John - Chapter 17
We are continuing in our series on the Gospel of John by looking at chapter 17, which in many ways, as it is often called, is the ‘high priestly prayer’ of Jesus. This is really to enter into the ‘holy of holies’. This is an actual opportunity for us to listen in to the intercommunication of two members of the divine Trinity. And so, there is a deep and profound understanding that this text gives us. Jesus has already been working with His disciples in chapters 13 through 16, and this represents His last message to His disciples before He is going to depart from them. Last week we saw that Jesus made it very, very clear that He was going away and that they could not follow Him now, but that they would follow Him later.
But, His point to them was that He needed to give them the resources so that when He was no longer with them in His physical manifestation, still He will be with them and the Holy Spirit will be with them. And so, this inter-relationship, where the Spirit is with them, and later being in them, shows that He was not leaving them as orphans and furthermore Jesus offered them three key things that we have looked at already. He says, “I want to give you My joy,” so that their joy would be full. He wants them to become lovers of one another, “Even as I have loved you,” and “Peace I give you,” not the kind of peace that the world offers, but a peace that will really last and endure. Those are the first three fruits of the Spirit when you think about it, love, and joy, and peace. Again, this would be surprising if you did not know Jesus’ understanding of His purpose. That is to say, His last words are other-centered, rather than fearful about Himself.
It is quite remarkable when you think about this. What He is doing is tying together all the threads of His teaching and only in the last portion, in John chapter 16, do the disciples finally and clearly understand what He has been saying. “Now we know that You know all things,” they say in verse 30, “And have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” And so, in God’s remarkable timing, He always waits until the eleventh hour, but in this case it really is the twelfth hour, because it is the very last night, and they finally catch on to what He has been trying to communicate to them all along. They did not get it, because they wanted to hear the part about the Kingdom, and they did not want to hear the part about His leaving them. They understand, now, that He will come in power and glory later on, but not immediately, but He would still be with them and in them. So, that was the part they really struggled with.
Now, at this point, when He says in verse 33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.” He also mentions that in chapter 14, as well. “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” He now uses this way of communicating the idea of His peace and also His provision, that “I have overcome the world.” He now, in the first verse of chapter 17, “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven,” He speaks to the Father. I take it they are all already out there in the Valley of Kidron and that this is just before Jesus wrestles with His Father there is the garden of Gethsemane. And so, His disciples have gone out from the Upper Room and I take it, from chapter 15, that they were actually walking by a vineyard there, on their way to Gethsemane, and that is why He used the allegory of the vine and the branches. They reached the garden of Gethsemane and He gives these last words to His disciples there.
Then, in chapter 17, they are privileged to overhear His prayer to His Father. Then, in chapter 18, we will also see another prayer to His Father, where He wrestles with Him about the cup that He must drink. So, let’s take a look at these things in this chapter. One of the things we are going to see, as we listen to the Son converse with His Father, just as He is about to give His life as a ransom for others, we see that Jesus is, and was, the 'overcomer'. He was not the victim. The Gospels stress this again and again. He was not a victim; He was, and is, the victor. Go back with me to verse 33, and He makes it very clear, “I have overcome the world.” And, as you recall, in chapter ten, verses 17 to 18, Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have the authority to lay it down and I have the authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
So, from the ultimate standpoint, there were human agents involved in the crucifixion, but frankly, He was the One who laid down His life. No one could have taken His life from Him if He had chosen to remain. You this point? This was a voluntary sacrifice, and, indeed, this was the purpose for which He had come. He knew from the beginning that this would be the climax of His ministry, whereby He would glorify His Father. Glorifying the Father would involve His death. Glorifying the Father would involve His burial. Glorifying the Father would involve His resurrection and, finally, His ascension to the right hand and then from that He would give gifts to men by sending the Holy Spirit. So, all of this was needful for us; the complete righteousness, to fulfill all righteousness.
