John 17:6–11

Third Avenue Baptist Church

Sunday School — The Gospel of John Series

March 14, 2021

We’re continuing our study in the High Priestly Prayer. And we began with the first five verses when we were together last week. We’ve seen the Farewell Discourse, as Jesus speaks to his disciples, come to an end. And now we’re reaching what, in many ways as the climax of the gospel of John, and what I want us to see is that it’s like the final movement of a symphony. It begins to bring in all the previous movements, all the previous musical strains, all the previous theological affirmations in such a way that there’s a richness to this,  and a beauty to this that is such that this text is singular in the entire canon of scripture. In the entire New Testament, there’s nothing like this. There is no lengthy prayer between the Son and the Father in which we see the intimacy, but what we also share in the exchange of  both love and truth, that gives us so much of our knowledge of the Christian faith. So as we begin, let’s ask the Lord’s blessing. 

Father, we do pray that you would open our eyes and open our hearts, that we would receive everything you would have for us from just a few verses today in the high priestly prayer of Jesus. And Father, perhaps never having articulated this gratitude in such words, Father, we thank you that you and your Son have shared the intimacy of this prayer with us. Father, thank you for allowing us to hear it, that we may learn from it and never learn all of it. And we pray all of this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

That latter part of my prayer was dependent upon the fact that we are dealing here with a God who’s infinite in his perfections as the Father and of the Son. And so there’s a sense in which we will never understand this prayer in the way that Jesus and the father understand it, and it’s in its infinite truth. But on the other hand, God condescends to us in scripture, and He knows what we need. As Calvin said, it is as if in Scripture, a parent–in this case, God, our  heavenly parent–leans down to us softly and speaks kindly, lest we be destroyed. Even in this text, God is bending over graciously, and he’s speaking kindly in order that we can understand what He wants us to see here. When we looked at the first verses of the high priestly prayer, we saw this incredible introduction to the inner reality of the Trinity.

Let’s just remind ourselves of the words we studied last and verse one, “when Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” So here in the opening to this prayer, Jesus speaks about having been with the Father before the world existed and sharing a glory. And this is what’s so important for us to recognize–it was a glory that to some degree He as left, as he obeyed the will of the Father in the incarnation. Paul will speak of this in Philippians 2, where we come to understand that Christ emptied himself–in this sense, that doesn’t mean empting himself of deity, but He did empty himself of some glory in order to assume human flesh. 

This was indeed a gift of incredible divine love, unspeakable divine love. He speaks of the glory that he had with you with the father before the world existed, and then he spoke with this reciprocity of glory. “I go glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” Then he prays to the Father, “Now glorify me with that glory, which we shared before the creation of the world.” This resets all of history. It’s very interesting, and this tells you a great deal about human beings. Even as Christians think of history, we look at Before Christ and After Christ. Of course there’s some sense we look at before creation and after creation, but the problem is we know nothing of before creation, and of course, God is eternal, so the timeline is of his own construction. It’s not something in which he himself is trapped, but we can’t get out of the conception of time, so we’ll just allow ourselves to imagine what eternity must be. Not an endless time, but in the realm beyond time in the before and the after. Our permission for doing that is Jesus himself. He speaks of this and then dates it, saying “before the world was created.”  But then you look at where we go from here.

In verse six, Christ says, “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 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 believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I’m not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” In so many ways, it’s not that all of a sudden we found a hidden key for understanding the gospel of John, which is the hidden key for understanding the New Testament, which is the key for understanding the entirety of scripture. It’s not that, but it almost feels like that, because what we have here are statements made in the intimacy of the relationship between the Father and the Son. We are overhearing this, and here at the bottom line, nowhere else in scripture do we know these truths in this clarity. This is not contrary to what we know from other passages of scripture. It’s not contrary to what we know from the gospel of John. As a matter of fact, it’s like an explosion of truth, amplifying and illuminating what we’ve already known for the gospel of John, as we shall see about the Son manifesting the Father. But we do have declarative statements here, and it’s repetitive. These statements are not isolated. The fact that there are those given by the Father to the Son–again, that’s not new in the gospel of John, but it takes on a completely new significance, so much so that Jesus says “I’m not praying for the world. I’m praying for the one you gave me.” Now that’s a radical statement. That’s a statement that the average Christian, I think, hasn’t ever thought about. “Well, in what sense does Jesus pray? Well, he prays for all the world.” And, this incredible night, which is now the hour that has come, and his crucifixion is nigh, Jesus doesn’t pray for everybody in the world? He said he prays for those who the Father has given him? 

