Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 19, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 17. As I stated last week, we will be in chapter 17 for a total of three weeks. Each week we will read the chapter in its entirety, for the entire chapter is one single prayer by our Lord.
In addition, I also want to remind you that it is good to publicly read God’s Word, even extended passages. In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul encourages Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” This is what we do every week, some weeks, such as today, there are longer passages than others.
The public reading of God’s Word was not only for New Testament believers, it was also for Old Testament believers. In Nehemiah 8, after a remnant of God's people returned to Jerusalem after captivity it says this in verse 1, “And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. 2So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”
Therefore, today’s reading may be long, but it will not take 4-6 hours like it did in the day of Nehemiah and Ezra. So with that said, let us turn our attention to John 17 and here the Word of our Lord.
Three Part Prayer
As I stated last week, chapter 17 is commonly referred to as the High Priestly Prayer, and it is the greatest prayer of the Bible, for it is a prayer between God the Son and God the Father. It is a window into the Trinity. It is a window in how Jesus viewed the purpose of his life, death, and resurrection.
The overarching them of the High Priestly prayer is the Glory of God. This is the heart of Jesus' prayer. It is Jesus' desire that he would be glorified and that His Father would also be glorified. As we unpacked last week the components of the glory of God are found in verse 2 when Jesus says, “since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” The operative word in that verse is given. It is used three times. The Father and the Son are givers, and through this giving they are glorified. As we stated last week, ground zero of this giving is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this is the hour that Jesus has come to, the hour of his death.
When studying the Bible, it is helpful to look for structure. The prayer of Jesus, has a very apparent and simple structure. It consists of three parts: 1) A prayer for himself, 2) A prayer for the disciples, and 3) a prayer for all believers. Today we are going to focus on Jesus second part of his prayer, his prayer for his disciples.
Manifested Your Name
To begin, let us take a look at verse 6, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” As we stated last week, this is how Jesus see his disciples. They are the ones that the Father gave him. He says this in verse 2, twice in verse 6, verse 9, verse 11, verse 12. In the eyes of Jesus, those who follow him are the ones that the Father gave him.
But practically speaking how does this work? How did the disciples get from the Father to the Son? As Jesus says in verse 6, these disciples were given to Jesus out of the world. As we discussed several weeks ago “the world” is a description of rebelliousness. The disciples were just like everyone else, the were worldly, they were walking in the passions of their flesh, pursuing their own desires, living life their way. They were enslaved to sin. So how did they get to Jesus?
It occurred by Jesus manifesting the name of God to them. What does this mean, to manifest God's name? A name is the total summation of an object. My name is Phil. The word Phil, when referring to me, is the summation of all that I am. 5'11, 185 lbs, brown hair, blue eyes, 38 years old, married, four kids, etc., etc. Likewise, the name of God is the summation of all that He is, all of His attributes. Jesus has manifested all that God is to his disciples. How? Verse 4 says, “I have glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” then in verse 8, “I have given them the words that you gave me.”
What does this look like? It looks like the Gospel of John in which we just read. The Gospel of John is the narration of Jesus' earthly ministry, both his works and his words. Likewise, so is Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The gospels are a record of the works and words of Jesus Christ. These works include turning water into wine, healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding thousands and thousands, calming storms with a command, walking on water, raising people from the dead. The list could go on an on.
His words include, the sermon on the mount, the eight “I Am” statements, his teachings in the synagogues, his teachings in the temple, the upper room discourse. Once again the list could go on and on. Every time he taught the crowd was amazed by his authority and were amazed by his wisdom.
When Jesus was doing the works of God and speaking the words of God, he was displaying the name of God. Jesus, though in the flesh of man, was Emmanuel, God with us. This is why we saw previously in John 14 when Philip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father.” Jesus responded in verse 9, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
The way that the disciples go from being in the world to disciples is by seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus has manifested the Father to them, and now they know, not perfectly, but they know that Jesus is from the Father. And this is why in verse 3 it says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
How many of you have found yourself at a loss for how to evangelize a close friend, a family member, or coworker...someone who you see regularly, perhaps daily? Perhaps you have shared the 5 minute Gospel with them, but they still have not turned to submit to Christ.
The way that they will be removed from the world and into union with Christ is to manifest God to them through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How do you do this? Read one of the Gospels with them, any one of them. They are all good. Sit down with them week after week and just read the story. When you do this you are manifesting the name of God to them through the life of Christ and attempting to call them out of the world and into fellowship with Jesus.
Consecration for Sanctification
Turn your attention to verse 11, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” First, what Jesus means by “they are in the world” is that they will still live amongst unsaved people here on earth. His disciples will be in the world, but not of the world. You can see this in verse 16, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
As we, Jesus states once again, that he is coming to be with his Father. However, Jesus calls his father, “Holy Father.” This is the only place in the entire Bible that these two words are used together. What is interesting is that the holiness of God is the reason that Jesus had to come to earth in the first place, for a Holy God cannot dwell with sinful man. Before anyone can dwell in the courts of the Lord, something has to be done with our sin problem. We are tainted, we are filthy rags, and God and sinful mad cannot be one.
Therefore, Jesus is sent by the Father to not only manifest the name of God to the world, but to deal with the sin problem of those whom God has given him. The way that Jesus will do this is the cross. As we stated last week, this is the hour that Jesus is upon. The way Jesus describes this event in the High Priestly prayer is found in verse 19, “And for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be sanctified in the truth.” When Jesus speaks of consecrating himself for the disciples he is saying that he is setting himself apart unto death so that they can also be set apart.
The idea of consecrating something unto death should remind us of the Old Testament. For example, if you recall, this prayer was being spoken during the Passover celebration, which was the remembrance of the setting apart a lamb, killing it, and spreading the blood of that lamb upon the doorposts of the homes of God's chosen people, the Jews. Upon seeing the blood of the lamb, the Angel of Death would Passover God's people and not kill the death of the first born child. It was this event, of the killing of the first born in Egypt and the consecration of the passover lamb that delivered God's chosen people out of captivity and into a union with God.
Jesus, as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world was about to consecrate himself upon the cross, setting himself apart unto death, so as to deliver his disciples out of the hands of Satan and into a union with Him. Jesus was about to die for his people, so that they would be Holy as their Father in heaven was Holy.
Therefore, not only is Jesus the manifestation of God to man, but he is also the representation of man to God. Jesus is the complete mediator between a Holy God and his people. And this is why Jesus has come, to fill the gap. This is why the Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” There is one and only one mediator, Jesus. Why? Because only Jesus can display God to man, and because only Jesus can be man to God.
The Catholic Church calls Mary the mediatrix, I will not sugarcoat it, this is 100% blaspheme. The Catholic Church is committing blaspheme at the highest level when they falsely teach that Mary is a mediator, for Mary is not a mediatrix, she is a wretched sinner in need of salvation through Christ. Jesus is the only mediator. If you believe that it is Mary who stands in the gap between you and God, then upon death you will be sent to Hell, for you have not read and accepted the clear words of Scripture, specifically the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
High Priestly Duties
Another way to describe Jesus as a mediator is to see him as our High Priest. As I stated last week, the High Priest in Israel was the person in the Old Testament that was designated to intercede on behalf of the Nation of Israel. The High Priest in a temporary and symbolic sense stood in the gap between the Holy Father and his unholy people. And as I stated last week, Jesus is the Great and final High Priest. After Jesus, there were no more legitimate High Priests, for all the work was done through his life, death, and resurrection.
And in this prayer we can see Jesus displaying his role as the Great High priest, not only in his death for the people, but also his petition on their behalf. Once again look at verse 11, “Holy Father, keep them in your name.” Jesus is interceding on behalf of those whom God has given him. He is praying that God would keep them in His name.
In fact in verse 9 Jesus specifically says, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” Just as the High Priests of Israel were not interceding for the nations surrounding Israel, Jesus was not interceding for the people of the world. His role was to stand in the gap between the Holy Father and the people that the Father gave him.
Now, let us ponder something. If Jesus is the Great High Priest and if Jesus is the Son of God in whom the Father is pleased, when Jesus prays to the Father to keep the disciples, do you think God will do it? Will the Father answer the prayer of His Son, or will he reject him? I think we all know this answer. If Jesus asks for his followers to be kept, they will be kept. Why? Because the Son and the Father are one, and God cannot deny himself.
Those in whom God has given to the Son, those whom have seen and heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, those who know God and who have received eternal life, those whom Christ consecrated himself for, those who Christ intercedes for WILL BE KEPT. And the one who does the keeping is God himself. This is the doctrine that we call Perseverance of the Saints, or how RC Sproul would rather it be called, the Preservation of the Saints. Those who are given by the Father to the Son will be kept. Why? Because Christ, our Great High Priest, intercedes upon our behalf that God by his grace would keep us.
So how does God answer this prayer of Jesus, the Great High Priest? We could go to other passages to answer this question, but we don't need to. Look at verse 17, “Sanctify them in your truth, your word is truth.” This is the capstone of Jesus' prayer for his disciples, for the way in which God keeps us in his name, is by the Word of God. This is how we persevere, by reading the Bible. It is through the Word of God that we are reminded who we are, who God is, and what Christ has done. God gave his word to his people, it is the Covenant document that facilitates our relationship with our Maker.
Do you recall how we began today? We began by reading Nehemiah 8, when Ezra the priest stood before the people of God and for hours and hours read the Word of God. Why? Because it was the word of God that would keep them one with God and one with each other. Nothing has changed. It has always been the Word of God that keeps God's people.
There are people who say, I don't have to read the Bible to be saved, and that is true, but not entirely. If you do not have a desire to read the Bible, then I would be concerned that God is not keeping you by sanctifying you. And if God is not keeping you, then Christ is not interceding for you. And if Christ is not interceding for you then he has not consecrated himself for you. And if Christ has not consecrated himself for you, then you are still in the world and you are destined for destruction.
So reading the Bible is not about checking something off a list, it is rooted in John 17, for your delighting in God's word is the Holy Father answering the prayer of his Son.