus away from consumerism and back toward Christ.
Don’t you see how immensely practical the gospel is? The best way of being multi-generational or even multi-cultural is to be trans-generational and trans-cultural. That is, focus on the things that transcend—go above and beyond—the preferences of one culture, one generation and one setting. That’s what Jesus does. On the cross, He is glorified. He draws all men to Himself in a way that no Black Friday sale possibly could. For Christians, our identity will not be found in Black Friday, it can only be found in Good Friday. Cooperation replaces competition. And everlasting joy replaces buyer’s remorse.