Well, let’s look at the words carefully. Verse six, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” Before we get the, “to whom,” let’s just think about what he said he did. He said he has manifested the father. Now, in one sense, that’s a short, wonderful, almost comprehensive definition of the incarnation. What was the incarnation? It was the Son manifesting the Father. But what does it mean to manifest? You know, we use that word. We hear that word. There was a Communist Manifesto. American history–Manifest Destiny. What is manifest? What’s a manifestation? Well, what Jesus is saying here is that he has shown us the Father. It’s really “to show.” He has shown us the Father, he’s made the Father tangible. “You want to see God, look to me.” But you think about this for a moment, and you recognize, “well, were there manifestations of God prior to the incarnation of Christ?” And the answer is yes, but they were all foreshadowings of what would would come in Jesus. Everything that happened before, from Moses being hidden in the cleft of the rock, to Israel hearing the voice of God speaking, from Moses himself hearing the voice of God speaking from the Bush that was burning, yet not consumed. God spoke through the prophets, and God spoke “through many in various ways,” as the writer of the book of Hebrew says in the introduction to that work, “But in these last days, he has spoken to us in his Son.” This is the consummate manifestation. This is not a manifestation, This is the manifestation. This is the absolute culmination. But this is something that John has helped us to understand all throughout his gospel. There are three passages in particular to which I want to look. We’ll look backwards here for just a moment. Jesus says, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” Look back to John chapter one, back to the prologue itself. The very first chapte–John 1:18.

John tells us in verse 1:18, “no one has ever seen God. The only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” So there’s the manifestation in the very prologue, explaining the incarnation. As John is introducing us to Jesus and is telling us who he is, the incarnate Logos through whom the world was created, we are told that no one has seen the Father. No one has seen God in this sense, but here it is the Son, it’s the Logos who makes him known. Now if you think of the most incredible development in all human history, it would have to be for God to be made known and to be shown.

This is not just a voice. This is not just a word. This is not just a scripture. This is not just a prophet. This is not just a priest. This is not just a miracle. This is not just a burning bush that is not consumed. This is the incarnate Son. This is God’s own son who manifests–He shows the father. And one of the things we see in the logic of the gospel of John is that no one can manifest the Father But the son. That turns out to be the key to New Testament theology. There is no manifestation of the Father without the Son. in the inter- trinitarian life of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it is the Father’s good will that he be manifested by the Son. Jesus will, in his own comments, make this over and over again. Why has he come? He’s come to show us the Father. Does this mean we look to Jesus, we’re seeing the father? Well, in, in essence, yes. In other words, you’re seeing God. He has made the Father known. And that’s just in the prologue, reminding us that many other refrains of the prologue come up here in John chapter 17 in high priestly, prayer, including the issue of truth, as we shall see in just a moment.

That’s John 1:18, let’s look at John 12:45. Beginning, verse 44, we read “and Jesus cried out and said, ‘whoever believes in me believes not in me, but in him who sent me.’” So that’s a helpful way to introduce this issue. And in verse 45, “‘and whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I’ve come into the world as light so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’” The key there is verse 45, “whoever sees me, sees him who sent me.” So Jesus says this in chapter 12, it was said of him in chapter one. There have been other verses such as in chapter eight, where there are similar kinds of revelations concerning Christ and how he manifests the Father. No one can see the Father, but we can see the Son. No one can show the Father other than the Son, as the Son can, and the Son does, and the Son has. But then look at chapter 14, beginning in verse nine.

Now, when we were just a few weeks ago in John chapter 14, we looked at this passage, but now looking backwards, it takes on an entirely new significance. “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the father, and it is enough for us.’” Verse nine, “Jesus said to him, ‘have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father? And the Father is in me, the words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.’” The point here is that this far into the ministry of Jesus–and this is rather astounding–it’s another indication by the way of the truthfulness of the gospels.  

