Guarded by God’s Name and Power

“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.  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.  But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (Jn 17:11-13).

As we continue in Jesus’ John 17 prayer, we find Jesus preparing to leave this world.  While Jesus was in the world, He “guarded” the disciples so that none were lost (with the exception of Judas, whose chose his own path of destruction).  In this prayer, Jesus now transfers His guardianship to the Father.  He asks the Father to “keep them in Your name.”  That is, to keep them with God’s power.

Throughout the Old Testament, the name of God is equated with the power of God.  “May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!” (Ps 20:1).  “Through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us” (Ps 44:5).  “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power” (Ps 54:1).  “Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known” (Ps 106:8).  “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124:8).  And one of my favorites, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe” (Pr 18:10).

Jesus also prays that “they may be one”.  We will see this specific request of Jesus a few times in His John chapter 17 prayer.  Our unity as believers is of great importance to the Savior.  I believe that is why the apostles emphasize the unity of the body in their letters to the churches.  “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).

This call for unity is very serious.  Division is deadly to the body of Christ.  Too often, we separate over points of theology or over what should be emphasized in a church’s mission or which personalities to line up behind.  But we all need, with our various gifts and personalities, to come under the authority of Christ’s prayer; His prayer that we would be one.  Their is no greater aspiration in the church.  Our unity is a direct demonstration of our “loving one another”.

Earlier in the evening, Jesus said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (Jn 15:11).  Here in verse 13, Jesus prays to the Father requesting that their experience of His joy would indeed come to pass.  Christ’s joy in you is Christ’s promise to you and Christ’s prayer for you.  May you dwell in the answer to this prayer, and feel the overwhelming warmth of Christ’s joy in you.

Sent by the Father

We continue with Jesus’ prayer …

“Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You.  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.  I am praying for them.  I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given Me, for they are Yours.  All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (Jn 17:7-10).

How did we become members of Christ’s family?  How did we become God’s children?  How did we become “those whom You have given Me”?  By believing in Jesus; by believing in the One whom God has sent.

Look at how many times in just the gospel of John that belief in Jesus and receiving eternal life is tied to believing that Jesus was sent by the Father.  Here are just a few of the 41 times in John’s gospel that the word “sent” from the Father is used.

  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn 5:24).
  • Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn 6:29).
  • Right before Jesus raised Lazarus, He said “I know that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me” (Jn 11:42).
  • And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me” (Jn 12:44).
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jn 13:20).
  • “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn 17:3).
  • “That they may all be one; even 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 sent Me” (Jn 17:21).

Again, there are 34 more verses just in John where Jesus identifies Himself as sent by the Father.  Believing that Jesus came from the Father, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, that He died for our sins in our place is the path to eternal life.

Jesus is specifically praying in these verses for His church; His family.  He identifies the disciples as those who were given Him by the Father and as those who received His words.  We are now in this class.  And His prayer in John chapter 17 is for us.

We belong to Christ.  We belong to God.  And we are valuable.  In fact, so valuable that Christ Himself “is glorified in us”.  How can Christ be glorified in us when we are jars of clay; simple earthen vessels?  He is glorified in us because this “earthen vessel” now contains the “treasure” of Christ Himself.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (II Cor 4:7).  You are not the Deity, that’s true.  But you, my friend, CONTAIN the Deity.  Celebrate that!

Return to Glory

“I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.  And now, Father, glorify Me in your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.  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” (Jn 17:4-6).

Notice the verbs in these verses.  Jesus glorified the Father during His time upon the earth.  Jesus accomplished all that the Father gave Him to do.  And Jesus manifested or revealed the Father to His followers.  As we have seen throughout these chapters in John’s gospels, there is an incredible Father-Son connection in how God reveals His identity and how He works in the world.

The specific way that Jesus glorified the Father in this passage is by accomplishing all that the Father gave Him to do.  This acknowledgement by Jesus that He has completed everything that the Father assigned Him is an interesting one in light of the one great work left for Jesus to do at this point – His upcoming death upon the cross.

I think we can say that the death of Christ is here a foregone conclusion in the mind of Christ.  Jesus is so sure of its outcome that His death, burial, and resurrection are as if they have already taken place.  Jesus’ hour has come and all that God has asked of the Son will surely be accomplished.

When that final act of obedience is completed, God will be glorified and the Son will be glorified.  Jesus will break free of His earth-suit.  He will be glorified as one with God, a glory He shared with the Father since before time began.  For Jesus, it will be a return to glory.

For us, it will cement our identity as those “whom You [the Father] gave Me [the Son] from out of the world.”  Jesus says these chosen ones, His followers in AD 33 and His followers to come, are given to Him from the Father.  And we were extracted “from out of the world”, as it were, to be joined to Christ in the family of God.

We “keep” the word of God by believing what Jesus, the Word Incarnate, said.  We believe what Jesus said about the Father.  We believe what Jesus said about Himself.  We believe what Jesus said about entering His kingdom by faith.  And the promise to those who “keep” His word is the everlasting presence of the Lord in our lives.  “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him” (Jn 14:23).

Jesus’ Prayer for You and Me

“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, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given Him.  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn 17:1-3).

John chapter 17 is a beautiful prayer of Jesus.  It is a benediction in a way, a closure to Jesus’ time on the earth.  But it is also forward-looking.  It is a conversation from the Son to the Father in which Jesus prays for the future of the disciples and the church they will lead.  His prayer is for His first century followers who are in the upper room with Jesus and for those of us who will come later to the family.  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (Jn 17:20).  This is you and me!

Looking at these three verses, Jesus acknowledges that “the hour has come”.  The time for Jesus to be revealed and die as the Messiah has arrived.  Jesus used the same language in John 12:23 as He began His journey to the cross, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  Jesus will be glorified through His death, burial, and resurrection.  And it will be a shared glory between the Father and the Son.

Jesus exercises His glory by giving eternal life to all whom the Father has “given Him”.  Because the disciples had believed in the One whom the Father had sent, they were given eternal life (Jn 6:29, 40).  Now Jesus defines eternal life as not only believing, but actually knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He had sent” (Jn 17:3).

What makes life eternal is more than just its length.  Eternal life also has a quality; the quality of actually knowing God.  What sets eternal life apart from temporal life is not just its longevity, but its intimate connection to God Himself.

For us, eternal life began the hour we believed.  This is one reason we believe that once we embrace the gospel message 0f Christ, our standing as a child of God cannot be revoked.  Our eternal life – the promise that came from our believing in Jesus – has already begun.  And its greatest quality is that we can know, really know, God the Father and the Son whom He has sent.