Click here to learn more!
4. The high-priestly intercession. Audible communion of the Son with the Father. The prayer which now follows reveals, in the loftiest and sublimest form, the Divine humanity of the Son of man, and the fact that, in the consciousness of Jesus as the veritable Christ of God, there was actually blended the union of the Divine and human, and a perfect exercise of the prerogatives of both. The illimitable task which writers of the second century must have set themselves to accomplish, if they had by some unknown process conceived such a stupendous idea without any historical basis to support it, has actually been so effected, that a representation is given which adequately conveys such a synthesis. The author of the Gospel does, however, draw rather upon his memory of that night than upon his philosophical imagination for a passage which surpasses all literature in its setting forth the identity of being and power and love in the twofold personality of the God-Man. We are brought by it to the mercy-seat, into the heaven of heavens, to the very heart of God; and we find there a presentation of the most mysterious and incomprehensible love to the human race, embodied in the Person, enshrined in the words, of the only begotten Son. It need not perplex those who believe that we have the words of Jesus, that this prayer of sublime victory and glorious promise should be followed by the agony and the bloody sweat of Gethsemane, where the glorification of the Son of man passed into the advanced stage of his willing and perfect surrender to the Supreme Will. Hengstenberg finds explanation of John's silence touching that agony in the supplemental character of the Gospel, which does not repeat a description of a scene already familiar to all readers of the synoptic narrative. This may account for the mere form of the record, but does it meet the perplexity that arises as to whether the scene of Gethsemane could possibly follow John's narrative? Is not such a conception incompatible altogether with the cry, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me"? Our answer is a reference to John 12:27, where there is the exact counterpart of the scene in the garden. Nor is a mysterious troubling of the Redeemer's soul elsewhere absent from the Johannine narrative. At the grave of Lazarus, as well as when the Greeks wrung from his lips the cry, "Father, save me from this hour," followed by "Father, glorify thy Name," we have the blending of an utterly indescribable affliction with a triumphant acceptance by him of the Divine purpose of his mission and the will of his Father. Throughout these discourses he is meditating his departure with all its accompanying grief and agony. He describes the way he is about to take as one which would be like the travail-pang of a new humanity; but in his capacity of living in the light of the Father's will, he treats the whole mystery of the cross, the grave, the resurrection, the ascension, as already achieved. Throughout this prayer he regards the work as finished, and the new order of things as already existent. Thus he had prayed for Lazarus and for his restoration from the grave, and he knew then that God heard him; but still he wept, and, groaning within himself, came to the sepulcher. It should also be remembered that (John 14:30) he had expressly said that he was then about to encounter the prince of this world. The perfect humanity of Jesus, on which John continually insists, does entirely justify the rapid changes of mood and the vehemence of the emotions which were in their conflict issuing in sublime courage and perfect peace. The school of Renan, Strauss, and others, following the lead of Bret-schneider, see insuperable difficulties, because they have an idea of Christ's Person which would render it inconceivable and incredible.
(1) With reference to himself.
Jesus spake these things; i.e. the discourse which precedes, and then turned from his disciples to the Father. The place where the prayer was offered is comparatively unimportant, yet it must have been uttered somewhere. It has been well suggested that the Lord, with the disciples, sought the comparative quiet of the Father's house, and in some of the courts of the temple, within sight of the golden gate with its mighty vine, had enacted all that is recorded in Jn 15-17. This does not interfere with the idea that the starry sky was visible to them, and that from some portion of the temple-courts our Lord should have lifted his eyes to heaven; for the heavens are the perpetual symbol of the majesty of God, and show that side on which, by instinctive recognition of the fact, men may and do look out upon the infinite and the eternal. And having £ lifted up his eyes to heaven—or, lifting (Revised version) up his eyes to heaven—he said, in a voice which the wondering, believing, and troubled disciples might hear (see John 17:13), and from which they were intended to learn much of the relation between their Lord and the eternal Father. There is a twofold division of the prayer: From John 17:1-43.17.5 he offers prayer for himself, but in special relation to his own power over and his own grace to the children of men; from John 17:6-43.17.19 he contemplates the special interests of his disciples, in their present forlorn condition, in their work, conflict, and ultimate triumph; from John 17:19-43.17.26 he prays for the whole Church,
(a) for its unity,
(b) for its expansion,
(c) its glory.
"For himself he has little to ask (John 17:1-43.17.5), but as soon as his word takes the form of intercession for his own (John 17:6-43.17.26), it becomes an irresistible stream of the most fervent love. Sentence rushes upon sentence with wonderful power, yet the repose is never disturbed" (Ewald). Father; not "my Father," nor "our Father," the prayer given to his disciples, nor "my God" as afterwards upon the cross; nor was it the customary address to "God" of either Pharisee or publican; but it recalls the "Abba, Father" of the garden, which passed thence into the experience of the Church (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). The hour which has so often presented itself as inevitable, but which so often has receded, and which even now delays its full realization (John 2:1-43.2.25., John 2:7., John 2:12., John 2:13.) as part of a Divine plan concerning him, the hour of the fiery baptism, of the solemn departure, of the conflict with the prince of this world, and of complete acceptance of the Father's will, has come; glorify thy Son, that (thy£) the Son may (also£) glorify thee. Lift thy Son into the glory which thou hast prepared, that the Son whom thou hast sanctified and sent into the world may glorify thee. It is very noticeable that he speaks of himself in the third person. This is justified by the fact that he here conspicuously rises out of himself into the consciousness of God, and loses himself in the Father. The glorification of the Son is first of all by death issuing in life. He was crowned with glory in order that he might taste death for every man. The conflict, the victorious combat with death, was the beginning of his glory. In taking upon himself all the burden of human sorrow, and exhausting the poison of the sting of death, he would "glorify God" (cf. John 21:19). This does not exhaust the meaning, but the further forms and elements of his glory are referred to afterwards.
Even as thou gavest him authority—an indefeasible claim of influence and intimate organic relations with humanity—over all flesh. [This phrase answers to (col bosor) the Old Testament term for the whole of humanity, the entire race, and is one adopted by New Testament writers (Matthew 24:22; Luk 3:6; 1 Corinthians 1:29; Galatians 2:16).] This authority was implied in his incarnation and sacrifice, and in the recapitulation of all things in him. St. Paul says, "Because he tasted death for every man, God has highly exalted him, and given him the Name that is above every name," etc. These opening words reveal the universality and world-wide aspects of the mission and authority and saving power of the Son of God. He holds the keys of the kingdom and city of God. The government is upon his shoulder. Through him all the nations on earth are to be blessed. But the dependence of "all flesh" upon a Divine gift of eternal life through him is no less conspicuous; hence the hopelessness of human nature as it is and apart from grace. The end of this glorification of the Son in the Father is that, in the exercise of this authority, he may give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. The construction is unusual, and literally rendered would be, that with reference to the whole of that which thou hast given him, to them he should give eternal life. The clause, πᾶν ὅ δέδωκας, may be a nominative or accusative absolute, which, by the defining αὐτοῖς, is subsequently resolved into individual elements. The redeemed humanity of all time has been given to the incarnate Son, and is undoubtedly different from the (πάσα σάρξ) "all flesh" of the previous clause, but it is further explained to mean the individual men and women who receive from him eternal life. The bestowment of eternal life on those thus given to him is the method in which he will glorify the Father (see notes on John 6:37, where the Father is said to draw men to himself by means of the unveiling of his own true character in the Son, and where this drawing is seen to be another way of describing the Father's gift to the Son). Those who are given to Christ are those who are drawn by the Father's grace to see his perfect self-revelation in the face of Jesus Christ, of whom Jesus says, "I will by no means cast them out" (John 6:37), and concerning whom he avers, "No one cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Ζώη αἰώνιος, life eternal, is frequently described as his gift. From the first the evangelist has regarded ξώη as the inherent and inalienable prerogative of the "Loges," and the source of all the "light" which has lighted men. This "life," which is "light," came into the world in his birth, and became the head of a new humanity. It is clearly more than, and profoundly different from, the principle of unending existence. Life is more than perpetuity of being, and eternity is not endlessness, nor is "eternal life" a mere prolongation of duration; it refers rather to state and quality than to one condition of that state; it is the negation of time rather than indefinite or infinite prolongation of time. That which Christ gives to those who believe in him, receive him, is the life of God himself. It is strongly urged by many that this eternal life is a present realizable possession, that he that hath the Son hath life, and that we are to disregard the future in the conscious enjoyment of this blessedness; but we must not forget that our Lord obviously refers the life eternal to the future in Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Matthew 25:46. Nor are these statements, as some have said, incompatible with the representations of this Gospel (see John 6:40, John 6:54; John 11:25; John 12:25). The aionian blessedness may have a partial realization here and now, but not fill our vision is less clouded and our perils are less severe shall we fully apprehend it. Nor is this inconsistent with Matthew 25:3.
The life eternal, of which Jesus has just spoken, is this (cf. for construction, John 15:12; 1Jn 3:11, 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:3), that £ they might know—should come to know—thee, the only veritable God. All ideas of God which deviate from or fall short of "the Father" revealed to us by Christ, are not the veritable God, and the knowledge of them is not life eternal. The Father is here set forth as the fens Deitatis. This does not exclude "the Son," but is inconceivable without him. The Fatherhood expresses an eternal relation. The one element involves the ether as integral to itself: "I am in the Father, and the Father in me." There is a knowledge of the Father possible even now. "Henceforth, he has said, ye have seen him, and known him;" yet not till the veil is lifted, and we see face to face, shall we know as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2), shall we see him as he is. And him whom thou didst send, Jesus the Christ (not Jesus to be, or as Christ, but rather "Jesus the Christ," as the expansion and explanation of the more indefinite term, "him whom thou didst scud"). Why does our Lord add to this expression one that at first sight seems so incompatible with the idea of this prayer? It has led so careful and reverential a commentator as Westcott to remove the difficulty by supposing that the whole verse is a gloss of the evangelist, expressing the sense of what our Lord may have uttered at greater length. We are loath to admit this method of exegesis, especially as the sole reasons for it are the supposed strangeness of our Lord's here using a phrase so unaccustomed, and thus giving himself not only his Personal Name, but his own official title. It is unusual. The phrase does undoubtedly belong to a later period for its current and constant use. Yet it must not be forgotten
(1) that this is a unique moment in his career, and unique expressions may be anticipated;
(2) that it was calculated to strengthen his disciples, to allow them to hear once from his own lips the solemn claim to Messiahship (see Godet);
(3) that John himself at once adopted it as his own (Acts 3:6, Acts 3:20; 1Jn 1:3; 1 John 2:1, 1Jn 2:22; 1 John 3:22; 1Jn 4:2, 1 John 4:3; 1 John 5:1-62.5.20; Revelation 1:1, Revelation 1:2, Revelation 1:5); moreover,
(4) in 1 John 5:20 Jesus Christ is, himself lifted up into the region of the ἀληθίνος, and the apostle adds, "This is the true God, and eternal life" (Hengstenberg). It is from these very words that some critics imagine that the evangelist, rather than the Lord himself, framed the clause;
(5) yet it is quite as rational to suppose that the words uttered by Jesus dwelt like a strain of sacred music in the memory of the apostle. Moreover,
(6) the knowledge of the only true God is really conditioned by the knowledge of him who was indeed the great Revelation, Organ, and Effluence of the Father's glory. The fullness of this knowledge is the end of all Christian striving. Paul said, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus... and that I may know him" (Philippians 3:10). How much is there yet to know!
(7) Finally, as our Lord is rising more and more into the glory of an utter self-abandonment, and into the glory which he had with the Father from eternity, the human nature which he still inhabits becomes almost an appendage of his Divine Personality, and he might with awful significance, when referring to the object of human faith and knowledge, say, "Him whom thou hast sent—Jesus the Christ." Moreover, on any hypothesis of the composition or framing of an intercessory prayer for the Loges Christos to utter, there is an equal difficulty in the insertion into such prayer by St. John of this reference to himself as the Christ. The knowledge of the Father as the only true God, in opposition to the heathen traditions and philosophical speculations of the world, coupled with a corresponding knowledge of the only adequate expression of the Father's heart and nature, sent forth from him, as One promised, consecrated, and empowered to represent him, is life—ere half life.
He continues the prayer which he is offering for himself: I glorified thee on the earth, having finished £ the work which thou hast given me to do. Many expositors urge a proleptical or anticipatory assertion of the completion of his earthly work, as though the Passion were already over, and he were now uttering the consummatum est of the cross. This is, however, included in the next clause. The night has come when the earthly ministry is at an end. The Jesus Christ, whom the Father has sent, has completed his task. The whole work of the earthly manifestation of the Word was at an. end. Suffering remains, the issues of the conflict with evil have to be encountered; but the die is cast—the thing is done. The godly life, as well as the atoning death, are correlative parts of the merits and work of Christ, and have glorified the Father. But what a self-consciousness beams forth in these simple words! St. Paul, on the verge of his martyrdom, in the midst of the horrors of the Neronian persecution, exclaimed, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course." But our Lord is unconscious of any coming short of the glory of God; and he even counts on higher power to glorify God by returning to a position which he had for a while vacated.
And now (νῦν)—the very point of time has come—glorify thou me, O Father, explaining the opening of the prayer, "Glorify thy Son." He identifies his own Personality—"me"—with that of "the Son," and "thy Son." With thy own self (παρὰ σεαυτῷ); in closest connection and fellowship with thy-self—a relation which has been arrested or suspended since have been "Jesus Christ," and glorifying thee amid the toil and sorrow of this earthly pilgrimage. This immediate glorification of the Son embraces the glory of vicarious death, the triumphant resurrection, the mystery of ascension in the strength of his human memories to the right hand of God (John 13:31, John 13:32). He still further defines this wondrous prospect, as with the glory which I had with thee before the world was—before the being of the κόσμος παρὰ σεαυτῷ … παρὰ σοι Παρὰ in John represents local relationships (see John 1:40; John 4:40; John 14:25; Revelation 2:13) or intimate spiritual associations (John 14:3). So our Lord remembers and anticipates a "glory with the Father." That which he refers to as before the existence of the world has been softened down by Grotius, Wettstein, Schleiermacher, and some moderns to mean the glory of the Divine thought and destination concerning him; but the expression παρὰ σοι is far from being exhausted by such a rendering. He who wrote the prologue (John 1:2, John 1:18) meant that, as the Logos had been πρὸς τὸν Θέον and εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Πατρός, and at a special epoch "became flesh," the beamings forth of his glory on earth were those which belonged to human life, to the form of a servant, and were profoundly different from that μορφὴ Θεοῦ in which his innermost self-consciousness, the center of his Personality, originally dwelt. And now he seeks to carry this new appanage of his Sonship, this God-glorifying humanity, up into the glory of the pre-existent majesty (cf. Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 1:13). The δόξα which was visible to the disciples on earth (John 1:14) was glory limited, colored, conditioned, by human life and death; but so complete was the Lord's union with the Loges, that it did not quench his memory of the glory of his omnipresent, eternal Being, nor his remembrance of absolute coexistence with the Father before all worlds. He would lift humanity to the very throne of God by its union with his Person. This stupendous claim both as to the past and future would be utterly bewildering if it stood alone; but the Old Testament has prepared the mind of the disciples for this great mystery (Proverbs 8:1-20.8.36.; Isaiah 6:1-23.6.13.). The theophanies generally, and John 8:25 and Hebrews 1:1-58.1.14., with numerous other passages, sustain and corroborate the conception that the Loges of God was throughout all human history on the verge of manifestation in the flesh. The record of the extraordinary God-consciousness of Jesus does transcend all human experience, and baffles us at every turn; but the human consciousness of Jesus appears gradually to have come into such communion with the Loges who had become flesh in him, that he thought the veritable thoughts and felt the emotions of the eternal God as though they were absolutely his own. In addition to this idea of his resumption of his own eternal state, Lange and Moulton, in opposition to Meyer, lay emphasis on the answer to this prayer, consisting in such a manifestation of the premundane glory in his flesh, that it should perfectly establish the relation between the glory of the Father before all worlds, rod the glory of utter and complete self-sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The glory of omnipotence and omnipresence is lost in the greater glory of infinite love. Thus the glory which he had with the Father would be best seen in the completion of his agony, the τετέλεσται of the cross.
(2) The prayer for his disciples.
