Funeral Sermon for Giana Bartolucci


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As I mentioned in my last post, the Memorial Service for Giana was held at Clarkson Community Church on Saturday, where my dear friend Tony Bartolucci pastors. Giana is his 14 year old daughter. That service was just for the immediate family, both blood relatives, and the Church.

Yesterday, on Sunday afternoon, we held the public funeral service for Giana. And the text below is the sermon I preached there. Because of the very public nature of both their accident on Christmas Eve, and Giana’s rehab, this was a community wide service.

The text is below.

But if you would like to see the entire service, the video can be found HERE

Jesus Prayed for Giana

John 17:1-24

I want to center our attention today on vs. 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.

The whole of John 17 has often been referred to as the place where “Jesus prays for His own.” The REAL Lord’s Prayer.

There have been countless prayers for Tony, Lois and Giana since the tragic crash on Christmas eve by so many of us.

But there is a reality that the child of God in Jesus Christ knows, that is of more comfort and benefit than can possibly be measured – it is the fact that Jesus prays for us.

Jesus prays for all of His saints in their trials.

That may sound somewhat strange to some of you.

If Jesus is God, and that He is, then why does He pray? Can’t He just act.

And let me give you just 2 reasons why that isn’t contradictory or odd.

1st., When Jesus was incarnate on the earth, He willingly set aside His reliance upon His own divinity, and depended upon God the Father’s providential care, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He lived just as He calls Believers to do today.

He modeled that life for us in His own humiliation in coming in the likeness of fallen mankind.

And so – He prayed.

In the 2nd place – we know He STILL prays for us even as Romans 8:34 tells us: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Now, Jesus’ present prayers on our behalf is something mysterious to contemplate.

In reality this is nothing other than a reference to the internal dialog of the Triune Godhead over the cares, concerns and needs of God’s people.

It is an amazing thing to imagine isn’t it?  That the God who spoke the universe into existence gives so much attention to we lowly and often rebellious creatures – but it is true. And if the Bible didn’t affirm it, it would be almost unthinkable.

This is the extraordinary comfort and joy of the true Believer in Jesus Christ.

On a side note just here – If you are not Christ’s today in saving faith – what might the dialog in the Trinity about YOU look like?

What do think God’s disposition is if you are not in right relationship with Him through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

If you are still in rebellion against His absolute claim on your life, by living it only for your own plans and purposes instead of His?

In very real ways – it is a question of the very highest and eternal importance. THE Question.

We’ll come back to that before we end – but right now, I want us to consider Christ’s prayers for His own.

In the passage before us, Jesus prays 4 specific things for those who are His own.

  1. John 17:11 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,
  1. In that very same verse: That they may be one, even as we are one.
  1. John 17:16–17 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
  1. John 17:24 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.

To PROTECT His own in faith, those whom He purchased with His own blood on the Cross – until they can come to final oneness with each other and Him.

That all who trust in Him alone for their salvation from God’s just and holy wrath against human sin, might come to “Oneness” with Jesus and the Father. A oneness that parallels the oneness of the Trinity itself.

To be set apart from all DAMNING deception, Sanctified – set apart by the truth – marked out as God’s own through the experiential knowledge of Gospel of saving grace by faith alone, in the substitutionary death of Christ alone on Calvary – apart from any worthiness, good works or merit of our own.

Lastly, That all who are His by faith, might be WITH Him – for all eternity, to see His glory.

It is this last petition that I want to focus on today; Jesus’ prayer, born out of His perfect, holy and intense desire – that those whom the Father has given Him, might be with Him to behold His glory. A glory that was His because of the supreme and infinite love of the Father for Him – and that is the highest blessing conceivable in the Divine mind to give us.

I. And here is a very great lesson in prayer and faith.

Jesus makes His request known – but note how He leaves the timing and means of it to the Father.

He prays for what He desires, but He does not demand it be done in a certain way, or at a certain time.

So it is this last petition – that we might be where He is to behold His glory – this wonder gets accomplished in two ways, at two separate times.

1st. This prayer will be finally accomplished through Jesus’ 2nd coming and the resurrection.

1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The 2nd: For some, this comes to pass through the individual deaths of His saints throughout the ages.

As the Apostle Paul tells us in no uncertain terms: 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

In this way – as only Christians can know, the reality of our future hope breaks in upon the present – in His calling some of His own home now.

As He prays this for all who are His, yet not all go immediately into His presence as Giana has done already.

Jesus knew well how to submit to the Father’s disposing in His prayers.

How and when they were to be answered didn’t distress Him – He was in perfect peace to leave it up to the Father’s perfect love and wisdom.

And in this case, Jesus’ prayer in terms of His desire for Giana to be with Him, the Father thought best in His infinite and perfect wisdom and love – not only toward Giana, but toward Tony and Lois and all who loved her as well – to answer through her death.

Though in truth, we see that only through a glass darkly today.

II. NOTE: Jesus’ desire for Giana to be with Him, is not selfish in disregard for everyone else.

His desire is that she might obtain the highest blessing possible for anyone created in His image – to behold His glory – face to face – in which is manifested the sum of the infinite love of God the Father for Christ the Son.

And what must such a sight be? It is truly beyond description.

