John 17:6 – 19
What do you want for others?
This probably doesn’t surprise you, but I go to lots of weddings! Which means I listen to my fair share of wedding speeches. Most of you will have heard a number of these in your time, basically they’re a summary of what the father of the bride, or whoever hopes for, wishes for, for the happy couple. We hope that your future life together, is this, and that, and something else. But I heard one speech, where some relative of the couple was speaking, and instead of listing off all the things that he hoped and wished for them, he said, “We wish for, this couple, whatever they wish for themselves.” And everyone kind of went, “Ah, isn’t that sweet!” But it occurred to me, that that is, the ultimate wedding speech cop out! We wish for them, whatever they wish, for themselves.
It’s an admission that I don’t have the foggiest clue, what is good for you!
What you need,
What we should hope for, for you,
What we should encourage you to strive for,
“I got nothing! But whatever you want! You go for it!”
“What a waste of a wedding speech!” I thought.
I’m not always so judgmental as I listen to other people speak, but I couldn’t help but notice that there is not a hint, of that lack of clarity, in what Jesus wants for his disciples in John 17 is there?
Here is prayer, that Jesus prays for the 11, those closest to him,
And it’s very, very obvious, that Jesus knows what they need.
He doesn’t just commit them to God and hope that whatever they want is good for them,
He prays specifically, for their well-being and benefit.
Who do you think you are?
First though, Jesus turns his attention, to the identity of these disciples.
If you have your NIV Bible there, you’ll see a paragraph heading, “Jesus Prays for His Disciples”, but I’m sure you noticed as we read it, Jesus doesn’t actually make a petition, a request, until verse 11.
The first few verses are about the identity of these men, as Jesus describes who he thinks they are.
Verse 6, “I have revealed you, to those whom you gave me out of the world.,
They were yours; you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. 7
Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them, the words you gave me, and they accepted them.
Some of you might be fans of the documentary series “Who do you think you are?”, which screens on SBS.
Each episode, some celebrity gets to research their family tree, and discover interesting things about their ancestors. And there were always some tips on how you could go about researching your family tree.
But it’s the title of that show intrigues me.
The focus is on people who have lived and died, sometimes centuries ago,
And the most exciting episodes are when some long-dead ancestor, did something heroic, or devious, even!
And yet, what’s the show called?
Not “Did your ancestors do anything interesting in their lives?”
But “who do you think you are?”
It’s all about other people, long passed, but it’s really about, who you are.
See the show’s creators understand, that who you are, isn’t just the product of what you do, but your identity is shaped in significant part by others.
Which is exactly what we discover as Jesus prays for his disciples.
Who they are, is in significant part shaped by both Jesus and his Father.
The disciples were those to whom Jesus made God known
See, firstly we notice that the disciples can be described as those to whom Jesus has made God known.
“I have revealed you Jesus says, to those whom you gave me
And you’ll see a little footnote there in your NIV Bible, that says it’s literally your name.
I have revealed your name.
In the ancient world, you may know, somebody’s name was a representation of their very person.
For Jesus to reveal God’s name, is to make God’s character and nature known,
And if you’re thinking, “hang on, this is sounding a bit familiar, you’re right!, because this language is pretty much synonymous with I have brought you glory, in verse 4, which we looked at last week.
Jesus has revealed God’s name, to the disciples,
That is, Jesus has taken the knowledge of God that he had, and has given it to the disciples.
Which sounds simple enough, but is actually quite remarkable.
What the Son, who was with God, for all of eternity past, what he knows about his Father’s character and nature, he’s revealed that to the disciples.
Talk about grand disclosure!
What do you think, when you pick up the Bible, and read these disciples’ accounts of Jesus’ teaching?
It’s hard to have anything other than, a very high view of Scripture, when we realise that’s what the Scriptures contain.
The disciples are those to whom Jesus has made his Father known.
The disciples were God’s gift to Jesus.
There’s another little surprise, in that we also see that these disciples were God’s gift to Jesus.
Verse 6, “I have revealed you, to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me
Before Jesus’ ministry, who did the disciples belong to?
They belonged to God the Father, didn’t they?
They didn’t belong to themselves,
They weren’t masters of their own destinies.
They belonged to God.
They were his possession,
Chosen for his purposes.