Here the Divine Intercessor turns from himself, and from the approaching glory of his own mediatorial Person and position, to meditate, for the advantage of his disciples, on what had already been done for them, in them, to them. He clothes these meditations in the form of a direct address to the eternal God, and makes the series of facts on which he dwells the groundwork of the prayer which follows for his disciples, as representative of all who, like them, have come into relations with the Father through him. I manifested thy Name (ἐφανέρωσα here corresponds to ἐδόξασα τελειώσας of John 17:4. The force of φανέροω is different from ἀποκάλυπτω or ἐμφάνιζω; see on John 14:21). "I poured light upon, and thus made appreciable, apprehensible, thy Name." This Name was but partially and imperfectly understood before. The Name of God, the compendium of all his excellences, the essential features of his substantial Being which Christ has thus illuminated, is "the Father." "Whatsoever is made manifest is light." This light is the effulgence of the glory of the Father. By being and living on earth as Son of the Father, the Father was revealed. A full revelation of the Father involves and is involved in a manifestation of his own Sonship. The relation between the Father and the Son is one of infinite complacency and mutual affection, and the revelation of it demonstrates the fact of the eternal and essential love of the Divine Being. Thus the fact that "God is love" is manifested in the life of the Son of man, who was in himself a revelation of the Son—the Son of God. "I manifested thy Name," said Jesus—showing that he regarded his work of self-manifestation and God-revelation as virtually complete—to the men whom thou gavest £ me (cf. here John 6:44 and John 10:29). The Father's "giving" of the sons of men to Christ refers primarily to the men that were made susceptible of his special grace and revelations, who in seeing, saw, in hearing, heard, who, being drawn by inward monitions and Divine grace, and verily taught of God, came to Christ. Thus the Father gave them to Christ. The first monitions, susceptibilities of soul for Christ, which are found throughout the world and the Church, are God's way of giving men to Christ. The supremacy and monergy of grace is involved in the whole of this representation. Out of the world. They were in the world, but have been drawn out of it by the re-relation of the Father. Thine they were, and thou gavestf5 them me. So that the approach even to the Lord Jesus, the drawing to Christ and to the blessed revelation of the Father, was preceded by a previous condition—"Thine they were." Before the process of giving and drawing was begun, there was a sense in which they bore this great designation. Their position as creatures, or as Israelites, or as believers in the Old Testament manifestation of the Name, seems to fall short of the solemn assertion, "Thine they were." There were in every case spiritual predispositions. They were "of God" (John 8:47); "doers of the truth" (John 3:21); "willing to do the will of God" (John 7:17); they were of the truth (John 18:37; John 6:37, John 6:44). All these expressions reveal an extraordinary relation of human souls to the Father, which is presupposed, and precedes the power over them and advantage to them of the grace of Christ. This may throw light on the work of grace in pre-Christian and non-Christian times and places. Thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy Λόγον—the sum total of thy revelation or Word to them. They, these men, these special representative men, have been true to their light, and know of the doctrine whether it be of God. Their own quickened conscience has been strong enough to justify all my διδαχή, my ῥήματα, as Divine assurances. To Christ's eyes they have already come out of their fiery trial faithful and true. Now, at this point in their training, they have known, by a strong experience, by tasting, handling, seeing, trusting, by vivid flashes of light, by keen, clear intuition of the reality, that all things whatsoever which thou hast given me, are from thee. There is no tautology here; the ὥσα are the truths, the fresh revelations, the glorious communion of the Son of man with the Father, which he made known to the disciples—truths which have a worldwide bearing, and also a direct bearing upon themselves—are from thee (παρὰ σοῦ, not παρὰ σοι). This obscure utterance, in its mystic vagueness, is clearly expounded in the next sentence, which is the echo of the grand assertion of John 16:30, which drew from the breaking heart its loud and sublime note of triumph. Because the words, the various sayings, utterances of Divine reality, which thou gavest to me, I have given to them. This blessed recital and exposition of his previous ministry is followed by the record of the effect, without which the whole Christian dispensation would that very night have come to an abrupt end. They believed that all Christ's words, works, energies, revelations, warnings, promises, like Christ himself, came from the eternal Father, therefore represented the supreme reality, more certain than demonstration, more vivid than intuition. They have rendered invincible assent to them as the Divine, absolute, unchangeable, irrevocable, eternal truth. In this overwhelming and satisfying conviction was laid the foundation of the Church of Christ. And they received them £. This was a direct consequence of the Divine giving and of the Divine drawing. And they came to know—discerned, i.e. by personal experience—and truly that I came out from thee, anti believed that thou didst send me.f6 This knowledge and belief is the germ of the communication to others of the Divine manifestation; it is the Lord's reward for all the toil and sacrifice and Divine humiliation of his earthly ministry (John 16:30). The incarnate Word is recognized as such, the only begotten Son of the Father is known to be the Brightness of his glory. We see in this great utterance the true origin of the evangelist's own words (John 1:14-43.1.18; 1 John 1:1-62.1.5). This thought of Christ's has now become their voluntary, spontaneous, assured conviction. The inward reason corresponds with the objective facts.
I—very emphatic—am praying for them (for this use of ἐρωτῶ see note, John 16:23). We must remember that this is perfectly consistent with the fact that, in the day of the spiritual manifestation to the disciples, when both the Father and Son came to them, the disciples would ask the Father for the gifts which his love to them was waiting to supply; and he, Christ himself, would hear them if they asked in his Name; and that then there would be no need that he should pray the Father for them. That time had not yet come, though it was coming. Both statements are also perfectly consistent with his "intercession" for us. Not concerning—or, not for—the world am I praying. Surely this is not an assertion that he would never pray, or that he had not already prayed, for the world. Nay, his entire ministry is the expression of the Father's love to the whole world (John 3:16). He came as Jehovah's Lamb to take away its sin (John 1:29), he bade his disciples (Matthew 5:44) pray for their enemies, and he cried at the last for a blessing on his murderers. He "came to seek and save the lost," to "call sinners to repentance," "not to condemn, but to save the world." Moreover, in this prayer (John 17:21) he does pray for those who should ultimately, though they do not now, believe on him through the word of the disciples; therefore it is inconceivable that he should here dogmatically limit the range of his gracious desire. Calvin here observes, "We are commanded to pray for all (lTi John 2:1)," and quotes Luke 23:34 that Christ prayed for his murderers. "We ought to pray that this man and that man and every man may be saved, and thus include the whole human race, because we cannot distinguish the elect from the reprobate." Calvin implies that Christ is here within the sanctuary, and places before his eyes the secret judgments of the Father. Lampe goes much further. Luther says, "In the same sense in which he prays for the disciples, he does not pray for the world." But the best explanation is that the high-priestly intercession at this supreme moment is concerned with those who were already given to him, and who have come to believe in his Divine Person and commission. He expressly and divinely commends to the Father those whom thou hast given me—the burden of the thought is contained in the motive he suggests for this commendation, viz.—because they are thine; i.e. though thou hast given them to me, though they have "come to me," through thy drawing, they are more than ever "thine." This most fervent yielding to the attraction of Jesus, and utter moral surrender to his control, do not alienate the heart from the Father, but make it more than ever his.
And all things that are mine are thine; whether they be these souls, or these powers that I wield, or these words that I utter, or these works that I do,—all are thine. This statement is in perfect harmony with all his teaching, and is not incompatible with the reverential sentiment that any servant of God might utter; but he adds words to show that the union between him and the Father is much closer than this, and quite unique. And thine are mine. Luther observed, "No creature could say this." Perhaps he went too far, because we are taught to believe that "all things are ours," etc., and the πάντα covers much (see 1 Corinthians 3:21). In the full confidence of filial relation we can believe it true that the heavenly Father says to every one of his veritable children, "All that I have is thine." Here the words must not be drawn out of their connection; it is human souls who are of God, and are therefore Christ's. The dogmatic lesson is that every one who has heard and learned of the Father does come to him. Such an assurance gives a sublime hope to the world, and I (have been and) am glorified in them. Once more the Divine Savior rejoices in the victory he has won in securing the faith of the disciples. How much he loved and trusted them!
And I am no more (no longer) in the world (cf. John 16:28). The earthly ministry is over; for a while he must leave them in the pitiless storm, bereft of his care and counsel, exposed to infinite peril and temptation. Headless, scattered, tempted to believe that all he had said to them was one huge delusion. And these are in the world, without me, without visible sight of the mirror in which thy glory has been reflected, and I come—I return—to thee. These are the conditions on their part and on mine, which justify this prayer for them; and my prayer is, Holy Father, keep—or, guard—them. This grand title stands here in solitary grandeur (though let John 17:25, πάτερ δίκαιε, be noticed, and the fact that Revelation 6:10 speaks of "the Holy and True," and 1 John 2:20 of "the Holy One"). The very holiness of the Father is appealed to as the surest basis of the petition. They have already been taught to pray, "Hallowed [made holy] be thy Name." The eternal holiness and righteousness of God is involved in the saving and sanctification of the believer in Jesus. "Keep them, holy Father" (says our Lord), in and by thy Name, those whom thou hast given me. Οὕς δέδωκάς μοι is the reading of the T.R., on the very feeble authority from the codices, simply D2, 69, and some versions. It is also thus quoted by Epiphanius twice; but the reading of all the best uncial manuscripts, א, A, B, C, L, Y, Γ, Δ, Π, etc., numerous versions and quotations, is ῷ δέδωκάς κοι. Some very unimportant manuscripts read ὃ, which Godet prefers as practically equivalent to οὓς, regarded as a unity, "that which," and as calculated to explain the ῷ of the uncials, and the reading οὕς. Lachmann, Tischendorf (8th edit.), Tregelles, Meyer, Westcott and Herr, and R.T. all read ῷ, which is thrown by attraction to ὀνόματί into the dative, and requires the translation, Keep them (in or by) in the power of thy Name which thou hast given me. And since ὃ is a resolution of the attraction, it is quite as likely that it is a correction of ῷ as that the reverse process should have taken place. The expression is very peculiar, but not inexplicable. Philippians 2:9 is the best illustration of the clause. It reads, according to the true text, "He hath bestowed on him the Name (τὸ ὄνομα) which is above every name," i.e. the eternal Name, the incommunicable Name (cf. Revelation 2:17; Revelation 19:12) of Jehovah. Meyer objects to this that the Father's Name was simply given him as an ambassador or for purposes of revelation and manifestation. This may be a partial limitation of the thought. He has already said, "I have manifested thy Name, thy fatherhood to the men," etc. And now he adds, "Keep them in the power and grace of this glorious Name, of which my Person and message have been the full expression." That they may be one, united, formed into a unity of being, even as we are, not losing their personality, but blending and interchanging their interests and their affections after the Divine pattern of the Father and Son. The relations between Christians, which constitute the essential unity of their corporate being, are of the same kind as those which pertain to Christ and God, and prevail between them, therefore lying far behind the shifting phases of organization and human order, in the essence and substance of spiritual life. Some writers have found in this analogy between the union of believers and the hypostatic union of the Persons of the Godhead, either a species of tritheism in the Godhead, or a minimizing of the entire conception to what is called moral union between the Father-God and his Son Jesus Christ. But the effect of the utterance is rather to lift the idea of the unity of the body of Christ to a superlative height, and to interpret still further the nature of its oneness with the Father and Son (see Philippians 2:23).
While I was with them (in the world £). He speaks of the earthly ministry as completed, and reviews the whole of his influence over them. I kept them in thy Name which thou hast given me. The very process that I can no longer pursue, and the cessation of which becomes the ground of the plea for the Father's τηρήσις. This an earthly father might say, without irreverence, of children whom he was about to leave, but the quality of the keeping is characterized by the Divine Name which was given him, and that manifested the Sonship which carried with it all the revelation of the Father. £ And I guarded (them)—ἐτήρουν signifies watchful observation; ἐφύλαξα, guardianship as behind the walls of a fortress—and not one perished—went to destruction—except that the son of perdition (has perished). Christ does not say that the son of perdition was given him by the Father and guarded from the evil one, and yet had gone to his own place; the exception refers simply to the "not one perished." Εἰ μὴ has occasionally a meaning not exactly equal to ἀλλὰ, but expresses an exception which does not cover the whole of the ideas involved in the previous clause (see Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26, Luke 4:27; Galatians 1:19, etc.). This awful Hebraistic phrase is used by St. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3; cf. 2 Samuel 12:5) for antichrist, and numerous phrases of the kind show how a genitive following υἱὸς or τέκνον expresses the full characteristic or the chief feature of certain persons (thus cf. υἱὸς γεένης τέκνα φῶτος κατάρας, etc.). This victim of perdition, this child of hell, has completed his course; even now he has laid his plans for my destruction and his own. He has so perished in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Even if the full telic force of ἵνα is preserved here, he does not free the "son of perdition" from the responsibility of his own destruction. The Scripture portraiture of Messiah has been realized. Psalms 41:9, which has already been quoted by our Lord in John 13:18, is probably still in his mind (cf. also Isaiah 57:12, Isaiah 57:13). Some commentators—Arch-deacon Watkins, Dean Alford—press the fact that the "son of perdition" must have been among those who were given to Christ by the Father, who were watched, guarded, taught by God; but that Judas nevertheless took his own way and went to his own place. Thoma compares the lost disciple with the lost sheep of the synoptists, as though we had a reference to a true reprobate, a son of Belial, Apollyon, and the like. Moulton justly protests against any countenance being found here for the irrevocable decree. But if the interpretation of the εἰ μὴ given above is sound, there is no inclusion of the traitor among those who are "of the truth," etc.; but he was one who, notwithstanding boundless opportunity, went to his own place in the perversity of his own will.
But now come I to thee. So that the condition, the shielding protection of my love is removed, thou, O my Father, must be their Sun and Shield. And these things I am uttering in the world; uttering, i.e. in their hearing before my last step is taken, and perhaps in the very midst of the machinations which are going on against me. That they might have the joy that is mine fulfilled, fully unfolded and completed, in £ themselves. By overhearing the high-priestly prayer, they would be assured of the Divine guardianship, and would receive the transfer of even his joy as well as of his peace. They would find the higher joy also of the return of their Lord to the bosom of the Father. Christ has taught his disciples to desire such joy and peace as he found on the night of the Passion.
I have given them thy word (δέδωκα, a permanent endowment); and the implication is that they have received it (John 17:8). The phrase is rather more condensed than before, and carries all the consequences previously mentioned, and others as well to which the Lord had referred (John 16:1-43.16.5). As a matter of fact, the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. This constant contrast between the mind of Christ and the spirit of the world pervades the New Testament. Christ had exposed its hypocrisies, and denounced its idols, and inverted its standards, and repudiated its smile, and condemned its prince, and was now indifferent to its curse. His disciples, as far as they shared his sentiments, came in also for its malediction and hatred (cf. the conflict with the Pharisees in the synoptic narrative).
The prayer of Jesus based on this. I pray (ἐρωτῶ, not αἰτεω; see John 17:9; the ἵνα here defines the contents of the prayer) not that thou shouldest take them away—lift them up and out—out of the world, as thou art taking me by death. This natural desire on the part of some of them is not in harmony with the highest interests of the kingdom. Those interests it would henceforth be their high function to subserve. There is much testimony for them to bear, there are many great facts for them completely to grasp, many aspects of truth which they must put into words for the life and salvation of souls, individuals for them to teach and train, victories for them to win, examples which they must set before the world. If they are all to vanish from the eyes of men as Christ will do, the end of the manifestation will be sacrificed. The Lord prays, not that they should be taken out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them (τηρήσῃς, not φυλάξῃς) from the evil. The ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ is different from Matthew 6:13, ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ, and may possibly mean "from the evil one." Reuss, Meyer, and Revised version accept the same translation here in virtue of 1Jn 2:13; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18; Revelation 3:10, where the devil is regarded as dominating, the realm, the atmosphere, the spirit, and the kingdom of this world. Over against this kingdom the Lord Christ, as the devil's great Rival, rules in the kingdom of grace. Luther, Calvin, Hengstenberg. Godet, Authorized version, and numerous other commentators, have regarded τοῦ πονηροῦ as neuter, as referring to the great characteristic and all-subduing temper, the far-reaching glamour and the godless disposition of the world. Τὸ πονήρον includes ὁ πονήρος.
They are not of the world, even as of the world I am not. This verse simply repeats, with alteration of order, the clause of John 17:14 as the basis of the next great petition. John 17:14 draws the comparison between Christ and the disciples; John 17:16 lays, by a transposition of words, the greater emphasis on "the world." Alas that this great utterance should so often be utterly ignored! How often in our own days, is other-worldliness and unworldliness derided as a pestilent heresy, and "a man of the world," instinct with its purpose and saturated with its spirit, lauded as the true man and ideal leader of a Christian state!
Sanctify them; consecrate them (cf. John 10:36, of the sanctification of the Son by the Father to the work of effecting human redemption), separate them from the evil of the world, as for holy purposes. Devote them to the glorious cause. Let them be sacrifices on the altar. The ἁγιάζω, to sanctify, is not synonymous with καθαρίζω, to purify; ἃγιος is not a contradiction of the defiled so much as of the purely natural, and involves the higher ends of grace (Exodus 29:1, Exodus 29:36; Exodus 40:13). The sanctification of the Old Testament is a ritual process effected by ceremonial observance; the sanctification of the New Testament is a spiritual process passing over heart and conscience and will, and is the work of the Divine Spirit. Meyer, Westcott, and others translate the next clause, in the truth, £ as the atmosphere in which the disciples dwell; but a large number of commentators, with Godet, take ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ as equivalent to" by the aid of," with the instrumentality of, "the truth:" consecrate them, by revealing to them the reality, making known to them the truth. If they see the truth they will be discharged from the illusions of the world, the flesh, and the devil. (Luther takes ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ adverbially, and as equivalent to "verily and indeed; but this cannot well be, seeing the article is present, and taking account of the subsequent definition of ἀληθεία, it becomes improbable.) But what is "truth"? what is the full expression of reality? how are we to know where to find it? Thy Logos (thy Word), the utterance of thy thought, is truth. If we can ever cognize what is the Divine thought about anything, we shall reach the absolute truth. What God troweth is truth per se. The Loges of God, the full, God-chosen utterance of the reality of truth, is the nearest approach to truth that we possess. This revelation of God is the closest correspondence with the reality. God sanctifies his children, consecrates them to the service of his kingdom by revealing the truth, by making known the otherwise transcendental facts of his kingdom. A long controversy has prevailed in the Church as to whether the Spirit's gracious operations are or are not limited by the operation of truth on the mind. Numerous assurances of the New Testament seem thus to limit the grace of God, or to measure it by the ordinary effect produced on the understanding by Divine truth; e.g. "Of his own will begat he us by the Word of truth;" the parable of the sower, and other Scriptures. But seeing that the regeneration, the conference of new and supernatural life, is set forth by images of resurrection and new creation, and as a purification of taste, bias, and desire, the gift of a new heart and right spirit, the voice of a heavenly sonship crying within us, "Abba, Father," and seeing that the ministration of the Spirit is variously directed and operative, and that there is shadowed forth an immediate work on the heart," back of consciousness" itself, and that the witness of the Spirit and the teaching and indwelling of the Holy Ghost are continually referred to,—we are loath to accept the dogma. The Spirit of God is not limited to the normal operations of the Word.
As thou didst send me into the world from the glory which I had with thee before the world was—a primal fact in the earthly consciousness of the Lord Christ, and one on which he repeatedly laid emphasis (John 10:36; John 17:8)—even so I sent £ them into the world; i.e. from that higher sphere of thought above the world to which I had called them. "They are not of the world," but I sent them from the unworldly home and from the high place of my intimate friendship, from the ground of elevated sympathy with myself, into the world, with my message and the power to claim obedience. Christ gave this apostolic commission near the commencement of his ministry, and that first act, the type of the whole apostolic commission, which was finally confirmed (Matthew 28:19, Matthew 28:20; John 20:21, John 20:22), is here described in the timeless force of the aorist, so that the word embraces the entire ministerial function of all who believe in the mission of the Son.
