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Sermon: John 17:6-19: Christ’s Prayer For Those Given To Him By The Father

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 3:1–15

“Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’ Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’” (Exodus 3:1–15, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 17:6-19

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 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. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:6–19, ESV)

So far, the reading of God’s holy, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative word.

Introduction

Think about what we have here, brothers and sisters. We have recorded for us a prayer of Jesus. And it is not just any prayer, but a final prayer – a prayer which he uttered to God the Father, in the presence of his disciples, after instructing them in order to prepare them for the difficult road ahead, and before his time of suffering. Think about the treasure this is! We have before us a prayer of the Christ. The prayer is deeply encouraging because in it he prays for you and for me. And the prayer is insightful because through it his heart and mind are revealed.

Please notice three things about verses 6-19, which make up the middle portion of Jesus’ farewell prayer: First of all, Jesus prayed specifically for those given to him, and not for the world. Secondly, Jesus prayed that those given to him would be kept by the Father. And thirdly, Jesus prayed that those given to him would be sanctified by the Father.

Jesus Prayed Particularly For Those Given To Him, And Not For The World (v. 6-10)

Let us look, first of all, at verses 6 through 10 where we encounter Jesus praying for those given to him, and not for the world.

In verse 6 we hear Jesus say, “[Father,] I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” (John 17:6, ESV) In verse 9 we read, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9, ESV)

Notice that there are two groups of people mentioned in Jesus’ prayer. There are those who belong to the world, and there are those who have been given to Jesus out of the world, and therefore belong to him. It is clear that in verses 6-19 Jesus has in mind those disciples of his who were alive at the time that he prayed these words. It’s not until verse 20 (which we will come to next week) that Jesus transitions in his prayer to intercede also for those who would believe in him through the words of his disciples, including you and me. But even in that section of the prayer the distinction remains. As it was then, so it is now – there are those who belong to the world, and there are those who have been given to Jesus out of the world.

So who are these people who have been given to Jesus? What are we to think of them?

Notice first of all that those given to Christ are, in and of themselves, no different than the others. They were given to Jesus “out of the world”. In other words, the ones given to the Son are, before they come to the Son, worldly. They belong not to a different order of things. They are by no means of a different kind. No, they are given to Jesus out of the world. The word world in John’s Gospel (it has indeed been said many times in this series) is used to describe this planet, and the people living upon this planet – sinful, fallen people, who are living in darkness and are at enmity with God. Those given to Jesus are taken out of that, and not from some other order of things.

Notice secondly that those who were given to Jesus belonged first to the Father. Jesus prayed for “the people whom [the Father] gave [to him] out of the world. [The Father’s] they were, and [the Father] gave them to [him]…” (John 17:6) Clearly it is, what is elsewhere called, election, or predestination, or foreknowledge, that is behind what Jesus prays here. The ones given to Jesus in time, or in history, are the one who, first of all, belong to the Father by virtue of their having been chosen by him in eternity past. They are the ones who have been foreknown, set apart unto salvation, written in the book of life, and predestined by the Father from before the foundation of the earth. This is what Jesus means when he says to the Father, “yours they were, and you gave them to me.” The teaching is clear. Those who come to believe in Jesus, and therefore, belong to Jesus in time, do so because they first belong to the Father, and have been given by the Father to the Son.

Notice thirdly that it is those given to Jesus by the Father to whom Jesus manifests the Father’s name. See the beginning of verse 6. Jesus prayed,  “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.”

To make something manifest is to make it clear or obvious. Some modern translations use the word revealed instead of manifest. The NET translates it this way: “I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world.” (John 17:6, NET) The word in the greek is φανερόω. It means “to cause something to be fully known by revealing clearly and in some detail.”

And what did Jesus reveal to those given to him by the Father? He revealed the Fathers name. So what does this mean, exactly? Does it mean that Jesus made it his mission to teach those given to him by the Father to properly say the name of God? Did he whisper in their ear the name YHWH, or some secret name not known to the world? Is that what Jesus had in mind when he said, “I have manifested your name”?

No, brothers and sisters. To manifest God’s name, is to make God known in his person and work and power. The name represents the person. And that is what Christ revealed – the person of God the Father. This was Christ’s mission from the beginning – to reveal the Father to us. John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”  The is made clear throughout John’s Gospel, but especially in the immediate context.  In 17:3 we read, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV) And notice that Jesus’ mission was to glorify God (17:4). And now in 17:6 we read that Jesus had accomplished his mission by manifesting God’s name, which is another way of saying that he had revealed, or made known God the Father to those given to him by the Father.