See, notice that, even before the disciples believed in Jesus, they belonged to God.
God, then, chose them out of the world, and gave them to Jesus, in order that he might reveal the Father to them, and they might receive the benefits of his life and death and resurrection.
The disciples are those through whom glory flows to Jesus.
But look also down at verse 10,
All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
As well as the disciples being given to Jesus for their benefit, it’s also for Jesus’ glory. And since we have this language of reciprocity, what’s the Son’s is the Father’s, and what is the Father’s is also the Son’s, then what’s for Jesus glory, is also for his Father’s glory.
And probably Jesus is mindful both of, God’s choice of the disciples, like his choice of all his people, choosing them for salvation.
They’ve received the blessings of God,
Jesus is shown to be gracious, compassionate, loving, and victorious over death,
And so glory flows to him through the disciples.
But of course, God has also chosen these men specifically, as the foundation of his mission into the world, after Jesus’ ascension. These are the ones to whom Jesus gives the Great Commission, “go into all the world”,
These men have received the revelation of God’s character and purposes, and they become responsible for passing on that revelation to the rest of the world.
In fact when Jesus says glory has come to me, literally he says something like “Glory has come to me and will continue to come to me.” The effect is ongoing.
As more and more people come under the sound of the disciples’ message,
The message of God’s name,
The message of who God is,
As people respond to God in Christ, even today, Jesus is shown to be gracious, compassionate, loving, and victorious over death, and glory flows to him.
If this morning, you pick up the Bible, and read these words of John, and see something of who God is, then glory will flow to Jesus.
During May, we’re going to have a special evangelistic focus as a church, under the theme “If You Could Ask God.”
And we are praying, and please join us in praying, that God would use that time, of taking people to God’s Word, to draw people to himself.
And if, when, God does that,
When God calls people to salvation through the testimony of these disciples, then God will be shown to be gracious, compassionate, faithful, loving,
And glory will flow to Jesus, and also, to his Father.
The disciples are those through whom, glory flows to Jesus.
The disciples believe & obey God’s Word
But who the disciples are, is not entirely the result of what others have done is it?
The same as in that TV show, the celebrity on view isn’t solely the product of that their ancestors did.
Who the disciples are, is shaped by the fact that they belong to God,
Shaped by the fact that God the Father gave them to his Son,
But in the same breath even, Jesus shows that the disciples are also responsible for who they are, and how God is going to use them.
Back to the middle of verse 6, They were yours; you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you., 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.
The disciples obeyed God’s Word,
The disciples know,
The disciples accepted the words Jesus brought from his Father,
They believed that the Father sent the Son into the world.
When the disciples received Jesus’ words,
And believed Jesus’ words,
And obeyed Jesus’ words,
They received, and believed, and obeyed, God’s Word.
To a 1st Century Jew, God’s Word was contained in the Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament.
But Jesus says that these disciples, have accepted and obeyed his words, as God’s words, that is, on par, equal with, God’s Word in the Old Testament.
This might seem odd to us!
We tend to look at the disciples and notice all the things they didn’t understand, what they didn’t believe.
The point is though, in contrast to the world at large,
In contrast to the religious leaders of the day,
In contrast to the nation of Israel as a whole, this group, whom God had chosen, accepted Jesus’ teaching,
Accepted Jesus as one who makes God known,
They trusted that he was in fact, God’s chosen king, the Messiah.
Other people, rejected Jesus’ claims to speak for God.
Some even said he was demon-possessed, doing the work of the devil.
There were others, who liked something of what Jesus had to offer;, healing, feeding.
No shortage of people who were intrigued by Jesus, felt some affinity with Jesus.
Some liked the general vibe of Jesus ministry, but then found the specifics of what he called on people to do, too hard.
They drifted away,
They decided the cost was too high,
But these disciples stuck with Jesus. Peter says to him in John chapter 6, You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God
Through their obedience, through their believing, the disciples demonstrated that they really did belong to God.
On the Sunday after Christmas last year, we looked at Psalm 9 together. You may remember that if you were with us, and if that whole Christmas period is something other than a total blur in your mind, as it is in mine!
But in that Psalm, Israel’s king David makes the point that knowing God’s name, exactly the same sense of knowing God we find here, knowing God’s name implies a life-long commitment.
