John 17 - Part 2
H. M. Linton
In the previous paper we considered some of those declarations of the Lord to His Father concerning what He had done. We shall continue our meditation on John 17 by noting those verses which speak of
The Lord and His Disciples
In verse 2 we read that they were the gift of the Father to the Son. To these the Father’s intent was that the Lord should give them eternal life, but only “to as many as thou hast given him”. We are not surprised at the words “thou hast given him power over all flesh” but it is a cause for wonder that we have been given by the Father to the Son. The thought of a gift suggests its suitability and its acceptability to the person to whom it is given. In addition, its acceptance by the recipient calls forth thanks to the giver and an appreciation of its value. Here, then, we see a twofold truth. We, being the gift, are both suitable and acceptable to the Son, whilst giving delight and satisfaction to the Father. To this lovegift the Father’s thought was “that he should give eternal life” and immediately He adds “and this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”. The fulness of eternal life is the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to weigh the expressions used, “that he should give” and “that they might know”. The gift of eternal life is the prerogative of the Son and so we have the sovereign character of it: “he should give”. The knowledge of God and of His sent One in all its fulness, however, will be dependent on our capacity and our preparedness to receive it.
In verse 6 we read again that we are the gift of the Father to the Son but with the added statement, “they have kept thy word”. The Lord had just stated, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me” and then says, “they have kept thy word”. What declaration of the name of the Father had He given that had made such an impression upon them?
Verse 8 reads “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me”. Do we always speak “the words which thou gavest me”? Would not our ministry be more effective if our words were received directly from God?; see 1 Cor. 2. 13. We note too that the attitude of the disciples is commented on, “they have received them”. Here again we might challenge our hearts. When a servant of the Lord brings to us the word of the Lord, do we receive it? Are we like the prepared ground of the parable where the seed bore fruit, some 30, some 60 and some 100 fold? What was the result of receiving the Word? Their spiritual eyes had been opened to enter into something of the plan and purpose of God in Christ Jesus. “I came out from thee” and “thou didst send me”. This transcended all that they had known in Judaism and had opened to them a vista of truth concerning the One to whom they had become attached which had more firmly drawn them to Him.
In verse 9 He adds “I pray for them . . . for they are thine”. Here we have a wonderful truth which should encourage us. Normally if we make a gift to any one it ceases to be ours. Here the Lord says “them which thou hast given me; . . . they are thine”. We never cease to belong to the Father and because of this we are the subject of the special interest and prayer of the Son.
We marvel that He should add in verse 10 “I am glorified in them”. Repeatedly He makes reference to glory in this passage; for example, the Lord refers to “the glory which I had with thee before the world was”. Now He is pleased to say, “I am glorified in them”. If glory is to be given to One who is already glorious then it must be an excelling glory indeed, and yet He is the One who says “I am glorified in them”. How this must humble our hearts before Him at the thought of His matchless grace.
Now we come to one of the outstanding purposes of the prayer. The Lord is leaving the world but at the same time He would be leaving His disciples in the world. In contrast with the world the character of His Father was holy and so He addresses Him, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me", v. 11. What was in that name? Moses had to say “I AM hath sent me”, Exod. 3. 14, and Egypt was overcome by the power of the name. And so the Redeemer prays for the redeemed that they might be kept through the power of that all-prevailing name. The express reason was “that they may be one”; not one in union but one in unity. It is impossible to think of division between the Father and the Son and this living and essential unity is presented as the standard for us; “that they may be one, as we are”.
The words “now come I to thee” in verse 13 convey to us the sense of absolute confidence which the Lord had in His Father. But a great and important matter is before Him. To the Father only could He appeal to ensure “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves”. What would “my joy” consist of? It was the Lord’s joy, i. to do His Father’s will; ii. to unfold the name and character of His Father; iii. to interpret the Scriptures; iv. to bear witness before the world and so much more. Now He desires that these things that formed His joy might be manifested in the life and walk of His disciples.
From the fulness of this joy He passes again to the Father’s word. Verse 14 records “I have given them thy word” and brings before us the result of its reception, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world”. Here let us pause and consider. We realise the great fact that in no way was our Lord of “the world”. In every detail of His life and walk He stood in “contrast to” and not “in conformity with” all that can be embraced under the term “of the world”. Now He links His own disciples with this; “they are not . . . even as I am not”. How important it is that we should study the things in which we are said to be “even as” our Lord. The action of the word of the Father is that of severing us from likeness to the world and bringing us into conformity to the Son and to the Father. This has its application, not only in separating from the world, but in bringing us into the position where we view things from God’s standpoint. And not only so but we are enabled to manifest before all men our relationship to the Father in a godly manner of conduct and witness.
This position will inevitably bring its dangers, so in verse 15 He continues “I pray . . . that thou shouldest keep them from the evil”. In John 10. 28-30 the Lord speaks of the eternal security of His sheep, but here in His prayer He has the potential danger of this world’s evil in mind. Whether we read it as “the evil” or “the evil one” does not alter the need for the request, “that thou shouldest keep them”. Again note that He continues “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world”. In contrast to the danger arising from the evil of the world, He prays that they should be consecrated through the truth. The action of the Word in the heart is such that it sanctifies those who receive it.
In every aspect of our Lord’s life we see evidence that He was sent by the Father. It comes then as no surprise to us when we read “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world”, v. 18. “As . . . so”! Can we grasp the import that just as He was sent of the Father into the world, so are we? Our place is in the world being sent there of the Father, but we are not of the world. May the Lord help us to see this as our position in the world and to occupy it to His glory. The result of such conduct and testimony is seen in verse 20 in that there are those “which shall believe on me through their word”. Here then is a developing thought. The disciples are given to the Son by the Father. They are kept from the evil of the world even while still remaining in it. Then their word and testimony are such that others believe through their word. This leads to the great unity of the whole company of the redeemed, “one, even as we are”. True unity is not uniformity.
“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory”. That great final day of glory is before Him and He requests that that love-gift of the Father to the Son may be given a place at that triumphal moment.
He and I in that bright glory,
One deep joy shall share:
Mine, to be forever with Him;
His, that I am there.
The last two verses of the chapter make a closing appeal; “O righteous Father, . . . that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them”. Have we that conscious abiding enjoyment of the Father’s love with all its wondrous outflowings, and the consciousness of Christ abiding in us? May our confession be “for to me to live is Christ” to His glory.