|Reflection on John 17|
|送交者: Karen 2017年03月20日07:30:35 于 [美国移民] 发送悄悄话|
John 17 is sometimes called Jesus' High Priestly prayer. When the high priest entered the temple to pray for the people of Israel in Old Testament time, he wore an ephod which was a vest engraved with the names of all the tribes of Israel. The high priest was a picture, but our Lord Jesus Christ is the reality. In this chapter, Jesus prayed, is praying, and will continue to pray for all who believe in Him. He carries on His heart all He calls His own. He has engraved all names of His beloved ones on His heart. There are three prayers in this chapter.
First, Jesus prayed for Himself to be glorified by His Father. In front of His disciples, He looked toward heaven and prayed, "Father, the time has come, Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you." Jesus requested that He be glorified in order to bring further glory to His Father. His petition was not to receive glory independently from the Father, but to be glorified to exalt the Father. On the contrary, Satan wanted to receive glory independently of God, and he wanted everyone, including Jesus, to do the same. Jesus refused to yield to Satan's will and expected all His believers to refuse the evil desire.
Jesus continued to say that His Father "granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those" the Father had given him. Jesus came to live on earth to show us how a fully human could obey God fully as He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not merely He showed us a perfect life; He came to give us an entirely new life, eternal life, by the authority from His Father and at the price of His own cross. Then Jesus explained what "eternal life" meant. He said, "this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Eternal life is a relationship with God and His Son. Eternal life is a gift from God when believers believe in His Son by faith cultivated by Holy Spirit. To know God, the Creator of life, is to have life with Him always.
Jesus kept asking His Father, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." The prayer of Jesus revealed that He had already glorified His Father by His earthly life and ministry. But then the hour of His death on the cross had come. He prayed that He could glorify His Father in His death by being glorified by His Father. The glory which Jesus requested rightfully belonged to Him in presence of His Father even "before the world began". From before creation, God the Son possessed the unmatched glory of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. At the Incarnation, He voluntarily and temporarily set aside His glory as God. He placed in His Father's hands all the rights of His divine attributes and became the truly Man of Nazareth. And He depended on His Father and the Spirit to unveil every bit of divinity in Him when He performed miracles on earth. When the work of the cross was about to be completed, the glory which was temporarily laid aside by Him was to be given back to Him. This was also part of His request in His prayer.
Second, Jesus quickly turned to the needs of His disciples. He prayed specifically for His eleven disciples. Jesus said to His Father, "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me." As a person treasures the gift a loved one gives, Jesus highly valued the disciples as His Father's gift to Him. He fully revealed His Father's character to the disciples and gave them God's words. When we noted how positively the faith of the disciples was stated, considering they would "be scattered" and would leave Jesus all alone in less than a day, I believe the perspective of the Savior's statement was from the other side of the cross. Jesus assumed the impact of His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, and the impact of the coming of the Holy Spirit, on His disciples. The impact would be that they knew Jesus came from God and God had sent Jesus to them personally, so they trusted Jesus without a shadow of doubt.
Jesus continued to pray to His Father, concerning His disciples, "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them." The Savior does intercede for those who do not yet believe in Him in many other occasions, but here the Lord's focus was on His own loved ones. God drew the disciples' hearts toward Jesus. They responded and came to Him. They had done no great works, except that they believed Jesus was all He claimed He was. Their faith brought Jesus glory. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples would be fully assured concerning all Jesus said and did. Then the Holy Spirit would enable them to do great work, to testify Jesus to the whole world in the New Testament to draw a great number of people to believe in Jesus in order to glory Him.
Jesus had experienced the world's hate, rejection and powerful temptations. He overcame all. Now He would soon return to heaven to be with Father. But His disciples would remain in the world, still caught in the struggle for the cause of spreading the gospel. Jesus wouldn't leave them in the world without protection. As the disciples listened carefully, Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples' safety. He asked, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one." Jesus used the word "Holy" to address His Father, to ask His Father to keep His disciples to be holy, to be separated from the world to be His own. To be kept holy is their ultimate safety. Their holiness gifted from God made their unity possible. The disciples were admitted to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit's intimate fellowship of oneness. Today, we are admitted too as we gratefully accept the truth of Jesus Christ by faith. This fact seems too great to be understood. But God's name assures us of His love and our value to Him. God's name speaks of the sum of His attributes which revealed by Jesus' life and the Scripture. God's name is powerful to shield us.
