The Tables Are Turned.

Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples. All the officials of the provinces and the satraps and the governors and the royal agents also helped the Jews, for the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces, for the man Mordecai grew more and more powerful. The Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. In Susa the citadel itself the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men, and also killed Parshandatha and Dalphon and Aspatha and Poratha and Adalia and Aridatha and Parmashta and Arisai and Aridai and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, but they laid no hand on the plunder. – Esther 9:1-10 ESV

When the fateful day arrived, the one for which Haman had planned and the Jews had dreaded for almost a year, the outcome was much different than anyone had anticipated. The 13th day of the month of Adar would be marked by death as Haman had desired. But it would not be the Jews whose lives were taken. It would not be their blood that was spilled. This day would feature a complete reversal of fortunes and the author of the book of Esther makes it quite clear.

The Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.

And no one could stand against them…

…the fear of them had fallen on all the peoples.

…the governors and royal agents also helped the Jews…

…the fear of Mordecai had fallen on them.

…for Mordecai grew more and more powerful.

…the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword…

…the Jews killed and destroyed 500 men…

…and also killed…the ten sons of Haman.

…but they laid no hand on the plunder.

The author tells us, “on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred” (Esther 9:1b ESV). In the roughly eight months since the issuing of the second decree, Mordecai’s influence in the kingdom had grown. The peoples’ respect for him and for the Jews had increased greatly. And the Jews had been given ample time to prepare themselves for the looming day of slaughter. So when that day arrived, things turned out dramatically different than anticipated. The enemies of the people of God found themselves on the short end of the stick. The playground bully found himself on the receiving end, getting a taste of his own medicine.

Once again, as has been the case throughout the book of Esther, God is no where mentioned in the events of the 13th day of Adar. But this entire reversal of fortune is the clear result of the sovereign will of God. It is important to note that the Jews mentioned in this chapter are made up of those who chose to stay behind in Persia rather than return to the land of Canaan under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. Years earlier, during the reign of King Cyrus, he had decreed the return of the Jews to their land in order to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple.

Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. – Ezra 1:3-4 ESV

But not everyone returned. Many of the Jews had chosen to stay in Persia. Perhaps the journey was too risky. The thought of having to return to the scene of so much destruction could have been too much for them to consider. Or maybe some of them had become content in Persia, enjoying their new land and acclimating themselves to their new lifestyle. But whatever the case, Mordecai, Esther and the rest of the Jews living in the capital of Susa and throughout the 127 provinces of Persia, were those who had chosen to remain and not return. But God had not abandoned them. While their fellow Jews were busy rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and restoring the temple so that the Jews could worship once again, they were living in relative comfort and ease in Persia. That is, until Haman had issued the first decree. Then, their world had become darkened and their hearts had been filled with despair. They had mourned. They had feared. But God had acted on their behalf. Mordecai had confronted Esther. She had boldly approached the king. Haman had been exposed. The second edict had been issued. And when the day arrived, the Jews gained the upper hand on their enemies. This was all an act of God. It was the sovereign, providential work of God Almighty. Even His rebellious children living in the land of Persia would know what it means to experience the faithful love of God and to enjoy His undeserved mercy and grace.

The prophet, Ezekiel, tells us why God would do such a thing. He tells of the day when God will rescue all His people, the Jews, from their exile throughout the world.

Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. – Ezekiel 36:22-24 NLT

Why is God going to do this? What would motivate Him to rescue a people who have proven to be unfaithful to Him? The holiness of His own name. God is protective of His own reputation. He has made the Jews His chosen people. He has called them His very own. And while they may have proven unfaithful to Him, rejecting His Son as their Messiah and refusing to accept God’s repeated calls to repent and return to Him, He has remained faithful. He has kept His promises. And He will one day restore them. All one has to do is look at the history of Israel to realize that God has been preserving and protecting them for centuries. Their very existence is the handiwork of God. Despite repeated attempts by dictators, despots, nations and movements to eradicate the Jews, they remain. This is not the result of their own stamina and strength, but because God is not done with them yet. During the days of Mordecai and Esther, God was preserving a remnant in Persia. And God is still protecting His people all across the world. And one day, He will restore them to a right relationship with Him. He will return them to the land of Canaan. He will place His Son on the throne of David where He will rule and reign. The story of Esther is a small glimpse into the story of God’s redemptive plan for Israel and for the world. The tables will be turned. The fortunes of God’s people will be reversed. The righteous will win. The name of God will be revered. The King will reign.