And for their sakes—on their behalf—I sanctify, consecrate, myself. The Father had consecrated him and sent him into the world, but over and above all this there were special and sacrificial acts of love and devotion which he made on behalf of his own. He went up voluntarily into the wilderness to be tempted for them; he wrought for them while it was yet day. He now was ready to commend himself to the supreme will of the Father, and to offer himself through the Spirit in his perfected humanity without spot of sin to God. Ἁγιάζω is equivalent προσφέρω σοὶ θυσίαν, as Chrysostom says, and it is used for שׁידִּקְהִ (Exodus 13:2; Deuteronomy 15:19). Christ is the Priest and the victim, and the dedication of himself to this climax of his consecrated life is for the sake of the disciples (so Lange, Meyer, Godet, and Westcott). That they also may be sanctified indeed—truly or veritably.
(1) We have to notice that the passive form of the second clause shows that that which the Lord, in its highest form, effects for himself, they receive as a work wrought in them by another.
(2) Using the word ἁγιάζειν in the same sense in both clauses, the consecration effected in the disciples must correspond with Christ's consecration in self-sacrificial love, in abandonment to the power of the Word which has revolutionized their whole being, in entire equipment for their calling, even to the point of hatred and antagonism from the world, and death for his sake. They are indeed to drink of his cup, and be baptized with his baptism. They must be crucified with him and buried with him, and rise again with him, in the activity of their faith.
(3) Ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, without the article, has the sense of "verily and indeed" (Matthew 22:16; 2Co 7:14; 1 John 3:18, etc.). It is not certain that 2 John I or 3 John I can be thus translated, but the classical usage of this phrase, and also of ἐπ ἀληθείας, leaves little doubt about its use here.
(3) Prayer for the Church Catholic in all time.
Neither do I pray (ἐρωτῶ) for—concerning these alone, but also for those who believe £ on me through their word. The Lord summons the future into the present. He speaks of having once for all sent them, and he sees rising before his eye the multitudes in all ages who would believe their testimony as if already doing so. The universal Church rejoices in the fullness of his love and the greatness of his wish concerning the individuals who believe. The prayer is an eternal intercession.
That they all may be one. My prayer is that the many may become one, form one living glorious unity;—every part of which spiritual organism, while living a separate and differentiated life, is yet a part of a whole. In the natural sphere, as the parts of a whole organism are mere and more developed, and increasingly resemble individualities in their separation, they are in the same proportion dependent on the whole for the life that is in them. Even in a highly organized community, as the separate individuals have more and more personal consciousness of special function, they become the more dependent on the whole, and in one sense lost in the unity to which they belong. The branches in the vine form together one vine; the members of a body, being many, are one body and members of one another. It is open to discussion whether the καθὼς clause, which here follows, characterizes the above statement, as Meyer and many others urge, or whether, with Godet, the sentence, "That they all may be one," should not be taken as a general statement, to be followed by the καθὼς clause, which characterizes the following words. The first method is a more rational interpretation, nor does the sentence drag. According as thou, Father, (art) in me, and I (am) in thee; i.e. the relation between the Father and Son, the manner in which the Father lives in the Son, as in his organ or instrument of manifestation and object of supreme affection, and as the Son is in the Father, abiding ever in the light of his glory, in the power of his Name, and as these two are thus One in being, so, or similarly, the believers are to live in and for each other, becoming a unity, just as the Father and Son are unity. In order that they themselves also may be [one£] in us. This ἵνα does not offer a parallel sentence in apposition with the former, nor is the "that" to be inverted, with Godet, who translates, "that according as thou.., they also may be one in us;" but it is the climax of the whole unifying process, after the likeness of the union between the Father and the Son, viz. that they themselves may be included in this unity. Though they are thus to be lost in God, yet they do not lose their own individuality. Nay, in proportion to their organic relation to the fullness of the Godhead and the completeness of their own spiritual fellowship with one another, will this personal consciousness of theirs become more and more pronounced. There is yet a further process contemplated, viz. in order that the world may believe (πιστεύῃ, as in the next verse; γινώσκῃ, in the present subjunctive, rather than the aorist) that thou didst send me. The spiritual life and unity of the Church will produce an impression on the world which now rejects the Christ and does not appreciate his Divine commission. The union which springs from the blended life of the various and even contradictory elements in the Church will prove the reality of its origin. The world will believe,—this is the final purpose of the intercession concerning the disciples; so though above he did not pray for the world as the then immediate object of his intercession, the poor world is in his heart, and the saving of the world the end of his incarnation. If the union between the Father and the Son is the sublime type of the union between those who shall believe, it is not the union of a great society in accordance with certain invincible rules of affiliation and government. The union between the Father and Son is not a visible manifestation, but a spiritual inference. The common indwelling in the Father and Son, the identity of the spiritual emotion and purpose in all who have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, will convince the world by producing a similar inference. Alford: "This unity is not mere outward uniformity, nor can such uniformity produce it. At the same time, its effects are to be real and visible, such that the world may see them."
Our Lord now proceeds to record how he has already contributed to produce this result. I also—very emphatic—have given to them—that is, to my disciples—the glory which thou gavest me. Numerous interpretations of this "glory" have been suggested, as e.g., the glory into which he is about to enter in his glorified body; but the emphatic perfect δέδωκα, in connection with the ἐδωκάς, viz.: "I have given and am now and still giving," renders this improbable. Meyer, who does not accept Baumgarten-Crusius's view that διδόναι here means "to destine," yet comes very much to the same thought, and regards it as the heavenly glory of which he had eternal experience, and would ultimately share with his people. But the view variously set forth by Oldhausen, Hengstenberg, Maldonatus, Bengel, Tholuck, Moulton, and Godet appears to be in full harmony with the context, viz. the glory of the supernatural life of Divine Sonship and self-sacrificing love as of the very essence of God. This glory that he should taste death for every man, this glory of nature and character as the incarnate Head of a new humanity, I have given to them, in order that they may be one, living in and for each other, even as we are one. The contrast between his own relation to the Father and theirs is most wonderfully maintained. The union between the Father and Son is once more made the type, in his own unique consciousness, of the union among men who have received as his gift the eternal life and glory of a supernatural love. This is more evident from what follows.
I in them, and thou in me. He does not say, "Thou in them, as thou in me," nor "They in thee, and I in thee;" but he includes in the ἡμεῖς of the previous verse, Ἐγὼ καὶ Σύ, and distinctly regards himself as the mediating link of relation between the Father and the disciples. The Ἐγὼ is that of the Son of God, manifested in Christ's consciousness of the God-man-hood; the Σύ is the eternal and non-incarnate God. God is in him, as he is in them. They are in him, as he is in the Father. That they may be perfected, completely realizing the end of their being and the meaning of the gift of eternal life, fully ripened in their graces until they reach up into one, into the fullness of the stature of the perfect Man, until they become the one new and immortal body of the living Christ, (εἰς ἓν indicates the sublime result so far as they are concerned). Each individual believer reaching the highest perfection of his being, as according to his own capacity and function he fills his place in the one living body of the Lord The end is not here, however, so far as others are concerned; for this unity, when consummated, is to bring about a yet further result on this earth, and in order that the world may come to know (γινώσκῃ.) that thou didst send me, and lovedst them as thou lovedst me. Our Lord has advanced upon the assertion of John 17:21,
(1) by discriminating between "believing" and "coming to know" by personal experiences, overwhelming conviction, and processes which lead to invincible assent. Faith in its highest form melts into knowledge, full assurance, complete certitude.
(2) There is superadded to the conviction concerning the Divine mission of the Christ yet another, viz. a conviction of the wonderful love which thou hast shown to them in thus lifting them out of the world into the unity of the spiritual life, into the fellowship of the Son of God. This has twofold bearing. So far as the world is concerned they will see that the love shown to the believers in Christ will be compatible with the same kind of treatment as Christ himself received, and so far as the Divine reality is concerned, it will be seen that they are so closely identified with Christ that the infinite love of God to Christ flows over in its Divine superabundance upon those who are gathered together into him. It is impossible to exclude from these verses the idea of the visibility of the union and life of the Church, and of the Divine love to it. Nothing is said or hinted, however, about the nature of that visibility. Christians are not, by reason of their differences, to exclude from this passage the promise that the whole assembly of the Firstborn would make this gracious and convincing impression on the world. They are far enough, in days of mutual recrimination, from realizing the Divine ideal, and should set themselves to remedy the crying evil; but they have no right to import into the words, by reason of their predilection for particular forms of Church organization, an identification of the body of Christ with any specific form. The spiritual union of Christendom in its one faith, hope, and character, is, notwithstanding the divergence of some of its forms of expression, the most stupendous fact in the history of the world. The elite of all Churches are drawing more and more into a visible unity.
Now passing from this glorification of his people in the convictions and knowledge of the world, our Lord offers "as a Son to a Father," and therefore with profound naturalness, the prayer of the incarnate Loges to the eternal Father, and therefore an address indubitably supernatural and lifted above all human consciousness. It is a prayer, too, which rises from the high and unique term ἐρωτῶ (one which he never puts into the lips of his disciples) to a yet higher one, θέλω, as one who speaks with ἐξουσία which God had given him over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to those whom God had given him. Θέλω means less than "I will," and more than "I desire," and is destitute of that element of "counsel" or deliberation that is involved in βουλόμαι. Very soon after this, when the full force of his human consciousness pressed upon him, he said (Mark 14:36), "Not what (ἐγὼ θέλω) I will, but what thou wiliest." But here he is so conscious of the Father's will concerning others that he cries, Father, as for them whom—or, as some ancient codices read, that £ which—thou hast given me, regarded as a mystic unity, as the Bride which he has redeemed, I will that they also be with me where I am. Κἀκεῖνοι resolves the ὅν into the elements of which it is composed. This is the first part of the final petition, and it embraces everything. "With Christ;" "Forever with the Lord;" in his glory and part of it, in the place which he is going to localize and prepare for them, is heaven. The glory which he had already given to his disciples (John 17:22) falls far short of this fellowship with him where his undimmed radiance shines, is only a preparation for sharing with him in his ultimate triumph over the world and death, and also for sitting down with him on his throne (Revelation 3:21). In this world fellowship with him in his suffering humanity did not finally reveal the transcendent glory (though in John 1:14 the apostle says, "We beheld his glory," etc.) of his Person. To realize this he prays, And that they may also behold the glory which is mine, which thou hast given me. The glory given cannot be the glory of the λόγος ἀσάρκος, according to Meyer, for that is not given, but belongs to him by eternal right; yet Meyer admits that the Father gave the Son to have life in himself; and that even the eternal Sonship itself may be regarded as the eternal bestowment of an infinite love. Seeing that the Lord goes on to give a reason of his θέλημα founded on an eternal or at least pre-mundane manifestation of a conscious love, surely he is thinking of the exaltation of humanity into the eternal glory, which he distinctly relinquished and veiled in the days of his flesh. That which they had hitherto seen they only partially apprehended, though he had even given it to them (John 17:22), and though they had been drawn out of the world to high places of transfiguration, that they might behold it and learn how it coexisted with and was compatible with a perfect resignation to the will of God in human redemption. Our Lord prays, nay, wills, that they should hereafter see it in its fullness of grace and beauty, see it when relieved from obstructive hindrances due to the flesh and to the world, see it on the grandest scale, see it as it really is, see the full capacity and infinite momentum of the glory which he had already bestowed upon them. For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. This, say Meyer and Luthardt, is given as a reason of the prayer for his disciples, not as an explanation of the glory which he had with the Father before the world was. It is often said that the exaltation of the Son of man is a reward for his self-humiliation, and the crown of his sacrificial death (Philippians 2:9; Revelation 3:21; Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2), but these very passages couple that exaltation with the premundane glory of him who was, to begin with, and before his work of redemption, the "Effulgence of the Father's glory," who was "in the form of God," and regarded the being equal with God as no ἁρπαγμός—not as a thing to be seized, prized, and held in its integrity. And in Hebrews 2:9, "He was by reason of his intended passion crowned with glory and honor, in order that he might taste death for every man." So that the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, and therefore before his incarnation, was that very glory of self-devoting and unutterable love into which he would come again with all the trophies of his redemptive work. The new and higher embodiment of his humanity would prove of such a kind that his essential glory would shine through it in undimmed luster. If this be the meaning, we cannot dilute this pregnant saying, one of the most mysterious of all his words, one which leads us up to the highest possible conception of the relations between the Father and the Son. The eternal love of which the Godhead itself is the SOURCE and the OBJECT is that to which we shall be introduced, and which our Lord would have us see and share (cf. 1 John 3:1-62.3.3).
The prayer is thus over, and once more the great High Priest and victim declares concerning himself some of the mysteries of his Person and of his relation with his disciples and with the world. O righteous Father (cf. John 17:1, John 17:5, Πάτερ simply; John 17:11, πάτερ ἃγιε; John 17:24, Πάτερ without any characterization). The righteousness of God is a more exalted perfection than his holiness, one that might seem more at variance with the exercise of his paternal compassion; yet this righteousness is conspicuously displayed in the redemptive love which Christ had thus manifested, and the beloved disciple (1 John 1:9) declares that God is faithful and "righteous" in forgiving the repentant sinner. The blending of the idea of righteousness with Fatherhood is the sublime revelation made by the Lord Jesus, and he gathers the two ideas together into an indissoluble unity. Justice and mercy are seen by the whole work of the Son of God to have been the outflow and effulgence of the one all-comprehending and infinite love. The καὶ that here follows has created some difficulty, though some manuscripts emit it (D and vulgate), probably in consequence of its inappropriateness; but it is received on strong ancient authority. Meyer and Hengstenberg take it thus: Righteous Father (yea, such thou art), and (yet) the world knew thee not. But would our Lord have hesitated, as it were, to express this truth, without justifying it against the unbelief of the world? Moulton tries to explain the simple adversative force of the καὶ and δὲ by "both the world learned not to know thee, but I learned to know thee." Godet has expressed the καὶ more effectively by translating, The world, it is true, knew thee not, but I knew thee. The Revised version has, with the Authorized version, simply omitted the καὶ. It is one of the most solemn of the Lord's condemnations of the κόσμος. The Apostle Paul said (1 Corinthians 1:21), "The world through its wisdom knew not God;" and in Romans 1:18-45.1.23 he shows that this ignorance was willful and practical and without excuse. The history of the struggling of the world after God has shown how dense the human darkness is. There have been signs that men groped after the idea of a Father who should be blind to their faults and indifferent to their follies, and utter a righteous Lord who has exalted righteousness and hated iniquity; but it was left for Christ to blend these apparently discordant beams into the radiance of a perfect glory. How many illustrations do the sad and shameless perversions of human intelligence supply! But I knew thee, because of the eternity of that ineffable love wherewith thou hast loved me, and because of the depth of that righteous love which thou hast manifested to the world in sending me upon my mission. And these knew—came to know by personal intuition—that thou didst send me (cf. John 16:27, and John 16:8, John 16:23) on the mission of redeeming the world. They have learned that I have come with all thy authority and in all thy power; that I have come out from thee; that I entered into the world; that I have glorified thee among men; that my thoughts are thy thoughts, and my "words" (ῥημάτα) are thy (Loges) "Word;" that my works of love are the works of the Father; and that my promises are the manifestation of thy Name to the men whom thou hast given me.
Since they have "learned that thou sourest me," our Lord, to complete the awful monologue, adds, And I made known thy Name to them, pointing back to the ἐφανερωσάσου τὸ ὅνομα of John 17:6. "To make manifest" is not equal in potency with "to make known, to cause them to know;" there is more direct work done in them and to them in order to effect knowledge. Our Lord also declares that he has done this already, but his work of manifestation and teaching are not complete. There is more and more for these to learn. And (γνωρίσω) I will make them to know it. A promise of Divine expansion reaching onward and outward forevermore. By the power of his Spirit, by his return to them in his resurrection-life, by the ministry of the Paraclete, he would prolong and complete the convincing process. In order that the love wherewith thou hast loved me (notice the unusual expression, ἡ ἀγάπη ἣν ἠγαπησάς; and cf. Ephesians 2:4)—the eternal love of the Father to the well-beloved Son—the love which has flowed forth upon him as the perfect Son of man, and Representative of man, upon him who laid down his life that he might take it again (cf. John 10:17)—may be in them; may alight on them as knowing, receiving, loving me (cf. John 16:27, "The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me"). However much was involved in the utterance just quoted, in this closing utterance still more is conveyed. The waves on this boundless ocean of love pour in, one behind the other, each nobler and freighted with richer blessing than that which preceded; and the motive of this infinite fullness of eternal love being thus lavished upon them is added: I in them. On this profound suggestion he has already said much, but not until we reach these last words do they flash forth in all their mystic grandeur. His life will be so identified with their life, his abode so blended with their being, his life so repeated in their experience, his personality so much entwined and blended with theirs, that he in them, and because he is in them, prolongs and repeats himself as the Object of an eternal love. We see the same ideas in the Pauline teaching, and can only explain Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:9, Romans 8:10, Romans 8:11; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 2:7; Colossians 3:4, as echoes of the class of teaching which, long before John had recorded the prayer in this form, had yet become the seed and life-principle of the Church. This is not only true of the closing verses, but of the whole prayer and preceding discourse.
5. Review of the difficulties attending the preservation and characteristics of this discourse and prayer. The sublime comprehensiveness of the prayer; its augmenting swell of thought; the awful depth of its self-consciousness; the limpid simplicity of its style; the movement from himself to his disciples, to the entire Church, to the outlying world; the ground on which he bases every prayer; the imperial dignity of the Pleader; the total absence of any sense of personal weakness or sinfulness; the revelation and insight thus granted into the heart of the God-man; its naturalness, if we concede the foregoing character; its profound humility, if we bear in mind his unique claims;—constitute this page a supernatural phenomenon. Christ himself is the greatest of his miracles. The supposition that some unknown writer of the second century excogitated such a conception out of the synoptic narrative, the Pauline Epistles, and the Alexandrine philosophy, refutes itself.