CS Lewis, responding to the theological liberalism and high supernaturalism of the early 20th century was responding in the British intellectual life to the fact that there were so many people who were borrowing German higher criticism to come back and say, “well, you know, the new Testament is mythological. The gospels are written as legends.” Lewis, who was a specialist, of course, in legends, he came back and said, “I spent my entire life studying legend. This isn’t legend. Legend tells you things about people to pull out a completely orbed, developed character.” And he points out that that’s not what the gospels do. The gospels do amazing things. One of the things that CS Lewis noted is that–and again, just thinking of him as a scholar of legend and myth–that’s what he did, especially ancient, medieval English literature.  He says, “I know legends. In a legend, you would not have Jesus write in the sand, for instance, in the story of the women caught in adultery. You wouldn’t have Jesus with his finger right in the sand and leave it there. If it’s legend, it’s going to tell you what he wrote in the sand.” This is instead like a frustrating eyewitness account if you’re looking at it for legend, because it’s frustrating in the sense of what we’re not told. We’re not told a lot about Jesus. It’s the most selective presentation of Jesus. 

But Lewis said, “There’s another fact that if you are looking at legend, legend doesn’t include corrections. It does include someone in the inner circle being corrected legend. Instead shows this constant growth and awareness, kind of agnostic development.” And here you have of all things in the very passage that we’re looking at here, Philip at this point says, “just show us the father,” which is the most astounding thing. Now let’s not be haughty, we might not even have been as sharp as Philip. But the point is, this is one of the proofs of the fact that we are actually tracking here in the life and ministry of Jesus, so, honestly, as Lewis said, “I know legend, this isn’t legend.” So honestly, that we have Philip revealed this late in the gospel of John to have missed the whole point of the incarnation. Jesus, by the way, doesn’t kick him out. But he does speak clearly, “Philip, how can you, how can you say to me, ‘show me the Father?’ If you see me, you see the Father.”

So if you take those passages together from chapter 1, chapter 12 and chapter 14, you come to understand what Jesus has already said to us, but now he’s speaking to the Father. He has said to us–and John has helped us to understand by speaking to us–that the Son has shown the Father, that to see the Son is to see the Father. Now, just remember that this is so astounding that we can’t let this pass without reflecting on the fact that if you look through the Old Testament, Israel’s singularity as God’s covenant purpose was repeatedly defined as the fact that they heard God, but did not see him. The great contrast between the reality of the one true and living God and the idols of all the people around Israel is that the idols are mute. The idols don’t speak. That’s the sign of their futility. But God speaks in a passage like Deuteronomy 30.  Israel will be reminded of the time when they stood with their children there at the foot of the mountain, and they heard God’s voice speak. And then Moses asked the question, “has any other people heard the voice of the Lord and survived?” Fascinating question. But God’s grace and mercy to Israel was to allow Israel to hear him, but not to see him. 

Even when you think of Moses asking to see God–and of course, Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock, and God simply passed by, His spirit passed by. That’s quite different than the incarnation. The incarnation is flesh and blood. The incarnation is baby in Bethlehem. The incarnation is boy in Nazareth. The incarnation is Jesus in Galilee, Jesus in Juda, Jesus in Jerusalem–this is incarnation. This is different. This is God showing himself, which is the one thing that in this sense, God did not and would not do except by Jesus. The arrogance of people to say, “God, if you will just show yourself to us.” And it’s the arrogance in one sense, and the embarrassing nature of Philip’s question, but how many people around us are saying, “I’d believe in God, if I could just see him?”  How many people are actually operating out of the intellectual conceit? “You know, if God’s real, then he would show himself to me. And I would believe Philip, ‘it will be enough for us. Lord, if you show us the Father.’”  “If I show you the Father? To see me is to see the Father.” But going back to John 17, the high priestly prayer is just an amazing little phrase in which Jesus says, “Mission accomplished. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” Now that’s something else.