Then Jesus reminded His disciples that He "protected them and kept them safe" while He was with them. None had "been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled." Judas was "the one doomed". Our Lord and Savior didn't fail to keep him. He was never saved to be kept. He was not lost out of the keeping hand of the Savior. He chose to die in his sin. His destruction was a fulfillment of the Scripture as well as of his character. He got what his heart desired.
Jesus' keeping of His disciples in His hand involved giving them joy in the midst of the world's hatred and opposition. Jesus talked to His Father, "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." Can you and I feel their joy when the disciples heard their Master chatted with the Father about how to give them "full measure" of His joy? It is the joy of God's presence. The full measure of His joy is Jesus' desire for all who belong to Him to be with Him forever. His joy resides in the hearts that Jesus fills. Not like the happiness of man, it happens, but it comes and goes. The world which never tasted the "full measure" of Jesus' joy hated the disciples. Jesus said to His Father, "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." Christian unity is rooted in Jesus who is the Word. The world's hatred toward Christians is also rooted in Jesus because the world rejects basic truth about Jesus. The world allies with Satan when it responds with hatred toward Jesus and His disciples when Jesus gives the disciples God's Word.
But Jesus didn't ask His Father to take His disciples out of the world. He left them there as the light of the world. He said to His Father, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." There is a great difference between being "in the world" and being "of the world". Jesus left His disciples "in the world" to be the holy ones so they would not be "of the world". The disciples were protected by God from Satan's fatal temptation. God kept the disciples' faith in Jesus Christ until the end. Then Jesus asked His Father to sanctify His disciples "by truth" which is God's word. God's word is the truth that measures all others. God's word is the power which accomplishes God's will to set the disciples apart from sin and for Himself to be His holy ones. There is no better illustration than that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord was untouched by man's sin in the sanctity of heaven before His Incarnation. He entered the sinful world in order to remove the blemish of sin from men. But He stayed untouched by man's sin since He never yielded to temptation to sin. So the Lord remained holy and sanctified all the time, and set Himself apart to deliver God's truth to those God gave Him. He redeemed them so His truth would set them apart or sanctify them to deliver the same truth to others. As Jesus said, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."
Third, Jesus prays for all believers. His petition for all believers primarily concerns Christian unity. He said, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one", Jesus prayed for all believers' unity after He had prayed for His eleven disciples. He emphasized, "Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and ly loved them even as you have loved me." Spiritual unity is not uniformity. It is organic. The believers could be radically different in temperament, personality and other areas. It was because of their glaring difference that their unity in the oneness of God and Jesus was so evident. Unity is best demonstrated in diversity; uniformity is threatened by diversity. Isn't it wonderful to know that believers like us are one in heart and spirit with John and his friends? Isn't it amazing that all believers speak the same language of heart regardless of the level of their education? Believers are united to Christ and bound by eternal cords to one another. The full expression of this oneness among believers cuts across time and space. The "complete unity" will cause people of the world to know that "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
The Son loves the believers the same as His Father does. He prayed for reunion with all believers. He would soon be led away to His trial and crucifixion. After His ascension He would not physically be with His believers for a long time, until they are reunited with Him. It was for this reunion that our Lord and Savior prayed, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." The echo of this prayer which has been in all believers' hearts will last until the Lord's second coming. The Lord's great desire is for His own to be with Him in glory in heaven to see fully the glory of His Father and to share the love between the Father and the Son.
Finally, Jesus prayed He might continue to minister to His own, even in His physical absence because He knew the Holy Spirit would do the job for Him. He said, "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that myself may be in them." The world does not and cannot know God except through the Son. And the Son who knew the Father intimately had done His work of revealing the Father. The disciples had come to know God through Jesus' life and ministry. Jesus desired to continue to reveal Himself in them and to abide in them. It is a great and comforting prayer which our Lord allowed His disciples to overhear in their hour of anxiety and distress. It is amazing grace that the Holy Spirit has instructed John to pen it down in Bible for us as well. The awareness of God's love for us and His deep joy to include us in His holy oneness through the Holy Spirit is the answer to Jesus' prayer for us.