Notice fourthly that it is those given to Jesus by the Father who keep God’s word. Look with me at the end of verse 6: “Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” (John 17:6, ESV) To keep God’s word is to believe upon and obey God’s word. Jesus was praying for his disciples and he evidently had this opinion of them – that they had kept God’s word.

He went on to pray in verse 7, “Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (John 17:7–8, ESV)

These words of Jesus have lead some to scratch their heads, thinking, these disciples of Jesus have been a mess up to this point! They have struggled to believe. They have struggled to obey. And they would continue to struggle, especially later that night and on into the next few days as things would intensify! How could it be that Jesus had this optimistic opinion of them at this time?

But notice that Jesus did not claim that their faith and obedience were mature or strong or pure, but only that their faith and obedience were true. Judas has walked away, but the eleven remained. And in 16:30 they had confessed to Jesus, saying, “Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” (John 16:30, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, it is possible for faith to be true yet small, and our obedience real yet inconsistent. Indeed, it is better to have faith that is true and big, and obedience that is real and regular! But we should not make the mistake of believe that when we struggle in the faith, that our faith is not true. Not so. Look at the heroes of the faith in the scriptures. These men were far from perfect, and yet they possessed authentic faith. That, I think, is how we are to understand Jesus’ optimistic opinion of his disciples here.

Jesus Prayed That Those  Given To Him By The Father Would Also Be Kept By The Father (v. 11-15)

The second thing to notice about this passage is that Jesus prayed that those given to him by the Father would also be kept by the Father.

Look with me at verse 11. Jesus says, “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…” (John 17:11, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, does this not encourage your heart? What an incredible thing it is to learn that the reason you have faith in Jesus – the reason you believe in him and, therefore, belong to him – is because you first belonged to God by virtue of his electing purposes and his sovereign decree. In other words, it is all by the grace of God that you belong to Christ. But how wonderful it is to also hear our Savior pray that those who have been given to him by the Father also be kept by the Father. That is comforting! That is deeply encouraging!

When Jesus asks the Father to keep those given to the him, he is asking the Father to keep watch on themto guard them, and to cause them to continue. He is asking the Father to holdreserve, and preserve them. He is here praying for what he has already said would certainly be. In John 10:28 we heard Jesus say, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28–30, ESV) Here Jesus prays to the Father requesting that he would indeed hold on to those who were given to him. He is here asking the Father to preserve, or keep, those true disciples of his.

I’d like for you to notice five things about the way the Father will keep those given to Christ.

One, notice that those who belong to Christ will be kept in the world.

Look at verse 11 where Jesus says, “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…” (John 17:11, ESV) Look also at verse 15 where Jesus says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15, ESV)

You have probably heard the expression that a Christian is to be in the world but not of it. I think it is a helpful saying!

The general principle is this: a Christian is to live in the world. Of course that means that we will live on this planet. But more than that it means that we are to participate in society. We are to rub shoulders with those who are of the world. We are to work with non-christians, serve with them, raise our children with them, vote with them, trade with them, serve on juries with them, and perhaps even fight alongside them. We, as Christians, are citizens of the kingdoms of this earth. In our particular context, we are citizens of the United States of America.

Notice that Jesus explicitly prayed to the Father saying, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world.” We, therefore, should resist monastic tendencies. Do you know what I mean by this? I mean that we should resist the temptation to isolate ourselves from the world, as if we were monks retreating to a monastery. This seems to be quite contrary to the way of Christ and to the way of his disciples. They walked in this world. They engaged. They ate with tax collectors and sinners.  We are to live in the world. I would encourage you to think about this point. I doubt that you are tempted to retreat to a monastery (well, maybe you are) But I’m certain that you are tempted to run from the world in other ways. I leave it to you to apply, as I think this issue of engagement with the world requires much prayer, wisdom, and discernment from each individual Christian and family. But the general principle is this: Christ desires that we remain in this world.