Knowing (Loving) God.

O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. – John 17:25-26 ESV

John 17:1-26

Jesus ended His prayer with an acknowledgement that the world into which He had come had, for the most part, refused to accept Him for who he was. The majority of the Jews had rejected Him as the Messiah. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:10-11 ESV). And because they had failed to know or recognize Him as Messiah, it had left them ignorant of who God really way. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had said, “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27 ESV). With His coming to earth, Jesus had made God known. He had made the invisible, visible and the unknowable, known. When Jesus said He had made to His disciples the name of God, He was saying that He had made known to them the very nature and character of God. Jesus’ very presence on earth was an expression of the love of God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ESV). “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).

Jesus was the revelation of God’s love. But He was also the revelation of God’s righteousness. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless and righteous life. He demonstrated in a real and tangible way exactly what God expected from men. His life of sinless perfection was a demonstration of God’s righteousness “fleshed out.” Sinful man was only capable of living up to God’s standard of righteousness with God’s help. Not only that, Jesus revealed God’s righteousness by becoming the very demonstration of God’s holiness and love lived out. God always does what is right. He never does anything that would contradict His own character. In sending His own Son, God was able to satisfy His own sense of justice against sin, while providing a conduit for His love at the same time. Paul puts it this way: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26 ESV). Jesus’ death on the cross was a visible reminder of God’s hatred of sin. The sins of mankind could only be atoned or paid for by the death of a sinless man. Since no human existed who could measure up to that standard, His sent His own Son. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).

Jesus made God known. He made known His holiness by living it out for all to see. The holiness of God is not ethereal and invisible, but highly practical and tangible. Jesus demonstrated it in the way He lives His life. He showed that the holiness of God was achievable in the life of any man or woman who recognized their own sinfulness and accepted God’s free gift of righteousness made available through His Son’s death and resurrection. Jesus also made known God’s love. He showed us that God’s love is so great that He sent His own Son to die for us – even while we were mired in our sinfulness with no hope of ever changing our ways. God loved us so much that He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves. And Jesus was the demonstration of that love.

In His prayer, Jesus promised to continue to reveal the love of God to His followers. He would do so in His coming death on the cross. But the resurrection of Jesus would also reveal God’s love for His Son. God would raise Jesus from the dead and restore Him to His rightful place of prominence and power at His side. And it is the full scope of that amazing love that Jesus wants His followers to know and experience. To know God is experience and understand the full scope of the love of God. It is also to love God in return. When we begin to grasp just how loving our God really is, we can’t help but return our gratitude in the form of love for Him. Our growing comprehension of the love of God produces in us a love for God. And that is exactly what Jesus prayed for – “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Live With the End In Mind.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. – John 17:24 ESV

John 17:1-26

If taken out of context, this prayer would appear to have been prayed by Jesus from heaven, long after His death, resurrection and ascension. He makes mention of His desire that the disciples be able to join Him where He is. At the point Jesus prayed this prayer, the disciples were right there with Him. He was still earth-bound and facing His coming trials and crucifixion. But He prayed with a sense of accomplishment and finality, as if He was already back in heaven with His Father. He had full confidence that His death would result in His glorification. He would have to die, but He would also be raised back to life by the Father and restored to His original position of power and authority at His Father’s side. He longed for His disciples to be able to see His coming glory. The three, Peter, James and John, had gotten a slight glimpse of what it might be like when they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. But Jesus was looking forward to the day when all His followers would see Him for who He truly is – the sovereign, all-powerful Son of God. On earth, while Jesus could perform incredible miracles, He had limitations. He suffered from hunger. He grew tired. He was susceptible to pain. He could calm the storm, walk on water, even raise the dead, but He would be brutally put to death at the hands of men. But there is a day coming when we will see Him like He really is. His appearance on earth as a man, His incarnation, was a necessary, but temporary condition. Paul reminds us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV). Jesus willingly humbled Himself and took on human flesh. He became a servant to sinful men. He even submitted Himself to death at the hands of men in order to pay for their sins and make it possible for them to be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. But Paul goes on to say, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV). This was what Jesus was praying about. He longed for the day when His followers would witness His true glory. The apostle John wrote about that very event. “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). There is a day coming, when we will see Jesus in all His glory, but we will also see ourselves in our glorified state as well. “And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory” (Colossians 3:4 NLT).

