As we continue on in Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, v6 marks the beginning of the second part of the prayer where He prays for the first group of those the Father had given Him – the disciples. To ask why Jesus prays for them is not out of bounds. Hasn’t He already promised that the Spirit would come to comfort and assure them after He left and hasn’t He even said that this would be better than Him being physically present with them? Indeed He has. So why pray for them if they’ll be ok? Well, that He does pray for them shows His deep care and love for them. Jesus knows they aren’t ready for the shock of Calvary, so He tenderly prays for them committing them to His Father’s care.
What does Jesus pray for them in v6-13? Three items top His prayer list.
v6 begins this first item of revelation saying, “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.”
Jesus begins here by stating that He has manifested, that He has revealed, the Father’s name to those the Father gave to Him. When Jesus says He revealed the name of His Father He means far more than just a name. Name, or onomain Greek, refers to the name, reputation, even the fame of someone. This means in all His life and teaching thus far, even in the cross ahead, Jesus’ great task is to reveal the Father’s name, nature, character, quality, power, and Personhood. This is surely part of what Jesus meant in v4 when He said He had accomplished the work and glorified the Father on earth. This is why John’s gospel begins the way it does in John 1:18 where John the apostle says of Jesus, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” More so, we could go way back to Isaiah 52:6 where Isaiah looked forward to a time when God’s people would know God’s name, and Isaiah 63:14 where God will lead His people to make for Himself a glorious name. All of this name revelation work of the Son for the Father is coming to fruition in the Person and Work of Jesus.
But what about the people Jesus revealed this too? It says in v6 they were formerly the Father’s but now they’ve been given to the Son. We understand this, we saw it in v2 clearly and we’ll see it again later in this prayer. Though nothing in and of themselves made them worthy of being chosen by God in eternity past, being sinners like the rest of mankind, the Father did choose them and then gift them to the Son. Jesus knows this and says as much here. But I don’t think that’s the curious part of their description in v6. The curious part is the last phrase “…and they have kept Your word.” Is Jesus saying the disciples, as imperfect as they appear to be all over the gospels, kept Jesus’s commands – obeyed His teaching – and followed Him flawlessly up until that point? Of course not. Their weakness and failures are apparent for all to see. What He is saying is that these disciples stand out from everyone else in their own day because they did what no one else was willing to do, they believed in Jesus. In John 6 while the other early followers ran away when Jesus taught hard things, the disciples stayed. While the Jewish leaders, the chief priests, and the Pharisee’s, who knew the Scriptures more than anyone, were unwilling to believe in Jesus, the disciples believed. Even when it almost cost them everything, when their own lives were at risk the disciples remained with Jesus. Compared with the world around them they have kept Christ’s word and in this verse Jesus thanks the Father for giving them to Him.
v7-8 continues to expand on the nature of disciples response to the revelation of the Father through the Son, “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.” Up until this point the disciples haven’t proved to be very astute or wise. Clearly their was much these men didn’t know. They didn’t connect the dots that Jesus was the true Prophet fully representing God to man, the true Priest fully representing man to God, and the true King who is ushering in His Kingdom.They didn’t know these things. They’ve questioned Jesus, they’ve changed the subject on Him, and they’ve sought their own glory. ‘But now,’ Jesus says, ‘they know.’ Now they know the one grand central fact that has and will continue to change everything about their lives, all they see in Jesus and all they hear from Jesus, is of God.They do not see it as clearly as they soon will, but they know it. Look at how v8 describes the progression to this knowledge. First, unlike other men they ‘received’ the words of Christ. Second, they came to know Jesus’ divine origin. And third, they believed it and trusted in it.Where did their belief come from? Look at the start of v8, Jesus says, “For I have given them the words that You gave Me…” So the eternal Son of God, the very Word of God John 1:1 speaks of, spoke the very words of God and these men heard it, received it, and believed it…and their lives were never the same.
Church, do you wonder why we give so much time to preaching throughout here at SonRise? Combining both our morning and evening services, if each sermon averages 45 minutes we hear 4,680 minutes…or 78 hours…of preaching in a year. We don’t do this to make much of me as pastor or any other person who may step behind this pulpit, far from it! See why in these verses. As these disciples heard, received, and believed the Incarnate Word, so too we today must hear, receive, and believe the inspired Word. Their lives were changed forever as they came to see the glory of Jesus Christ through His words, and our lives will change forever as we come to see the glory of Jesus Christ through this Word. Church, give yourself to this. Among all the things people are now resolving to do in this new year, there is nothing more pressing and urgent and beneficial than giving yourself the Word of God.
