The Bible contains many passages that are favorites of mine – passages that I turn to when I’m in need of a special message from God’s Word. But if there is one group of verses that I seem to turn to more often than the others and if there is one verse that comes to mind as my favorite, it has to be the first part of John 17 – especially verse 11. If you recall, this is the great intercessory prayer of Jesus. Verse 11 reads, “And now I am coming to you; I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. O holy Father! Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so they may be one just as you and I are one.”
I don’t mean to exegete this verse. Rather I simply want to convey what goes through my mind every time I think about it.
“And now I am coming to you…” The past, present and future fill this statement of Christ. I see my Savior assuming my flesh and nature in Bethlehem, I see him teaching in the temple. I see him preaching to individuals and multitudes. I see him healing the body and soothing the mind. I see him weeping. I see him rejoicing. I see him tempted. I see him tired, hungry, thirsty. I see him relaxing, eating, and drinking. I see him looking with sadness on sin, but looking with love on those whose sin he is forgiving. All this is past…”And now I am coming to you…” I see him (he who was like me in all respects sin excepted), I see him contemplating the future as he stands here in the present. I see him sweating blood for me in Gethsemane. I see him forsaken of his disciples and also by me. I see him on Calvary. But I also see, as he saw, the glorious throne on the right hand of God that he would occupy after his resurrection. My Savior’s whole time on earth and his whole work in glory come to my mind in just these few words.
“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world…” The implications of these words are astounding. Jesus at last was going to leave this rotten world of rotten men and go to glory. But he doesn’t forget that those whom God has given him to redeem are still in that rotten world and still have rotten natures to contend with. What if Jesus had said that he was no longer in the world and now he wasn’t going to bother with those gross sinning men anymore? When you really think how much it must have appalled our Lord to live surrounded by sin for over thirty years, to be tempted to fall into that sinfulness, it would have been no wonder if Jesus had washed his hands of the world and sin and me. But he didn’t because he loved me. And because he was a perfect redeemer living in a world of sin, he understands what it means to be a redeemed person living in a world of sin. That is why he says to the Father, “…But they are in the world…” implying that because we are surrounded by sin we will need all the grace the Father can grant us in order to survive this world and sin and Satan.
If I had to face today’s world without knowing that Christ understands and intercedes, I don’t know what I would do.
A young person today runs into sin everywhere. When we try to find something to fill our “nights out,” it is hard to find something clean and wholesome. When we try to get an education, it is hard not to believe the pseudo-Christianity that penetrates so much Christian education these days. When we try to make friends, it is hard not to make friends with the swingers who groove on sin. When we try to date, it is hard not to date and to fall in love with someone who seems to be perfect in every way except that he or she is not a Christian. It’s hard – and our Jesus knows this and understands this and prays to our Father about this every day that his people must spend in this world. “But they are in the world…”
“O holy Father! Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me.” When I really came to see what this means, I realized that while we are in this world we have no cause to be afraid. Jesus prays to God to keep us safe by the very power of his name. Now, if I am ever going to believe in the power of God’s name. It is the power that brought this world into being, that brought me into being, that keeps the world and me in being. It is the name in which sin is forgiven – this is because it was the name given to my Mediator. It is the name by which a new heaven and earth will be formed someday.
If Jesus had said I must be kept safe in the name of my minister or in the name of my parents or in my own name, I think I’d go crazy trying to make myself believe that these names could ever keep me safe. But in God’s name – here is safety and comfort and assurance. If I can’t believe this, I can’t believe anything. Here only is peace of mind. “O holy Father! Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave to me.”
“So they may be one just as you and I are one.” Jesus and the Father are one. My Mediator bears the same name as this Father who keeps me safe in his name. As a result, I can feel that I am one with every individual who is kept in that name. In my mind, one of the purposes of Christ’s death is to give the name of “Christian” to everyone who believes in him as Christ. This “being one” I see as a challenge I can meet by God’s grace. When I contemplate the unity in purpose of my Savior and my Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, I receive incentive to seek unity with those who are able with me to be one in Christ. This is important – it is important for God’s children to be one in mind and purpose – and we must really work to maintain that unity by restoring others to that unity when they tend towards disunity and to be ourselves restored when we tend towards disunity. All true Christians are called to be in this world and are kept safe through God’s name and must find unity with one another.
O, thank God for a Jesus who understands what it means to be a Christian in this world of sin and thank God for other Christians with whom to share our Christianity!!
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 4 June July 1970