John 17 - Part 1
H. M. Linton
The seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel is one of the sublimest passages of Holy Writ. It might be reverently termed “The Holy of Holies of Scripture” and in it we can ponder that intimate relationship which exists between the Father and the Son, and learn many lessons with inestimable spiritual blessing to our souls. In this paper we shall meditate on those declarations of the Lord to His Father concerning what He had done.
The Lord and His Father
A quick glance through the prayer will show us the manner in which He addresses His Father. What lessons we might learn from this of the way to address God in prayer - “Father”, vv. 5, 21, 24, “Holy Father”, v. 11, “righteous Father”, v. 25. A careful examination of the context of these verses will reveal to us that the form of address and the subject of the context are associated. How we need to learn the great lesson of approach! True the title “Father” implies family relationship but whilst in infancy we delight in the simplicity of the relationship, as we grow older the title “Father” leads us to think of sonship and so simplicity gives place to true values and the corresponding responsibilities.
In verse 4 we read “I have glorified thee on the earth”. Many are familiar with the practice in business of representatives “reporting back” on their own activities in the firm’s affairs. Here, if we might reverently use the term, the Lord is “reporting back” to His Father on what He has done. This prayer is at a specific point in His earthly pathway. In so many ways His life and actions had been leading to a particular culmination. Previously He could say “mine hour is not yet come , but here He says “Father, the hour is come”. Then He states “I have glorified thee on the earth”. None before had been able to make such a statement. “Glorify” means “the revelation and manifestation of all God has and is” (Vine’s New Testament Words). Man’s fall brought the indictment “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, Rom. 3. 23 . The message of the angels at Bethlehem was “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace”, Luke 2. 14, since such peace on earth results when God is given His right place. How the falling of the dew illustrates this. There are two essentials for dew to form. Firstly, there must be no cloud, and secondly, there must be an absence of wind. In other words, there must be harmony between heaven and earth, with no disturbing influence. In John 1. 51 the Lord said to Nathaniel, “hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”. At last there was a man on the earth who had glorified God, and as the fragrance of that blessed One ascended to God., so there descended the graces of God to us.
Again in verse 4 we read “I have finished the work which thou gavest. me to do”. Note the obedience suggested in the words “which thou gavest me to do”. Weymouth’s rendering here is interesting “having done perfectly the work”. Here we have not simply a case of finishing a task, but the achievement of bringing to an end in the sense of completing or perfecting. Truly He is not only “the author and finisher of our faith”, Heb. 12.2, but the completer of the work given to Him by His Father.
In verse 6 we read “I have manifested thy name”. All that a name implies, identity, authority, personality, character, rank, majesty, power, excellence is involved in this. “I have revealed your very self, your real self”, the Amplified New Testament translates it. This far exceeds simply the declaration of a person, but includes the exhibiting of all the attributes of the Father. The Lord’s resurrection message to His disciples through Mary was “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God”, John 20. 17. The ability to manifest the Father involves Godhead expressed in tangible terms, 1 John 1. 1-2, None but the Son knows the Father and He alone could reveal Him, Matt. 11. 27.
The next statement of this type is in relation to His disciples. In verse 12 we read “I kept them in thy name”. None but He knew the extent of the need of His disciples. How disappointed He must have been in them. Time and again when He was burdened, their thoughts were upon themselves and their prospects. Once He had to say “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of”, Luke 9. 55, and again “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now”, John 16. 12. But as He prays to His Father He says “I kept them in thy name”. Oh that we might realise in greater measure how much we are “kept” in the Father’s name.
Verse 14 tells us “I have given them thy word”. Here a little, there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept, the Lord had instilled into their hearts the Father’s word. It had drawn them to Him. At first, imperceptibly, it had begun to displace from their hearts many things which they as Jews had held very dear. When later He spoke of going away, they exclaimed “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life”, John 6. 68. True they had been poor scholars to learn His words and ways, but they were changed men. The work of the Word in their hearts had resulted in them being cleansed “with the washing ... by the word”, Eph. 5. 26-27. Whilst this inner working had been going on, something outwardly was taking place and so the Lord adds “the world hath hated them”. The friendship of the Lord always brings with it estrangement from the world. Here let us challenge ourselves. Are we prepared to be hated by the world? The word of the Father which had caused such a reaction contains the antidote for the hatred of the world. What companionship and consolation we draw from this infinite provision from the Lord Himself.
Our last statement in this paper is in verse 26, “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it”. In the previous verse we read “I have known thee” and now “I have declared unto them”. How amazing this is! He who is in the bosom of the Father, is the One who leads our hearts into a deeper knowledge of all the Father is to us. But this is not all. He adds “and will declare it”. May we enter still more fully into these sublime depths, even as He reveals them.