“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
Once again, Jesus contrasted his way of living with the “world.” There is a popular Christian clothing brand, NOTW, which stands for “not of this world,” which I had always taken to mean secular culture. I don’t know if it was intentionally communicated, but I came to believe that the world “out there” was where evil, sin, and temptation resided, whereas the church was where the “good people” were found. Over time, I came to realize that our holy huddles are not always so holy. Church people can hate just as well as nonbelievers. Jesus’s crucifixion was ordered by Rome, but it would never have happened if it were not for the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. After Jesus’s ascension and Pentecost, the early church grew, but not without persecution from religious zealots like Saul of Tarsus. In the 2000 years since, both non-believing and wrongly believing people have been a threat to the freedom that only Jesus provides.
Following Jesus is radically countercultural, because his way of other-centered love stands in opposition to both legalism and license. His is a wholly different life, one imbued and directed by God’s Holy Spirit.
Jesus, it is so hard for me to not become a legalist in some areas while chasing pleasures in another. My life is conflicted. Restore me to wholeness, which is found only with you. Amen.
“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
Jesus was often teaching his disciples about life in the kingdom of God, but his instruction was never merely about doctrinal precision nor “basic instructions before leaving earth.” His words were intended to kindle joy. It is doctrinally true that Jesus died for our sins and that we are justified by his blood. More importantly, though, our justification is a source of profound joy, if we will allow it to be. It is doctrinally true that our identity is united with Christ, yet there is no greater joy than reveling in this reality.
Jesus, your words about who you are and what you’ve done are causes for profound joy. Yet too often the doctrines of the faith are disconnected from the life I actually live. Help me to know the true and palpable joy that is found in you. Amen.
“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 Scripture might be fulfilled.”-John 17:12
Prophecy is a strange thing. From the lips and pens of women and men, hundreds and even thousands of years prior, words anticipate what was yet to come. The Old Testament contains many messianic prophecies, all fulfilled in Jesus. One of the prophecies was Jesus’s betrayal by Judas, the “son of destruction.”
One of the questions that bothers me is whether Judas could have done otherwise? Did he have the freedom to not betray Jesus? Did Jesus choose him with the full knowledge that he would be the betrayer and, if so, could he have warned him earlier? Maybe he did. After Judas betrayed Jesus, did he ever repent? If not, could he have done so? Will I see Judas in heaven? It grieves me that this man, so crucial to the Passion’s story line, may not have had a choice. If I accept what I’ve always been told, Judas faced eternal damnation as a consequence of predestined action. For me, that is a tough pill to swallow.
Jesus, sometimes I wrestle with the implications of your words as I have come to understand them. I confess that my vision is clouded and that I do not fully grasp your purposes or timing. In truth, I do not know Judas’s fate, but I sure hope that he took an opportunity to return to you and that he knows the full embrace of your love. Amen.
“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, that they may be one, even as we are one.”-John 17:11
John 17:11 gets to the very heart of understanding the relational glory of God. Jesus made a profound request, asking the Father to “keep” his disciples. In other words, he wanted the Father to watch over his followers and keep them from destruction in a world that would happily tear them apart. Being kept from destruction would not happen by keeping the rules nor amassing wealth, but through relationship. Jesus prayed that his followers would love one another so well that we would mirror the love that exists within the Trinity. The Trinity, which is pure, infinite love, is our model for how to relate.
Jesus, I confess that my relationships are far removed from what you prayed on my behalf. I can be self-centered, sniping, and judgmental. Help me to glorify you in my relationships, but relating in the way that you and the Father and the Spirit relate. Amen.
“All mine are yours and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”-John 17:10
John 17:10 is a note of belonging. Jesus acknowledged that his people belong to the Father and that they belong to him and that he is glorified in them. With all of Jesus’s talk of glory, what did he mean when he said that he is glorified in his followers? Remember, to be glorified is to be highlighted. Jesus is illumined by his people when we show love for one another. When we love sacrificially, we are putting the relational glory of God on display. When we love God supremely, love others sacrificially, love ourselves compassionately, and love creation carefully, we highlight God’s glory. God is love. God is relationship. When we model that reality, we glorify the Trinity.