In essence, Jesus was praying for and longing for the culmination of all things. He knew that He was going to have to die. He also knew that His disciples were going to be left behind, which is why He promised them the coming of the Holy Spirit. He was also fully aware that no one, Himself included, knew the day of His own return. In the meantime, His followers would have to continue to live on this earth, facing the attacks of the enemy, enduring the hatred of the world, and wrestling with their own sin natures. So Jesus prayed for the day when all His followers would be with Him and able to see Him in His glorified state. That day would signify the completion of God’s redemptive work on earth. Sin would be eradicated, death would be defeated, Satan would be destroyed, and God’s Kingdom would be established over all the earth. God’s Kingdom would have come and His will done on earth as it is in heaven. This prayer reminds us that God’s plan is not yet complete and that Jesus’ work is not yet done. So like Jesus, we should live with a sense of eager anticipation. We should long for our glorification so that we can enjoy the thrill of seeing Him as He truly is. This world is temporary. Our place here is not intended to be permanent. God has something far greater in store for all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us, “For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die…” (1 Corinthians 15:53-54 NLT).

All of this will take place because God loves His Son and that love is timeless and limitless. He has loved Him from eternity past and the extend of His love for Him will be revealed to all of us when we see Jesus in all His glory. We will witness the culmination of God’s great redemptive plan and be able to see with our own eyes, the incredible love that the Father has for His Son. Right now, we know in part, but the day is coming when we will have full knowledge and understanding of just how great God’s love really is. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NLT).

Unity With A Purpose.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. – John 17:21-22 ESV

John 17:1-26

Jesus has just finished asking God the Father to sanctify the disciples in the truth, the truth of the Word. But He qualifies and clarifies His request by expanding it to include all “those who will believe in me through their word.” This sanctification process made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and based on the truth of God’s Word would result in oneness – a unity based on conformity to the Word of God. Jesus is not asking His Father to make it so everyone would just get along. No, He is asking for sanctification – an increasing spiritual transformation in the lives of His disciples and every subsequent Christ-follower to come. He is asking for the same kind of unity that He and the Father share. He is not talking about friendship, but a unity based on a shared will and a common desire to glorify God. The unity Jesus prayed for was based on the kind of unity He knew intimately well. He knew the will of His Father and He desired nothing more than to see it fulfilled – in His life and in the world. I think that is why, in His model prayer, Jesus gave us the words, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ESV). Jesus and His Father were completely unified when it came to the divine plan for mankind. There was never any disunity or disagreement between the two as to what needed to be done and what Jesus’ role was to be. In the garden Jesus did pray, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV). His humanity would have preferred a different path than the one chosen for Him by God. But because He and the Father were one, Jesus was willing to submit His will to the One He trusted and loved. Jesus knew the Father well. He knew His heart and was intimately aware of His character. He did not doubt the Father’s love for Him. He did not question the Father’s plans for Him. They were one.

So Jesus prayed that all His followers would experience the same kind of oneness that He and His Father enjoyed. A oneness or unity based on the truth of God’s Word and the unchanging character of God that it reveals. To be sanctified in the truth of God’s Word is to be constantly transformed by the growing awareness of God’s loving, sovereign, perfect plan for mankind as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is to be increasingly convinced of the supernatural reality of Christ’s redemptive work, the Father’s love, the world’s lostness, and our God-ordained commission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone and everyone we meet. When Jesus prays for our unity, He is asking for so much more than just a let’s-get-along mentality. He is asking for more than just agreement over doctrine and a mutual assent to certain theological truths. He is praying for the same kind of non-negotiable unity that He and the Father share. We can waste so much time debating and disagreeing over issues of doctrine and lose sight of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. We can end up arguing over certain theological issues, defending our point of view and demanding our interpretation be accepted, all the while failing to seek that God’s Kingdom come and His will be done. The apostle John reminds us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV) and “that he appeared in order to take away sins” (1 John 3:5 ESV). How easy it is to forget those two truths and become obsessed with something other than the will of God.