That they heard, received, and believed in v9-10 forms the reason why Jesus is praying for them, “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.” Not praying for the world, but only for the disciples because, remember, though God loved the world so much that He sent His Son into it the world didn’t receive Him, the world didn’t believe Him, the world didn’t see glory in Him. But these men did, and so while the disciples are in the world, that they believe marks them out of the world. Don’t mishear this. Even in John’s gospel we see God’s great love toward the world. He made it, He fashioned it and cares for it. But there is a peculiar relationship, a deeper love, and stronger covenantal bond that binds the disciples and the triune God.So for them He prays, acknowledging that they belong to the Father and to Himself. Notice that anyone can say ‘all mine is Yours’ for all that any of us have is from God. But only Jesus can say to God ‘all that is Yours is also Mine.’ This is a lofty claim for a man to make, unless it’s true and He really is God in the flesh. Well, for being given to Him and for them believing in Him, He is glorified in them.
One might draw a comparison here. Just as the hour of Jesus’ death on cross was nothing special to most everyone looking on and the hour of glory to Jesus, so too there is nothing special that stands out when the average person looks at this small group of 11 men. After 3 years of ministry Jesus has only amassed a group of 11 men willing to believe and follow Him, 11 men that aren’t really anything special, and you call this a success? For Jesus it is, and from this small insignificant looking group He will do a mighty work of glory and bring forth an ever-expanding eternal community of believers. So, if you feel weak or foolish I have good news for you…you are…I am too…we all are. But does our weakness or folly limit what God can do in, with, and through us by His grace? Not in a million years! God is in the business of using the weak and foolish things of the world to show the world His great strength and infinite wisdom!
v11 is where we find the second item of this section of the prayer, preservation. “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.”
Jesus’ departure is now so near He speaks of it in the present tense as v11 begins. His work in the world is done, and He must go out of this world. But the disciples are just about to begin their work, and their work will send them into the world.In light of this Jesus asks His Holy Father to keep them. But keep them in what or from what? Keep them from the hostility the world is now showing Jesus? Keep them from forsaking their new faith in their hard mission into the world? Keep them in Him till the end? Much discussion is given in study notes and commentaries of all kinds over what exactly Jesus is asking the Father to keep them from, but it seems from the rest of the verse that unity is the chief request, which would then make Jesus’ request a desire that the Father would keep His disciples in unity which is also a request to keep them from disunity. This purpose is seen here, “…keep them in Your name…thatthey may be one…” This is unity rooted in the name and nature of God which means this unity isn’t just a general common bond or group consensus but a unity that goes deeper, a unity bringing all the separate units into one unit, a unity that echoes the reality of the unity within the community of divinity found only in the Holy Trinity, “…even as We are one.”
Notice, our unity isn’t in view here, that comes up in v20-23. Here in v11 it’s the disciples unity in view. And as we see them progress in faith and maturity throughout the New Testament we see moments of brilliant unity (the Jerusalem council in Acts 15) and moments of disastrous disunity (Paul and Barnabas parting ways, also in Acts 15). Such will be the case among fallen men until glory, but even when this unity is partially realized the result is a profoundly powerful witness to the watching world.
v12 expands on this further, “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.”
During His ministry Jesus did keep those the Father gave Him, guarding them and shepherding them well, none of them were lost or stolen out of His strong hands. But, there was one exception. None were destroyed except Judas the son of destruction.That Judas was lost doesn’t speak of Jesus’ weakness and inability to keep him, no. That he was lost speaks to the fulfillment of Scripture long ago. Psalm 41:9 in particular, that Jesus even mentioned in John 13:18, speaks of one close to Christ who would come against Him in betrayal. The conclusion we ought to arrive at here isn’t that what happened to Judas can happen to anyone who follows Christ. Judas is another case entirely. Like Pharaoh, God hardened Judas’ heart against Jesus and Judas continually hardened his heart toward Jesus, so he was lost, as the Scripture foretold that he would be the means to launch Jesus into His great suffering. For the other 11 disciples and for us it is different. All those who come to Christ are kept by Christ, for He is able to keep His own and He loses none that the Father gives Him. This ought to prompt us to rejoice, because to be clear, if we could lose our salvation we would. But praise God that His grip on us is ever steady and strong, steadier and stronger than ours ever is on Him! So we rest well, we have no need to ever worry, for in His steady hands none ever miscarry.
