Saturday, 03 March 2012 21:25

Jesus High Priestly Prayer [3]

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In John 17:6- 10 Jesus prays to His dear Father on the evening before His crucifixion saying the following: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.  Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.  For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.”

What I would point out to you on the basis of these verses is how amazing is Jesus’ prayer and care here for His people. Isn’t there reason for endless thanksgiving to this Saviour God as revealed in Christ Jesus, the once crucified and now risen and ever exalted Savior of sinners?

Yes, continuing with our study of Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in John 17, and looking at verses 6-10 especially, there is so much reason to live in endless awe and adoration before God Triune and ever to live, and seek to live, to His praise and honour. My prayer is that this melts all our hearts with the sheer and splendid goodness of God with the result that a life of glad obedience before Him is not only something we all would consider most right but most blessed and compelling too.

Consider with me, on the basis of our selected text, Jesus’ prayer and care for His sinful people trusting and following after Him, by God’s grace. Notice from the text how Jesus views His people and values His people and His vision for them. As we will see, the Lord views His people so dearly, and He values His people most highly, and His vision for all who trust and follow Him is endlessly glorious.

How does Jesus view His people? What does He think of all who trust in Him as Saviour and Lord? The answer is in His prayer in John 17, especially vs. 6-8. Just listen to what Jesus says about His disciples in His prayer. Notice that Jesus views all who trust and obey Him most graciously, and grandly, and gently.

That Christ views His followers graciously we find in what He says of His disciples here, “…they have kept thy word…they have known that all the things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee… they have received them and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou hast sent me.” Now I think you will have to agree that these are surely wonderful things that Jesus says about His disciples, especially also when you consider the character and condition of the eleven to whom these words in the first place applied. I mean, how weak really was the disciples’ faith! How faint and shallow their knowledge of God and of what Jesus the Saviour came to do. They understood it all so little yet at the time. And how weak were their hearts and how shortsighted their faith in the hour of danger too. A short while after Jesus prayed this prayer, all of them forsook Him and fled, and one of them [Peter], the most courageous even, denied His Saviour three times with cursing and an oath. With one commentator we may say: “Who in reading the gospels doesn’t fail to see that never had a great master such weak servants as Jesus had in the eleven disciples! Yet these very weak servants were men of whom the gracious Head of the Church speaks here [now] in high and honourable terms.” As another put it, “Christ tells all the good He can of His disciples, and covers their failings in representing them to His Father….This is the constant gracious way of our High Priest, Christ Jesus.”

Do you see with me from the text how Jesus views His disciples so graciously? Here let me just quote to you an application from J.C. Ryle that could not be better stated. “The lesson before [us] is full of comfort and instruction. It is evident that Jesus sees far more in His believing people than they see in themselves, or than others see in them. The least degree of faith is very precious in His sight! Wherever the gracious Saviour of sinners sees true faith in Himself, however feeble, He looks with compassion on many infirmities, and passes by many defects. It was even so with the eleven apostles. They were weak and unstable as water; but they believed and loved their Master when [so many others did not…and the Lord Jesus looked most favourably upon them, as these verses surely make plain].” So, Ryle goes on, “The true [child] of God should mark well [this] feature in Christ’s character which is here brought out, and rest his soul upon it. The best among us must often see in himself a vast amount of defects and infirmities, and must feel ashamed of his poor attainments in religion. But do we simply believe in Jesus? Do we cling to Him and roll our burdens on Him? Can we say with sincerity and truth, as Peter said afterwards, ‘Lord, thou knowest that I love thee’? Then let us take comfort in the words of Christ before us, and not give way to despondency. The Lord Jesus did not despise the eleven because of their feebleness, but bore with them, and saved them to the end, because they believed. And He never changes. What He did for them, He will do for us.”