It is interesting to note that the end result of our unity is not just to be horizontal in nature, but vertical. Our unity is ultimately to be with God and His Son. If our unity is merely horizontal in nature; in other words, if we just get along with one another, but lack an awareness of and submission to the will of God, it is wasted. There are cults, religions, organizations and groups of all kinds that share a oneness that is anything but godly. What Jesus prayed for was a growing godliness based on God’s Word and an increasing oneness with one another based on the same oneness He shared with His Father. He wanted us to share a common cause and commitment based on the will of God for mankind. And Jesus knew that when His followers were unified in that way, the world would know that He had been sent by the Father. In other words, when we, as His disciples, become convinced of God’s redemptive will and submit to it willingly, we will want what He wants. We will do everything in our power to see that His Kingdom come and His is done on this earth just as it is done in heaven. And the world will know that Jesus Christ truly was the Son of God sent to provide salvation from sin and death and a restored relationship with God the Father.

Left Behind, But Not Alone.

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. – John 17:13-16 ESV

John 17:1-26

As difficult as it was for the disciples to accept Jesus’ admission that He was going to die, it had to be even more unsettling when, after His resurrection, He told them He was going away. They had just gotten Him back from the dead, a fact that had been hard for them to accept initially. But once they had come to grips with the amazing realization that He was alive, He told them that He was leaving. They would be on their own. Left behind to continue the work He had begun. It all had to be a bit overwhelming and confusing. Jesus had known it would be, which is why His prayer for them contained a request that His Father keep them from the evil one. He knew they were going to face all kinds of opposition for His name’s sake. As His followers, they were no longer “of the world.” They had become citizens of another Kingdom. But for the foreseeable future they were going to be ambassadors for Christ in this world. Jesus was leaving them behind to continue spreading the news of salvation that His death was going to make possible. The apostle Paul understood that mission well. “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT). The disciples and all those who would follow them, have been given the ministry of reconciliation. It is our job to tell the world about how to be made right with God. We have been left behind for a reason. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 29:19 ESV).

So we have a job to do. But we have not been left alone or defenseless. Jesus prayed for us. Yes, we are hated by the world because we are not of this world anymore. We are foreigners and sojourners. We are like aliens living in a strange land. We don’t really belong here anymore, but we have a mission to accomplish. And not only does the world hate us, the prince of this world, Satan, is out to destroy us. He despises and loathes us because we are children of God, which is why Jesus asked the Father to keep us from him. The two big threats we face as believers are complacency or compromise. If Satan can get us to lose the urgency of our God-given mission and make it a back-burner issue, he has won. If he can get our faith in Christ to become just another add-on to our already busy lives, he will have made us ineffective and essentially powerless. But another threat we face is compromise. If Satan can get us to fall in love with the world and seek our satisfaction and sufficiency from all that it offers, it will render us useless for the cause of Christ. The apostle John warned, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 ESV). It is virtually impossible to effectively serve God’s Kingdom when we are in love with this one. Compromise and complacency are deadly temptations for each of us as believers. So Jesus prayed that God would keep us from the evil one. He wanted us to remain loyal to our God and faithful to our commission, right up until the end. We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not of this world. We are citizens of another Kingdom. We serve another King. We live according to a different set of standards or rules. But not only are we citizens of a different Kingdom, we are children of the King. In fact, Paul would have us remember, “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17 ESV).

Jesus knew that life on this earth for His followers would be difficult after His departure. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit. He is to be our comforter, helper, guide, and source of spiritual strength. Jesus understood the dangers and difficulties His followers would face. But He also knew that His Father was fully capable of caring for them and keeping them safe. Our salvation was completely God’s doing. Our sanctification or growth in Christ-likeness is His doing as well. Our safekeeping and security as His children is up to God as well. He has not and will not lose a single one He has redeemed. Our faith is secure, not because we live up to a certain standard or keep ourselves from committing certain sins, but because God holds us in His hands and will never let us go. While we live in this world, we must constantly remind ourselves that our real home is with Him. He has saved us so that we might be with Him. Jesus even told His disciples, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4 ESV).

Divine Preservative.