So, it wasn’t ever the idea of His somehow being a victim. He was not a victim. He first prays for Himself in chapter 17, and then we are going to see how He moves to praying for His disciples, beginning in verses 16 and 19, and then in verses 20 through 26, He will pray for us.
So, He starts with Himself, then He looks at His disciples and prays on their behalf, but beginning with verse 20 He will say, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone,” and He is referring to His disciples, “But for those also who believe in Me through their word.” He is talking about us, which is a remarkable thought. You see, there has been an unbroken chain, going from the first century to the 21st century. This message, this good news, has been carried from one changed life to the next changed life, in unbroken succession, right to the present day. You know, people are interested in their genealogical tree, aren’t they? Personally, I’m not very keen on it, and the fact is I don’t think I come from very noble stock. Why should I bother learning about that? It just doesn’t interest me at all.
But, you know what is a more important genealogy? Wouldn’t it be fascinating if you could do a spiritual genealogy? Your spiritual father had a father. And he had a father who had a father, all the way down to the first century. Ever think that way? You will find out and you will discover, what was involved. You will find out, also, that we have many fathers and mothers, in the sense that there are many who prayed for us, interceded for us, and it is not just one person, but a constellation of people that He has used to ultimately bring us into this relationship with Himself. So, God mediates His presence through people.
So, I would be very interested to see how that line goes back. It does go back, unbroken, to the first century. And so, when Jesus says, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word,” that will include all believers, from that first century on, who would come to faith in Him. I find that to be intriguing, that here He is praying for us, and He gives us privileges that we have. In verses one through five we have the privilege of sharing in, and receiving His life. Look at verse one, “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You’.”
So, our Lord’s burden was always the glory of the Father. ‘The hour has come’, we see in the Gospel of John, to be a significant theme, because we saw before that often it would say, “His hour had not yet come.” Finally, though, the hour has come and this was seen there in chapter 13, “Knowing that His hour had come, and that He should depart from this world,” and now He reinforces that here, “That hour has come, that hour for which I came.” He was living on a divine timetable. Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in Your hand,” and it is true. Our times, really, are not in our own hands, but they are in God’s hands, and we just do not know what He has in store for us.
I have had, as some of you know, some really close calls with death and some were quite intense and I went through that stage of remembering my life, as it flashed by me. In each of those cases, I didn’t think I was ready to go yet and I felt there was some unfinished business left. In one way or another, I was rescued, and so I don’t know how long it will be before another, nor do you. You are called to labor in the fields of God for a period of time. He gets to determine how long that labor will be. He determines the amount of time you will have in His vineyard. Some will require much time, and some will require less time, but God’s purposes will be accomplished through us, regardless of how long that time will be. Now, look at verse two; “Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”
So, He is saying, first of all, that His desire is that You would glorify the Son and that the Son would glorify You, which ought to be a preoccupation in our own lives. It should be our desire. If my desire is to be more pleasing to God than I seek to be impressive to people, that would be a healthy pursuit, would it not? To be more concerned about the glory of God than the glory of people. The glory of people is a vanishing thing and it fades very quickly. How long can you live on the accolades of the past? You understand that. It is the ‘what have you done for me lately’ syndrome. So, you can only rest on the laurels of the past so long.
But, here, seeking God’s glory, that will endure and never fade. And so, He says, then, that God has given Him authority over all flesh, so that, “To all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” The key here is that those who would come to embrace the Lord are actually God’s gift to the Son. That is a nice way to look at yourself, as a gift that God has given, the Father to the Son. Once having received that gift, now we are secure in His hands, as we are about to see.
Now, in verse three, “This is eternal life; that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” This idea of knowing Him, we know, is not just intellectual knowledge, but a personal reception. It is a relational knowledge. It is an experiential knowledge, and that is His desire. That is what He defines as eternal life. Knowing Him, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.” Knowing the Father through faith in the Son is eternal life, and eternal life, therefore, begins now. It begins here on this earth. It is not something we wait for, it is something we already experienced, and will experience more and more fully until finally the fullness of that will be manifest when we see Him face to face.