We admit, with F. W. Newman, with Reuss, and with all the rationalist critics, that it is difficult to understand how the apostle could have reproduced so accurately this wondrous discourse and the prayer; but the author practically admits that it was a supernatural process of memory (John 14:25, John 14:26). Still, there are facts enough in the natural sphere and within the knowledge of all, that such extraordinary efforts of memory are by no means uncommon. John was the contemporary of men whose surprising memory held the whole 'Mishna' and thousands of illustrative comments, 'Halacha,' and 'Hagada' ready for constant reference and application. The rishis of India, the Greek rhapsodists, mediaeval minnesingers, and wandering bards, have had imprinted indelibly and verbally on their recollection ten or twenty times the bulk of this wondrous discourse. John was young, impressionable, intimately acquainted with his Lord, though needing many things to complete his apprehension of his glory; and, even apart from Divine or spiritual aid, there is no reason to dispute its accuracy.
The impression that this discourse and prayer have produced on the general consciousness of the Church, is, that none but Christ could have uttered these words, and he only at such a conjuncture.
Keim insists that John, if it were he, by this narrative annihilates the synoptic tradition of the agony in the garden. And we do not deny that the intercalation of that agony between this prayer and the sublime manner in which Jesus meets the band of soldiers, renders a harmony of the Gospels at this point very difficult. The difficulty does not so much arise from the fact that the profound and awful strife should follow upon this sublime and lofty calm, upon this imperial and Divine prerogative, but that throughout the Johannine recital of the events which occurred on the night of betrayal and Passion, the same exalted demeanor is preserved, and numerous incidents and sayings are recorded which appear discrepant with the utter prostration and overwhelming affliction revealed in the synoptic narrative. This contrast must not be minimized, and cannot be disputed. The question to be decided is whether the twofold aspect of the scene can possibly represent the truth, or whether it proceeds from the theological prepossessions of a later writer, who imagined the behavior of the incarnate Loges under these conditions without any real and deep foundation in reality.
By way of preface to an expository treatment, it is desirable to observe that John throughout received impressions from his Lord of a profoundly different character from that of the other observers, and throughout he saw the Divine manifestation which, while they witnessed it, they did not penetrate as he had done. The veil of the human phenomena concealed much from their spiritual apprehension. The different manner in which the same event is described by two witnesses, and the different constructions put upon the same action when viewed with diverse presuppositions, is of too common occurrence to need illustration. Luke represents the tradition concerning the Son of man in the hour of his deepest dejection. John represents what he saw of the ineffably Divine element which triumphed over the human. The angle of vision was different, the sensitive brooding and susceptible nature of John was unlike the impetuous human passion of Peter's soul, and the resultant impression on them both of the whole cycle of events was correspondingly different. Then let it be noticed that John, who knew the synoptic narrative, deliberately omitted what had passed into universal credence, such as the Transfiguration, the Holy Supper, and the Ascension: why was he not at liberty to omit the agony in the garden and the traitor's kiss? He takes up his story after the surprise was over, and when the Lord had resumed the tone of the voluntary Sufferer and Divine Savior; and if we compare the two descriptions of that scene, they supplement and explain one another. Numerous incidents throughout the closing scenes, which are omitted by John, are recorded by one or more of the evangelists, and some facts and words are peculiar to the Johannine narrative. These omissions from and additions to the synoptic narrative have been supposed to reveal the purpose of the theologian rather than the record of the eyewitness. It is rashly asserted that John omits the symptoms of human weakness and shame, and exaggerates the signs of Divine indwelling and of lofty prerogative. This, however, is by no means true. He does omit the agony in the garden, but he gives in John 12:1-43.12.50. the analogue of that awful scene, and the same Divine spirit with which it was consummated. He omits the "traitor's kiss," but he hints the occurrence of that crowning treachery. He does omit the record of the desertion by the disciples, but (John 16:32) he records the prediction of it. tie omits the incident of the false witness and the adjuration, but it should in all fairness be remembered that he also omitted the great confession of the Lord's Messiah-ship and exaltation; and while he passes by the incidents of the mockery of the Lord, he records other matters and methods of mockery which are equally humiliating (John 19:12). If he omits the examinations before Caiaphas and Herod, he gives that which the synoptic tradition had lest sight of in the first examination before Annas and in the private interview with Pilate. The hand-washing of Pilate and the dream of his wife are passed over, but the conduct of Pilate is made far more intelligible by that private interview. The evangelists Luke and Matthew both record features of sorrow and words from the cross and pot-tents attending the Crucifixion, which confer a royal prerogative and a Divine significance on his death. The rending of the veil, the confession of the centurion, the great earthquake, the supernatural darkness, the repentance and acceptance of the dying brigand,—all these we might reasonably expect, on the theory of theological prepossession, to have been found in the Fourth Gospel; and what is more remarkable still on that hypothesis is that the most peculiar and pathetic feature of the last hours is an exhibition of Christ's perfect humanity and filial love, which the other narrators fail to touch (John 19:25-43.19.27). We conclude, therefore, that the matters in which the narratives agree are abundant and remarkable, and their divergences cannot be accounted for on the ground of theological bias. The exposition of the following chapters will bring the several lacunae, correspondences, and peculiarities into yet fuller prominence.
Christ's intercessory prayer.
The great High Priest appears on the eve of his final sacrifice of himself for his people. He prays, first, for restoration to his Divine glory.
I. THE ATTITUDE AND SPIRIT OF THIS PRAYER. "He lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father."
1. His attitude, as he looked upwards, bespoke his reverence for God, whose throne is in heaven, his confidence in God, and his expectation of help and comfort from on high.
2. His spirit is that of confidence and filial affection, if his prayer was in Aramaean, he said, "Abba," which henceforth passes into the usage of the Church, as the term so sacred to Christians (Romans 7:15; Galatians 4:6).
II. THE PURPORT OF THIS PRAYER. "The hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee."
1. There was an hour appointed in the Divine counsels for his death and Passion. It was the fitting time. The best remedy for such a sad moment is prayer.
2. It was an hour that involved in its consequences the glorification of the Son.
(1) Not by his mere death,
(2) nor by his resurrection,
(3) but by the change in his personal condition, which would enable him in heaven to consummate the work he had begun on earth.
3. Mark how the glorification of the Father and the Son are inextricably linked together.
4. Mark the authority which Christ has received, as Mediator, over the whole human race. "As thou hast given him authority over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him."
(1) Mark the universality of the gospel; for it applies, not to Israel only, but to all people (Matthew 28:19).
(2) The authority of the Son over the race of man is conferred by the Father. It is not implied that the Son was not God, because he received all from his Father, for the text speaks of his authority as Mediator.
(3) The design of this authority is that he might give eternal life to his own people.
(a) All believers are the Father's gift to the Son, as his charge and as his reward (Isaiah 53:10). We may, therefore, infer that such a gift will not be in vain.
(b) Eternal life is Christ's free gift to sinners.
(α) It is not temporary life, but life without break or end.
(β) It is a life, as a Puritan says, unbought, unsought, unthought, by sinners.
III. THE TRUE NATURE OF ETERNAL LIFE. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
1. The life of grace begins with knowledge.
(1) Ignorance is the great hindrance to life.
(2) Christ, by his Spirit and Word, removes this hindrance, enlightening our understanding.
2. The true objects of holy knowledge are God and Christ.
(1) The only true God, in opposition to the error of polytheism.
(2) It is the whole essence of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is the only true God.
(3) Christ is to be known as the manifestation of the Godhead.
(a) Without him, we do not know God as reconciled, and therefore cannot come to him with boldness.
(b) The dependence of eternal life in the knowledge of the Son implies his coequal Godhead with the Father and the Spirit. How could the knowledge of a mere creature be equally necessary to salvation with that of God himself?
(c) The mission of the Son was
(α) from God and heaven;
(β) it was into this world;
(χ) it was in our business and for our benefit.
(δ) Therefore we ought to honor the Son as we honor the Father.
IV. THE SON'S GLORIFICATION OF THE FATHER ON EARTH. "I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."
1. The Son glorified the Father by
(1) his doctrines,
(2) his miracles,
(3) his obedience,
(4) his sufferings till death.
2. The work of his life was now ended.
(1) This implies that his work was finished before his death, lie refers to his obedience in life in our stead, which was as necessary as his obedience unto death for our salvation.
(2) Because it is a finished work, it is sinful and foolish for man to add to it.
V. THE PRAYER FOR THE SON'S GLORIFICATION IN HEAVEN. "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." These words imply:
1. That the Son had an essential glory with the Father before the foundation of the world.
2. That he emptied himself for a time of that which he received again. (Philippians 2:7.)
3. That the glory of his Divinity was fulfilled in his ascended manhood.
4. Mark the glorious advancement of our nature in the Person of Christ.
5. The true fulfillment of this prayer is set forth in the exaltation described in the Philippian Epistle. (Philippians 2:9-50.2.12.)
Our Lord's prayer for his disciples.
As he had prayed for himself, he next prays for his disciples.
I. CHRIST'S MANIFESTATION OF THE FATHER TO HIS DISCIPLES. "I have manifested thy Name to the men which thou gavest me out of the world."
1. He only could make such a discovery of the Divine mind and will
(1) by his appearance in the flesh;
(2) by his Word;
(3) by his Spirit.
2. Those who received the revelation were God's. "Thine they were:"
(1) by creation;
(2) by election;
(3) by gift of the Father to the Son,
(a) as his charge,
(b) as his subjects,
(c) as his apostles,
(d) as his reward.
II. THE APOSTLES' FAITHFUL RECEPTION OF THE FATHER'S WORD. "And they have kept thy Word." Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
1. Christ's 'Word is the Father's Word.
2. The disciples kept it
(1) in their memory as sacred treasure;
(2) in their hearts by believing;
(3) in their lives by a steadfast obedience.
3. The complete loyalty of the disciples to the revelation of Christ.
(1) "They have received them"—upon the authority of my testimony.
(2) "They have known surely that I came out from thee"—by their spiritual insight, rising from the reception of his Word to the recognition of the Divine origin of his Person.
(3) "And they have believed that thou didst send me"—by the absolute surrender of their being to his guidance.
III. OUR LORD'S PRAYER FOR HIS DISCIPLES. "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me; for they are thine."
1. Christ is our gracious Intercessor.
(1) This fact should give us boldness in prayer;
(2) support us under a sense of our imperfections;
(3) assure us of the success of our petitions.
2. Christ at present prays only for his disciples, who were to continue his work. The world is only for the moment outside the sphere of his supplications. It will by-and-by be reached by those for whom he first prays.
(1) His prayer for the world will be for its conversion; his prayer for the disciples is for their sanctification and preservation.
(2) He will in a few hours pray for the world. "Father, forgive them: they know not what they do."
(3) There is an implicit prayer for the world implied in the prayer for Christian unity. "That the world may know that thou hast sent me."
3. The answer to his prayers for the disciples is guaranteed by a threefold claim.
(1) They were the Father's; he could not, therefore, but provide for his own children.
(2) They were Christ's, by gift of the Father; therefore the Father might be expected to watch over his own gift.
(3) Christ was glorified in his disciples. "I have been glorified in them,"
(a) in their grace
(b) and in their glory.
IV. THE DANGERS TO WHICH THE DISCIPLES WOULD BE EXPOSED. "And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee."
1. Christ thinks of his departure as all but already accomplished.
(1) He had no more to do in this world but die.
(2) His departure would leave the disciples without his personal support.
(3) Yet he suggests that he has much to do in heaven:
(a) by sending his Spirit;
(b) by interceding for his people;
(c) by preparing a place for them;
(d) by triumphing over all his enemies.
2. The world is always a place of danger to the disciples.
(1) By its open hostility;
(2) by its threefold solicitations:
(a) the lust of the flesh,
(b) the lust of the eye,
(c) and the pride of life.
V. OUR LORD'S ENTREATY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF HIS DISCIPLES. "Holy Father, keep through thine own Name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are."
1. The term of address suggests the thought of the petition. The name, "Holy Father," suggests at once the filial relationship and the consecration which mark off our separation from the world.
2. It is the Father who will maintain this continued separation.
(1) The perseverance of the saints is the fruit of Christ's prayer.
(2) It is effected through the Almighty power of the Father, guarding his saints and strengthening them against temptations.
(3) We are strong, therefore, not in ourselves, but in God.
(4) We ought, therefore, to have constant recourse to his "Name," which, as the revelation of the Divine character, is "the enclosing wall, as it were, of the sacred region in which they are kept."
3. The end of this Divine keeping is the unity of the disciples in estrangement from the world. "That they may be one, as we are."
(1) Christian unity is important
(a) for growth in grace,
(b) for comfort,
(c) for the furtherance of the gospel.
(2) It is hindered
(a) by carnal pride,
(b) by selfish interests,
(c) by intellectual restlessness,
(d) by the diversity of human temperaments.
(3) It ought to be an earnest subject of prayer to God
(a) that man may attain to a union like that between the Father and the Son;
(b) that God may be thus abundantly glorified;
(c) that the world may be thus attracted to Christ by the visible oneness and love of his disciples.
John 17:12, John 17:13
Christ's petition for his disciples supported by various considerations.
He looks back upon the work he had already done, and sees that it must henceforth be taken up by a different agency.
I. THOSE WHO ARE TO RE SAVED ARE COMMITTED TO CHRIST'S KEEPING. "While I was with them in the world, I kept them myself in thy Name. I have watched over those whom thou hast given me."
1. Believers cannot keep themselves.
2. Christ takes them wholly in charge for safekeeping.
3. They are kept,
(1) not from suffering,
(2) nor from all sin,
(3) but from perishing everlastingly. "Not one of them is lost."
(a) Christ has an individual care of believers.
(b) The loss of a single believer would be
(α) a dishonor to Christ,
(β) and would weaken the comfort and confidence of his people.
(c) Christ keeps them "in the Name" of the Father, out of love and duty to him.
4. Judas—"the son of perdition"—prepares himself for his own foreseen ruin.
(1) He was not included among those whom the Father had given to the Son.
(2) Jesus discharges himself from all responsibility in relation to Judas.
(3) The fall of the traitor had its place in the scheme of Divine provision (John 12:38; Psalms 41:9). It was foretold in Scripture.
II. THE OBJECT OF OUR LORD IN THIS PRAYER FOR THE DISCIPLES. "And now I come to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves."
1. His prayer was offered up that their joy should not be diminished by his approaching departure, but rather increased by the coming of the Comforter.
(1) Christ is the Author of joy. "My joy."
(2) He dispenses it
(a) by gracious ordinances,
(b) by cheering promises,
(c) by the witness of the Comforter.
2. The importance and necessity of this joy.
(1) Christ gives it as a mark of his fellow-feeling—as One who was himself "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows."
(2) To recompense them for the sorrows of life.
(3) To give them strength for duty and suffering. "The joy of the Lord shall be your strength."
The world's hatred and Christ's prayer for the disciples' safe keeping against it.
I. IT WAS CHRIST'S WORD IN THE DISCIPLES THAT EXCITED THE WORLD'S HATRED. "I have given them thy Word." They who receive the Word cross the world's path
(1) in their true judgment of things,
(2) in their God-like wills,
(3) in their holy lives.
II. THE OPERATION OF THE WORLD'S HATRED. "The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
1. It is the honor of believers that they are linked with Christ as the objects of the world's hatred.
2. This hatred is seen in
(2) in calumny,
(3) in the misconstruction of things doubtful,
(4) in the blasphemy of God and religion.
3. The hatred of the world is no hindrance to the believer's blessedness.
III. CHRIST'S PRAYER IS NOT FOR THE TRANSLATION OF BELIEVERS TO HEAVEN, BUT FOR THEIR PRESERVATION ON EARTH. "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil."
1. The desire of death is unlawful in the saints,
(1) because Christ has his work to do by us in the world;
(2) because the victory is to be gained through conflict;
(3) because God can be more honored by our steadfast endurance than by our escape from duty.
2. There is provision made for the preservation of the saints from evil.
(1) It is better for us to be kept from sin in our afflictions than from the afflictions themselves.
(2) Divine aid is needed for our safe keeping.
(3) Such as devote themselves to Christ's service are sure, not only of his prayers, but of his Divine support.
(4) The evil that surrounds the believer in the world will
(a) awaken him to a true sense of his danger,
(b) humble him,
(c) and lead him to a nearer dependence upon the Lord.
IV. THE TRUE METHOD OF PRESERVATION. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth."
1. There must be a complete consecration to the task the disciples have to fulfill in the world.
(1) This consecration implies a prior consecration of heart and life to God, in the ways of practical holiness.
(2) This consecration was necessary to the faithful discharge of the apostleship.
2. The Word of God is the great instrument in God's hand for his people's sanctification.
(1) It is here implied that the Word of God is the truth of God—truth at once
(c) and holy.
(2) It is to be read with diligence, preparation, and prayer.
(3) It is to be maintained
(a) by our arguments,
(b) by our obedience,
(c) by our sufferings.
3. Jesus presents two motives in support of this petition.
(1) One was taken from the mission he had entrusted to his disciples. "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
(a) The apostles went not unsent upon their mission.
(b) They looked to Christ, not only for authority, but for equipment.
(c) They carried his message.
(d) They kept in view his end in preaching the gospel.
(2) The other motive was taken from the work which he had effected in himself. "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."
(a) Christ consecrated himself wholly to his work. "His human life received in an ever-increasing degree the seal of consecration till the entire and final sacrifice of death."
(b) The end of his consecration was the consecration of his members. The union of Christ and believers is the abiding source of this continuous consecration.
John 17:20, John 17:21
Christ's prayer for all believers.
Our Lord, having prayed for himself and for his apostles, now prays for the whole body of believers.
I. HE PRAYS FOR THE BELIEVERS OF ALL GENERATIONS TILL THE END OF TIME. "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word."
1. All believers have, therefore, an interest in Christ's prayer.
2. The word of the apostles—that is, not merely their narrative of gospel facts, but their revelation off gospel principles—is the instrumental means of faith. (Romans 10:17.) A capital place is thus assigned to the Word in the conversion of the world.
(1) Consider the sad condition of those who have not the Word.
(2) The sin of those who reject it.
(3) The dishonor done to the Lord by those who deceitfully handle it.
II. THE GREAT END OF THIS PREACHING OF THE WORD. "That they all may be one; that as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
1. The oneness prayed for is not that of believers with one another, but that oneness which is the foundation of visible unity—the union of believers with Christ, and through him with God.
