THE PRAYER OF JESUS - Part 2
In the second part of His prayer, our Lord addresses the “Holy Father” (John 17:11). This epithet is unique, but understandable. Jesus is about to pray for the disciples’ sanctification (John 17:17).
John 17:11. He prays that they will be “kept through the name” of God. Throughout the Old Testament, the LORD had introduced Himself through His various attributes, under various names. Now it is a new name, the name of Jesus, by which we may come into the presence and under the protection of the Father.
Jesus prays for the disciples because they are those whom the Father has given to Him. He prays that they may have the type of unity which reflects the oneness of the Godhead. This is a high standard which churches may aim at, provided it is understood that godly unity does not compromise the essential truths of the Christian faith.
John 17:12. During Jesus’ earthly ministry He had been keeping the disciples on behalf of His Father, like a shepherd guarding the sheep. Now He was about to be taken away from them. At this point in time none of them was lost except, He says, “the son of perdition.”
In the Greek language the strong term “son of destruction” may refer either to the character or the destiny of Judas Iscariot. Jesus does not finally cast away any whom the Father has entrusted to Him (John 6:37), so either Judas was not a true disciple, or the reference is only to his death rather than his eternal destiny. The expression is a Hebraism, similar to King David’s use of the expression “son of death” which is translated as “worthy to die” (1 Samuel 26:16; 2 Samuel 12:5).
Jesus was fully aware that the defection of Judas Iscariot was in fulfilment of Scripture (Acts 1:16-20). Thus the Old Testament is brought forward by the New as being fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Every detail of His ministry had been mapped out beforehand.
John 17:13. Speaking as if His death, resurrection and ascension were already in the past, Jesus was “now” coming to the Father. He left us His peace (John 14:27; John 16:33), and prayed that His joy might be fulfilled in His people. It is truly amazing that Jesus was thinking about His own joy at such a time, but as God He sees the end from the beginning (Hebrews 12:2-3).
John 17:14. In order that the disciples might be sanctified, Jesus gave them the Word. We cannot expect to be “kept” in our Christian faith if we neglect the Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We may be hated for living by this standard, but it is inevitable that those who hate the Master will also hate His faithful servants (John 15:18-21).
John 17:15. Jesus emphasises that He wishes His disciples to be kept in the world, but protected from the evil of the world. Sometimes we might hope to be taken out of the world and away from its troubles. Such demands have been refused to saints more eminent than ourselves (1 Kings 19:4; Jonah 4:3; Jonah 4:8).
John 17:16. This world is not our home, even as it is not His home. We are just passing through. The world has such a hatred for God’s people, that Jesus repeats the last clause of John 17:14 in full in John 17:16.
John 17:17. Sanctification is a setting apart for a holy purpose. Jesus prayed for the setting apart of the disciples through the effectual working of God’s Word, the word of truth, in their hearts. Sanctification is also a growth in holiness, so the disciples were to be the holy servants of the “Holy Father” (John 17:11).
John 17:18. The first Apostles, like Paul after them, were “separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). This separation was for the purpose of mission. Again, Jesus saw His disciples in the prophetic perfect, as already sent into the world.
John 17:19. Jesus also, even as the prospect of the Cross grew ever nearer, set Himself apart as our priest and sacrifice. He prayed that the disciples through the truth might be separated to the service of the truth. And thus He won us to Himself, and set us upon the path to holiness.