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, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 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 the Scripture might be fulfilled. – John 17:11-12 ESV

John 17:1-26

Jesus knew what was about to happen to Him. He also believed and trusted that God was going to glorify Him after His coming death by raising Him back to life and restoring Him to His rightful position as the Son of God. Jesus was so confident that He spoke as if it was a done deal: “I am no longer in the world.” He was confident in His belief that He would soon be back at the side of His Father. With that in mind, Jesus prayed for those He would be leaving behind. He asked His Father to keep them in His name. This could mean to keep them loyal by the power of His name or it could mean to keep them loyal to all that Jesus revealed concerning the character and nature of God. Jesus’ request probably contains both meanings. After His departure, the disciples would be shepherdless and alone. They would be susceptible to attack and prone to wander, so Jesus asks the Father to keep them. The Greek word, tēreō means “to take care of or guard.” Jesus was asking the Father to preserve those whom He had given to His Son as His followers. With His coming departure from this world, Jesus was handing over the safe keeping of His disciples to His “Holy Father.” This is the only time in the New Testament that this particular form of address of God is used. “Holy” refers to God’s purity and righteousness. “Father” portrays the intimate personal relationship that a holy God has chosen to have with sinful men. The title “Holy Father” reveals the incredible nature of the status we enjoy as believers. Jesus has made it possible for us to have an intimate, child-and-father relationship with the sinless, holy God of the universe.

And for Jesus, the byproduct of this relationship with God should be unity among those who find themselves members of the family of God. Jesus knew that disunity and dissension would be real temptations for the disciples once He was gone. Their own sin natures and the attacks of Satan himself would be constant threats to their unity. He knew that God would have to keep them, care for and protect them, if they were going to remain faithful to the cause of Christ and unified in their love for one another. Jesus had already warned His disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:16-18 ESV). Jesus knew that things were not going to be easy for His followers after His ascension. Yes, they would have the Holy Spirit to assist and empower them, but the threats would be real. The persecution would be intense. Jesus had told them, “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22 ESV). But Jesus was completely confident that His Holy Father would keep them and give them a supernatural measure of unity. During His earthly ministry, He had watched as His rag-tag band of disciples had remained with Him. He had not lost a single one of the men God had given to Him, except Judas, “the son of destruction.” But Jesus had not really “lost” Judas. His role had been predicted from long ago. The Old Testament had prophesied the betrayal of the Messiah by Judas hundreds of years before. “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9 ESV). “Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few; may another take his office!” (Psalm 109:6-8 ESV). The betrayal of Jesus by Judas had been a part of God’s divine plan from the very beginning. Jesus did not “lose” him. It was Judas who left Jesus, turning Him over to the authorities in order to make a profit off his former teacher and friend.

But for the rest, Jesus prayed for God’s divine protection, asking His Father to preserve them, keep them, empower them and unify them. He would soon be leaving, but He was not going to leave them alone or defenseless. He would provide them with the Holy Spirit. He would leave them in the highly capable and powerful hands of God, their Holy Father. They would have divine power and protection. The eleven followers God had given Jesus would go on to radically change the world. They would be transformed from cowering, fearful and defeated men into powerful spokesmen for the cause of Christ, spreading the good news of salvation in Him alone all around the world. We too, as Christ’s followers, enjoy this same divine protection and are constantly being preserved by our loving Holy Father. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, empower and comfort us. We have God Himself to go before us, fighting our battles and defending us against our own sin natures and the attacks of the enemy. And we can rest easy knowing the Jesus Himself sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding daily on our behalf.

Inclusive, Yet Exclusive.

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. – John 17:9-10 ESV

John 17:1-26

Jesus made a very interesting, yet non-debatable point in this section of His prayer. He had been referencing “the people whom you gave me out of the world” (John 17:6 ESV). He made it clear that it was for these individuals for whom He was praying. “I am praying for them … those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” Jesus clearly had in mind His disciples – all those who had believed in Him, including Mary Magdalene and the other women who had become part of his extended earthly “family.” Anyone who had placed their faith in Jesus and believed Him to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV), had become part of the exclusive group for which Jesus was praying. He distinctly sets them apart, saying, “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me.” Jesus echoed His belief that His followers were given to Him by God the Father. These men and women, from all walks of life, with their varying backgrounds, diverse economic situations, and varied sin stories, had been moved by God to step out in faith and follow His Son. And as far as Jesus was concerned, they belonged to the Father. But as the Son of God, He shared in that unique and exclusive relationship with the Father and His children. When God chooses to adopt someone into His family, they become His child and heir, and joint heirs with Christ. They get included into an exclusive family that enjoys unique benefits and privileges. This inclusion should never be taken lightly or for granted. It is not based on anyone’s merit and can never be earned or deserved in any way. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV). Salvation is a gift of God, made available through the death of His own Son.