2. It cannot refer to a visible unity, because it is a unity of successive generations of believers, who cannot be in the world at one and the same time.
3. It is a unity resembling the union of the Father and the Son, and is therefore more than a mere moral unity of purpose, or opinion, or co-operation. It is an essentially vital unity (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:4). God is its essential Center.
4. The ultimate design and result of this oneness is its effect upon the world. Where disciples are seen to be
(1) of one faith,
(2) of one spirit,
(3) and one love, the world will have better thoughts of God and his gospel.
A prayer that the disciples may share in the Lord's glory.
Jesus supports his petition by declaring what he has already done for his disciples.
I. HE HAS ALREADY IMPARTED TO THEM A SHARE IN' HIS GLORY. "And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them."
1. This glory is not apostolic office or gift of miracle.
2. It is not the glory of the future kingdom.
3. It is the glory of adoption. As Christ's glory consisted in his Sonship, so that of believers consisted in their filial dignity, as children of God and brethren of himself as the eider Brother.
4. The effect of this glory is twofold.
(1) The formation of a closely united family in heaven and in earth. "I in them, and thou in me, that their oneness may be perfect." God living in Christ, Christ in each believer, reproduce the Divine unity on earth.
(2) A demonstration to the world of Christ's mission, and the Father's love to his children.
(a) Christ's mission would be manifest in its blessed and enduring effects.
(b) The Father's love to believers would be manifest as a love resembling that with which he regards his Son.
(α) He loves them in Christ;
(β) he loves them through Christ;
(γ) his love is the guarantee that he will uphold them, as he did Christ, assist them in his service, provide for their wants, and reward them for their services.
5. Christ's will is that his disciples should share his throne in the heavens. "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."
(1) His will is that his people should be where he is.
(a) Love seeks the companionship of the loved.
(b) Heaven is wherever Christ is.
(c) Union with Christ draws after it everlasting communion with him.
(2) His will is that his people should see his glory;
(a) not his essential glory, for that could not be given him,
(b) but the glory of a consummated fellowship effected between God and man.
John 17:25, John 17:26
An appeal to God's righteousness.
Our Lord approaches the climax of his prayer.
I. MARK THE MODE OF ADDRESS. "Righteous Father." Six times in this prayer has Christ addressed God as Father; but the name here used implies that Christ insists upon the reward of his service and. his sufferings. Justice pleads on behalf of the disciples. The thought of a "righteous Father" is:
1. Comforting to the righteous and the oppressed.
2. Terrible to the ungodly.
II. MARK THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE UNBELIEVING WORLD AND THE FAITHFUL SON AND SERVANT OF GOD.
1. Consider the world's ignorance of God. "The world hath not known thee."
(1) The heathen want the means of knowledge.
(2) The world is unwilling to know God.
(3) The world does not know him so as to delight in him, or to serve him, or to obey him.
2. Consider Christ's knowledge of God. "But I have known thee, and these have believed that thou hast sent me."
(1) He knows God immediately.
(2) And he is the Source of all saving knowledge to believers.
3. Christ will make still fuller declarations of My Father's Name to the world's end. "And I have made known unto them thy Name, and I will make it known."
(1) This will be realized through
(a) his Word,
(b) his Spirit,
(c) and his ministers.
(2) The design of these fuller revelations. "That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."
(a) God's love ought to dwell in believers as an habitual experience.
(b) It is the safety and the glory of believers.
(c) It is the means of our growing conformity to God's image.
(d) Wherever love is Christ is, "dwelling' in believers.
(e) They who have Christ in them have
(β) access to him at all times,
(γ) peace in their souls.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The Divine idea of glory.
There have ever been prevalent among men false views of glory. It is natural to admire pomp and splendor, wealth, magnificence, and power. Christianity has done much to counteract the common tendency to place glory in external greatness, to rebuke and to banish such conceptions from the higher thinking of men. Our Lord employs the term "glory" in a higher, a moral and spiritual acceptation. He teaches us what true glory is when he prays, "Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee."
I. THE GLORIFICATION OF THE SON BY THE FATHER. For this Jesus prayed; therefore it was something yet to be.
1. Christ sought to be glorified in and after his approaching suffering and humiliation. The scenes through which he was about to pass, the pains and sorrows he was about to endure, were such as could not easily in most minds be associated with glory. Still, to the enlightened and sympathetic mind, there was even in the cross a majesty unparalleled. The demeanor of the Crucified was a demeanor, morally glorious. But the prayer of our Savior probably had reference to the victory which he should reach even through his seeming defeat. The Resurrection and Ascension completed and crowned the work of humiliation and suffering.
"The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor's brow."
2. Christ sought to be glorified in the efficacy and results of his mediation. The results of his earthly ministry might to some minds seem meager. But the "greater works" which followed his ascension were such as to excite the amazement of the world. The new dispensation excelled in glory. The trophies of Immanuel were many and illustrious. The conversion of nations, the submission of kings, the homage of society, all proved to be glorious, all contributed to render glorious, the Name of the Son of man. And this spiritual glory never wanes; it is destined to grow and brighten with the advancing ages.
II. THE GLORIFICATION OF THE FATHER BY THE SON. This is represented by the Lord Jesus as consequent upon that glorification for which he prayed. The ultimate end of all is the glory of the Eternal himself. How is it that this result is brought about?
1. The Father is glorified when there is imparted to men a true knowledge of himself.
2. By the diffusion throughout humanity of the new and Divine life.
3. By the obedience and praise offered consciously, willingly, and reasonably, to the Father, by the growing multitudes of Christ's redeemed, through countless ages, on earth and in heaven.—T.
Christ's consciousness of power.
The early discourses of our Lord show us that he commenced his ministry with the conviction that he was anointed and consecrated by the Father for the greatest work of all ages. And as his ministry drew to its close, he retained the same assurance. Even although he was aware of the approach of the awful end of his earthly career, of the apparent victory of his foes, his faith did not falter. He still anticipated the complete fulfillment of the purpose of his advent. In his prayer to the Father, this consciousness of power accounts for the confidence with which the results of his ministry and sacrifice are anticipated.
I. CHRIST'S AUTHORITY OVER ALL. We may consider:
1. Its origin in the appointment of the Father.
2. Its realization in the incarnation and sacrifice of the Redeemer. The authority was native to our Lord Jesus; but it made itself recognized and secured its exercise by his earthly ministry.
3. Its range over all humanity independently of the character of individual men.
4. The new view which, by the aid of this glorious truth, we are able to take of the providential and mediatorial government of the world.
5. The rebuke thus administered to our fear and faithlessness.
II. CHRIST'S GIFT TO SOME.
1. The mystery of the limitation. This lies in the counsels of the Divine wisdom, and attempts to explain it are usually of little value.
2. The priceless and glorious nature of what is bestowed. Nothing higher than life—i.e. the life of the spirit—can possibly be conceived as coming into the possession of those otherwise dead in trespasses and sins. It is, however, of the very essence of this life that it is imperishable, and independent of all that is earthly and transitory.—T.
Knowledge and life: a sermon for the young.
We cannot doubt that God knows us. We cannot conceive of him otherwise than as knowing all things. "He telleth the number of the stars;" and at the same time he reads the secrets of every heart. The psalmist took a just view of his God when he exclaimed, "Thou art acquainted with all my ways: for there is not a word in my tongue, but lo Lord, thou knowest it altogether." But whilst God knows us perfectly, we can only know him imperfectly. Yet it is both a wonderful and a happy thing that we can know him at all.
I. THERE IS MUCH WE CANNOT KNOW OF GOD. If we are often baffled in studying the works of his hands, we cannot be surprised that the Divine artificer is too high for us to comprehend him. If we are perplexed in our endeavors to understand the soul of man, how can we expect to fathom the mysteries of the Divine nature? It is said that King Hiero asked the philosopher Simonides, "Who is God?" The wise man asked for a day to reflect and to prepare an answer. Finding this insufficient, he asked a week, and then a year. But time and meditation brought no light which could satisfy him, and the query remained unanswered. God in the spiritual realm is like his universe in the material realm; of which the great Pascal said, "It is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." It is said that the Emperor Trajan, addressing a Jewish rabbi, Joshua by name, said, "Show me your God." The sage answered, "Come out of the house, and see one of his ambassadors." Leading him into the daylight, the rabbi bade the emperor look upon the sun, then shining in his strength. "What! cannot you look in the face of the ambassador? are you blinded by his dazzling presence? How can you look upon the countenance of the King?" "No man hath seen God at any time." Who can by searching find out God? We see glimpses, we hear whisperings, of his power and wisdom; but there is an infinity which comes not within our ken. A child follows the course of the brook which flows through his father's fields; he reaches the point where it joins the river in the valley; but he dreams not of the sea into which that river empties itself.
II. WE CAN KNOW OF GOD WHAT IS OF MOST VALUE TO US. If we cannot understand the Divine nature, if there are some of his attributes, as, for example, his omnipresence, which utterly baffle our intellect, still there is much that is within our apprehension. We can know that the Lord our God is one God, that he is wise, that he is just and faithful, that he is compassionate and merciful. Now, what does it matter to a child that he cannot understand his father's occupations, that he is not able to appreciate his father's abilities, so long as he is sure that his father will give him good advice, so long as he is sure that his father will provide for his wants, bodily and mental? Suppose the father to be a statesman; the child cannot enter into the reasons of national polity. Suppose the father to be a lawyer; the child cannot form any opinion of his father's conduct of a case in court. But the child can know that his father will receive with kindness any application which may be made to him for guidance, for help, for the means of acquiring knowledge or rational enjoyment. The child can know that the father's house will not be shut against him, that he is ever welcome to the father's table, that the father's time is always at his service. In like manner we are quite capable of knowing what is God's will, of understanding the propriety of obedience to that will, of valuing the opportunities we have of learning and obeying our heavenly Father.
III. THERE ARE SPECIAL WAYS IN WHICH GOD GIVES US KNOWLEDGE OF HIMSELF. We cannot see him directly, but we can see him, so to speak, by reflection. He has given us two mirrors in which the spiritual lineaments of his Divine character become visible to us.
1. There is the mirror of nature. It is allowed us "to look through nature up to nature's God."
"There's nothing bright above, below,
From flowers that bloom to stars that glow,
But in its light my soul can see
Some feature of the Deity."
It is said that on one occasion Napoleon Bonaparte was on the deck of a ship on a calm summer night, when his officers around him were magnifying nature, and disputing the existence of God. The great commander listened, and then pointed to the hosts of heaven, saying, "All very well, gentlemen, but who created these?"
2. There is the mirror of our own spiritual mature. The psalmist looked into this mirror, and saw therein the reflection of the Lord, the Ruler, the Judge, of all. "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."
IV. IT IS IN JESUS CHRIST THAT GOD GRANTS US THE CHIEF REVELATION OF HIMSELF. Nature and conscience are mirrors; Christ is the very shining forth of the Divine glory. We must not make an image of God; but God has given us a perfect image of himself, of his moral attributes. When we have once seen God in his dear Son, we recognize his presence everywhere and in all things. As the sun illumines a hundred snow-clad peaks, and every summit glows and glitters forth his splendor, so when God appears in Christ, his attributes are seen in all his works and all his ways. Especially do we through Jesus come to the knowledge of the Divine holiness, righteousness, and love.
V. IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IN CHRIST IS THE ETERNAL LIFE. Of our Lord Jesus an apostle affirms," This is the true God, and the Eternal Life." Now, an ignorant, uninformed, uninstructed soul is a dead soul. It is knowledge that enkindles mental life, that calls forth the intellectual powers. And it is the highest knowledge which is the Divine means of awakening the highest life. This life is called eternal, because it is not like earthly life which perishes, but because it is of a higher kind—because it is the life of God himself, spiritual and Divine. A boy taken from an inferior position, with few opportunities of improvement and no profitable companions, may be brought into a position where advantages are many, opportunities precious, associates inspiring. He may come to say, "This is life indeed! So Saul became Paul—when he had seen and known Christ.—T.
The perfect work.
Even good men, when they approach the close of life and take a retrospect of the past, are constrained in candour to admit that they have failed to realize their own ideal, to satisfy their own conscience, to approve themselves to their God. They have to lament and confess infirmities and negligences. Christ alone could look hack upon life without discovering any cause for reproach. Addressing the Father himself, he claimed to have accomplished the work which had been given him to do.
I. CHRIST'S CONCEPTION OF HIS MINISTRY.
1. In his view this was a work to be done. The serious and sacred nature of this earthly life was never realized by any as by him. "I work," said Jesus, with a sublime simplicity; and the record of his labors proves the truth of his assertion.
2. In his view Christ's ministry was a trust from his Father. Every true servant of God can speak of the work which Divine authority has assigned to him as his vocation. Of this the Son of God, who became the Servant of God, has given us the most glorious example. Obedience and subjection were characteristic of the Savior's earthly ministry.
II. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUS COMPLETION OF HIS MINISTRY.
1. From the beginning our Lord had possessed a clear conception of the nature of the work to which he had been designated and commissioned by the Father.
2. Our Lord had been conscious of the possession of all the qualifications necessary for the fulfillment of his work. He was well aware that his mission would not fail through any deficiency on his part.
3. Amidst all his labors and sufferings Jesus had been sustained by the conviction that his work was advancing to its completion. The very circumstances which to another mind might have seemed fatal to his great enterprise, were to his clear knowledge the conditions of its prosperous issue.
4. The approaching sacrifice was regarded by the Redeemer as if already offered; it was so in intention and resolve.
5. The results of the Savior's work were present to his holy and benevolent mind. By anticipation the results were already reaped—a glorious harvest from the seed sown and seemingly perished in the earth.
APPLICATION. The example of Christ is a rebuke to all desultory views of life. Those who regard this existence as an opportunity for personal pleasure, enrichment, or aggrandizement may well ponder the spirit displayed by the Lord Jesus, who looked upon his life here as sacred, as allowing of a consecrated service to the Father. Christ's spirit can animate his followers so that they may both undertake and complete some good work for the Divine glory.—T.
The transcendent glory of the Divine Word.
Still the Savior's mind runs upon glory. How unlike the thoughts of a man, however great and good, are these thoughts expressed in this recorded prayer of Christ! It was not vanity, it was not egotism, it was not assumption; it was the consciousness of Divinity which accounted for this language.
I. CHRIST HAD GLORY WITH THE FATHER BEFORE THE WORLD WAS. Of this we only know what our Lord himself has revealed to us. But we are assured that this world is not the only scene of the manifestation of the glory of the eternal Word. In what manner, through what circumstances, to what order of intelligences, this ante-natal glory was displayed, we have no means of knowing.
II. CHRIST GATHERED TO HIMSELF FRESH GLORY DURING HIS EARTHLY MANIFESTATION AND MINISTRY. This was emphatically a moral and spiritual glory—the glory of truth, righteousness, purity, and love. It was emphatically the glory of sacrifice—glory which could only be realized through incarnation and humiliation. This glory is discerned anti appreciated only by the spiritual; to the view of such it excels all the tinseled splendor of worldly greatness.
III. CHRIST TOOK WITH HIM TO THE PRESENCE OF THE FATHER A GLORY WHICH HARMONIZED WITH THAT WHICH WAS NATIVE AND ORIGINAL, AND WHICH EVEN ENHANCED IT. This prayer opens up before the mind three stages of Divine glory as belonging to Christ. The Incarnation did not create his glory, for he brought it with him from the heavens. But his earthly sojourn was the occasion of accession of glory. And when he ascended on high to receive the reward of toil, to reap the harvest of sacrifice, he appeared, and he ever does and will appear, irradiated with a splendor which, as mediatorial, is at once sacrificial and triumphant.—T.
The Advocate and the clients.
The High Priest now turns from himself to the special objects of his intercessory prayer.
I. THE CALLING OF TEE CLIENTS.
1. They are separated from the world. Made a select and consecrated class, they are set apart from others in the prayer of the Lord.
2. They are the property of the Father.
3. They are the gift of the Father to his Son. The Father drew them with the bonds of love, and they became Christ's.
II. THE MARKS OF THE CLIENTS. It is not to be supposed that there is anything arbitrary in the calling of God. Those for whom the High Priest here pleads:
1. Recognize the Divinity of Christ's works.
2. And the Divinity of his words. These they received, i.e. as from God through him who is "the Word."
3. And the Divinity of his mission. Christ came forth from God; God sent him. But this great fact, the greatest in the history of mankind, was by no means generally recognized. Its recognition became at once, and still remains, a "note" of Christ's people. The just estimate of the words and of the works of Christ leads to a true appreciation of Christ himself.
III. THE SECURITY AND DIGNITY OF THE CLIENTS.
1. All Christ's are his Father's, and all the Father's are Christ's; therefore the clients who have the Savior for their Patron and Protector are doubly secure and doubly blest.
2. Christ is glorified in his friends. Wonderful is the condescension here displayed. The Lord of glory allows those, who by nature are so feeble and so helpless as men are, to add by their adhesion and their praises even to the majesty and splendor which is his by right. This is so in a measure even now; how far more fully shall Christ's ransomed clients glorify him when they are delivered from the infirmities of the body, and the sordid surroundings of time!—T.
The purifying Tower of truth.
This may be regarded as the central petition of this prayer of the great High Priest. Our Lord, having prayed on behalf of his disciples that they should be "kept from the evil," as those" not of the world," passes from the negative to the positive side of the Christian life. His heart's desire is that his people may be hallowed, consecrated, sanctified, made holy, as becomes those who are his own.
I. THE PURPORT OF THE LORD'S PETITION ON BEHALF OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. The nature of this blessing sought: consecration, or sanctification. It is a real and not a formal holiness, altogether distinct from and superior to the merely ceremonial purity which is so often regarded by the professedly religious as of supreme importance. It is consecration of the spirit, the center of the nature, the spring of the outer life. It is devotion to the service and glory of God himself. It consists in a distinction from the sinful world.
2. The desirableness of this blessing. Its absence is the cause of the wretchedness and degradation which curse human society, where sin rages unchecked. Holiness is the ultimate end for which revelation has been bestowed, and especially the end for which all the provisions of the Christian economy have been introduced. The pardon of sin is hut a means to an end, and that end is the assimilation of the human character to the moral likeness of the all-holy God. Let it be considered that the holiness of his people was an object so precious and desirable in the esteem of our Divine High Priest, that for the sake of it he submitted to assume the form of a servant, and to die the death of the malefactor.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE LORD SOUGHT THE ANSWER TO HIS PETITION.