Jesus, I often fail to love well. I ignore you and I ignore others all the while I am putting myself on a pedestal. Teach me to live a life of true, sacrificial love, to keep your glory in view in all that I do, to understand my call to servanthood, yet without losing myself in the process. Amen.
“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
Some people use this verse in support of limited atonement. Their argument goes that Jesus’s prayer was only for the elect. Perhaps that is the right interpretation, yet I wonder if a more generous interpretation might be that Jesus was praying and telling the Father, “I am not offering a general prayer for non-specific people, but I have specific people in view, those you have given me.” God loves individuals, big time, as John Piper might say.
When you pray, be specific. Invite God into the particularities of your life, rather than spiritual platitudes. God knows your needs, and he delights in answering those that see his Spirit more fully formed in us.
Jesus, thank you for loving not only the world in general, but me specifically. You are a God who is love, and a God who loves individuals. Help me to live in the realities of your divine love and to feel the warmth of your embrace. Amen.
“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 believed that you sent me.”-John 17:8
Jesus was present to his disciples in body and word. In him, they saw God in the flesh. Every day they learned from the living word. Truth, goodness, and beauty were embodied in how he lived. But Jesus was also present to them in the spoken word. He told them about the kingdom of God. He told them about what it meant to love. Word spoken; word embodied. We still have access to the divine word in the pages of Scripture and in the Spirit of Christ, who dwells in us.
Jesus, help me to daily receive your word, learning the truth about who you are and what you have accomplished on my behalf. Help me to live in step with the indwelling Word, day by day. Amen.
“Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.”-John 17:7
Because the Son proceeds from the Father; so does everything the Son does and says. When I think of the Trinity, I think of perichoretic “flow,” the intra-Trinitarian dance. Too often, we create artificial distinctions within the Trinity between the Father, Son, and Spirit while failing to acknowledge that they are really and truly one God, but God is not static; he is life and energy. He is love. The “glory of God” begins to partially capture the reality of God’s energy, love, and light. It captures flow.
Everything good within us also proceeds from the Trinity. God’s throne is an ever flowing fountain of grace, love, and glory and we are invited to dance within him in that ever flowing goodness.
Jesus, you taught that there is no “you” apart from the Father and that your existence flows from him and back again. Help me to know my dependence upon the Trinitarian flow of your rivers of grace. Amen.
“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
People are God’s possession, but it is important to think less in terms of ownership than in terms of family. We are his beloved children. My children belong to me though I do not own them. Rather, I have a unique relationship with them that no one else has. They are my precious possession. In the same way, we are the beloved possession of God.
I find it encouraging that Jesus told the Father that his followers had kept his word. When I think about the disciples, I see a ragtag bunch of impetuous, impulsive, hot-headed, doubtful sinners. Just like me. But they kept following Jesus in spite of their stumbling.
Jesus, I am grateful to belong to you and to know you as Father, brother, and friend. Deepen my understanding of our union. Teach me to live life as your beloved. Amen.
“And now, Father glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”-John 17:5
Jesus was about to depart the earth. He would once again be in the presence of the Father in a way that he was not while he was on earth. Notice what he said: “before the world existed.” The Trinity existed in perfect union before God ever spoke the first words: “Let there be light.” There was never a time when the Father, Son, and Spirit did not co-exist.
The relationship within the Trinity is mutually glorifying. Larry Crabb calls this the “relational glory of God.” The members of the Trinity exist in perfect communion, making much of one another. There is no conflict nor dissension between them. They exist to show love. They exist to be love.
Jesus, you existed for all eternity with the Father and Spirit. You reveal love’s true essence. In my finite understanding, teach me what it means to give glory in a way that brings you glory. Amen.