There were going to be others who believed in Jesus and who would be included into this exclusive, yet growing family of God. A little later on in this same prayer, Jesus will tell the Father, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20 ESV). After His death and resurrection, and just prior to His ascension back into heaven, Jesus would tell His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 29:29-20 ESV). God continues to call individuals from all over the world to Himself. Millions upon millions of people have been included into the family of God by placing their faith in the Son of God as their Savior. Jesus had told His disciples, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32 ESV). His death by crucifixion, along with His miraculous resurrection, continue to draw people back to God. It is all the work of God. Paul reminds us, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 ESV).

Christ died for all. His death was sufficient to pay for the sins of all mankind. But not all have have believed. There were many in Jesus’ day who rejected His message and refused to accept Him as their Messiah and Savior. They remained dead in their trespasses and sins. At the beginning of his gospel, John writes, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13 ESV). The light, Jesus, was made visible to all, but not all received Him as the light. They preferred to go on living in darkness. Not all will be saved. The faith family of God, is inclusive to any and all, regardless of the color of their skin, the severity of their sin, their social and economic status, or intellectual prowess. But it is also exclusive. Jesus had made it clear. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). There is no other way. You can’t get to God through any other means. That exclusivity means that not all will be included in the family of God. Not all will accept Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. But for those of us who have placed our faith in Christ and been reconciled to or made right with God, we should rejoice and realize that our status as God’s children is due to His grace, not our merit. The very fact that we belong to God brings glory to Jesus because He is the one who made it possible. Without Him, we would be lost.

Consider the Source.

Now they know that 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 have believed that you sent me. – John 17:7-8 ESV

John 17:1-26

In His prayer, Jesus claimed that His disciples had come to know and understand that everything He had – His power, miracles, position, words, insights, mission, and message – were from God. Jesus had spent three years of His life giving them the message He had received from God. It was a message concerning repentance. God was calling them to turn, not only from sin, but from their old thinking regarding God and how to be made right with Him. No longer would strict adherence to the law be the way in which men attempted to earn favor with God. Animal sacrifices, always an incomplete and temporary solution to man’s sin problem, would no longer be the preferred method for finding forgiveness of sins. God had sent His Son to be the permanent, once-for-all remedy for the death sentence that hung over mankind as a result of the fall. Jesus came preaching, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17 NLT). “Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. ‘The time promised by God has come at last!’ he announced. ‘The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!’” (Mark 1:14-15 NLT). Jesus came bringing a new message of hope and restoration. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17 NLT). Rather than salvation based on outward performance and an unachievable adherence to a set of moral and ethical standards, Jesus came offering salvation by faith alone in Him alone. He taught that there was only way in which might be made right with God and it was Him. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). 

And Jesus said that His disciples had received these words and come to believe that He had been sent by God. He was, as Peter confessed, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV). He was the Son of God just as the voice of God had said at both His baptism and His transfiguration. Jesus was not just a man, a prophet, rabbi, teacher, or miracle worker. He wasn’t just a good man, He was the God-man. He was God in human flesh, God incarnate. He was Immanuel, God with us. He was divine and divinely sent to bring the salvation of God to a lost and dying world. He was the fulfillment of the promises of God made hundreds of years earlier by the prophets of God. He was the long-awaited-for Messiah. He was the promised descendant of David who would sit on his throne in Jerusalem and whose kingdom would have no end. Jesus was sent by God to pay for the sins of the world. He took on human flesh, lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death on behalf of mankind, in order to satisfy the just demands of a holy and righteous God. The wages of sin is death. Rebellion against God results in a death sentence. But God provided His own Son as the substitute for every person who has ever lived. His death, as the sacrificial Passover Lamb, propitiated or satisfied the wrath of God. His shed blood was necessary, because God had said, “for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the LORD. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible” (Leviticus 17:11 NLT). The writer of Hebrews tells us, “according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NLT). God sent His Son to die. He had to be the sinless, spotless sacrifice for the sins of mankind. And the disciples, when they heard the words of God spoken by the Son of God, received and believed them. 