But, we progress, and we already have the life of the Kingdom, in the present tense. That, then, is how He defines eternal life. Remember, eternal life is not merely unending life, but, rather, a new quality of life. It is not just an unending existence, but it is a new kind of existence. You are a new creation. Previously, you were one kind of person and now God has redefined you and made you a new creation.
So, we can not know the Father apart from the Son. We saw that in chapter 14, “We can not know the Father apart from the Son.” Look at chapter 14, verses 6 through 11. That is why He involves “Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” I won’t go through all those verses, but He says, “I am the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Me.” He also says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.” And so, earlier, if we go all the way back to Matthew, chapter 11, we see another text in verse 27 and this underscores the same principle, which is an incredible claim if you really unpack this. Jesus is saying, that having “hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and having revealed it to infants,” which means one does not enter into spiritual truth by mere intellectual acumen. It is not merely by your intellectual grasp that you gain spiritual truth.
This is something that is His gift and it is given to us. That is something that is spiritually revealed and that is why God has given it to people who would come to Him with the faith and trust of little children. “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in your sight.” Now, listen to this verse, verse 27, because the implications virtually stun me. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Do you see what He is saying here? These are not the words of an ordinary sage or prophet. He is saying that He is the gateway to the Father. And no one can no the Father unless the Son wills to reveal Him to them. That’s about audacious as you can get. Think about the implications of that and they are absolutely astounding. And so, the point here is this; we do not just have enough just believing in God. In James 2:19 it says, “The devils believe and tremble.” The devils actually have orthodox theology, basically speaking. They are actually more orthodox in their theology than liberal theologians are. That is a true statement. Liberal theologians are very, very inadequate in their theological grasp. The devils have a better grasp; they do know that Jesus is God.
They well understand the authority of the scriptures. Having said that though, what good does it do you? Even id you have orthodox theology, what will that do? It will just give you a shrewder mind, but you will not have a changed heart. Theology is not sufficient unless we break through from propositional truth to personal truth. That is what James is really telling us, as well. We have to be people who are not just devoutly religious. There are a lot of devoutly religious people who don’t know God. They go to Church regularly. They recite the Creeds and listen to sermons, and yet they still don’t know God. They know about Jesus, but they don’t know Jesus. There is a huge difference. And so, going back to John 17, in verse 4 Jesus speaks about the work that He actually had on this earth. He describes this work as, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”
So, what did this work include? It included a variety of things. It included His messages, His miracles, the training of the disciples for the future, and, ultimately, that work was completed by His sacrifice on the Cross. Listen to Hebrews chapter nine, concerning the work on the Cross, and particularly verses 24 through 28. “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world.” In other words, He would have had to be crucified again and again. “But now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” It was a once, for all, death and the death of Christ was the death of death, and He overcame the power of sin. “In as much as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” which, by the way, is a verse that really goes against reincarnationism, “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”
So, the second time He comes, He will come in glory, and honor, and power. Thus, we see the need for us to understand that His work is complete and nothing remains. He sat down at the right hand of the Father, symbolizing the completeness and the fullness of His work. The one sacrifice was a once for all sacrifice, acceptable to the Father because the Son was divine. But it was also a real sacrifice because He was human.
So, you needed a God-man for that sacrifice to be genuine and to be efficacious. By the way, this purpose statement that we see in John chapter 17, verse four, is the third purpose statement that I can specifically identify: “Accomplishing the Father’s work.” In other words, the Father sent the Son for a particular purpose. He sent Him into the world to accomplish a particular end. I identify two other purpose statements that our Lord has made. Again, these are not His only purposes, but let’s put that together and see what Jesus saw as His fundamental purpose. If you go to Mark chapter ten, verse 45, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for the many.”