When we speak of the gospel, and we speak of the exclusivity of the gospel, it’s an absolutely crucial, biblical New Testament teaching. There’s only one way to the Father, and that’s by the Son. Only one way by the Son, and that is by the knowledge of him. We would define that as saving faith, but there’s also only one people redeemed. Now this is humbling. Maybe for us, it’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s not just that there’s one savior. It’s just that there’s one church. There’s one people. That becomes absolutely crucial in the I priestly prayer–so crucial that what shocks us is not that the text says that Jesus will speak of the church “saying these are mine,” but he makes the distinction himself. “If you’re not one of these, you’re not mine.” It’s hard heard to talk after that. Actually, if all of human history is divided by the incarnation, then all of humanity is actually most fundamentally divided by those who belong to Christ And those who do not. 

So the exclusivity of the gospel necessarily comes with the exclusivity of ecclesia. So when you see the ancient principle, “Outside the church, there’s no salvation,” well, that’s absolutely true, but outside the church, there’s no Jesus. I don’t think a lot of American evangelicals either know this or want to know this, and that’s a shame. That’s a weakness. It’s an evasiveness on the part of many, because you say, “Well, what about all of humanity? Does God love all of humanity?” Well, in some sense he does, yes. God’s benevolence is to all, he causes it to rain on the just and the unjust, and to all to whom he’s given the gift of life, there is love that he shows even allowing that gift and in giving the good things of life and the habitation of planet earth, and even the common grace goods of family and marriage, and even the opportunity to work and to be a part of taking dominion. 

The one who is not in Christ still receives God’s benevolence, but God’s redemptive love is demonstrated only to those who are Christ’s. And that’s tough. So tough that throughout the recent centuries, groups of historic Christianity have been unable to hold it. Epecially in the 19th 20th centuries with the routine discovery of others–that is those who are other than us who believe differently than we do–a bit of intellectual hesitation came among some Christians to say, “well, how can we say, we’re the only people of God? Look at these other people. They have their gods. Surely God must love them too. There must be some sense in which they’re included in what the Roman Catholic church would call the ‘economy of salvation.’ Surely they must be included in some way.” And by the way, those, those questions are directly answered in scripture–directly answered. It’s not so much that there’s only one way. There is only one way, but it is that there is a way. From the Bible’s perspective, you don’t begin with all these groups who are at different points in a continuum on the race to get to salvation, it’s that there is only actually one, one way of salvation. This is the oneness of the incarnation, the oneness of God saving purpose, the oneness of God’s will, and there is nothing salvific outside  of that will, period, but there has been a compromise, a loss, a theological abdication. In the Protestant world, the Protestant liberalism came along and said, “well, we need to…” and by the way, this will show you how, if you’re going to create a theology anything other than biblical, you’re gonna make it in your own image. And, The people who are shaping that theology of Protestant liberalism were primarily Europeans and north Americans who said, “It’s a matter of greater and lesser lights.”

Well, of course, they’re not going to say Christianity is the lesser light, Christianity is the greater light. “And all these people that we meet with all their belief systems, they still have some light.  There may be salvation in that light, but it’s not so likely as what will happen in Christianity.” And of course, this is the same time the history of religion school is developing in, in the German universities. It just says, “we’re going to look at religion as a phenomena, phenomenology. We’re going to say all religion is a thing. It’s a human thing, different humans do religion differently. We’re going tolook at it and say, ‘well, look at the commonalities.’” 

Here’s the problem: the closer you look, the fewer commonalities you find, and yet does God love all? well, yes. In some sense, benevolent, yes.  But his redemptive love, his mercy, his agape is towards those who are in Christ.  But how did we end up in Christ? That’s the other thing, how there’s a bluntness and a concision to the way the gospel is defined right here in the high priesty prayer. And again, Jesus and the Father don’t have to explain things to one another. Jesus is saying to the father, “Hey, explain this gospel to me once again.” Instead, there’s merely affirmation,  and what what’s called summative affirmation, that is to say is just a summary. This is just Jesus summarizing in his prayer to the Father affirmations that we desperately need to know. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” 

So how do we become Christ’s? This is of course the doctrine of election. You can see that immediately. It is that the Father has given a people to the Son. And when did this happen? Well it happened before the incarnation. As a matter of fact, given the timeline of what Jesus is saying here, it happened before the creation of the world. Before the creation of the world, God had already given. It’s not just determined. It’s not just what you rightly call election. God had given to the Son people who did not yet exist, a people who did not yet exist and, and notice exactly how Jesus speaks here in verse six, “I manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” Well, this is before the world exists. So there’s already an “in the world and an out of the world” before there is a world. That is so helpful, and it reminds us of the fact that God’s sovereign purpose in salvation, his sovereign purpose in the entire order of all things visible and invisible, is completely consistent.

So who are those who belong to Christ? The ones that father given to him.How do you know who’s been given to the Son? By the Father, because they’re Christ people. It’s an unbroken form of reasoning here that Jesus simply articulates with the Father, but you’ll also notice something else. It says “whom you gave me out of the world.” And again, that’s where the world exists, but it makes this clear distinction between the church and the world. This too is something that causes us awkwardness: the fact that there’s such a distinction between the church and the world–and that distinction is never more radical than in this prayer. It helps us to understand all the rest of scripture. It helps us to understand the gospel. But this is so radical as to say that the entire purpose for which the cosmos was created was for the gospel of redemption to take place and be accomplished cosmos in a universe, on a planet where God would, in the Son, bring glory to himself, through the redemption of sinners who belong to him because of the Father’s grace.

“And they are distinct from the world.” We are distinct from the world. We are out of the world. It doesn’t feel like it’s helpful for us. It doesn’t feel like we’re out of the world, but we actually are out of the world. By the way, one of the ways that this prayer helps us to affirm that we’re out of the world and what that means is that out of the world, we’re completely safe in Jesus. This explains so many of the hymns that we sing, so many of the glad affirmations that we share with one another. Nothing the world can do to us can separate us from the love of Christ. This gets back to the gift to the Son by the Father of his people, and notice what he says in the next phrase. “Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”

My goodness. So they belonged to the father, but the father gives this people to the Son, and the characteristic that is most important of them is, “and they have kept your word,” which means more than anything else believing it. So this gets back to the manifesting. Jesus says to the father, “I have manifested your name to them.” And now he says of those to whom he manifested, “they’ve kept your word.” So here’s another thing about the people who are redeemed because they belong to the Father, and the Father has given us to the Son: we can’t be separated from him, and we will keep the faith.

This is true. So true, that it means anyonewho  does not keep the faith is not one of those given by the Father to the Son, because the distinctive of the ones given by the Father to the Son is that they keep the faith. They keep the word. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And so at any point in human history, our eyes may deceive us as to who is in this people and who is in the world, but there’s no confusion to the Father or the Son. There’s even more in this particular verse. “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.” So that now is very interesting. Now at the very end of his ministry as he’s coming right up to the accomplishment of atonement by crucifixion to offer himself a sacrific, as a substitute for us.

And speaking of us, he says, “now they know that you have given all this to me.” So the father gives, there’s a lot of giving here. The father gives to the son the people. The father, having given the son to his people, the people having received the ministry of the son now come to know that all that they were given in the son is given by the father. Now, you say, “well, I get that. That’s good theological logic. It’s essential. And thank you that, that’s helpful. We appreciate this text that helps to clarify things,” but just remember something else. This is in the context of old Testament expectation. It’s in the context of Jewish understanding. And so now we are told that the only way to know the father is the son. And again, all of a sudden incidents from the gospel of John become very clear to us when there’s Jewish opposition to Jesus and, and they claim to be the children of Moses. What does Jesus say? Jesus says, “Abraham knew me and believed.” So that means that there are people that belong to the father. The father is given to the son who have been long dead. The book of Hebrews helps to explain this. The book of Romans helps to explain this, just think about Abraham and in Romans chapter four. And we have to come back to this time and time again–we’re told that Abraham believed, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. “Justification by faith,” Paul says, “is not a new concept. That’s Genesis. You should have seen it.”

Hebrews 11 helps us to understand that they believed in Christ, but we often say that they had not seen him. But Jesus said Abraham did know him and believed. He made similar statements about Moses. But when you get to this point, you understand  just how tight the definitions are now coming. There are no redeemed people outside the people that the father has given to the son. These are redeemed people are identified first of all by how they came to be, and that’s by the father’s will, but also by what they see. They see the truth and believe. In verse eight–”for I’ve given them the words that you gave me and they have received them. And they have come to know in truth that I came from you and they believe that you sent me.” So the teaching ministry of Jesus becomes very clear in Jesus’s revelation. It’s not just in his body. It’s not just on the cross. It’s not just in the miracles, but it’s in the words, these are the words Jesus gave. But how many times did we see in the gospel of John already, where Jesus said, “pay attention to my words. If you love me, then you will receive words. You’ll believe my words. You will keep my commandments.” So the son here makes very clear that the words that he has given us are words he receives from the father.

There’s nothing else that we would come to understand out of this, the indivisibility the relationship between the father in the son. There’s not a crack in this invisibility. Again, those who are the redeemed people are evident because we believe that the father sent the son. And then in verse nine, this is the verse that is shocking and offensive to so many people. Jesus says, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” Jesus says, “I’m not praying for the world.”

I think that’s the way we would have assumed this would go. Jesus, on the brink of the beginning moments of his hour, which includes his crucifixion and what he’s doing on behalf of sinful humanity– this is where the average evangelical, I think looking at this would say, “well, Jesus would just pray the world, and say ‘I hope as many of them as possible come to faith in me. I hope that now, finally, they understand why I’ve come,’” but he doesn’t even say that he doesn’t even pray for them. Here’s where we have to understand something that is absolutely essential to our identity in Christ, and that is that we are only redeemed because Christ is right now, our high priest, we are only redeemed because Christ perfectly fulfills three offices of prophet, and priest, and king. And you often hear many evangelicals say, “I don’t need a priest.” Well, yes, you do. We are doomed and lost. We could never begin the Christian life, much less in the Christian life without a priest. There is no Christianity without the priest. There is no gospel without the priest. There is no salvation without the priest. Jesus is our priest. And what does Jesus do as our priest? He pray for us.

He, right now in his session, the Latin word for sitting, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, the father almighty–in his session, he prays for us. He ever intercedes for us. And so even as he prays for us here in John chapter 17, he prays for us right now. We’re only alive because Jesus Christ is our high priest. Right now, we’re only able to do what we’re doing because Jesus is now and forevermore our high priest, our identity in Christ, and our peace with the father is only possible, not only because of what Christ did for us on the cross and what God did and raising him from the dead, but it’s only possible because right now we have prophet, priest, and king. We have a great high priest who sympathizes with us, the Scripture says. He prays for us, and the very first time we see that happen is right here in John chapter 17, on the brink of his consummate work of atonement, Jesus says to the father, “I am praying not for the world, but for those you’ve given me.”

Now that raises another issue. That takes us back to where we were talking about the exclusivity of the gospel and the exclusivity of the church–does the coming of Jesus mean anything good for those who are not in him? Did any good thing come to the world by the incarnation of Christ? And the answer to that is yes. Yes. And  the most obvious “yes” is one we don’t often think about. And that is the fact that history did not end when the earthly ministry of Jesus ended.

So the very continuation of history and the outworking of God’s plan means that there will be billions of people who will have life, who otherwise would never have had life. Does Jesus give anything to the world beyond salvation? And the answer is yes, there are people who have been greatly encouraged, illuminated by Jesus, but the confusion in all of that is that in sinfulness–Jesus is cut down to size. His person and his work are redefined. It is not the worship of Jesus in truth, because that comes only from the inside.

The distinction between the world and the church is never more apparent in answering the question for whom does Christ pray? Period. To whom is Christ priest? Period. It’s deeply, deeply humbling. The mercy of God is so clear here. Jesus says, “I’m not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours,” There’s the “yours” again. “All mine are yours, and yours are mine. And I am glorified in them. I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world.” What’s going to happen in this shift that’s coming in this next portion of the high priestly prayer is that Jesus is going to start praying for us concretely. He’s going to be praying for us, who we are left in the world. He is not going to be in the world, but we are going to be in the world,  and he leaving us recognizes that we we would be like sheep without a shepherd. But actually we were like sheep without a shepherd before Jesus came. And after Jesus came, we’re never in the risk of being sheep without a shepherd. Because number one, he is our good shepherd always. But then also, as he said, and he made this very clear just as we were walking up to the high priestly prayer, Jesus actually told his disciples, “it will be better for you when I am not with you, for I will send the Holy Spirit.” And the Holy Spirit, as we saw, will do a work which is absolutely essential for the church.

So we’re not being abandoned, but we are being left in the world. And Jesus understood the world. Of course, Jesus understood the world. The world’s about to crucify him. “He came into his own,” as we know, from the prologue, “and his own received him not.” There’s never more graphic a moment when his own received him not as in when his own demanded, “give us Barabbas,” and cried out, “crucify him,” which they did. Jesus is praying here, first in the intimacy of his relationship with the father, sharing truth about that relationship and about even the entirety of salvation, the otherwise wouldn’t know. But Jesus is also here going to be praying for his disciples. And that is where we will turn when we’re together again in the next Lord’s day. But look at the transition, look at how it happened. “I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world, but for those whom you’ve given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I’m glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world.”

Now, what he says in the next few words of verse 11 is, “and I am coming to you. Holy father, keep them in your name, which you’ve given me that they may be one, even as we are one.” Now it’s to that passage that we will turn next week, but you’ll notice how this transition comes. Jesus, as he’s praying to the father, is no longer praying about the accomplishment of salvation, but the plight of his people left in the world, left in a world of hostility. Jesus said, “if they hated me, they’ll hate you. Why do you think that a servant will be greater than his master? They’re gonna drive you out of the synagogues. They’re gonna hunt you down and they’re going to kill you. You’d be safe, but nonetheless the antipathy of the world is real. “ This also reminds us, there’s a world. If we’re living in a context in which there is no antipathy from the world, there may be a lack of clarity on our part about Christ.

I want to say as we’re closing here this morning, all around us in the city of Louisville, people are doing what they do. As we come in this morning, we see people walking dogs and people doing the things many of them are doing on Sunday morning. They saw us come in here and they probably thought, “well, that’s what those people do. Religious people going into the church. That’s what religious people do.” Yet if they heard what we’ve just been talking about, they’d be horribly offended. I don’t just mean a little bit offended. I mean horribly offended, because we just made the statement that the distinction is between those who are in Christ and those who are in the world. If you’re not in Christ, then you are lost. Not only that Christ doesn’t even pray for you. We just said it because the word just taught it.

This really is dangerous. It’s really true that if we teach the gospel with sufficient clarity, yes, there’ll be people who will hear and believe that’s the good news, but there’s going to be a world that’s going to hear us and say, “wait, just a minute. Anyone who will believe such a thing has no place in a democratic free society.” This wasn’t an egalitarian, libertarian, personal autonomy inclusivist text. Jesus would say his ministry was none of those things. This gives the church absolutely no justification for pride. For one thing, it’s going to be made very clear that we are so weak, that we would be prophetically destroyed by the world, but for the fact that we’re protected by Christ, and that no one’s going to be able to take from the son those the father has given him. There’s no ground for pride here. It reminds us of the fact that even as the entry into the gospel is personal faith, and even as we tell people about Jesus, knowing that if they believe they will be saved, the reality is that just back before the creation of the world, the identity of that people both in terms of the individuals, but the identity that people together was already established. That’s humbling. 

So what did you and I contribute to this? Nothing. Does that make our relationship with Christ any less real? No. Does it make it all the more gracious? Yes. Let’s pray. Father, we come before you astounded by the fact that even as we are in the name of Christ, praying to you, Christ is always, evermore, everlastingly, without ceasing praying for us. Father, thank you. How we know we need Christ. How we know we need the prayer of Christ before you. We need a priest, father, and you’ve given us all the priests we need in the son, father. Thank you for allowing us entry into your relationship with the son and the son’s love for you in these verses. As we continue, may you open our eyes as that we might see, and father, even as we will never be able to exhaust this text, we dare to pray that we would gain from our reading and knowledge and study this text, everything needful for us, for our sanctification and our salvation until you make us whole in Christ on that day. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.