But never are we to be of it. We belong, not to the world, but to Christ. The Father has given us to Christ out of the world. This is not our home. We have a dual citizenship – we live, on the one hand, in the world, but our true and lasting citizenship is in heaven. We are of him, and we are of his kingdom. We, therefore, are to bear the marks of his kingdom, and of his kingship. This effects the way that we think, the way that we speak (we are talk with a Christian accent), and the things that we do. Our union with Christ is to effect our thoughts and words and deeds. We are to live in the world, but be not of it. “I do not ask that you take them out of the world [Jesus prays], but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15, ESV)

Two, notice that Christ prays for his that they be kept in unity.

Look at the end of verse 11: “Holy Father, keep them… that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11, ESV)

Jesus’ prayer is that his disciples enjoy unity one with another. I’m tempted to spend a great deal of time on this point because it is such an important one, especially in our day. But I’ll move on from it quickly today knowing that the theme reemerges and is developed even further in verses 20 and following, which we will come to consider next week, Lord willing.

Three, notice that Christ prays they those given to him will be kept from being lost.

We see this in verse 12: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you…” (John 17:12–13, ESV), and for this reason Jesus asks the Father to keep them.

Judas was lost, but this was predicted ahead of time by Jesus, and in fulfillment to the scriptures, showing that his faith was disingenuous from the start. Christ kept those who truly belonged to him to the end, and he prayed that the Father would keep on into eternity.

Four, notice that Christ prays that those given to him will be kept in his joy.

Verse 13: “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:13, ESV) Do not underestimate the power of joy. Indeed, if we know the truth of God, and if we believe the truth of God, in particular, concerning the Christ, and the reality of his death, burial and resurrection, in fulfillment to the eternal plan of God, for the accomplishment of our salvation in him, how could we not have joy? Look at what you have in Christ Jesus, brothers and sisters! How could you not have joy in him? And if you have joy in him (a joy that remains even in the mist of trails and tribulation by virtue of the resurrection power of Christ), then you will indeed be kept by God to the end in that joy. Christ desires that you have joy, brothers and sisters. That is different from saying that Christ wants you to be made happy by the things of this world. No, it’s better than that! Christ wants you to have joy in him – joy in the Father – deep, lasting, and substantial happiness in God the Father.

Five, notice the role that the word plays in the keeping of God’s elect.

Verse 14: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14, ESV)

It is the word of God that sets us off from the world; and it is also the word of God that keeps us as we live in the world. Remember, the thing that makes a Christian a Christian is that they receive and keep God’s word (17:6-8). A Christian is one who says “yes, and Amen” to God’s word. A Christian says “yes” to Jesus Christ who is the eternal word of God. A Christian says “yes” to the Bible, which is God written word. And the Christian says “yes” to all that the Bible has to say about God, and Christ, and the salvation that is found in him. Belief – faith – in God’s word is what makes the Christian; but it also the word which is used to keep the Christian.

God’s word is our daily bread (Matt. 4:4). It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:110). “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7–8, ESV) The Christian is set apart by the word, but he is also kept by it. Let us not neglect it, brothers and sisters.

Jesus Prayed That Those Given To Him By The Father Would Also Be Sanctified By The Father (v. 16-19)

The third thing to notice about this passage is that Jesus prayed that those given to him by the Father would also be sanctified by the Father.

Look at verse 17 where Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:17–19, ESV)

To be sanctified is to be set apart and made holy for the service of God. Christ is praying that those given to him be set apart and made holy for service. The thing that I would like to briefly emphasize is that Jesus is not praying that we kept by the Father in a static way, as if his concern were that we merely hang on and make it to the end. No, his prayer is that we be sanctified. We are to progress in holiness. We are engage in the serve of God. As Christ served the Father in holiness, so too he prays that we would be consecrated to the Fathers service. In others words, he prays that we would be like servants of Matthew 25 who multiplied their five talents and two talents, and not like the servant who was given one and buried it until the master returned. Brothers and sisters, may we be sanctified in truth for the service of God, as Christ was.

Conclusion

So what should we do now that we have considered this middle portion of Christ’s prayer where intercedes for those given to him by the Father, and not for the world.

First of all, I hope that your hearts are encouraged as you are reminded of the love of God for you.

Secondly, I hope that Christ’s prayer brings greater clarity as to how you are to live in this world. You are to be in it, but not of it.

Thirdly, I hope that Christ’s prayer encourages you to strive after holiness in the service of God.

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