Notes on John 17:6-13

John 17:6‑13  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The Lord then explains how souls were brought into such nearness of relationship to Him before the Father.
“I manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world. Thine they were, and to me thou gavest them, and they have kept thy word. Now have they known that all things as many as thou hast given me are of thee; because the words which thou gavest me I have given to them, and they received [them], and knew truly that I came out from thee, and believed that thou didst send me.” (Vers. 6-8)
Thus the manifestation of the Father's name is first laid down. It was a characteristic and most influential truth, the Son being the only one competent, though none of course could enter in even so but by the Spirit, as we know and as is taught elsewhere. But as the Son could manifest His Father's name, so this He did in unjealous love, that the disciples, the men whom the Father gave Him out of the world, might know what He is as the Son knew Him; not, it need hardly be said, infinitely as was proper to the Only-begotten, but after that manner, as children of God, to whom the Son would impart that which was wholly outside and above man, and intrinsically of God for the family of God. For though the Lord had come to the Jews as their promised Messiah on earth, Him they would not have but had rejected, as they were just about to do even to the death of the cross. Hence, whatever may be the divine retribution another day when God makes inquisition for blood, and above all for His blood which they had blindly imprecated on themselves and their children, it became wholly a question of sovereign and heavenly grace, which, coming in the person of the Son, manifested His Father's name as no saint had ever enjoyed, no prophet so much as predicted, save perhaps in such a sort as to fall in with and confirm this most precious privilege when communicated. But even Hos. 1:1010Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. (Hosea 1:10) is comparatively vague. Here all is as full as it is precise. It was the positive side of what the Lord undertook with His own here below, and its highest character: not the meeting sin and misery in grace, not even the display of excellency as the righteous One, the Servant, the Man and as such Son of God, but the manifestation of what His Father was and is as He knew Him, and as they were learning who were given to the Son by the Father out of the world. For the world is now defined and judged as alien and opposed to the Father. How blessed for the disciples to hear themselves thus singled out and designated as His!
Nor is this all. “Thine they were, and to me thou gavest them, and they have kept thy word.” It appears to me that they err who refer the Lord's description to His followers as formerly of Israel merely, and as walking in all the commandments and ordinances of Jehovah blameless. They were His elect. The Father had a purpose about them, and thus they belonged to Him, who gave them to the Son, the object of His love and effectuator of His counsels, as He is also the accomplisher of redemption, to His own glory. And as the men given out of the world are thus viewed on a divine ground outside Jewish ties, so that which formed their souls and their ways was quite distinct; they had kept, says the Son, His Father's word, made known by Himself when with them on earth hitherto. This we have, speaking generally, in the Gospels, with not a little they could not then gear in the Epistles. Everything refers to the Father: the Son, a man on earth, is always exalting Him, and in view of his own departure would endear them to Him and give them the assurance of it.
This is developed yet more in what follows. “Now have they known that all things as many as thou hast given me are of thee.” (Ver. 7.) They had entered into the secret of which the world knew nothing: the Father was the source of all that was given to the Son. Some wondered at His works and His words; others in their enmity blasphemously attributed what was beyond man to Satan. The disciples had learned that they were all of the Father, as the Son desired that they should. It was not only that He came out from the Father, nor that He had finished the work the Father had given Him to do, as their title to blessing with the Son before Him; but the means for bringing them into the blessing were also of the Father; “because the words which thou gavest me I have given to them, and they received [them], and knew truly that I came out from thee and believed that thou didst send me.” (Ver. 8.) Thus the Lord handed over to His disciples those intimate communications of grace which the Father gave to Himself. It was no longer a question of the ten words given by Moses, the measure of man's responsibility to prove his sin and ruin which he neither owned nor felt. The words which the Father gave the Son were the expression of divine grace and love according to that blessed relationship in which the Son stood, though man; and the disciples, once mere men, but now born of God, have eternal life in Him and are given these words by the Son that they might know and enjoy the new relationship which grace had conferred on them. Nor was it in vain, however slow of heart they might be in believing all. For if He had given to them the words the Father gave to Him, the disciples received the truth really, though no doubt imperfectly; and the result was that they knew truly that Christ the Son came out from the Father, and believed that the Father sent Him. This is all the reckoning of grace here, not measuring degrees, but making much of reality, as He can well do whose love gives, deepens, and secures from first to last. Even for them to know assuredly that the Son came out from the Father does not suffice His heart, for this would not necessarily prove more than His own love in so coming; but the disciples believed the further truth that the Father sent Him, the proof of His own love to them. How rich, how needful, is every word of His grace!