So, He has come to serve us by giving His life. This is why He said, “The hour has come. This is why I came. I came not to be served but to serve and give My life as a ransom for many,” is what we see in that verse. Go, now, to Luke 19:10 and we see He gives a second purpose statement. “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” That is a very good purpose statement. We can put these three together if we like. We can say that the Son of Man came into the world to seek people by giving His life. You could say to seek them and to serve them by saving them through His own life. Thus, having done that, He would sit down at the right hand of the Father, having accomplished the work that the Father had sent Him to do.
This raises the question about our purpose as well. Because we also have been given work to do, haven’t we? I have stressed this before, but I will do it again, you really need to hammer out a ‘life purpose’ statement before God. I would encourage you to pray about that. Think about how you can summarize what God’s purpose is for you. Write down several points and then try to synthesize it into a single statement and revisit it from time to time until it becomes clearer and more crisp and more meaningful. It doesn’t happen all at one. I would encourage you to do this over a period of time. Again, I often put it this way; we often have purpose statements for our business, but not for our lives. That strikes me as very strange. We are more diligent, vis a vis our businesses than we are asking, ‘why am I here, where am I going, what is my purpose’? Sure, we all have a universal purpose of growth and reproduction. When we cam to Christ, He didn’t suddenly pull us right up into heaven. We are here to grow in His image and to reproduce that life in the lives of others.
But, I believe in addition to that, in our arena of influence, and in our unique backgrounds, we have a unique way of doing that and expressing that universal purpose.
So, we all have an arena of influence, and we all have spiritual gifts. We all have certain temperaments and personalities and experiences and backgrounds that crafts for you a specific purpose and when you try and identify that purpose it is a good thing to review where you have been and to see where you think that has given you a life message. My strong and firm belief is that you and I are men and women of destiny. We have a destiny to be fulfilled as we embrace the Father’s purpose by prayerfully pondering our purpose for being on this planet. That is what Jesus would often do, going to lonely places and think that through. That is why I can’t stress too much the idea of you taking a 24-hour retreat by yourself, and in that 24-hour retreat do the following three things. The first thing to do would be to review your past. Then you would also want to look at your values; what are my commitments and priorities in the present.
Then, consider the future, where do you want to be? I don’t mean a five-year plan. But, what you can do is have a particular vision of what God has in store. There is a trajectory, a vector, and a vector has momentum and direction and we find that God will actually animate the experiences of our past and, in the present moment, work them in such a way as to allow us to make mid-course adjustments along the way. This is why I have often told people, as well, that your greatest years are often going to be the last ten or fifteen years of your life. Why would that be? You must allow it to be that way. Many people retire and they retire from life. I am not down on you retiring from your career, but I am down on retiring from life. If anything, that is the time your ministry can really take off. Rather than just becoming inert and frittering your time away, I believe that they can be the most effective years of your life because you are now a person of skill and knowledge and then you can invest that.
So, you ask God to show you how to take the entire pattern He has given you and invest it in other people. Where can you take the passion He has given you? So, that is just a thought about our own purpose statement. Let’s continue on with the text, and look at verses six through twelve and look at the great privilege of our security in Him as we come to know Him. From verse five we see, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory, which I had with You before the world was.”
So, we have Jesus referring back to the glory that was known even before the foundation of the world. Turn back, for a minute, to John chapter one, and if you reviewed that great prologue in verses 1 through 18, we see that the Word was with God, the Word was God, and all things came into being through Him. Jesus was around well before the world, and in fact He is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, and so He is referring to the glory that He had before the world was and that ultimately He is going to go back to that glory and that when He asks the Father to glorify Him together with Himself, it is the pleasure of each to glorify the other. There is a co-inherence and mutuality and other-centered love among the three persons of the divine Trinity.
This gives us the ultimate foundation for communication, communion, and love in our own lives, because God is a relational being and we are in His image as relational beings. That, we all know, is the most important thing in our lives. If push came to shove, what would you discover were your greatest treasures? You know it is going to be people. It’s not going to be your possessions, or your position, or your power, or your prestige. It is going to be people. It is not what you have. It is not what you do, but it is who you are and who you have loved, and who loved you. There is this idea of relationships. Why is that the most important thing at the end of the day> Because that is what God is. He is a relational being.