Yes, the disciples have got a long way to do, but they have obeyed God’s Word, verse 6,
They believe that everything the Father has given Jesus is in fact a gift from him, verse 7,
They know that Jesus came from the Father, verse 8,
They believe that the father sent Jesus, verse 8 again
And this commitment demonstrates their knowledge of God to be real.
There are lots of people today, who are interested in Jesus, aren’t there?
I was reading some reviews just this week of the new, I think you’d call it an allegorical novel, by J M Coetzee, who lives in Adelaide. It’s called The Childhood of Jesus, and so in the reviews, lots of people talk about their views on the historical Jesus.
Vast numbers of them, intrigued, captivated by aspects of Jesus teaching, but who aren’t Christians.
There are lots of people even, who claim to be followers of Jesus, who like a particular part of Jesus’ message but not other aspects of what he has to say, or what he came to do.
But I think we’d have to say, this is a pretty clear description, of what Jesus thinks a disciple looks like.
Yes, we know that these 11 had a particular role, but it seems to me that the marks of true discipleship, will still apply today.
Obeying God’s Word as spoken by Jesus isn’t something that required only of Apostles,
Accepting Jesus’ teaching, verse 8, not just the easy, popular bits, but the hard bits, the costly bits,
The bits that cost money,
The bits that demand sacrifice,
That’s what it means to be a disciple of Jesus just as much today, as in the first century AD.
Believing that Jesus was sent by God, isn’t any less important today, than for those who were the first witnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry.
So what is a Christian?
If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, what is it that you’re claiming to do, or be?
Who do you think, you are?
And if you’re not a Christian, we’re so pleased to have you here,
Perhaps this is exactly your question.
What is a Christian?
What response does Jesus call for?
Clearly it’s not just to be intrigued by Jesus.
To be a Christian, to be a disciple of Jesus, is to believe God’s Word, as made known by Jesus, and obey it.
Jesus prays that the disciples will be protected
So having defined for us very clearly, who these disciples are, finally we get to Jesus’ actual prayer for them.
And it’s crystal clear, isn’t it, that Jesus knows exactly, what’s good for them.
This is no vague wedding speech where the speaker hasn’t got the foggiest clue about what’s good for the happy couple.
Jesus knows exactly what they need.
So he prays that the disciples will be protected.
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
Jesus prays because he is going away
The reason Jesus prays for the disciples is obvious, isn’t it?
The cross is looming.
This week I was taking some washing out of the washing machine and putting it in the dryer, which, I say that, and it makes me sound like a good husband, when in fact, it was just that Kathy was out and I wanted to dry the sheets so I could go to bed! But was I reading the labels on the clothes, and some of them say, some of you already know this! Some of them say, wash separately from light colours.
Put a pair of red socks in with a white t-shirt, and you get a pink t-shirt!
Some clothes just have their effect, on everything that is around them!
I couldn’t help but think of those red socks as I was reading Jesus’ prayer,
The cross affects everything!
The colour, if you like, of the cross, flows into everything that’s around it, including what Jesus prays for his disciples.
Jesus is going away, to the cross, to the grave, to his Father’s side, but the disciples are going to remain in the world,
And that’s no small thing.
Our whole experience of knowing Christ, is trusting him, without him being actually present with us.
For these disciples though, all they’ve ever known is Jesus presence with them.
They have no experience at all, no concept even, of what it is to serve Jesus,
To remain faithful to Jesus, in a world where Jesus is not bodily present.
So Jesus prays for them.
Specifically, he prays that God will protect the disciples by the power of your name
Now, here’s your name again, that that metaphor for the revelation of Gods’ own person.
The revelation that, as Jesus says in verse 11, he brought from God.
So notice what Jesus is praying:, that his Father will keep his followers walking firmly in the revelation of God that Jesus has brought.
That this message that they’ve already heard, will be the means by which the disciples are protected, and the means by which their unity will be preserved.
“More of the same, please Father”, is Jesus’ prayer.
Jesus prays that the disciples will be united
He prays that the supreme revelation of God that hehas brought, might guard the disciples and preserve their unity.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t pray for these 11 to be protected, for the sake of unity itself.
