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 ESV
At this point in His prayer, Jesus switched the emphasis from Himself to His disciples. In fact, this section is the longest of His entire prayer and focuses solely on the future well-being of His disciples. But before He lifts up the disciples, He acknowledges that He has manifested God’s name to all those He had given Him out of the world. Jesus had lived His life in such a way that He revealed that nature and character of God. His very existence made the true nature of God recognizable and knowable to men. Paul described Jesus as “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV). John wrote, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” John 1:18 ESV). Again, Paul emphasized that Jesus was “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 ESV). When Jesus stated that He had manifested the name of God, He was saying that He had made the very essence of God known to man. Through Jesus they had come to know who God really was. After His resurrection and just before His ascension back into heaven, Jesus told His disciples, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7 ESV). Jesus had made God known. But the exact nature of God is only knowable to those whom God has chosen to reveal Himself. Jesus believed that His Father had given Him all those who chose to believe in Him. Earlier in His ministry Jesus had said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 ESV). This is one of those tension-filled concepts in Scripture with which many wrestle and struggle. It involves God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Did God choose us or did we choose God? Jesus clearly viewed those for whom He prayed as having been given to Him by God, not as those who had chosen to follow Him. At the end of the day, Jesus believed in and counted on the sovereign will of His Father. Yes, the disciples had each chosen to follow Jesus. They had left everything else behind and willingly walked after Jesus. But Jesus seemed to believe that even their decision to do so was the will of God. He had prayed throughout the night before He chose the twelve who would be His disciples. God had clearly directed His choice of the original twelve. Jesus saw everything as having been directed by and controlled by God. His sovereignty even extended to choice of all who would eventually believe in Jesus as their Savior. Later on in this same prayer, 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” (John 17:9 ESV). This belief is why Jesus could be so confident when He thought about the future of His followers. They were in the hands of God. They belonged to Him. Interestingly enough, Jesus said, “Yours they were, and you gave them to me” (John 17:6 ESV).
Then Jesus emphasized that those whom God had given Him had kept the word of God. They had believed on Jesus as the Son of God. At the baptism of Jesus by John, God had spoken these words: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (John 3:17 ESV). At the transfiguration of Jesus, three of the disciples had heard God say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (John 17:5 ESV). God had made it clear that Jesus was His Son. He was the Messiah, the Savior of the world. He was not just another man, a prophet, rabbi, or miracle worker. He was the Son of God. And those who had accepted that fact, had “kept the word of God.” They had listened to Jesus. They had believed the words of Jesus. They had accepted the fact that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to the Father. When Jesus had asked the disciples who they believed Jesus to be, Peter had spoken up and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV). Then Jesus had responded, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 17:17 ESV). In other words, Peter did not come to his realization on His own. God had revealed it to him. God had made it possible for Peter to recognize and comprehend the divine nature of Jesus. And that same testimony – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God – would be the basis for every other person to come to be reconciled or made right with God.
The disciples did not live completely obedient lives. Neither will we. But we can keep God’s Word, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, by continuing to rely on Him as our Savior and sin substitute. We can continually rest in Him as the way, the truth and the life. We can persistently believe that Jesus is the Son of god and the Savior of the world.