Don’t these words make you say too, how precious is the Saviour and His gospel of salvation for people like us? What reasons to love and adore the Lord Jesus! Yes, not only considering how He views His own most graciously, but also next, most grandly too. In Jesus’ prayer, the Saviour makes some powerful statements about all His people, particularly also from God’s perspective. God’s people, Jesus tells us, are those whom the Father has given to the Son, and to Whom the Son has manifested or made known God’s Name, and who by the Holy Spirit also have kept and do keep God’s blessed Word. Here Jesus makes so clear whoever believes on Him, it is because of God’s electing and drawing love, and the Saviour’s revelation and accomplishment of the gospel, and the Spirit’s application of that gospel in the heart. The blessed result of the effectual saving work of God Triune is that then always the gospel message is by God’s grace understood as the one only hope of salvation and so received and believed and loved and kept and obeyed. The point here that we need to realize about all God’s true people is that they are viewed not only graciously by God but grandly too, as really and truly God’s workmanship from beginning to end. When anyone is saved, we have to say it is on account of the Lord’s sovereign grace and mercy, and to Him be all the praise and glory!

Here we should ask what could be greater than to be the object and recipient of the Triune God’s saving work? Who are we, anyone from among us, that is worthy of such loving and caring attention as God shows to guilty depraved sinners in and through Christ Jesus? All God’s people will confess, it is sheer grace on God’s part that He should think on me, a sinner and rebel by nature. But praise be to God for His own Name’s sake, He even reaches out to sinners like myself and yourself, dear friends. This is a faithful saying and worthy of acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” writes the apostle Paul in II Timothy 1:15. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saves a wretch like me! What reasons to be so thankful that God Triune reaches out to sinners like you and me still today, even as He did with His disciples long ago now.

Does someone say, ‘But exactly here is where I have so much struggle in and with the Christian faith. For what if I don’t happen to be one of those favoured ones whom the Father has given to the Son? Maybe I’m not one of those given by the Father to the Son, and Whom the Son reveals the Father’s Name to, and in whom the Spirit effectually works, leading to faith and repentance? What hope is there then for me? And how do I know I’m not just deceiving myself even thinking there might be hope also for me’? The best way to answer these questions is to say to you that your and my responsibility is not for us to find out our place in God’s decrees. God doesn’t call us to pry into His secret eternal decree of election. No, but our calling is to realize and confess who we are as sinners before the LORD and to hear the gospel of salvation and to trust and obey even as Christ is freely offered to all sinners as the one and only Saviour for sinners! God’s sovereignty in salvation and our responsibility in salvation are so beautifully and simply joined together by Christ Himself in John 6:37 when He says: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” We read in Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

The gospel message is not Christ Jesus came into this world to save the elect but He came to save sinners. God in Christ Jesus is out to save poor and needy, lost and hopeless, guilty and vile, hell-deserving sinners. Do you know you need Him? Then call upon Him and you will not be put to shame! Even so, Hallelujah, all those given by the Father to the Son will be saved, not one will be lost! To anyone and everyone who worries and wonders whether you may be one of those whom the Father has given to the Son to save, bring that concern to the Saviour and if your prayer to Him and care before Him is, “Lord, don’t let me be one of those passed by of You but let me too be one of those given by You to the Son, and saved by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit for I know nothing is more needed and nothing could be more wonderful. Even so, I pray now, for Your own Name’s sake, oh gracious Saviour God, have mercy also upon me, a sinner”. Dear friends, in the name of the Lord, on the basis of His gospel word, I may say to you, so coming to God and calling upon Him, you will not be put to shame!

