“I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.” — John 17:9
In John’s Gospel chapter 17, we have what is in a true sense the Lord’s prayer. We stand on holy ground as we listen while the Lord Jesus speaks to His Father. In this prayer our blessed Lord is having communion with His Father over truths relating to His own disciples.
The Master, in the upper room, has revealed to His disciples many wonderful things, and He is about to leave for the Garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed, arrested, and finally tried and crucified. Before He goes to the cross, we listen to the sublimest utterance ever spoken by His sacred lips. We are privileged to enter the Holiest of all, and to hear our Great High Priest making intercession for His own. His manner of addressing the Father provides us with an example of the reverence with which we should approach the Throne of Grace. Melancthon said of this passage, “There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in Heaven or earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than this prayer offered up by the Son of God Himself.
The lustre of His Deity shines forth in all its brilliance in His reference to His pre-existence in unity with the Eternal God. However, we are not occupied in this message with the doctrine of the person of Christ; but, rather, with certain petitions offered by the Lord Jesus for His own which promise blessing during their pilgrimage below.
The Lord refers to His own in the descriptive clause which occurs several times in this prayer, “The men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world” (Vv. 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24). This includes His first disciples, whom He had called, and who had followed Him in the days of His humiliation, but according to verse 20 every Christian has a place in this prayer. Every believer, therefore, should be intensely interested in that for which our Lord prays. How blessed the thought that God loved the world and that He gave His Son for it. How comforting to know that in love to His Son, the Father has given us to Him to be His own peculiar possession! Some of the precious things He mentions relating to those whom the Father gave Him are:
SALVATION: Christ has given them life.
When the Lord Jesus says, “The hour is come” (V. 1), He refers to His approaching death by which the glory of the Father would be upheld. He had already glorified the Father in His perfect life, and now, in accomplishing the work for which He had been sent, through crucifixion and resurrection He would further glorify the Father.
On the basis of His atoning work, He has authority to give eternal life to those whom the Father has given Him. This life eternal is not only unending existence, but is a life of acquaintance with God in Christ. It is a spiritual life which includes an eternal relationship with the living God. It is the life of God Himself in the soul. It has its beginning on earth when we believe in Him, and it will blossom into its fulness when we are manifested in glory with Christ.
REVELATION: “I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world.”
I suggest the Lord is here referring to the Name “Father” which introduces His own into the new relationship into which the Lord Jesus by His finished work brings them. Think of the words spoken to Mary on that resurrection morning, “Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” He does not say, “Our Father,” for this He could not say because God is His Father in a sense in which He never could be ours. Father! What a grand word! It is full of meaning. All the love and care of the Father’s heart for His own is contained in the expression, “our Father.” It is all of grace that we unworthy sinners, dwelling in a state of death, should be quickened into life with Christ, and be brought into this tender relationship revealed in the manifestation of the Name of God as Father.
PRESERVATION: “Holy Father keep through Thine own Name, those whom Thou hast given Me” (V. 11). Here we have the language of the Shepherd of the sheep. He is about to leave them, to die for them, so He commits them to the care and protection of His Father. He does not pray that they might be kept from pain, sorrow, and trial, but that they should be kept from the evil one.
He knows that the world will hate them, and persecute them even unto death. As sheep before a wolf, the devil will seek to devour them. He commits them to the protection of His Father, Who has ever been the refuge of His people. “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” He says, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy Name.” He had safely kept them all (Judas was the exception, but he actually never was one of Christ’s own). He prays that after His departure the Father would keep them from the evil in the world, and from the evil one himself. To be kept in the knowledge of God is a great preservative. The assurance of our Great High Priest’s intercession for us, will give us strength to face the storm and fight the battle through to success and victory.
SANCTIFICATION: “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth.”
We have been looking at the negative side of His request, “Keep them from the evil,” now we have the positive request for their sanctification. To sanctify means to make holy. Sanctification is one of the great truths of the Bible. It is both instantaneous and progressive. Whilst positionally, every believer is sanctified in Christ the moment he trusts the Saviour, the Lord here prays that they may be set apart for service. The Divine instrument by which this is effected in the experience of the believer is, “the truth.” As we read and study the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will show us the Lord Jesus, and as we see Him in the mirror of the Scriptures, we will become like Him. He prays that Christian character may be manifest in His own.
Finally He prays for their: GLORIFICATION: This prayer reaches its climax when Jesus prays, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory.”
Whatever dangers, difficulties and disappointments we may encounter during our pilgrimage here below, we are cheered by the thought that the glory shines before us. When Christ Who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.”
He expresses His longing desire to have us in the glory with Himself, where we shall see Him and be like Him as He is. “Just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toil of life repay.” These wonderful blessings are what Jesus has prayed the Father to give to all who trust and love Him.
“Raised unto glory then, at His return,
Joyous our song shall be, at His return;
Gathered around to Him,
All learn the Heavenly hymn,
Jesus our joyful theme, at His return.”
The preacher has to learn that liberty is not power. The temptation is to rest satisfied in speaking with ease and freedom. Whenever this is the case it is Satan’s opportunity, and thus we ought to be on our guard.