So, then, continuing, in verse six Jesus says, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” That is a beautiful picture. Again, they were God’s gift to the Son. The Father’s gift, and “They have kept Your word.” In verse seven, “Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You” Now, they have finally gotten it. “For the words which You gave Me,” from verse eight, “I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.” This is an allusion back to when they said, “Now we know that You understand all things,” which is from the very last part of chapter 16. They finally came to understand this powerful meaning.
So, Jesus again seizes the great ‘I-am’ of the Old Testament, Exodus 3:11-14. What was Moses to tell Pharaoh regarding who sent him? Tell him that the ‘I-am’ sent you; the ‘I-am’ that ‘I-am’. That is the perfect name for God because He is the One who is the self-sufficient being and He is the self-existent One. God in the necessary being, He is not contingent. He is the only necessary being. There isn’t any infinite regress when His being and His existence are one and the same. We, on the other hand, are contingent beings. The world could go on without us and it never needed us. But God, by definition, is necessary.
Therefore, all things come from Him and through Him and for Him. And so, we see in this idea of Him being the great ‘I-am’, and we recall that Jesus spoke of this tremendous intimacy with the Heavenly Father and that Father is now ours as well. The word ‘Father’ is used 53 times in this Upper Room discourse. 53 times, in John 13 to 17, the word ‘Father’ is used. You see it used 122 times in the Gospel as a whole. Again, that is a concept that the Jews didn’t have. The idea of calling God our Father isn’t something they could fully understand. And, that it is a fatherly relationship that we can have, and that it transcends the faults and frailties of human fathers, which are always imperfect.
That is why I know a lot of people struggle with that word, ‘father’, because of the negative association they may have had in their own homes. We must realize that if we want to know what the Father is like, that He is lovable and trustworthy, you must look at the Son, because the Son has revealed Him. Ask yourself the question, can you trust this Jesus? If you can, then you can trust the Father, because He and the Father are One, they are both God, and He manifests the virtue and the glory of the Father.
So, if we continue, then, He speaks about the words, “Which You gave to Me I have given to them,” in verse eight, and, “They received them and truly understood that I came forth from You and that You sent Me.” Then He says, in verse nine, “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are mine are Yours, and Yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.”
Again, we have that mutuality. ‘Everything I have is yours, and every thing you have is mine’. And so, there is this powerful picture of mutuality. But then, in verse 11, He says, “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name,” so, He intercedes for these men, “the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as we are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” Jesus knew, from the very beginning who would betray Him.
But, He kept all the others in His name. I see in these verses an emphasis on our security and our safety. I see that our safety always depends on the nature of God and not on our own character or conduct or performance. And, I love Philippians 1:6; “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” He began that work and He will bring it to completion and fruition.
So, once having worked the work of Christ in us, we now have a security, and, indeed, the Son of God intercedes for us. Not only in verse nine, but also consider with me Romans chapter eight, which invites us to see that the Son of God Himself is interceding for us on the basis of all that He has accomplished. And so, in verse 34 it says, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God who also intercedes for us.” Then we can also turn to Hebrews, chapter four, and verses 14 through 16, and there I see another image of Him interceding for us. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a high priest who can not sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.” More specifically, look at Hebrews 7:25, which tells us, “Therefore He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” You see that His present work of intercession is illustrated in these verses. Thus, we, too, are ‘overcomers’, and thus we have security because we are being held in His hands. It is not on the basis of our performance, but on the basis of His that we have that security.
It is the understanding that it is not something we do, but the person we have embraced. Having embraced Him and having come to trust in Him, then we discover the true security that we need. We share Christ’s life and are ‘overcomers’. In 1st John 5:4 I says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.” Go back with me now to John 17 and verses 13 through 19, and He speaks specifically about the word, and how the word sanctifies us and gives us a genuine sense of growth and empowerment. Beginning with verse 13, He says, “Now I come to you; and these things I speak I the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.”