1. Remark the identity of God's Word with truth. We must not confine the application of the word to Holy Scripture, nor must we take it as equivalent to the personal Christ. Every manifestation of the Divine thought and will is the Word of God. Yet revelation, as usually understood, is emphatically this. God's Word is truth; for his knowledge admits of no limitation or imperfection; his righteousness forbids the possibility of deception; his benevolence delights in the instruction of his intelligent creatures.
2. The truth which is God's Word is the chosen instrument for producing human sanctity. This it does by revealing to man his evil life and ill deserts, by awakening the conscience of sin; by informing us of the holiness of the supreme Ruler; by presenting in Christ a flawless Example of moral excellence; by securing to the faithful forgiveness of sins through the redemption by Jesus Christ; by offering the influences of the Spirit of holiness as the only Agent in producing a result so difficult and yet so glorious; by bringing to bear upon the human heart the highest, purest, and most effectual motives—motives sufficient to enkindle aspirations towards holiness, and sufficient to induce to the employment of all those means by which alone the greatest of all blessings may, with Divine help, be secured and enjoyed.—T.
John 17:20, John 17:21
Human selfishness, narrowness, and hopelessness may well be rebuked by the breadth and brightness of this prayer. The High Priest pleads for his people, and in so doing sweeps the horizon of time, sounds the depths of human need, and grasps the invisible aim of the universe, the yet unrealized purpose of God himself.
I. THE EXTENSIVE RANGE OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. At the very time when those nearest to him were about to be exposed to great danger, the Lord Jesus, without forgetting these, directed the gaze of his mind over a wide field of vision, and included in his comprehensive intercession all who in coming ages should believe on him through his apostles' witness. This marvelous sweep of high-priestly regard and interest is testimony to:
1. Christ's Divine foresight. He beheld in prophetic vision the martyrs and confessors, the missionaries and bishops, the scholars and preachers, the pure and lowly in private life, who should attach themselves to his doctrine and to his Church. As in an instant and at a glance, Christ summoned before his eyes and his heart the vast multitude who should constitute the Church militant through long millenniums to come; and he prayed for all.
2. Christ's Divine claim. In realizing the objects of his intercession, the High Priest regarded all as personally related to himself. Those for whom he pleaded were those who should believe on him. This fact is implicit witness to his high claims. Who but he could so rank mankind?
3. Christ's wide sympathy and benevolence. That such a Leader and Master should plead for his adherents, his friends, and the promulgators of his faith seems natural; common affection seems to account for this. But how vast was the love apparent in this prayer, which included within its scope the myriads who were yet to come into existence! But his whole Church was dear to his Divine and tender heart.
II. THE CONCENTRATED PURPORT OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. Doubtless the same prayer which was offered for the twelve was offered for all subsequent disciples, that all might be kept in the Name of the Father, and that all might be sanctified by the truth. But the expressed request here presented on their behalf should receive attention. It was for their unity. Not for their uniformity, in outward organization, in rite and ceremony, in uttered creed and liturgy; but for their spiritual unity, as is apparent from the petition that it might resemble that of the Father and the Son. A unity of life is here intended, like that of the branches in a vine rather than that of a bundle of staves. The Master desired for his disciples that they might have the same faith in himself, the same brotherly love one towards another, the same benevolent disposition towards the world. The value which Christ thus set upon true unity is a standard to which we are called to conform. That which Jesus made the object of his desire and prayer must be beautiful in God's view, and is worthy of our appreciation, our best endeavors for its promotion.
III. THE GLORIOUS AND ULTIMATE AIM OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. HOW magnificent the end which our Lord sought, not only by his prayer, but also by his toils, his sacrifice, his death! Nothing short of the world's belief in his mission, and adhesion to himself! We cannot understand by our Lord's words merely that he looked forward to the world's assent to a great fact, or to the world's forced acknowledgment upon the judgment-day. He desired that the world should come to believe both in the sending and in the sent One. However appearances may be against such an expectation being realized, faith apprehends the prevalence of the Redeemer's kingdom in the world. The influence and ministry of the Church, under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, is intended to promote the world's salvation. When it appears to us difficult to cherish hopes such as those which are justified by the declarations of Scripture, it will be well for us to check our despondency by remembering the prayer of the High Priest. That for which the beloved Son of God has pleaded, and ever pleads, will surely come to pass. And thus faith shall be rewarded, and Divine love shall have full and eternal gratification.—T.
Blessed with Christ.
The future has for man a mysterious interest, and it exercises over him a mysterious power. Religion appeals to this, as to all natural tendencies and susceptibilities of man's being. The revelations and the promises of Christianity have regard to the vast hereafter. When our Lord prayed for his disciples, it could not be that he should omit from his prayer their future—their condition and associations in the immortal state. Without such reference the high-priestly prayer would have been incomplete; for it was the prayer of him who brought life and immortality to light.
I. THE HOME OF THE BLESSED. Little as we know of that eternal home, that which we do know is of intense interest. What the Lord Jesus here tells us of heaven is welcome and precious revelation. His desire and purpose concerning his people is that they may be:
1. With him. He could no longer be with them on earth; but, as a compensation, they were to look forward to being with him in heaven. These cherished friends had been with him long enough to know and to prize such association. To them it was sufficient to know that they should be reunited to their Friend and Master.
2. Where he is. The locality of heaven is unknown, and all speculation upon such a matter is idle. How all Christ's innumerable friends and followers can all be where he is, we cannot understand. But it rejoices the heart of the disciple to know that he shall be where his Lord is. A bold mariner does not care to what sea his ship is bound, if he is only serving under the captain or admiral whom he trusts, and who has before shown him the way to discovery or to victory.
II. THE VISION OF THE BLESSED. The people of Christ shall, in accordance with his prayer, behold the glory of the Redeemer. The promise sank into the heart of John who recorded it; for he indulged the anticipation, "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Sight is here, as elsewhere, put for knowledge. The disciples bad seen the humiliation of their Lord; they were to see his glory. In what this consists it is for us only to conjecture, with such help as Christ's words afford. There is the closest connection between the glory of Christ and the Father's eternal love. Our Lord himself has so taught us that we cannot place glory chiefly in what is visible and material. We think chiefly of that moral glory which is connected with Divine favor and with spiritual empire—
"Glory shines about his head,
And a bright crown without a thorn."
Such a vision as that which our Lord here implores for his own must enlarge the perceptions which the blessed in heaven form of their great Redeemer, must excite their wonder and adoration, and must even fan the flame of their holy and grateful love. It should be observed that, although the aspect of the heavenly life here presented is contemplative, this is by no means to the exclusion of quite another aspect. The servants, who shall see the face of their Lord, shall serve him day and night. What they behold shall be the inspiration of their immortal songs of praise, and of their ceaseless acts of obedience and devotion.—T.
God unknown and known.
These, the last words uttered by our Lord before he proceeded to his betrayal and passion, are words worthy of the occasion and of the Speaker. They are a prayer, or rather an address, to the Father. Yet they constitute a review of the past, a declaration of the present, a prediction of the future. They explain the reason and the purpose of his mediation and of his ministry to man.
I. THE WORLD'S IGNORANCE OF GOD WAS THE OCCASION OF CHRIST'S MINISTRY. This ignorance is implicitly brought before us in the very language which the High Priest here employs: "O righteous Father, the world knew thee not."
1. The world had no conviction of God's righteousness. No one who is acquainted with heathen religions can question this. Not that there were no upright natures that traced their own love of justice and equity to the eternal Power that rules the universe; but that the gods many and lords many who were honored, feared, or propitiated among the heathen were, for the most part, lacking in the highest moral qualities. A gleam of righteousness or of generosity did now and again break through, to reveal, as it were, the darkness of the firmament. Still, broadly speaking, gross darkness covered the people. The unenlightened heathen attributed to their deities partiality, factiousness, hatred, cruelty—any quality but justice. In all this the lack of righteousness in men themselves was reflected upon their gods. The world by wisdom knew not God.
2. The world had no conviction of God's Fatherhood. If there were those who worshipped a supposed deity whom they called "the father of gods and men," we must not be misled by such language into supposing that the scriptural idea of fatherhood was involved in their religion. This idea is distinctively that of revelation, of Christianity. The moral attributes which we attach to the conception of the Divine Fatherhood have not come to our apprehension through the ministrations of pagan priests or pagan philosophers. Apart from Christ, the race of mankind is conscious only of fatherlessness and fear.
II. CHRIST'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE FATHER, GOD, WAS INTIMATE AND PERFECT. The expression Jesus here employs, "I knew thee," evidently suggests the natural and immediate knowledge which he had of the Father. He did not come to know God by a process of inquiry or reflection, or by the reception of lessons and revelations. His knowledge was direct. This we gather from his own assertions, and also from many intimations to be discerned in his words and in his conduct. There is no sign of uncertainty in any of Christ's declarations with respect to the Supreme. On the contrary, he speaks simply, directly, and decisively in all he says. He claims the closest intimacy, as when he says that he is "in the bosom" of the Father, i.e. in possession of the counsels and secrets of the eternal mind. He even goes further than this, claiming unity with the Father, as when he says, "I and my Father are one." Our Savior's knowledge of God was not inferential, but intuitive; not acquired, but natural; not imperfect, but complete.
III. CHRIST REVEALS GOD, AND THUS ENLIGHTENS MEN'S IGNORANCE.
1. The first step in this revelation is the conviction, which Christ awakens in his disciples' minds, that his mission is from God himself. The character of Christ, his discourses and conversations, his mighty works, all witnessed to his special authority and commission. They were constrained to ask, "Who is this?" "What manner of Man is this?' "Whence is he?" and When these questions were suggested, they could lead to only one answer which could satisfy the inquirers' minds. The conviction was produced, in some cases by a gradual process, in other cases as by a sudden flash of revelation, that this Being was from above, that he was the Son of' God.
2. The second step in this revelation is the declaration of the Divine "Name," by which we are to understand the character and the purposes of the Father. When the Lord Jesus had communicated to his disciples the fact that God is a Spirit, and the fact that he is the Father in heaven, he had in great measure made known the Divine Name; but it was a further and richer revelation that he made when he told of the Father's purposes of compassion and mercy towards his children—when he, in the Name of the Almighty and All-merciful, assured his faithful people of spiritual salvation and of eternal life.
3. But the glory of this assertion is not yet exhausted. Christ says that he will yet make known the Name of God. The reference may be to the approaching manifestation of the Divine heart in the sacrifice and the subsequent exaltation and victory of the Son. But it may, and probably does, include the whole future revelation of God through the Holy Spirit, and throughout the spiritual economy. There are those who consider revelation to have been continuous and progressive throughout this dispensation; there are others who consider that the objective revelation is complete in itself, but that the quickening influences of the Holy Spirit enable successive generations to discern ever new beauty, power, and preciousness in him who is "the Light of the world," and "the Life of men?'
IV. DIVINE LOVE AND FELLOWSHIP ARE THE GREAT END OF THE DIVINE REVELATION AND OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. Our acquaintance with God is a mysterious and glorious privilege, yet we may with reverence hold that it is the means to an end. We love only those whom in some measure we know; yet by loving we may learn to know them more. As Christ is formed in his people, and as his character and life are revealed by them, the Father cherishes and displays towards them the very affection with which he regards his well-beloved Son. It is thus that the incarnation and sacrifice of the Redeemer produce their precious and immortal results. Ignorance, sin, estrangement, stud hatred are, by this Divine provision, expelled; and in their place the new humanity, the spiritual kingdom, the Church of the living God, is penetrated by the Spirit of Christ, filled with the light of holy knowledge, and blessed with the enjoyment of imperishable love.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
Fighting, not falling.
I. THE NEGATIVE PART OF THIS PRAYER. "I pray not," etc.
1. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the material world. Although he was about to leave it, by an ignominious death, yet his death did not make theirs necessary. Their death would neither decrease nor increase his agonies. Some think that because they die that all should follow. But Christ was so far from being selfish, that he was willing to die that his disciples might live and remain.
(1) Christianity does not in itself shorten life, but rather lengthens it. It has been the occasion of death, but never its direct cause. It has a direct tendency to increase life in length, and invariably in breadth and depth; sometimes in sum, always in value; sometimes in days and years, as in the case of Hezekiah; always in usefulness and influence, as in the case of Jesus. Heaven is not jealous of her children's physical and material enjoyment on earth. The tenant shall remain as long as the house stands, and when it crumbles, Heaven will receive him into her mansions.
(2) Christianity does not incapacitate man to enjoy the material world. On the contrary, it tunes the harp of physical life, sweetens the music of nature, paints its landscape in diviner hues, beautifies its sceneries and renders them all sublime and enchanting. The material world to man is what his inward and spiritual nature makes it. Christianity fills the world with joy; embroiders its clouds with love, tinges even its winters with goodness; makes the thunder rattle kindness as well as power, and the storm to speak of mercy as well as majesty. It fills the world with sunshine, and makes it, not a dreadful prison, haunts of demons, but the thoroughfare of angels, the nursery of happiness, the temple of God and the gate of heaven.
2. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the social world, but that they should remain in it. Sociality was one of his own characteristics. Christianity opens and not shuts the door of society, and brings man into closer union with his fellow. Bigotry, priestcraft, and religious prejudice have banished many from society, and imprisoned many a Bunyan; but pure Christianity, never. Its direct tendency is to sanctify and bless all the relationships of life, and refine and inspire our social interests. Christ said, "Let your light shine," not on the mountain-top, in the lonely wilderness, not in the secluded cloister or nunnery, but "before men"—in the fair and in the market, in the busy exchange and behind the counter, among the throngs of men.
3. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the troublesome and wicked world. This world was then, and is now, "a world of great tribulation." Still it was not his wish to take-his disciples from even this. Not that he took any pleasure in their pain—far from it; he bore as much of it as he possibly could—but because he had greater regard for their eternal good even than for their temporal comforts. Tribulation is the only way to life. This he had himself; and the servant is not greater than his Lord, but must enter life in the same way.
4. Christ recognizes the Father's right to take them hence when he pleased. They were his, and their lives absolutely at his disposal. The world cannot drive the Christian hence when it pleases, but when the Father pleases. When it appears to do so, it is only a servant, and acts by permission. The believer's life is not at the mercy of the world, but at the mercy of the Father.
5. While recognizing his right to take them hence, still it was not his wish that they should be taken then. And why?
(1) Because Christ had much to do on and in them in the world. They were not yet ready to depart. They had not yet completed their earthly education. They had not yet been in the school of the "Comforter." They had made some progress, but very far from perfection. Much had to be done with regard to their spiritual life which could not be so well done in any other state. This world was a furnace to purify them, and the great Refiner and Purifier saw that they were not fit to be taken out.
(2) Because they had much to do for Christ and the world. The Father had given them to Jesus for a special work—to be witnesses of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and to publish the story of his love and the facts of his earthly history to the ends of the earth. This must be done before they could be honorably taken home. They could serve the Master and their generation better here than elsewhere.
(3) The new earth and its King could not afford to lose them yet. The wicked world wished to drive them hence; but it knew not what was best for its good, and it was under the control of infinite benevolence. The farmer, in disposing of his corn, must take care of some for seed. Heaven must not take the disciples away; else what will the world do for seed, Jesus for laborers, the gospel for tongues to publish it, and the Gentiles for salvation? They were more needed now on earth than in heaven. Heaven could do for some time without them. The golden harps could afford to wait; but the world could not afford to wait long for the water of life. The earth could not afford more than to give Jesus back at once, and he could do more good there through his Spirit than here; could send supplies down from above to his friends, and open fire from the heavenly batteries on the foe. The disciples could better attack him from this side, so as to place him between two fires, etc.; cause him to surrender his captives by the thousands. Not one of them could now be missed. Each one had a special duty, and was specially trained for it, and the departure of even one would be a loss to the world and to Jesus.
II. THE AFFIRMATIVE PART OF THE PRAYER. "That thou shouldest keep," etc.
1. The evil which is in the world is recognized. "Keep them from the evil"—the evil one. There are in this world many wicked men and wicked spirits, but there is one standing alone in wickedness, and in opposition to goodness, to God and man. He has succeeded to attract a large following of the same character as himself; but he keeps ahead of them all in wickedness, and the eye of Christ could single him out among the black throng, and point to him as the evil one, or the evil thing. As there is an evil one, there is an evil thing, an evil principle, power, and influence. The evil assumes many forms. The form in which it was most dangerous to the disciples now was apostasy from Christ, and this is the only form in which it can really conquer. It is fully recognized and revealed by Christ in all its forms, magnitude, and danger.
2. A distinction is made between the world and the evil. It is not the world as such is evil, but evil is in the world. The world does not make men evil, but men make the world. There is in the world an evil one and an evil thing, which prostitute its holy and good laws and forces to answer their ends. No one had the fever of sin by contact with the objects of nature. No one was morally contaminated by fellowship with the sun anti stars. No one was corrupted by listening to the blackbird's song or the nightingale's warble. The world as such is in sympathy with good and against evil. "For the whole creation groaneth," etc.
3. To keep the disciples in the world from the evil is preferable to taking them at once out of it.
(1) This plan recognizes the advantage of this world as a sphere of moral government and discipline. The highest training for a soldier is on the battle-field. The best training for a mariner is on the ocean, and in an occasional storm; he cannot attain this on dry land. The best sphere of moral discipline is in a world where there is good and evil. In hell there is only evil without any good. In heaven there is only good without any evil. In this world there are both, and it is specially advantageous to choose the one and reject the other. Christianity keeps a man from sin, and not sin from him; eradicates from his heart the love of it, and implants in its stead the love of purity. A change of world would not in itself change character. The elements of sin in the soul would break out in heaven itself.
(2) This plan is more in harmony with the ordinary arrangements of Providence. It is an original arrangement of Providence that this world should be populated, and that each man should live a certain number of years—the allotted period of time. Christ does not wish to interfere with this arrangement with regard to his followers, but let them live the lease of life out, to do battle with sin, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The wheels of providence and grace fit into each other and revolve in perfect harmony. There is no special warrant wanted to take them hence, no special train required to take them home.