Here think with me further on God’s view of His people as this comes out in these verses in John 17. Verses 6-8 show Jesus views His people so graciously and so grandly, and notice, so gently too. What I mean here is, we need to remember our Scripture passage is a prayer of Jesus for His people, a prayer even in the night before His crucifixion. Jesus knew His disciples at this time were afraid and anxious about the future. They were troubled and confused about what was all going on, and in and with this prayer spoken purposely out loud in the hearing of His disciples, Jesus would, as it were, spread His wings of love and care over His disciples. In this prayer Jesus makes known He won’t leave His people comfortless, and they would be really and eternally secure in and through Him. Indeed, even when Jesus would leave from them, and be, as He puts it in vs. 11, “no more in the world”, after His death and resurrection ascending back into heaven again. What a blessing to be prayed for and interceded for by none other than the Saviour Himself! The fact that Jesus would be so moved to pray for His disciples shows very much His compassion and gentle love for them.

I say then, what can compare to this, to be viewed by the Saviour God, Christ Jesus, so graciously and grandly and gently as our text presents. Doesn’t this passage give you abundant reasons to desire to be a child of God above all and reasons for such rejoicing when by grace being a child of God, hearing these things of Christ the Saviour? Shouldn’t every true child of God be endlessly thankful to God Triune for so great a Saviour and so blessed salvation as found in Christ Jesus, trusting and following Him as only Saviour and Lord? Is this your Christian testimony today too, dear friends? Isn’t this matter the all-important matter in each of our lives, seeing things rightly and in light also of eternity?

Yes, considering also our next main point now, for Jesus’ prayer tells not only of how He views His people but secondly, how the Saviour values His people too. Especially in vs. 9-10 we learn Jesus values His people in at least the following threefold way. For one, Jesus values His people distinctly, that is, as He does not do with those who are not His people. You see Jesus says it outright in vs. 9 when He says about His people, “I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me.” This is not to be interpreted as if Jesus doesn’t care for the whole world for many other texts teach that He does, and even this chapter proves that He does, as we shall see in a moment. But the point is, the Lord Jesus cares above all and in a very special way for all His people, for as many as hear His voice and follow after Him. Christ is the Good Shepherd Who cares for His sheep, His people, with very tender and faithful love and keeping. God’s people are Christ’s special attention and focus and care just as a husband will pay special attention and focus and care for his wife. God’s people are the bride of Christ, the apple of His eye, the adopted family of God with and in and for whom He gives Himself and spends Himself without end, and that in reference to all our needs for body and soul in life and death, for time and eternity.

In John 14:22-23 we are told one of Jesus’ disciples asks Him, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest [show] thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

The Lord loves His own distinctly. “I pray for them [my disciples]: I pray not for the world…” That the Lord values His people distinctly is known also in the fact that whoever does not belong to Christ by grace through faith and is still of this world, all such continue alienated from God. That is, not joined to Christ in faith means you are and remain still under God’s just wrath and displeasure and condemnation because of your sins and sinfulness. How dreadful not to be valued by God distinctly in His love and mercy through Christ Jesus. Is this true of you still, dear friend, that you are not saved, being not born again and joined to Christ by a true and living faith? Oh, if this is true of you then also with this message the gospel invitation is yet proclaimed to you. Flee from the wrath to come and be reconciled to God in and through Christ Jesus while He still stands ready to receive and pardon even the most wicked sinner who comes to Him for mercy and salvation. Contrary to the message so often heard in this world that really God loves everyone equally and He would never send anyone to hell, the gospel truth is that God loves and cares for His people who by His grace come to Him in and through Christ Jesus, the Saviour of sinners. But those who do not come to Him, who despise and reject Him, need to hear and know that they are and remain under the just and eternal wrath of God! God still calls sinners, whoever you are, to come to Him to be saved and be also among those whom He loves and values distinctly. In the day of days it will be made most clear how Jesus values His people distinctly when the unbelieving and unconverted are judged and condemned to eternal hell, and God’s people are cleared of all their sin and guilt and invited into heaven and eternal glory in the renewed universe of God.