Once again, He is speaking about this joy. You see, the word will give us joy. We saw last week that joy really comes by transformation and never by substitution. That is to say, when there is pain in life it not a matter of substituting one thing for another, but rather using that painful situation and using it to be transformed, so that the ‘lead’ of our suffering can be transmuted into the ‘gold’ of God’s glory by means of His grace. And so, God, through His grace, transforms suffering into glory and uses it to create Christ-like character in us. That is the process, then, and that gives us joy. I didn’t say it gives us happiness, but it gives us joy, because it transcends our circumstances.
So, we can rejoice when we hear the bridegroom’s voice. Now, I must say, Jesus was a Man of sorrow. We know that from Isaiah 53:3, but He was also a Man of joy, not the joy that is the fleeting levity of a sinful world, but an abiding enjoyment of the Father’s life and of His word.
So, He didn’t depend on outward circumstances, but rather on inward spiritual resources that were hidden from the world. In verse 14 He says, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
So, He goes on to speak about how the word gives us an assurance, even though the world hates us because we don’t belong to its system and we are called not to be conformed to the system, in Romans chapter 12, however, we also know that the word reveals the love of the Father to us. It exposes the world as well; the world’s pretenses, the world’s deceptions, the world’s vices, and so the better you know the word the better you understand how the world operates. You will see the real thing and you will see the radical contrast between. It would be good for you to do the following exercise. Take an hour in which you read the Bible. That’s not a long time; you think nothing of watching something on TV for three hours. Then, turn on prime time TV and watch that for an hour.
Then, go back to the Bible and you will see a total disconnect. The problem is that we feed on those kind of things and want things that God would not find is best for us. Cal Thomas once said the he reads the New York Times and then picks up the Bible to get the other side of the story. The fact is, and I often put it this way, if we bracket our day, our first thought is to the paper and the last thought is the 11 o’clock news, then we are in trouble. Those are the most important thoughts of your day. My conviction is for you to make the choice to set your minds on the things above at the beginning and then at the end of the day as well. What I love about the word is that it reveals all the stratagems of the world’s system. It is always the same, just new wrinkles of the same stratagems. Better technology, but the same kind of appeals; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Money, sex, and power. Basically, these are the pulls of the world and we know this. People haven’t changed.
Now, the world, therefore, will compete with the Father’s love. And so, it is needful for us not to neglect the word of God. D.L. Moody put it this way; he wrote in the front of his Bible, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” He is saying that if you want to see the first step toward moving into the sphere of the world and its values, it will be by neglect of the Scriptures.
So, I strongly encourage us to review that and keep it as a priority in our minds. And, by the way, not merely to relegate the times we are reading Scripture to the times we feel like doing it, but rather to times we choose to do it because we know in that way we are creating a context in which we can have a meeting with God. It is not just some kind of law-bound duty, but rather it the means by which we can get to know Him. I have to stress this again, because for years and years when I read the Bible, I just did the reading and the thinking. I have discovered now, though, that I have to read in a different way; read with a spirit that is attentive to God’s Spirit; with more slowly and see what the Spirit would teach me through the word.
Now I can a communication and a conversation. I can speak to Him but also, through His Spirit, He can communicate to us and the way He best does that is that you must stop after a key verse and just listen and allow the Spirit of God to speak to your heart. If you are reading several verses, there may be one that stands out more than any other. That is a hint that you want to meditate on that. Secondly, there may be a phrase within that verse that stands out to you. That is another invitation and I would make that perhaps the word or phrase that I would seek to carry with me throughout that particular day.