(3) This plan demonstrates more clearly the courage of Jesus. Although he knew that earth and hell were getting madder and madder against them, and would be madder still, yet he had no wish that they should be taken hence. He remained in the world to the last till he finished his work, and he had sufficient confidence that his followers would do the same. He is willing that they should undergo the same test. This is Divine heroism worthy of the Captain of our salvation. To keep them from the evil by their removal from the world would appear somewhat like beating a retreat; but the word "retreat" was not in his vocabulary.
(4) This plan more fully demonstrates the wisdom and moral power of Christianity. To make them victorious in the fight, and reach the desired haven in spite of the severest storms. Great power would be manifested in keeping the Babylonian youths from the fire, but a far greater power was manifested in keeping them in the fire from being injured by the flames. To take the disciples Out of the world miraculously would manifest Divine power, but to keep them in the world from the evil manifested a miracle of grace and of the moral power of Christianity. The one would be the skill of a clever retreat, but the other the glory of a moral victory.
(5) This plan involves a completer and more glorious personal victory over evil and the evil one. Jesus was very desirous that his disciples should be personally victorious, and conquer as he conquered. This must be done in the world in personal combat with the evil. There is no real and ultimate advantage in a mechanical or artificial diminution of evil, and strategic victory over the evil one. He will only gather his forces and rush out with greater vehemence and success. The policy of our great General was to let him have fair play—let him appear in full size, in his own field, and have full swing, as in the case of Job; then let him be conquered under these circumstances. The victory is final, complete, and most glorious.
4. To keep the disciples from the evil was now Jesus' chief concern. This was the struggle of his life and death, and the burden of his parting prayer. "That thou shouldest keep," etc. As if he were to say, "Let them be poor and persecuted, tempest-tossed and homeless; let them be allied to want and wedded to death; but let them be kept from the evil. Not from hell, but from the evil; there is no hell but in the evil." How many there are who are more anxious to be kept from every evil than from the evil—from complete apostasy from the truth, and backsliding from Christ! This was his chief concern for his followers, and should be the chief concern of his followers for themselves and for those under their care.
5. In order to be kept from the evil, the disciples must be within the mediatory prayer of Christ and the safe custody of the Father. In order to be saved from a contagious disease, we must keep from it or have a powerful disinfectant. The world is full of the fever of sin, and we have to do continually with the patients; we live in the same house. And there is but one disinfectant which can save us, i.e. the mediation of Jesus and the Father's loving care. Jesus knew the danger in which his disciples were—how weak and helpless they were in themselves, how prone and exposed to the evil. The evil one, "the roaring lion," watched for the departure of their Master in order to rush on them; but as a tender mother, in going from home, leaves her children in the care of some trustworthy one, charging such to keep them from danger, especially from the fire; so our blessed Lord, before he left the world, left his disciples in good custody and safe hands, those of the Father, praying him to take care of them, especially to keep them from the evil. Before the great departure at Jerusalem, he insured all his most valuable property in the office of his Father's eternal love, of which he was the chief Agent; and insured it so not only as to have compensation in case of loss, but against any loss at all. "Holy Father, keep," etc. The house was insured before, and was safe, and there was no need of a rush out of it; but now he insures the tenants. The premium he had paid on the cross. This is the only safe insurance from evil. We wonder often how we have escaped from the evil in many a dark hour; but the insurance was the secret.—B.T.
I. IN ITS IMPORT AND SCOPE.
1. Believers are to be in unity. Many and yet one, one and yet many. Many members, but one body; many bodies, but one Spirit; many believers, but one spiritual community. They are to be one with each other, with Christ, and with the Father.
2. Their union is to be universal. "Tidal they all may be one." There is to be no exception. It is not optional, but the universal rule of the society and law of its great Head. They are to be one:
(1) In spite of time. Believers are separated by time. Some are of the present, some are of the past, and some of the future; but all are included in this great union. "Those who believe opt me through," etc. Not merely the fathers of the faith are to be in it, but their children to the last generation, and to the last one of that generation.
(2) In spite of space. Believers are separated by place and distance. They inhabit different countries and climes. There are large multitudes on earth, larger multitudes still in heaven, but they are all in this union; its laws are binding and operative in spite of space and distance.
(3) In spite of differences. Believers are separated by physical, mental, social, spiritual, and circumstantial differences; but these are not to prevent their union, but they are to be one in spite of them.
3. The union is to be perfect. They are to be perfected into one. It is not a sham union, but a real one; and perfection is its goal, although gradually attained. Something like this is the import, scope, and ideal of this grand union, of which Christ is the Author, President, and Inspiration.
II. IN ITS HIGH MODEL AND BASIS.
1. Its model is Divine. "As thou, Father, art," etc. Its model is the union of the Father and the Son. What union was this?
(1) Union of nature, essence, and life. Believers are partakers of the Divine nature, and the new nature and life are the same in all.
(2) Unity of mind. Believers are to strive for unity of faith, and to mind the same things.
(3) Unity of heart. Believers are to be one in heart, sympathies, and love—the bond of perfectness.
(4) Unity of will and purpose.
(5) Unity of character. The Divine union is the model of the Christian, and it is high and perfect. And is not the past history of the Church a record of a great intellectual and spiritual struggle for this, and is she not pressing on still towards it?
2. Its basis is Divine. "That they may be in us, and one in us."
(1) Christian unity is based upon the Divine. The idea is Divine. It would be impossible for an inharmonious being, however powerful, to conceive the idea of an harmonious society, much less to produce it. The Divine unity is the foundation and origin of the human.
(2) Christian unity is the creation of the Divine, and is supported by it. In connection with the Divine it is alone possible, and in this connection it is a glorious fact. "One in us." Apart from this there would be no unity at all—no unity of atoms, of worlds, of systems, in the material universe; and no unity of mind, spirit, and heart among intelligent beings. In the Divine unity all the material worlds are united, and all the moral world is being and to be united. It is not only the model, but the basis and support of Christian union. Christian union is the outgrowth of the Divine. "One in us."
(3) Christian unity is the expression of the Divine. Christ is the Expression of the Father, and believers are the expression of Christ, hence in a degree the expression and incarnation of the Divine unity.
III. IN ITS PRACTICAL AND EFFICIENT MEANS. How does the Divine go forth and effect the unity of the human? What are the means used?
1. The union of believers with Christ by faith, and his union with them. Faith brings Christ to the soul, and Christ brings that soul to the Father and to all in him. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may," etc. These are the efficient means used and the order of their operation. Thus faith unites believers to him, to the Father, and to each other. As the sun is the center of union in the solar system, so Christ is in the Christian system.
2. The endowment of the Divine glory. "The glory which," etc. What glory was given to Christ which he also gave to his disciples?
(1) The glory of the Divine unity. This he gave in word and deed.
(2) The glory of the Divine recognition. He knew the Father, and introduced him to them.
(3) The glory of the Divine character. It was reflected on him even in human nature, and he reflected it upon them.
(4) The glory of self-sacrificing love. This he gave them, not merely in its vicarious and Divine results, but as an example, inspiration, and the master principle of the new life.
(5) This glory is one. The glory of the Son is that of the Father, and the glory of believers is that of the Son. He imparted to his disciples the same glory, and, as far as he was concerned, in equal degree; and the participation of believers of the same Divine glory through Christ unites them with one another and with the Divine nature, the ultimate result of which must be perfect oneness.
3. The prayer of Jesus on their behalf.
(1) The prayer of Jesus is effective and successful. It contained all he did. His life was a prayer, and his death was a prayer, and his life in heaven is a continuous and all-effective prayer.
(2) The burden of his prayer was the perfect and universal union of believers. And his prayers are all ultimately answered.
IV. IN ITS SPECIAL AND ULTIMATE PURPOSES.
1. The perfection of each individual believer. Perfect unity of all can only effect the perfection of each one. Not one believer can be perfected till all believers are. No member of the body can be absolutely free from rain until every member is. Believers must be perfected into one ere one can be absolutely perfect.
2. The conversion of the world.
(1) Its realization of Christ's Divine mission. "That the world may believe and know," etc.
(2) Its realization of the Divine love to believers as well as to Christ. "And lovedst them, as thou," etc.
(3) The world's realization of Divine love is most effective in the production of saving faith and knowledge. The world must be convinced of Divine love through love. It must be convinced of the intensity of the Father's love; and its impartiality to all, on the same and the fairest conditions—to each individual believer in Christ whom he sent, as well as to Christ himself. Let the world realize this, then it will believe and know.
(4) The perfect unity of believers will produce this realization. A large degree of it will produce faith. Perfection will produce knowledge. Union is strength, disunion is weakness. The first disciples, whatever may be their failings, were strong in loving unity, reflected the glory of their Christianity and of the Divine nature, and, few as they were, effected almost unparalleled success in the conversion of the world, and eliciting the admiration of infidels: "See how they love one another!" And let the Church become proportionately united, and it will bring such evidence of Divine love and truth to bear upon the world as will be simply irresistible, like the rays of the sun or the united drops of the ocean.
1. Christian union is of supreme importance. It is the goal of Christian life and the perfection of Christian character, and essential to individual and social sanctification. It is the central idea of Jesus and the burden of his prayer, and with regard to Christian character. With this his great prayer ends.
2. The Christian Church lacks in nothing so much as in this. It is essentially imperfect in the present state, especially taken as a whole; but no virtue today is so absent from it as real spiritual union.
3. This should be diligently and prayerfully cultivated. All hindrances to it should be excluded—which, in a few words, are selfishness, self-seeking, and pride, with their injurious progeny. Let these be driven out, and let the Church make the same efforts for inward and spiritual union as it makes for outward reforms; then it will shine with the true glory of the Lord, with the true light of its mission, and with convincing effects upon the world.
4. To attain this let Christ occupy his proper position in each believer, and in the Church as a whole. Let him be the sole Prophet, Priest, and King. Let his self-sacrificing life and love be the center, example, and inspiration of every believing heart; then we shall soon have a true Church of Christ on earth.—B.T.
I. HEAVEN AS A PLACE.
1. It is a place.
(1) This is suggested by our fundamental notions of things. We must look at our future existence to some extent in the light or' the present. There is a real analogy between all the stages of existence of the same being. We find ourselves here inseparably connected with a place. We make mental and spiritual excursions even to the infinite and illimitable, but still we find our consciousness connected with a place. Locality enters into all our notions of all finite existences. They are, and they are somewhere.
(2) This is suggested by the facts of many being now in heaven in their bodies, and of the general resurrection of the body at the last day. Enoch, Elias, our blessed Lord, and doubtless many more, are now there in their bodies. And we are taught that there will be a general resurrection of the body at the last day. It may be said that the resurrection-body will be spiritual. Yes, but spiritual not as distinguished from material, but from carnal and corrupt. In the light of the great facts of existence with which we are familiar, there is nothing unreasonable nor impossible in the doctrine of the resurrection. But, on the supposition that the body is to lose entirely its materialness, it seems indeed unreasonable and altogether unnecessary, and we ask what is the use of it at all? And we cannot see how a being who has lived, thought, felt, and acted in a material organization, could keep his identity in any state of existence entirely apart from such an organization. And if the resurrection-body will be in any way material, then it must have a material locality, and heaven must be a place.
(3) This is plainly taught in the Word of God. It is taught in these words. And heaven is generally spoken of in Scripture as a special place. As a city, the new and heavenly Jerusalem. Christ speaks of it as his Father's house, where there are many mansions. "I go and prepare a place for you." So that the conclusions of reason and the teachings of revelation point to the same fact.
2. It is a place where Jesus is and the redeemed will be. "Where I am," etc. If so, we conclude:
(1) That it is a most glorious place. It is the habitation of the only begotten Son of God, the express Image of his Person, whose glory on the mount transfigured his human nature, and transformed the mount into a scene of Divine majesty. The place where he dwells must be unspeakably grand. The house must be worthy of the tenant, and the palace of the great King.
(2) That it must be a very extensive place. To contain the hosts of angels which ever attend upon his Person, and the innumerable multitude of the redeemed—those given him by the Father, who shall be with him—such a vast throng requires a vast place. Although spiritual bodies doubtless will not require as much room as when in their crude and gross form, yet the place must be vast.
(3) That it is a place where the Redeemer and the redeemed enjoy the closest fellowship. "That where I am," etc. With regard to believers on earth, the Savior is physically invisible and absent; this is a hindrance to complete fellowship. But in heaven the Savior and the saved will be locally and physically together, occupying the same abode, which will make the fellowship between them perfect.
3. It is a place the chief glory of which is Jesus. In itself, its occupations and surroundings, it must be specially glorious; but its chief glory is Christ. As the place where he is, it is most attractive even to those who know most about it. Few, if any, knew as much of its local glories as Paul; but he had a desire to depart, not to be in heaven as such, but to be with Christ. The chief inhabitants of a place form its chief attractions. Wicked people would soon turn heaven into hell, whilst good people would soon turn hell into heaven. People make a place, and not a place the people. The characters of heaven are all attractive, but Jesus is the chief one.
4. It is a place where Christ's glory will be fully Seen.
(1) His mediatorial glory. "The glory which thou hast given me." The glory of his Divine-human Person; the glory of his surroundings; the homage paid him at home; the glory of his complete victories and self-sacrifice; his glory in the redeemed, in their individual perfection, and in their perfect unity.
(2) This glory can alone be fully seen in heaven. The glory of his Divinity, separately considered, can be seen everywhere in the works of his power; but Iris mediatorial glory can alone be fully seen where he is, and not where he is not. To see this he must be personally seen and be locally near.
(3) This glory will be fully seen in heaven by the redeemed. "That they may see my glory." This is the purpose of his present will, that they may be in a position to see it fully, see it directly. The vision will be perfect, although gradual. Eternity will be fully occupied in its manifestation, and will not be a moment too long. It will be the reward of their service and the perfection of their knowledge and felicity.
II. THE WILL OF JESUS WITH REGARD TO BELIEVERS IN RELATION TO HEAVEN.
1. In its expression. "Father, I will," etc. He no longer prays, but wills. He had prayed, and his prayers were really answered. He now expresses his will as one of the Divine counsels.
2. In its contents. "That they also whom," etc. This implies:
(1) That Jesus would not be happy without them.
(2) That they would not be happy without him.
(3) That together they would attain the consummation of happiness and glory.
3. In its reasons.
(1) The fact that believers are the Father's gifts. "Those whom," etc. Such tenants are more costly gifts than the place of their habitation. A suitable place for them naturally follows.
(2) The manifestation of his glory. "That they may see," etc. What would be the Divine glory without appreciative eyes to see it, and what would be these appreciative eyes without the Divine glory in Christ? But both together are suitable.
(3) The Father's love to the Son. "For thou lovedst me," etc.
(a) This love is very old. The eternal Son could not remember its beginning. He knew that it was before the foundation of the world, and that it was the chief stone in that foundation; but it was much older in its origin. It was eternal; but the foundation of the world was a special era in its history.
(b) This love is unchangeable. Jesus was fully conscious that he had done nothing to decrease, but rather to increase, it.
(c) This love is very effective. There is no place in the universe too good for the Father to give to the friends of his Son for the sake of this love—not even the most glorious place of his own presence.
1. The first thing in human happiness is a suitable character—faith in and union with Christ.
2. The next thing is a suitable place. That place is where Jesus is, wherever that may be. It is enough with regard to the locality of heaven.
3. A suitable character and place will be perfection of bliss.
4. Let the character be prepared—heaven is certain. Christ prays for the former; he wills the latter, and respectfully demands it.
5. The present is a scene of struggle and preparation; the future will be a scene of enjoyment. The enjoyment of Christ's presence and service, and the visions of his transcendent glory. What visions await the believer in heaven! All our pro-roundest aspirations will be more than realized.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The Father glorified through the Son.
Here are words of Jesus in this prayer which we are, as it were, doubly bound to consider. For this prayer went up in the midst of the disciples. We can hardly even say that it was overheard by them; that would imply that they were not intended to hear it. The Father heard the prayer, and the disciples heard it too. And in the hearing there came upon them great responsibilities, great opportunities, great inspirations. The same things also come upon us.
I. THE INVOCATION. This invoking word, "Father," must not be forgotten in one single sentence of the whole prayer. The prayer is but one revealed breathing of an unbroken communion. "Father" was no new or occasional word on the lips of Jesus. The thought of it directed and circumscribed every petition. The prayer is the prayer of One who was in the closest intercourse with him to whom he prayed. The harmony was the harmony of a union which, the more we think of it, deepens into mysterious unity. What were the Son without the Father—what were the Father without the Son?
II. THE OCCASION. The hour has come. What Jesus meant by that hour we soon discern when the prayer is closed. Streams that had long. been flowing towards each other were about to meet at last. The time and the events of the time were going to correspond. With God there is no "too soon" or "too late." The time came for Jesus to be delivered up into the hands of men, and he made no resistance, achieved no miraculous escape. The hour was come to reveal the essential weakness of human power; and Jesus was ready to give the opportunity of illustrating it. All that men did and all that Jesus suffered could not have happened otherwise. All that was done by all who were concerned in the death of Jesus was done according to their natural inclinings. We ought not to be astonished at a single dreadful feature in the whole transaction. Men did what they might be expected to do; and now the heavenly Father is looked to for what he may be expected to do.
III. THE SUPPLICATION. That the Father would glorify the Son. The Father had, indeed, been doing nothing else from the beginning, but this paternal glorification had now to be made peculiarly manifest. The disciples had got into the way of not looking beyond or above Jesus. It seemed as if he did the things rather than the Father through him. He said that he could only do what the Father gave him to do; but this could only be clearly seen when through a set of entirely different experiences. The workings of that Being whom Jesus calls Father should appear. Jesus, who heretofore had been strenuously active, was now to be almost entirely passive. The Father was now going to glorify him through the manifestation of the meekest, lowliest, most patient Spirit. Then beyond the death there lay the resurrection. He who believes that Jesus really rose from the dead can see in that, above all things, the glorifying stamp of the heavenly Father.