We’ve seen revelation, preservation, now v13 brings us to the last item Jesus prays for in our passage this morning, jubilation. “But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Being almost out of the world and back in the presence of His Father but still in the world for now Jesus says that He has spoken what He has for His disciples joy. Not joy in general, but that His ownjoy would be fulfilled in them. Jesus could have said “…these things I speak in the world, that they may have joy.” But He didn’t. He said He spoke His wordsto them so that His joy would be in them. So, why has Jesus taught His disciples? Why has Jesus said certain things to His disciples? Why has Jesus spoken His word to them? One reason is given here…that His joy would be their joy. How are we supposed to respond to Jesus’ request to the Father to give us His joy? Five ways.
First, we must see the connection being made between His Word and His joy. He spoke His words to them so that His joy would be in them. Jesus’ words lead to Jesus’ joy. That’s what He’s saying, we cannot miss this. This is the foundation of understanding v13.
Second, because His Word is the means of His joy being in us we should make it the aim of our lives to not only learn His truth but feel the joy of His truth.There are two pitfalls to avoid here. On one hand there are those with a heartless head, where the truth of God is consumed but a love for God is never cultivated. On the other hand there are those with a headless heart, where God is loved vastly but is never studied deeply. Both are wrong and both should be avoided. Instead of falling off into these two ditches our lives must be those that seek a head for truth and a heart for God. Or as John Owen has said “…we must be those who enjoy a vast communion with God in the deep doctrine of God we contend for.”
Third, in order to have His joy must do far more than just see His truth in His words. We must see God in His truth and savor the God standing forth in it. Here are a few ways to say this. You could say…doctrine matters, immensely so! But the goal isn’t merely right doctrine, it’s a right doctrine of God fueling a robust delight in God. Or you could say…don’t just admire the shape and position and cleanness of the window, gaze at the mountains you see through it!Or you could say…see the words of Jesus, indeed to see the whole of Scripture, as the way God plucks every string in the harp of our soul.So, we see in order to savor, we seek insight in order to enjoy, we seek knowledge in order to love, the labor of the mind serves the affections of the heart.
Fourth, Jesus did not intend that His joy would be somewhat present in us, kind of present in us, or ever very present in us. No, He intends that His joy would be fulfilled in us, orwould fill us, complete us, satisfy us, gush forth and overflow in and through us. All of these options are possible meanings from the Greek word present here in our English word ‘fulfilled.’ See that v13 is teaching that the aim of His words is the fullness of His joy, and I wonder if you see the implication of this fullness? When something is full there isn’t any room for anything else.
Fifth, this is how the disciples then, and we today, fight sin. Whatever sins you’re battling don’t believe the lie that your desires are too strong. That it’s desire overpowering will and your sin problems would be corrected if you just overcome your unruly desires with a stronger will. I’m afraid it doesn’t really work like that. Our desires aren’t too strong they’re too weak, in that by giving into this or that sin, you’re settling for lesser pleasures when you could feast on what infinitely satisfies and fills the soul. This is the ultimate battle of the Christian life, fighting to be so filled and so satisfied in Christ that there is no room for sin. This is what Jesus prays for His disciples to have in v13, and this is what we can have in Him as well.
Revelation, preservation, and jubilation. These three items top the prayer list of Christ for His own. I would encourage you to put them atop your prayer lists as well. For both those who know Christ and for those who don’t know Christ. We all need these things. Everyone needs to see and be stunned by God’s revelation in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Everyone needs God to keep us throughout the stormy waters of this life because we can’t make it on our own. And that there are a million different things tempting us with ‘joy’, we need to know that only One Person can ultimately and truly satisfy the human heart: Jesus Christ Himself.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971) page 722.
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1991) page 558.
Ibid., page 559.
Ibid., page 559.
Morris, page 724.
Ibid., page 724.
Carson, page 560.
Morris, page 727.
There is a word play in Greek we don’t see in English here. I have tried to show that with this sentence ‘destroyed’ & ‘destruction.’ For more on this see Morris, page 728, footnote 42.
John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2017) page 121-123.
John Owen, quoted in Ibid., page 101.
Ibid., page 121.
Ibid., page 104.
Ibid., page 102…my twist on it.
Ibid., page 123.