“I ask for them: not for the world do I ask, but for those whom thou host given me, for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine (and all my things are thine, and all thy things mine), and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee.” (Vers. 9-11)
It is concerning the disciples He makes request, not for Israel nor the nations, not for the land nor the earth at large, but concerning those whom the Father had given Him. It is no question of taking up the world for government or blessing now: He is occupied with the joint-heirs, not with the inheritance as yet. By-and-by, as Psa. 2 lets us know, Jehovah will say, Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. But then the Son will be upon His holy hill of Zion, instead of being rejected on earth and received up on high. Then, instead of sustaining the suffering family of God who bear His reproach here below and wait for heavenly glory with Him, He will break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. It is not the interval of the gospel as now, but the day of the kingdom in power and glory. Here the Lord is praying for His own as the precious gift of the Father to Himself, while cut off and having nothing that was promised Him here below; and He asks the more, because they were the Father's. But this gives occasion for a parenthetic statement which lets out much of the light of His personal glory: And all My things are Thine, and all Thy things Mine.1 As the Son of David, the Messiah, could this reciprocity have been so expressed? Is it not evidently and only in virtue of His being the Eternal Son, one with the Father, that they have rights and interests no less boundless than common? After this however He returns to the saints as those in whom He was glorified as a fact, not past but abiding, urging their care on the Father, both because He sees Himself no longer with them in the world and themselves so much the more exposed in it, as He was going back to the Father. Hence arises afresh appeal.
“Holy Father, keep them in thy name which2 thou hast given me, that they may be one even as [also] we. When I was with them, I was keeping them in the name which thou hast given me, and I guarded [them], and not one of them perished but the son of perdition that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now unto thee I come, and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (Vers. 11-13)
The Lord asks His Father, as a holy Father, to keep the disciples in His name that they might be one, even as also the Father and the Son. And this was accomplished by the power of the Holy Ghost in those very men who then stood around Him. Never before or since was such unity produced in human beings on earth. Yet the Gospels are the plainest proof that they were far from it whilst our Lord was here below with them. It was to be the fruit of His grace through redemption after He went on high and sent down the Holy Ghost to effect it. And it was essential as a practical basis for Christianity. For doctrine is not enough without reality in life, and this most of all in those who were raised up of God to lay down the foundation. Granted that they were men of like passions with ourselves or any; granted that they displayed varied and not slight infirmities even under their Master's eyes and ministry on earth; granted that they then from first to last betrayed petty prejudices and narrow hearts and no small jealousy of each other, even in presence of the deepest love and lowliness, and words and ways which made their contrasted jars (and the selfishness which gave rise to all) most humbling and painful: all this, and more, only add to the blessedness of what God wrought in these very men by His Spirit in answer to the Lord's demand. The power of the Father's name, which the Lord here below knew so well, was manifest in them, and the twelve were one, even as the Father and the Son. None would have ventured so to describe but Christ; but if He did, He is the truth; and in fact with whom or what else could their unity as witnessed in the Acts and Epistles of the apostles be compared? Never elsewhere was seen such rising above egotism in the aims, measures, objects, the life and service of men on earth; never such common devotedness to, and absorption in, the will of God for the magnifying of the risen Jesus.
The Lord then, in committing His own to the Father whom in that name He was keeping whilst here, speaks of having kept them safe, save that one who was doomed to destruction. Awful lesson! that even the constant presence of Jesus fails to win where the Spirit brings not the truth home to the conscience. Does this enfeeble scripture? On the contrary, the scripture was thereby fulfilled. Chapter xiii. referred to Jades that none should be stumbled by such an end of his ministry. Here it is rather that none should therefore doubt the Lord's care or the scripture. He was not one of those given to Christ by the Father, though called to be an apostle: of those so given He had lost none. Judas was an apparent, not a real, exception, as he was not a child of God but the son of perdition. To see the awful end of so heartless a course would only give more force to His works of grace who, if He left the world for the Father, was bringing them into His own associations before the Father. Judas may never have meant the worst, as Satan did who entered him; but he did mean at all cost to gratify his love of money, trusting that He who had heretofore baffled His enemies would be able to extricate Himself. But he trusted his own thoughts to the death of His Master, and to his own eternal ruin; as Jesus carrying out His love in obedience to His Father would bring His own by His death to glory on high and His own place there: and expressed it here that even now they might have His joy fulfilled in themselves. And now that the Lord was going to the Father He speaks these things in the world that the disciples might have His joy fulfilled in themselves. The Father would surely prove the value of His name when the Son was not here in person to watch over them; and the very ruin of Judas rightly read should make the scripture still more solemn and sure to their souls.