IV. THE MOTIVE. A glorified Son means a glorified Father. The praise of him who was sent is inseparable from the praise of him who sent him. The risen Jesus becomes the instrument of proclaiming far and wide that God who is a Father. A Father with none of the limitations of human fathers; a Father who, to those who contemplate his doings, opens up new possibilities and joys in human fatherhood. Further, there is an example. We, in our measure, should pray that our heavenly Father may glorify us, for so we shall glorify him. We who have come short of the glory of God shall yet fully illustrate that glory in every particular.—Y.
What eternal life is given for.
By the faculties inherent in natural life there comes the knowledge of every natural object. If there is to be the knowledge of more, there must be something more whereby to know. Hence it seems not enough here to take "eternal life" as but another way of expressing the knowledge of the only true God and of his Son. Rather is it true of him who has the life of eternity in him that he thereby gets that glorious knowledge which God and Jesus want him to have. As Jesus himself put it to Nicodemus, a man must be horn again to see the kingdom of God. A beast sees what a man sees so far as the image on the retina is concerned; but a man will do very different things as the result of his seeing. And so a natural man sees what a spiritual man sees so far as the image on the retina is concerned; but the spiritual man will do very different things as the result of his seeing.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Thus early does the theological element come in to this prayer. Jesus had to work for men through all the institutions of worship and religious faith which he found in the world. What he here says is quite in accord with the introduction to the Epistle to the Romans. There can be no peace or blessedness for mankind till the delusions and vices connected with the worship of false gods have passed away. And not only must there be deliverance from the dominion of false gods—so much has been achieved by gradual perception of the absurdity of idolatry—there must be deliverance from the dominion of false and defective ideas of Deity altogether. How humiliating are the narrow and superstitious thoughts of God entertained by many who have always been under the influences of Christianity. The best of us cannot easily be kept from tending towards exaggeration and one-sidedness in this matter. Notice how worshippers of the one true God and worshippers of the false gods of Rome were joined together in the acts of wickedness which brought Jesus to death. Sympathetic and adoring knowledge of the one true God is the thing that is wanted, and it comes as those who are babes in Christ Jesus grow up to the stature of perfect men in him. Not by the wisdom of this world can God ever be known.
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SENT JESUS. HOW this addition sweeps away the arrogant, self-confident claims of mere general theism! Man can only get true, comforting knowledge of the one true God through him whom God sent to reveal. Knowledge of God is by revelation, not by discovery. The necessity that man should know God explains the mission and the nature of his Son Jesus. Jesus brings the knowledge of God out of the darkness wherein it was hid; and then, God being known, Jesus himself becomes more intelligible to men. The more we know Jesus, the more we know God; and the more we know God, the more we know Jesus. What barren, tantalizing teachers are those, expatiate they ever so much, who leave Jesus out of the necessary elements in explaining Deity! And similarly, those who separate Jesus the moralist from Jesus the theologian, and try to satisfy men with a scheme of glorified ethics, are soon found out. How needful, then, that we should nourish all beginnings of eternal life!—all that unrest of the heart which, if only we do not kill it by mere opiates, will grow into the peace and blessedness of them who really know God.—Y.
Jesus praying for his own.
I. THE EXCLUSION. We have here a striking illustration of the definiteness of the prayers of Jesus. He knows exactly for whom he is praying, and what he wants for them. He defines them positively, and he defines them negatively. It is not enough for him to call them his own.' It must also be said why they are his own. If they belonged to the world, and had in them, unchecked and unmixed, the spirit of the world, they would not be his. This is a very decided exclusion for the purpose which Jesus has in view; but no one who understands the whole drift of the work of Jesus will say that it is a harsh exclusion. When Jesus prays for his own, he is really doing the best he can for the world. What can the Father of Jesus do for the world, so long as it remains the world? He has nothing to give that the world cares for. What God bestows on the world is given irrespective of prayer—given to all; given, a great deal of it, to the lower creation as well. If more is to be given, it is because of the appearing of a spirit of recipiency which is in itself a sign of passing from the world to the Church. When Jesus prays for his own, he is really praying that they may so let their light shine as to attract and persuade the world. The very best things that Jesus can do for the world are to be done through the character of his own people.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THE REQUEST. Jesus prays to the Father for those whom the Father had given to him. What a view of the claims of the heavenly Father is here! When we give anything it implies that we have a right to give it. We have made it our own by purchase or manufacture; We could not take any human life and make a present of it to somebody else that he might use it for his own purposes. There would be a protest at once. But God makes this claim, and gives over human souls to the control of Jesus. To that control and to no other. The same truth is expressed when Jesus says that all authority is given to him in heaven and on earth. What an inspiration there should be in the thought that the Father reckons us worthy to be bestowed on the Son for him to use! What a folly and misuse of ourselves if we, who are intended for gifts to Jesus, should refuse to Jesus the necessary control! What an explanation of the frequent misery and waste of life! If Jesus cannot get a proper use of his own, how can we turn it to anything but misuse? But Jesus goes on to say how that in receiving he only receives to give back. "All mine are thine, and thine are mine." No wonder that, in the first fullness of Pentecostal blessing, the disciples had all things in common. The Father and the Son have all things in common. The Father gives humanity to the Son that Jesus may send out consecrated men and women to glorify him. And then these consecrated men and women, used as they only can be used by Jesus, are rendered up to the Father who bestowed them on the Son. The heavenly Father is the great Fountain of the highest good, and all that he gives comes back to him at last, having ministered strength and gladness to human hearts innumerable. All that is in God and all that is in Jesus are for us; and we are, not for ourselves—that is only a small part of the truth—but for the Son in the Father, and the Father in the Son. There is no serving the Son without serving the Father, nor glorifying the Son without glorifying the Father. And we need that the Father should strengthen and equip us through invisible means for all this serving and glorifying, because the Son no longer remains visibly in the world. The invisible ministry is far to excel in depth and extent the visible one.—Y.
Not removal, but safety.
I. NOT REMOVAL FROM THE WORLD.
1. To many this will seem a superfluous statement. There must be many to whom it will seem a marvelous thing that any one should want to go out of the world at all. If praying to God would make it so, the young, the strong, the prosperous, the ambitious, would pray a dozen times a day that they might stay in the world. Every day thousands are going out of the world who, if they could get their own way, would stay in it. Probably the disciples themselves rather wondered at Jesus suggesting departure from the world as desirable. They were mostly young men, or men in their early prime. And, indeed, what so many wish is just what Jesus wishes himself. Every human being was manifestly intended to live out his days and do his work before he departs. That the old only should die is in the very order of nature, just like the falling of the leaves in the autumn and the setting of the sun at eventide.
2. The thought expressed was a very natural one to come into the heart of Jesus at this particular moment. He foresaw the pain and strain and trial his friends would have to pass through. He foresaw the imprisonments, the scourgings, the stonings. The disciples would understand the reference better afterwards than at the moment it was made. Jesus himself was on the point of being taken out of the world. The significance of the particular expression ought to be carefully noted. It is not merely a periphrasis for death. It indicates the glorious and liberating experience through which Jesus himself was about to pass. And if there had been nothing to consider but their personal comfort, then the friends and followers of Jesus might have been taken out of the world along with him. But they had their work still to do. The followers of Jesus had to stay just because he was taken. The friends of Jesus had to suffer all the more just because his sufferings were at an end. And so the utterance of Jesus seems to say, "I should like to take you with me, but it is impossible. I should like to spare you all you will have to go through; but when you are going through it, remember how I thought about you in my prayer."
II. SAFETY IN THE WOULD. Jesus desires that his Father would keep his followers from the evil. He teaches us to pray the same prayer ourselves. Indeed, if we do not pray the prayer ourselves, what can the prayer of Jesus be expected to avail? The carefulness of Jesus will only save us if we are careful too. Of course it is spiritual safety, integrity, and purity of heart Jesus is mostly thinking of. As to physical pain, Jesus himself had to pass through the severest of it; and the disciple must be as his Master, the servant as his Lord.—Y.
The element of true holiness.
I. THE MEANS OF SAFETY. Jesus has been praying that his friends may be safe; and here is the way to safety. The truly holy are the truly safe. When some infectious disease is raging far and wide, it is the drunkard and glutton who are most exposed to danger. And thus in seasons of spiritual temptation it is those who live far from God, and have allowed the world to run riot in their hearts, who are likeliest to fall.
II. THE MEANS OF UNITY. Jesus goes on to pray for unity; and holiness will lead to unity as well as safety.
III. THE ELEMENT OF THIS SAVING AND UNITING HOLINESS. We are to be in living, constant contact with God's truth as it is in Jesus. That truth is to be continually around us, even as the air we breathe. It is to be underneath us, even as the solid earth on which we stand. Truth is ever important, but the truth as it is in Jesus is of supreme importance, as the truth that concerns us all in our greatest interests. If with all our knowledge we have failed to lay hold of God's truth in Jesus, then we are still miserably ignorant. We must not be dunces in the school of Jesus. The time will come when one truth of his will give us more satisfaction and peace than all we have learned amid this world's greatest opportunities. And since Jesus prays that we may be sanctified in this truth, it is plain that the truth lies near us, only needing our reasonable attention and effort to make it our own.
IV. THE NEARNESS OF THIS TRUTH AS CONTRASTED WITH OUR NEGLIGENCE OF IT. We can talk much about the truth, and yet feel it very little. We can call it of supreme importance, and yet not make it so. The guilt, the danger, and the misery of sin are often on our lips; but only on our lips. We do not speak of the presence of sin in our souls as if we had made the terrible discovery for ourselves, and appreciated all that the discovery implied. The thing of real concern with us is not truth for the heart, but food and raiment. Hence this frightful want of correspondence between what we are and what we profess to be. There is a sanctification as far as the providing of the elements is concerned; and vet no sanctification, because the elements are unused. Our lives are very mean, worldly, and empty, compared with the opportunities we enjoy. God has brought us into a land of the choicest blessings. We are invited to sit down at a table loaded with the bread of eternal life. The fountain opened for sin and uncleanness springs up before our eyes. If we are none the better, and make not the slightest progress, it is because of a neglected Holy Spirit. It is truth that sanctities; and the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all the truth. Without him, we have eyes and yet see not, ears and yet hear not. We must not bring our own little line to measure him who is the eternal Son of God. Not many wise are called to the inheritance of the sanctified. We must be humble and submissive; then shall we know things not otherwise to be known. The work of Jesus is to give us something to know and make our own. The work of the Spirit is actually to make that something our own. The more hold that Divine truth has upon us, the plainer it is that we are growing in holiness, in separation from the world, and union with the Father through the Son.—Y.
The two apostleships.
The sense of apostleship must enter into all true Christian work. The Lord Jesus takes but the rank of an apostle—speaks to his Father as having made him an apostle into the world. He grows up to manhood, not as other lads in Nazareth, to choose an occupation and walk in life for himself, but to take a path divinely chosen. He both is sent and knows well who sent him. The highest good is only to be got out of the Lord Jesus by treating him according to his apostleship. Treating Jesus otherwise than as sent, we insult and slander him. He comes not with his own claim, but with the claim of the invisible Father.
I. THE APOSTLESHIP OF JESUS. "Thou didst send me into the world." That is the feeling of Jesus, and we must not dispute it. Not a discourse of Jesus, not a deed of Jesus, but has stamped across it, "Sent of the Father." Sent into the world:
1. For the world's need. None the less so because multitudes live and die, practically denying the need of Jesus. Everything depends on what is aimed at. A man may say reading and writing are not necessary because he has been able to carry bricks and mortar all his life without knowing how to read and write. But it is plain that Jesus Christ has become a necessity to many, for they have died rather than deny him. To say that we need him not only proves our own blindness and self-ignorance. God sends no causeless messengers. If human prophets, entirely of the lineage of humanity had been enough, Jesus would never have come.
2. For the glory of the Sender. He expressly says, "I have glorified thee on the earth." We are to judge of the Sender by the Messenger. Jesus was qualified to speak and act freely and largely, out of a heart that was in full harmony with the heart of God. He could adapt himself without the slightest hesitation or failure to the ever-varying wants of men. Many had come before him and walked and talked with men in the name of God, avowing that they were the mouthpieces of Jehovah, and beginning their addresses with, "Thus saith the Lord." But then the consciousness of an evil heart and an imperfect life was upon them all. Isaiah says, "Woe is me... I am a man of unclean lips!" But no one ever heard Jesus speak in this fashion. Those who have not yet beheld in Jesus the glory of the eternal God have yet to receive him in spirit and in truth.
II. THE CONSEQUENT APOSTLESHIP OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS. Jesus was going from the world, and had to send others into the world to continue his work. They must be such as the world can take knowledge of. And Jesus sent them into the world as he himself was sent, for the world's great need and the increase of the glory of God. Then in due season, their apostleship being over, they were gathered into the invisible. But Jesus went on sending, and has gone on sending ever since. "Missionary" is only a more modest word for "apostle." All of us must have some apostleship in us, or we can do little for Jesus. And all manifest and special apostles we should ever observe and encourage, holding up their hands, and considering their appeals with understanding minds and sympathizing hearts. He who receives the apostle receives Jesus, and he who receives Jesus receives the Father who sent him.—Y.
Prayer for persuaders and persuaded.
I. PRAYER FOR THE PERSUADERS Jesus says, "Neither pray I for these alone;" that means by implication his prayer for these. Jesus prays for those who will believe on him through the word of his servants; that means his prayer for those who will speak the word which produces the faith. Jesus had spoken to his servants in language of tenderness, energy, and strength, altogether unequalled. They had to go out on a great errand; they had a glorious message to take; they were being made ready to taste the sweetness of a great privilege.; and nothing was left undone that would stamp on their minds an indelible impression of all this. And in this verse the prayer of Jesus for these special servants of his comes to a transition stage. The service they had to render is indicated. They had to go out to speak to men in such a way as that listeners would be won to give themselves up entirely to the disposition of Jesus. Their word, coming from the depths of believing hearts, filled with spiritual energy, would produce like precious faith in others. They believed, therefore they spoke. They believed, therefore they could not help speaking. They believed, because they had found out their own need as sinning, sorrowing human beings; and therefore they felt sure that other sinning, sorrowing human beings would also believe when saving and comforting truth was placed in its beautiful fullness before their eyes. Jesus is quite sure about what will happen. All through the prayer one unbroken spirit of confidence prevails. Jesus prays for those whom he is quite sure will persuade men to believe on him.
II. PRAYER FOR THE PERSUADED. Jesus sends his desires into the future that he knows is coming. The beginning of that future was close at hand. Believers came by thousands. No doubt there was a something that made them so ready to hear. He who sent down the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, knew well that it would not be a barren day so far as the eliciting of human faith was concerned. The glory of Pentecost was not in the mighty rushing wind or the tongues of fire; it was rather in the multitude who believed, accepting the testimony of the apostles as to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And the apostles would then have to expound things more fully to these believers, attentive in the freshness of their new faith, and grateful for such a wondrous outlook into eternity. Then would they tell them how Jesus had already prayed for them, being sure of what would happen. He knew the believers were coming, and saw their coming from afar. Thus the prayer for Jesus needed its answer soon; and it has always needed an answer. There have always been believers to pray for, and always believers needing to be prayed for, and brought into all the giving and receiving that belongs to true unity. True unity is the mark of a loving, growing, joy-bringing Christianity. The discordant elements of the world make the curse of worldliness. Rivalries and antipathies fill the world. Over against this Jesus wants to see true unity—that which comes through the free play of the individual conscience and affections. The more we live as we ought to live, the more we stretch out, as it were, hooks and eyes by which we get connected with the world at large. The individual Christian feels the sufferings and losses of others as if they were his own. The whole world of men and women is a corporate unity. As long as there is suffering anywhere, there must be suffering everywhere.—Y.
A prayer for unity.
I. LOOK AT THIS PRAYER IN THE LIGHT OF PENTECOST. Within two months from the utterance of the prayer, the apostles, through their spokesman Peter, uttered forth their first great word concerning their glorified and ascended Master, and in that same day there was added to the apostles about three thousand souls. Thus within this short time the first company of them believing in Jesus through the word of his apostles made its appearance. Jesus was not turning a bare possibility into a certainty when he referred so confidently to those who would believe in him through the word of his servants. What faith he had in humanity! Some who have watched and, as they would say, studied mankind, speak of them as a physician might speak of some one very ill, when he says the sick person cannot possibly get better. Jesus, on the other hand, is the Physician, who, while he allows that things are indeed very bad, magnifying our natural misery and helplessness to the utmost, yet at the same time proclaims in trumpet-tones a real cure, though the only one. Three thousand were added to the apostles. They all became one company, not only in spirit, not only in ultimate aim and hope, but in the most literal meaning of the word. Thus at Pentecost there came an outward unity such as the world had never seen before.
II. LOOK AT THE DISCORDS AND BREACHES THAT SOON MADE THEIR APPEARANCE. The unity of Pentecost did not and could not last; it was but the outcome of a fervid, first love, and as time rolled on those who had been thus united lapsed into their old separation and contrariety. The old man, full grown and vigorous, is not to be dispossessed by the new creature in Christ Jesus without a serious struggle. Even in the first days a Meat deal happened that might almost make one think the disciples of Jesus set no store at all by their Master's prayers, and never troubled to recollect the desires on which he had set his heart. No proper means was taken to nourish and cherish the power of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of all the believers. Thus it is little wonder the widows had to complain that they were neglected in the daily ministrations. Little wonder, too, that Peter, the very leader on the Day of Pentecost, proved unfaithful to the principle of Christian unity. He either forgot or had never properly comprehended that in Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile; and so he wanted Gentiles to become Jews before he would allow them to be Christians.
III. WHAT WE INDIVIDUALLY MUST DO FOR UNITY. Jesus wants the world to believe that the Father has sent him—sent him out of another world where all is harmony, into a world where, apart from him, all is discord. And the world will only believe when it sees beautiful, lovable things done under its very eyes. We must each of us be a real unity, entirely in accord with Jesus our Master, even as he was in entire accord with his Father. As the Father was seen in Jesus, so the Christ should be seen in us. The spirit of the loving, laboring, life-giving Jesus should be worked into the very foundation of our nature; then that small part of the world which has to do with us may indeed believe that One has been sent from heaven to make men into a happy and united family.—Y.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 17". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent