“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. John 17:6-8
We have called this a battle prayer because of the urgency and intensity of the requests. First, Jesus prays that the Father would enable him to complete the mission he had been given. To finish, he would have to go through intense pain and suffering unlike any other man has ever endured. Like their Master, his disciples will face the same kind of troubles, so they will need the strength of the Father too. In verse 6, Jesus moves from praying for himself to interceding for his disciples.
I have divided the passage into three movements: 1] The Son’s mission; 2] the Father’s decision; 3] and, the disciples’ volition. What Jesus prayed then has direct application to our lives now. Listen to him.
1] The Son’s Mission: Jesus came to make manifest the glory of the Father. The power and glory of God can be seen through his creation [Psalm 19:1-7; Romans 1:18], but his essence and character can only be seen in Jesus Christ. “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” [John 1:18] By his words and by his works, Jesus revealed the character of God. Everything he said and everything he did was directly linked to the will of the Father. In answering Phillip’s request to show him the Father, Jesus responded, “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” [John 14:9-10] When you look at Jesus, you see the Father. [John 14:9]
Because we are two thousand years away from the time Jesus walked the earth, we cannot see God in the same way as the disciples did. But, as strange as it may seem, we are not at a disadvantage. God has chosen to powerfully reveal himself through the Scriptures. Through His Word and by His Spirit, God speaks in such a way that we can know Jesus more certainly now than the disciples could while walking with him on the dusty roads of Palestine. Let me give you a couple of passages that make this clear.
First, although Jesus will return to the Father, he will not be without a witness. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. [John 14:25-26] Second, Christ declared that his departure would allow his disciples to know God in a unique and personal way. “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” [John 14:21]
Third, the most convincing evidence comes from the witness of Peter. In 1 Peter, he described an awesome experience when he was privileged to see the glory of God and hear the voice of God at the Mount of Transfiguration. But, as awesome as that experience was, Peter goes on to say, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain.” [2 Peter 1:19] What could be more certain than seeing the transfigured Christ and hearing the voice of God coming from the heavens? Here is Peter’s answer: “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” [2 Peter 1:20-21] Incredible as it may sound, when we pick up the Scriptures and read, the Holy Spirit enables us to see and know God in such a personal and powerful way that we are more certain of the reality of God in our lives than the disciples were on that mountaintop. That is an incredible truth! Meditate on that.
2] The Father’s Decision: Jesus reveals a Father who is in total control, working all things for His glory. It is the Father who sends the Son. It is the Father who gives Jesus the words to say. It is the Father who works in Jesus the deeds he performs. The Father and the Son work in perfect harmony to bring about what has been determined in eternity past. But, Jesus says there is one more crucial thing that the Father has done. He has chosen the very ones that would place their faith in Jesus Christ. I know this is a troubling thought for many, but I don’t know how else you can read this passage.
“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.” Before they believed they were in some sense the Father’s possession. Some would say this refers to all men who were created. We are all owned by God. But, not “all” are given to Jesus and not “all” obey the Father’s word. Only those who the Father “gave” to Jesus “accepted” the words of Jesus and know with “certainty” Jesus came from the Father. I must conclude that the ones who respond in belief and obedience are the ones the Father owned and chose before the creation. [Ephesians 1:4-5]
Some would cry, “Foul! That sounds like determinism.” That is not what I am advocating, nor is it what the Scriptures teach. However you work it out and whatever system you choose, the Bible is clear that in some sense God elects and predestines some and enables them to believe the gospel. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” [John 6:44] We are first owned [“they were yours”] by the Father and in this sense he then “gave” them to Jesus as fruits of his mission. What is the point? Salvation from beginning to end is attributed to the work of God, so that we receive the grace and he receives all of the glory. [Ephesians 1:6, 11, 14]
3] The disciples Volition: This passage reveals that although the Father first owned the disciples and then “gave” them, they were not passive robots in the process. Jesus says that the disciples “obeyed your word”; “accepted” the words; “knew with certainty”; and “believed.” Clearly, these men were fully engaged in the process. They were hearing, thinking, reasoning, deciding and in the end choosing to believe and obey what they had seen and heard in Jesus. How God chooses us and how we still choose Him remains an awesome mystery, but, it is a mystery that is taught clearly in the Scriptures.
There are many things that remain a mystery to the people of faith. But, thank God what we know with certainty is so awesome and glorious, that we can live with joy and hope no matter what life throws at us. The Father is still in control. Jesus still speaks. And, we still believe and obey by his grace, for the glory of God and the eternal delight of our soul.
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