WHAT A PRAYER!
What was the kernel of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples? One had already fallen away – on his way to sell his rabbi out for a few pieces of silver? Have you noticed that Jesus excluded Judas from His prayer? Judas’s mind was already made up. Jesus made no urgent request for the Father to stop him or for the Holy Spirit to convict him. It had to be and in the sovereignty of God He would blend every circumstance into His plan of redemption, even the free will of Judas who chose to betray his Master.
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave then to me and they have obeyed your word. (John 17: 6)
What an insight into the heart of Jesus! The Father had given Him twelve men as a sacred trust. It was His task to impart the Father’s Word to them until they had grasped, embraced and obeyed that Word. Jesus could not leave them alone in this world until He was sure that His task of training them to be His disciples was complete. From the moment He finally left them, their role would change. No longer would they simply be His disciples. They would be, like Him, true sons of the Father.
Verse 6 can also be translated:
I have revealed your name to those you gave me out of the world.
What was the significance of this declaration? The Lord revealed Himself to His covenant people by many names; Elohim – the Mighty One; El Elyon – the Most High God; El Shaddai – the one who nourishes; Adonai – the Master; El Olam – the everlasting God; Yahweh – the one who is; and the many facets of Yahweh – provider, shepherd, healer, righteousness, peace, banner, sanctifier, Lord of hosts and the Lord who is there.
But there was one name by which He was not known until Jesus came – the name, Father. Jesus came to reveal that name by being the perfect Son. It was that name He made known to His disciples and it was to that name that He entrusted them because He knew that God, as the perfect Father, would always be with them, vigilant and caring like no earthly father could ever be.
Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I have given them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They know with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. (John 17: 7-8)
But wait a minute! What are you saying, Jesus? You are speaking as though the disciples had it all together. We know very well that they were an imperfect lot; they didn’t have a very good track record, and the events of the next few hours would show them up for what they really were – cowards and deserters. They had failed to learn their lessons and they fell apart when the crunch came. Jesus had warned them many times of the coming events, but they dismissed His words as of no consequence. How could He speak of them to the Father in this way?
Jesus has already shown us, time after time, that He saw people not as they were but as they would be through the work of the Holy Spirit in them. He spoke of His disciples as though they were already perfected because He had full confidence in the Holy Spirit to complete in them what He, Jesus, had begun.
But He was also realistic. The process by which they would reach maturity was fraught with danger. There was a threefold enemy they had to battle – the world, the flesh and the devil. They needed the supernatural defence and protection of the Father to arrive at their destination. Jesus was fully aware of this and He prayed for them.
- Protected by the power of the Father’s name
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 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. (John 17: 9-11)
Theirs was a shared responsibility. What belonged to the Father also belonged to the Son. Jesus was soon to leave them. He would no longer be with the disciples to sort out their squabbles and keep them together as a band of His followers. They had the potential to lapse into their old, selfish and self-centred ways, ignoring the priceless love and unity that Jesus fostered among them and which set them apart as His disciples.
Jesus would now entrust to the Father those whom the Father had entrusted to Him. It would be the Father’s responsibility to guard them against the ravages of their ungodly old natures, the lure of the world and temptations of the devil. Jesus’s prayer was not about physical safety. That was not His priority. It was far more important to Him that God’s supernatural power at work in them would mould them together as one with one another and with the Father since unity was the supreme hallmark of the Godhead.
Jesus had been in harmony with the Father from the beginning, never failing to receive His instructions from Him and carrying them out with meticulous obedience. He expected no less from His disciples but, without the Father’s intervention through the Holy Spirit, there was every possibility that they would fail in their basic relationship with Him and with one another.
What was His prayer for them? “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name . . .” God’s name was far more than a handle by which He was known. The very name of God was powerful. Jesus would have been aware of the words of Proverbs 18: 10:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
To call on the name of the Lord was to invoke everything that He was. Jesus entrusted them to the name of the Father.
While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17: 12)
Jesus lost one. Not even He was able to save Judas from the consequences of his own choices. He had to let him go, knowing that the Father would work everything out perfectly to fulfil His purpose to offer salvation to the whole world through the death of His Son. Judas had a part to play, an unsavoury set of choices which would doom him to eternal loss, but even that was woven into God’s plan of redemption.
- Protected by the power of Jesus’s joy
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (John 17: 13)
The disciples were facing the most terrifying experience of their lives. Not only were they about to witness the execution of their Master at the hands of the Roman government, but they could also possibly be implicated in the charges against Him. And Jesus spoke about them being filled with joy? His joy? What kind of joy would fill the heart of a man who was about to be crucified? This sounds crazy!
It is crazy if we look at it from a human perspective. But Jesus never viewed life in the same way as we do. The writer to the Hebrews understood Him.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the throne of God. (Heb. 12: 2)
What was disaster at that moment would be viewed with the full measure of His joy when they saw the big picture. The suffering of the cross was the process. Redemption was the goal. In the days to come the disciples would follow their Master down the pathway of suffering but, like Him they would learn to fix their eyes on the goal. The suffering was temporary – the goal eternal. Although Paul was not part of the Twelve, as an apostle he also learned the lesson and could write:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is sees, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4: 16-18)
Jesus’s joy will immunise us from the effects of pain and sorrow. His joy will condition us for the future when we can put behind us the effects of Adam’s sin on the world and focus on what is to come. This was His legacy to His disciples and to those who follow in their footsteps, bearing witness to the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit within.
People with this kind of mind-set are invincible. If they are hated, persecuted and even killed, they are protected by an indestructible joy because it is anchored in an indestructible hope founded on the victory Jesus won at the cross.
- Protected by the power of God’s Word
I have given them your Word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself so that they may be truly sanctified. (John 17: 14-19)
The original Greek word ponos (meaning “anguish”) and its derivative poneros (here translated “evil one”) does not refer to the evil one but to the anguish that comes from the influence and effect of that which is evil. What is Jesus saying? His prayer has two possible meanings; either that the Father protect them from the anguish caused by the evil people of the world, or the pain the disciples would bring on themselves if they lived outside of the protection of God’s Word.
The second interpretation is more likely because Jesus has already prayed that they would be fortified against suffering by the power of His joy. People might inflict suffering on them as they did on Him, but the joy of knowing the outcome would fortify them against emotional pain and enable them to be overcomers.
Paul knew this joy when he wrote:
No, in all these things (trouble, hardship, persecution, nakedness, danger or sword – verse 35b) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that (nothing – author’s note) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8: 37, 39)
Jesus understood that the most potent enemy man has is within himself. The only way the disciples would be protected from the suffering they could bring on themselves was to follow Jesus by walking in the light of God’s Word.
They had already received God’s Word as Jesus had faithfully given it to them. It was up to them now to live by that Word so they could be set free from consequences of sin as they walked in the truth. Jesus had shown them the way. He had faithfully taught them how to be true sons by living by the spirit of Torah, by being gracious and forgiving and extending mercy to all who needed it.
They had chosen to walk in God’s way, and with that choice came the inevitable clash of light and darkness. How easy it would be for them to falter when the heat was on! Only as they remained true to the Word, fastened their eyes on the goal and not on their circumstances, and allowed the truth to set them apart from the world, would they enjoy the power of God’s Word to protect them from the ravages of their old sinful nature.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!
ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6
Do you like this post? Then buy your own copy of my book, Learning to be a Disciple, which is also available from www.amazon.com or www.takealot.com in South Africa. You can also order a copy directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com
Watch this space!
My latest book, The Heartbeat of Holiness, will also soon be available.