Every time you come to the same passage in Scripture you will find something new that you didn’t quite see the time before because His word is living and active and its resources are boundless. And so, looking to the text and to verses 15 through 17, He says, “I do not ask You to take them out of this world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” The word, then, imparts God’s power for holy living. He has moved from the idea of security to the idea of sanctity. I want to show you something that will be of help. God’s word and God’s truth comes to us in three ways. Jesus just said, “Your word is truth.” But, what does He say in John 14:6? “I am the way and the truth and the life.” But, what does He say in 1st John chapter five, in verses six and seven? It tells us, “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”
So, the Spirit is now called the truth. You see, all three are called the truth and note that they are not just pointing to the truth, they themselves are the truth because, in fact, they are all God, but they are not each other. But, they are fully, equally, and inexhaustibly, God. That is the mystery of the Divine Trinity we have seen before. They are co-eternal and co-equal, but they are not each other, but they are God. And so, in that mystery, then, we see from these verses that all are the truth.
So, I believe we need all three to have a sanctification that touches every part of the inner person. We learn, as we read the Scriptures, God’s propositional truth and we reinforce and renew our minds, as we see in Romans 12. I want to stress the importance of the mind because we want to learn to think God’s thoughts after Him. Then, with the heart, we love God’s truth, which is His Son.
So, with the heart we come to love God’s truth. It says in 1st Peter chapter one, “Although you do not see Him, you love Him.” You haven’t come to see Him yet, but you can already love Him. In addition, with the will, we yield to the Spirit and live God’s truth. And so, if you think of it this way, we learn God’s truth, we love God’s truth, and we live God’s truth. Or, you could also say it was ‘knowing, being, and doing’. That is the old ‘know-be-do’ principle. All three are essential because knowing the truth and loving the truth will cause us to live the truth. See how that works? You learn the truth, you come to love the truth by knowing the Son and embracing Him, and then through that process we can make the right choices to live it. It is to know, to be, and to do. So, there is an integrative idea of truth.
So, this stress on truth is continued in verse 18, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves may be sanctified in truth.” Once again, the sphere of our sanctification is the truth.
So, He prays on their behalf and sets Himself apart from us and now He has set us apart for Himself. Just as He set Himself apart and sanctified Himself, He now sets us apart, sanctifies us, for Himself, because that is what it means to be sanctified; to be set apart. And so, we jump now, to verse 20, and now we hear Him praying on our behalf. “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those who also believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
So, He not only prays for His disciples, but now He is prays for us, as well. What does this marvelous verse imply, verse 21? Frankly, this is really the sanctum sanctorum, the ‘holy of holies’, and we can not grasp it in this life. He says, “That they may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” It is a matter of being in ‘Us’, in the Father and in the Son, but also in the Holy Spirit because earlier, in chapters 14 and 16, He talked about how the Spirit of God would also bring them into knowledge of the Son and into the knowledge of the Father. So, we have, again, this deep mystery of the Triune God who wants us to share in His glory and to experience that unity.
So, in verse 22 we see, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, so that they may be one, just as we are One; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them even as You have loved Me.” What He is saying, then, is that the lost world can not see God, but it can see His followers. That is really the key. If we have His glory already within us, this is the basis for true Christian unity. I want to stress again that true harmony among brothers and sisters of Christ is not based upon the externals of the flesh. Rather, it is based upon the internals and eternals of the spirit in our inner person.
So, therefore, you can look beyond the elements of our first birth. What are the elements of your first birth? How would you describe them? What are the things you are born with before you have a second birth? What are the things we use to identify ourselves, distinguishing us from other people? Well, your appearance is certainly one of those things. The way you behave, your personality, your origin, your sex, your race, your socio-economic standard, are all also qualities of the first birth. But, the qualities of the second birth are very different, indeed.
Now, in the new birth, we share the same life and share the same destiny and therefore we have a basis for unity that the world couldn’t even begin to dream of, because if we are going to the same place, and loving the same person, and having the same destiny, does that not give you a deeper foundation for unity than any of these superficial qualities of the first birth we use to assess the value of people? I love that phrase, ‘how much is he worth’? That is not a definition of our worth. There is a more profound basis for unity than those externals. That is why we have a basis for true unity that is reflected in our destiny, in our dignity, and in our hope.