As implausible as it all sounded, they believed. As radically different and paradigm shifting as the message of Jesus was to their Jewish sensibilities, they believed. There was much that the disciples did not understand. They didn’t always comprehend everything that Jesus said. They didn’t always like what they heard coming out of His mouth, especially His admission that He was going to have to go to Jerusalem and die. But they believed that He had come from God. They believed Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus had made God known and knowable to man. “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (John 1:18 NLT). Jesus pointed men to God. He was the very manifestation of God in human flesh. “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (John 1:14 NLT). And the disciples believed. Belief in the words of God concerning His Son are still the basis for salvation today. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:35-36 ESV). We must consider the source – Jesus Christ has been sent by God to be the means by which men might be made right with God. He was the God-provided sin substitute and spotless sacrifice who made our reconciliation to God possible. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).

Keeping God’s Word.

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

John 17:1-26

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.

Mission Accomplished.

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the 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. – John 17:4-5 ESV

John 17:1-26

Jesus had done what He had come to do. Interestingly enough, this prayer was prayed before His death, burial and resurrection, yet from Jesus’ perspective, even that part of His mission was as good as done. He was committed to complete the full assignment given to Him by God the Father. Jesus had come to earth and taken on human flesh. He had lived a sinless life. He had spread the news of the coming Kingdom of God and preached a message of repentance, calling people to return to God. He had performed miracles, healed the sick, ministered to the poor and spiritually needy. He had exposed the hypocrisy of the religious elite and trained the men who would carry forward the message of the gospel when He was gone. And all that Jesus had done brought glory to His Father in heaven. Why? Because He had been obedient to all that He had been asked to do. The apostle Paul encourages us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV). Jesus lived His entire life on earth in order to glorify God the Father. Jesus was humble and not in it for His own glory. He suffered rejection, ridicule, false accusations, betrayal, torture, and eventually death – all in order to glorify God. His miracles were meant to glorify God. His words, whether encouraging the downtrodden or admonishing the arrogant, were said in such a way that they always brought glory to God. Paul challenges us to live the same way: “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). Peter echoes those same sentiments. “Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (1 Peter 4:11 NLT). Jesus lived fully obedient to and dependent upon His Father in heaven. He did nothing out of selfishness or with a hint of self-preservation. He knew His destiny included death, but was willing to go through with it because of His love for the Father. He trusted in His heavenly Father and was fully assured that His death would be acceptable to God as payment for the sins of mankind. He was also confident that God would glorify Him by raising Him back to life and returning Him to His rightful place. Paul tells us, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV).

Jesus’ entire life brought God glory, from the moment of His miraculous conception by the Spirit of God in the womb of Mary to His death on the cross. He lived to bring glory to God. He died so that men might be restored to a right relationship with God. For Jesus, the glory of the Father was more important than anything else. It was His life’s mission. When sinful men and women place their faith in Jesus as their sin substitute, it brings glory to God, because salvation was God’s idea. He sent His Son to die for the sins of man. He provided a way in which men might be reconciled or made right by Him. And the only way it could be accomplished was through the incarnation and crucifixion of His own Son. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:8-9 NLT). Paul goes on to remind us, “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:11 NLT). All to the glory of God. Jesus came, but God is the one who sent Him. Jesus obeyed, but God is the one whose plan He obeyed. Jesus died, but God is the one who raised Him back to life. So God gets the glory.

Do I live my life to the glory of God? Is my primary focus in life to bring Him glory through my willful obedience and humble submission to His will for my life? Like Jesus, my entire life should be lived to the glory of God. When I listen to His Spirit’s prompting and obey, it brings Him glory. When I humbly submit to His will, even when I don’t understand or like it, I bring Him glory. When I point people to Him and share His love with them, I bring Him glory. When I admit my weakness and allow Him to display His power through me, I bring Him glory. When I trust in the promise that He will some day glorify me and live with a sense of peace and joy, I bring Him glory. To God be the glory, great things He has done.