The Old Puritan Richard BAXTER wrote – “Doubtless, there is not such a thing as grief and sorrow known there: nor is there such a thing as a pale face, a languid body, feeble joints, unable infancy, decrepit age, peccant humours, dolorous sickness, griping fears, consuming cares, nor whatsoever deserves the name of evil. Indeed, a gale of groans and sighs, a stream of tears, accompanied us to the very gates, and there bid us farewell for ever. We did weep and lament, when the world did rejoice; but our sorrow is turned into joy, and our joy shall no man take from us.[1]

[So Jesus prayed] Father, I will, that those whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me. ”Every word [of this prayer] is full of life and joy. If the Queen of Sheba had cause to say of Solomon’s glory, “Happy are [your] men, happy are these [your] servants that stand continually before [you], and that hear [your wisdom],” then, sure, they that stand continually before God, and see his glory, and the glory of the Lamb, are somewhat more than happy: to them will Christ “give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God;” and “to eat of the hidden manna.” (Rev. 2:7, 17.) Ye[s], “He will make them pillars in the temple of God, and they shall go no more out: and he will write upon them the name of his God, and the name of the city of his God, New Jerusalem, which come[s] down out of heaven from God, and his own new name.” (Rev. 3:12.) Ye[s], more, if more may be, “He will grant them to sit with him in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21.) “These are they who come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sit[s] on the throne shall dwell among them: and the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of water; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Rev. 7:14, 15, 17.) And may we not now boast…“This is my beloved, O daughters of Jerusalem!” And this is the glory of the saints! O blind, deceived world, can you show us such a glory? “This is the city of our God, where the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” “The glory of God shall enlighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Rev. 21:3, 24.) “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads. These sayings are faithful and true, and these are the things that must shortly be done.” (Rev. 22:3, 4, 6.) And now we say, as Mephibosheth, ‘Let the world take all besides, if we may but see the face of our Lord in peace.’ If the Lord lift up the light of his countenance on us here, it puts more gladness in our hearts than the world’s increase can do. (Psal. 4:6, 7.)[2]

So it is, Giana is gone from us – now.

No, she is not an angel – Christians dying and becoming angels is a myth – she is instead higher than the highest angel, joined with her beloved Jesus who gave His life to purge her sins, and who her heart was designed to find its highest love and fulfillment in.

No, she isn’t playing soccer in some celestial field – she is in the court of her God and King – so transfixed by the wonder of His splendor and glory so as to be everlastingly filled with endless delight and joy.

But she IS gone from us – and so it is for us that we grieve, not for her.

And this I know about the Christ who prayed that she might be there with Him to behold His glory – He has done us no wrong, in wanting to give Giana the greatest gift of love of which He is capable.

And will we not by faith glory in it, though in this time and place, we grieve her absence from among us?

What parent would withhold what they know would be the ultimate joy and happiness and blessedness from their child if it were in their power to give it?

It was not in Tony & Lois’ power, but it was in Christ’s – and so He has done.

Now we can question the methods and means of how it is the Father fulfilled this prayer of Jesus in Giana’s case. But it is a fruitless inquiry.

The Scripture makes it clear that God’s thoughts are not ours, and that they are higher than we can search out.

But that doesn’t leave us just swimming in a sea of doubt and confusion either.

While we cannot fathom the details of His working in Giana’s injuries, her intermediate time of surgeries and rehab, and then her passing – we CAN know this. We are left with these 3 things:

a. That in His holiness, He cannot sin against us; He can do us no wrong.

b. That in His wisdom, He cannot err. If there were a wiser or better way – He would have done it.

c. That in His love, no matter whatever forces may be at work in this fallen world, He has done all things with perfect regard to the greatest benefit for Giana’s soul as well as ours.

His love admits of no flaws whatsoever.

So while she is not an angel,

While she’s not playing soccer,

While she is not in her resurrected body yet –

Giana IS with Her Savior – beholding, and perhaps even holding His nail-scarred hands.

She has entered into an eternal bliss with Him that will never fade, or diminish or grow tired – the inheritance of those who have been born again by the Spirit of God.

This is the assured joy and comfort that allow Lois and Tony and the rest who know Christ to grieve with such incredible hope.

 

III. Before we close – I want to come back briefly to one other petition of Christ’s in John 17.

It is for those of you who do not yet know Christ Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

He has prayed for you too. But not yet as He could for Giana and those who are already His by faith.

John 17:20–21 “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.”

Here is a very great divine mystery, but nevertheless it is in the text.

If you are not a Christian today – if you have never been born again by the Spirit of Christ –

Made alive to your sinful and lost condition – of your state of being at war with God as to who has the right of supremacy over your life, soul and body – If you have never run to Christ to be forgiven of your sin upon the basis of Christ’s atoning death for sin, and been reconciled to God the Father through Him –

Based upon this petition, I bid you come to Him today!

He has expressed His desire to the Father that all those who will believe the testimony of His saints, like that of Giana, will not be turned away when they come for mercy and grace, but will be united with the rest of those who love and serve Him.

He WILL receive you if you come. He has prayed for you if you will believe the testimony about Him that the saints in every age have given.

And as surely as His prayer for Giana was answered in calling her home – He will answer this one, for all who believe and submit to His Lordship.

Let’s pray.

 

[1] Baxter, Richard & William Orme. 1830. The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter. . Vol. 22. London: James Duncan.

[2] Baxter, Richard & William Orme. 1830. The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter. . Vol. 22. London: James Duncan.

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