Continuing, Jesus tells us, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Now, I love that particular verse because this reveals the desire of the Son to be intimate with you and you with Him. There is no higher invitation that you will ever hear, or ever get, than that. Listen to what He is saying; “I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am.” Go back to John 14:3 and you see Him saying, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.” Both verses reinforce the same thing. It is His pleasure, it is His desire, for us to be with Him, so that we can share in that divine fellowship. This is very profound to me because we really have a fundamental destiny. We are going to enjoy the same place, the same presence, and the same person, then we also have a basis for a true identity.
Finally, in the last two verses, 25 and 26, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.” He is speaking of His disciples but also of those who will come to Him through His word. This is spiritual revelation because you will not know that Jesus was sent in that way unless the Spirit reveals it to you. “And I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them.” There, again, you have a wonderful balance of truth and of love. The mind will grow by taking in God’s truth and the heart will grow by giving out in love. We take in truth and give out love.
So, there is a process of taking in and an outward expression of truth and love. You take truth in and then you communicate that by the incarnation. So, what you are called to be, just as Jesus was in John 1, when we see, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Do you know what that means? You and I are now called to be the people for whom the word becomes flesh. That is to say, God’s timeless word, as you take it in, causes you to incarnate that word and then manifest that word in love. In a very real way, the word becomes flesh in us, insofar as Christ, who is in you, makes that possible. We couldn’t make it possible, but He, through the indwelling Spirit, makes it possible for all these things to be true. The last portion of the last verse is this, “That the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” That is the spiritual priority in this prayer. I see the glory of God being emphasized. I see the sanctity of God’s people. I see the unity of the body of Christ and I see the ministry of sharing the Gospel with a lost world. It should also be our desire, at the end of our own earthly sojourn, to be able to say the same thing. “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” May that be our own prayer. May that be the word that we can say as we reach the end of our earthly sojourn. So, then, God can speak to us and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
(Q)(A): Yes, concerning the character of Jesus, He knew from the beginning that Judas would betray Him and yet He did not treat him differently from the other disciples. Indeed, Jesus washed the feet of Judas in John 13. It was always a bonafide offer, to come to Him, but He also knew the other side of the coin, that he would choose to reject Him.
(Q)(A): Yes, in the first birth, we have certain characteristics we use to see if people have clout and worth. We use these yardsticks to differentiate ourselves. What would be the qualities, though, of the second birth? To me, those qualities would have to do with, first of all, the life of Christ in us and the way He uniquely reflects that life through the prism of our personality. He will reflect that life in a unique way for you that no one else will quite reflect or refract.
So, we are not clones of one another, but now we are less and less attached to the elementary principles of the first birth, by virtue of no longer being bound by nature, but by the Spirit of God, which is now in us.
So, we have a new understanding there. Another quality would a new form of Christ-like character. 2nd Peter chapter one would be the passage to look to there. I would also say the fruit of the Spirit would be a new, and real, quality; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Again, it is mediated through your new and unique personality. In addition to that, I would also add to that your spiritual gifts, which you didn’t have before. You have been given spiritual gifts, and these spiritual gifts are to be used to invest in the lives of others. So, those would be four or five qualities right there.
(Q)(A): Yes, this theme of glory is a big emphasis in this Gospel.
(Q)(A): Well, He seems to have prayed this in the presence of His disciples because He was just speaking to them in chapter 16 and it doesn’t say that He went aside. This gives us every indication that they were privileged to hear, now that they finally understood Him, a prayer that would burn in their hearts for the rest of their lives because they knew it was prayed for them. I see every evidence of that.
Let's close in a prayer. Father we thank You that You have loved us with an everlasting love. We thank You that Your desires are for us to be intimate with You and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that where You are, we may be there also. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.