What reasons to hear and respond to the gospel message considering not only how Jesus values His people distinctly but how He values them most dearly too. Here let me just say, notice how Jesus says that what is His is His Father’s too, and what is His Father’s is His too. All mine are thine and thine are mine.” In John 15:9 Jesus says to His disciples, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” How dearly Christ values His people, yes, even as dearly as the Father values His only beloved Son! I know this sounds like all too much to take in but it is meant exactly to overwhelm you and me in so much awe and adoration for God our Saviour that without question we gladly and continually seek Him in faith. And that we follow Him in thankful praise to Him in all our life with whomever and whatever and wherever too.

There is one more thing yet to say about how Jesus values His people. He values us, as many as believe, with so much devotion too. I say that thinking again about the context of this prayer and how Jesus was standing resolved to suffer even death for His own, and truly to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus would shed His blood to save His people from their sins, yes, even for as many as will call upon Him. The Saviour would stop at nothing in His devotion and dedication for His own and their complete and eternal salvation. Jesus prays to the Father concerning His people in vs. 10, “All mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” With those words Jesus is saying that He as Saviour will ever be there for His people, and His pledge is that not only initially, but increasingly, and one day totally, He will be glorified in us and through us in a perfect and eternal way! Yes, so devoted is Jesus Christ about this that He won’t rest till one day, as Jude tells us, the Saviour presents His people faultless before the presence of [God’s] glory with exceeding joy. No wonder Jude, right after saying that, concludes his letter with this doxology of praise: “To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, and dominion and power, both now and forever.”

We are considering something of God’s amazing love and care for His people as expressed in Jesus’ high-priestly prayer of John 17, especially vs. 6-10. These verses teach us how Jesus as Saviour God views His people so graciously, and grandly, and gently. These verses show too, as we saw, how God Triune in Christ Jesus values them so distinctly, dearly, and devotedly. And I am not done yet for I would speak also still about the Saviour’s vision for His people. Notice yet, just briefly, the Lord’s vision for His own as brought out in this prayer of John 17. In the verses following it comes out that Jesus prays and aims for His people to be forever kept in grace, and to be truly joyful and really united in love, to grow in knowledge of the truth, and to increase in holiness. The Saviour’s vision then is the very best of all for all those who trust and follow Him. Notice too, how the Saviour will give each of His people a calling and purpose in this life. He has a mission for all His people to be a light in this dark world of sin and to make a difference for God and good, in whatever place and position we might be.

Here we learn of Jesus’ care for this whole world for He prays in vs. 18 to the Father about His people: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” And in vs. 23 Jesus prays that His people may so live together in love and truth and unity “that the world may know” about the blessed gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Further, we know Christ’s vision for His people is not only for a quality and fruitful and purposeful life here on earth but His vision extends to heaven where He is out to give His redeemed glories inexpressible, and pleasures forevermore, all to the endless praise of God Triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

We read in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Sinful lost mankind has no real and lasting vision, and they perish in sin and misery, in spite of their visionary dreams and schemes and vanity fairs. But Jesus the Saviour, Who views His people with so much love and values His own more than words can tell, what vision also He has for each and all of His children. The foundation of this full gospel is, of course, that finished perfect salvation of Christ the Saviour on sinners’ behalf, a work Jesus was still accomplishing even as He prayed this prayer of John 17.

The praying high priest, Jesus Christ, once crucified but then risen and now exalted at God’s hand in glory, and soon to return for the last Judgment day and the beginning of the eternal kingdom. Are you hearing His voice, yes, His prayer, and trusting and following Him, seeking and serving Him? For sure that is the only way of wisdom. To live otherwise is only always absolute foolishness. Thus says the Lord, and it all makes so much sense. Are you listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only true gospel message for sinners in the whole world, in all times? Considering how God Triune in and through Christ views His people so dearly, values His people so highly, and has a vision for them so glorious and unendingly splendid, who won’t be drawn to this only Savior, Jesus Christ? And shouldn’t we all be living in a way that we sincerely and earnestly point others to Him while He yet offers pardon and peace to all who come to Him? Oh, blessed be His Name, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners! Amen.

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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