But so that they may be one as we are one
The implication seems to be that the world, the evil one, those forces opposed to God, will seek to divide the disciples, and the only thing that can preserve their unity,
Is not a good organisational structure,
Not a well-written constitution,
Not a high degree of tolerance,
Or a relationally strong network,
No, the only force powerful enough to enable unity in the face of opposition, is the power of God’s name, the revelation of God’s character and purposes in Jesus.
Disciples of Jesus depend on God’s self-revelation for protection and unity
How can a disciple, how can a disciple in the first century, how can a disciple today, continue in the path to which Christ has called him, or her, or you?
How can a disciple who is no longer of the world, stand firm in the face of hatred from the world, verse 14,
Resist the attacks of the evil one, who controls the world, verse 15
Well, the way that Jesus wants it to happen,
What Jesus wants for us, is to remain in the truth that Jesus himself has revealed.
That is, to remain in the truth of the gospel message,
To remain in the truth of God’s self-revelation.
Jesus doesn’t think the solution to living in a world that is hostile to the gospel, is ultimately, to be more progressive in our thinking,
To adopt some strategy,
To agitate for political change,
As useful, or beneficial as those things might be, they are not the solution to the perseverance and preservation of Christian people.
I was speaking with an army officer recently, someone who’s served in combat on multiple occasions. He said, “When you’re under attack, when things are going badly, it’s then more than ever, that you need to rely on what you’ve been taught previously.”
He said in those moments, the desperate moments in the heat of battle, lots of solders are tempted to, if you like, throw the book out the window, and just make up, an approach, a response, a battle-plan, on the spot.
This officer said, that is generally the very worst thing you can do.
More than any other time, that’s the moment when you need to go back to what you learned in the beginning.
Which makes sense of the fact that when I’m talking to the defence personnel here at TMB, they’re always going off doing training of some sort.
They’re always being reminded of the basics.
One of our defence personnel is about to fly to Queensland this afternoon, because the army wants to remind him how to drive!
For the follower of Jesus, the revelation of God that we find in him,
The making known of God’s plans and purposes that was given to these disciples, and through their eye-witness testimony, handed down to us,
That’s what Jesus prays will protect us,
That’s what Jesus thinks will shape our understanding of how to live in a world to which we don’t belong.
That’s what Jesus thinks will direct our conduct.
That’s what Jesus thinks will give unity.
In the heat of battle,
In the moment of crisis,
It’s the revelation of God in the person of Jesus, that we need to cling to.
And yet, if we were to continue the army illustration, I wonder if we neglect our training.
Do we fail to draw deep from that revelation of God?
Are we unaware, perhaps we easily forget, that it’s the power of God’s name, made known to us in Jesus,
The message that comes to us through these disciple’s testimony,
It’s that revelation of God that will protect us.
Do we turn elsewhere, as we look for assistance to stand firm in the face of hatred from the world, and opposition from the evil one?
Do we seek out some other message from God, some new word, to guide us, equip us, protect us, because somehow we’ve got it into our heads, that the supreme revelation of God in Jesus Christ is not enough for today’s situation?
Or do we not even bother resisting the evil one at all?
Do we think that, basically we’re on our own?
That God doesn’t have anything to offer us, as we seek to exist in the world, as we seek to remain holy, verse 17, that’s the idea behind sanctification.
There are some, who simply choose to give up living as a follower of Jesus, they decide that since they are living in the world, that it’s easier to be completely of the world,
Perhaps because they fail to understand what God has already given them, to equip them,
To guard them,
To keep them safe.
Notice the emphasis on the disciples’ security
Let me just quickly point out the emphasis in this prayer, on the security of the disciples’, identity and position.
There’s great assurance here for the disciples, that they will never lose their identity.
Sometimes, when we’re praying as a family, one of our kids will pray something purely, to make us laugh. They’re not praying to God, they’re just praying for our hearing. So please pray for repentance and forgiveness for my children!
But Jesus does both! Not praying for just to make people laugh, but praying deliberately to his Father, and for, the listening ears of his disciples.
The language and ideas of this prayer assure the disciples, of the secure hold that God has on them.
The breadth of what Jesus says in the prayer about what the Father has done,
What the Son has done,
Who God is,
Who Jesus is,
The message that’s been made known to the disciples,
Even what Jesus prays about what the disciples themselves have done, underscores the security of their identity.
Remember, they were Gods’ possession, verse 16.
He chose them out of the world,
God the Father gave them to Jesus,
They have accepted God’s Word, verse 8,
Their obedience to God’s Word as spoken by Jesus, confirms their identity as those who belong to God and will be used by him.
They are the shared possession we could say, of both God the Father and God the Son, verse 10.
Jesus prays that his Father will protect them, verse 11, by the power of what he’s already given to them, the revelation of God’s name,
Jesus says that he has protected them, verse 12,
None has been lost, except Judas, and actually, his destruction, wasn’t an oversight on Jesus’ part, or his Father’s part, but so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
If you were one of the disciples, and you were feeling insecure, at the beginning of this prayer, there’s really no room for still feeling that, by the time Jesus gets to the end, is there?
These are God’s people, and they are utterly secure.
Nothing will snatch them from God’s hand.
Disciples of Jesus belong in the world
Notice also, that Jesus doesn’t think that the solution to disciples living in a hostile world, is for the disciples to be taken out of the world.
Verse 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one
Once again, this is likely intended particularly for the disciples’ hearing.
God knows that the solution to opposition from the world, is not to take the disciples out of the world.
How then could they fulfil the Great Commission? “Go into all the world”
No, God doesn’t think that may be the solution, but the disciples quite likely will, at different times, when the hatred of the world is at its strongest,
When the temptations of the world are most severe.
Every time that Satan, the evil one, gets a mention in John’s gospel, his work is focussed on bringing Jesus to his death. But once Jesus is gone, Satan will direct his energies against Jesus’ followers, because they relate to the world in the same way that Jesus relates to the world, They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
That is to say, the disciples’ character and priorities are not determined by the world, any more than Jesus’ character and priorities weren’t determined by the world.
Jesus very clearly defeats Satan on the cross, but while we wait for Jesus’ return, Satan still has some power to attack those who are not of the world.
And once more, this isn’t limited to the 11 for whom Jesus is praying specifically, but as we stand in the faith that they passed down, it is true of Christian people today, also.
And Jesus is clear that we shouldn’t seek to disengage from the world.
There’s a saying you might have heard, from a book by the American author John Augustus Shedd, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
Sure, Christian disciples could enjoy the blessings of being in God’s presence, if God just sucked us all up to heaven straight away.
But that’s not what disciples are built for.
We’re not kept out of the world, we’re sent into the world
To minister to the world, to bring the revelation of God’s nature and purposes into the world, we have to be in it, not out of it.
Disciples of Jesus are to be distinguishable from the world
But Christian disciples also need to be sanctified from the world, not indistinguishable from it.
Sanctified simply means holy, separated from. It’s the description of God in verse 11 isn’t it?, Holy Father
And once again, we see that what we need,
What Jesus wants for his people, has already been provided.
Verse 17, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth, and verse 19, For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified, or literally, sanctified in truth
How is a person sanctified?, set apart?, made holy for God?
Through the truth of God’s Word.
All 3 persons of the Trinity are at work here. It is the Father’s Word made known through the Son, and it’s the Spirit, according to chapter 15, who will lead these 11 into all truth, will help them understand the full meaning of God’s Word.
We stand one step removed. The truth made known to us is the truth passed down from these disciples.
But the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4, that it is God’s will that all his people are sanctified.
So what does Jesus want for you?, As you stand as a recipient of this truth passed down?
Jesus prays that the truth of God’s Word, will set his disciples apart from the world.
The only way to be set apart for God, is to learn to live in accordance with his Word. That’s what will make us distinguishable from the world.
I don’t know whether it occurred to you as we read it, but Jesus wouldn’t have to pray for God to protect the disciples, if the disciples were of the world, indistinguishable from the world,
Someone whose indistinguishable from the world has nothing to fear from the world,
Someone whose character and priorities are determined by the world or the evil one, has nothing to fear from the world or the evil one.
But because Jesus knows what effect God’s Word, the Truth, hjas on the lives of his people,
But because Jesus knows that his Father will answer this prayer, he prays that first petition, that God will protect those, who are not of the world.
See this isn’t a wedding speech.
And it’s not just that this isn’t a bad wedding speech.
This isn’t even the very best kind of wedding speech.
Jesus doesn’t just know, what is best for his friends,
He knows that it’s going to come about.
And it’s through his obedience,
That he brings these things to pass.