“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24
Do you meditate on what Jesus is doing for us in heaven today?
At the beginning of this lengthy discourse (John chapters 14-17), He tells His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2, 3). At the end of the discourse He utters His high-priestly prayer, and concludes with this petition, “Father, I will that they also.be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.”
Today, Jesus prepares a place for us and He prays for us to be with Him there.
A beautiful petition, prayed for each one of His own, and answered, one by one as we depart this life, and perfectly when Father’s house of many mansions is filled.
Certainly, this is also a petition we pray for ourselves. This is the desire of a suffering elderly believer: “having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). This is the cry of the struggling-with-sin believer: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). It is a prayer of great confidence: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). It is a prayer that expresses not only a future longing, but also the longing of every child of God as in this life we seek the Savior’s presence in His Word and through prayer.
It is our petition, but we pray it because, first, this is the prayer of the Savior for us. He wants us to be with Him. He wants to be with us.
Marvelous thought for a sinner!
The heaven-enthroned King, the Lord of the universe, our Advocate with the Father, the ever-living Intercessor makes this prayer for me!
The Savior’s request
The Savior’s request has two parts.
First, “that they…be with me where I am.”
These words describe the essence of heaven, and the joy that will be ours there. Heaven is not merely a place nor an empty mansion of many rooms, but “Father’s house” in which we will be “present with the Lord.” That means a rich personal fellowship with the Savior. He will not be far off in the distance, and we milling around the edges hoping to catch a glimpse of Him or if possible to touch His garment. No, we will sit with Him, eat with Him, talk with Him, and enjoy Him face to face. Loved ones who have died in the Lord, who used to sit and talk with us, now sit and talk with Jesus.
It will also mean a fullness of understanding. Here we have so many unanswered questions, not merely about trivial pursuits, but about the big questions of life. The Scriptures certainly give us all we need to know for Christian living and for our salvation, but there are the hidden ways of God and the world unseen. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (I Cor. 13:12).
Further, to be with Jesus will mean for us a complete deliverance and transformation. That will come first in the perfection of the soul, which will be “delivered from the body of this death” and “clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (Rom. 7:24; II Cor. 5:2). The struggle with sin will be finished and sighing and tears will cease. How much anguish of soul do we not know in the present? “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened” (II Cor. 5:4). All those deep pains will be replaced: “In thy presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). And, finally, when soul and body are reunited at His appearing, “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
The second part of the Savior’s petition is, “that they may behold my glory.”
To “behold” is much more than simply seeing. It is to stand still and be overwhelmed by what you see. We walk a mountain path and emerge from the trees to see a panorama of snow-covered peaks, and we stop to “behold” the scene, to take it in. We are overwhelmed. So much more will we be overwhelmed when suddenly we are brought into the glorious presence of Christ.
“Glory” is the radiance, the brilliance, of all God’s perfections—His justice, mercy, holiness, wisdom, grace. When Moses saw this, his face shone. This glory Christ possessed eternally (John 17:5), and glimpses of it were seen during His earthly ministry (John 1:14), but for the most part it was veiled. Now, in His exalted human nature He possesses and radiates all the unveiled glory of the Father.
When we behold this glory, we will fall down and worship Him as did John—“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). So overwhelming will His glory be that it will be the power that transforms us to reflect His glory. Heaven will not be about us and our glory, but His glory shining from us.
And when we see Him in His glory, we will be filled up.
When I in righteousness at last Thy glorious face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied.
(Psalter #32, stanza 4)
The Savior’s confidence
For their comfort, Jesus uttered this petition in the hearing of His disciples. It is a petition that breaths with confidence. Not merely a wish or a hope, nor even simply a request, but really a pronouncement. This is an expression of His divine will, “I will….”
He addresses God with confidence. “Father,” He says. Father!
So He taught His disciples to pray with a child-like confidence, and now He approaches God with that confidence. But there is a difference, for He does not pray as an adopted child of God, but as the eternal Son, equal Himself in power and glory to the Father. He comes to God not as a beggar, but as one with the Father. There is here a trinitarian expression. “Father, let us bring them to be with us, to behold our glory.” That is the force of this petition.
That comes out in His word choice. “I will that they be with me to behold my glory.” This sounds more like a demand than a petition. Should our children come requesting something this way, they would be rebuked. Nowhere in Scripture do God’s people pray like this, and certainly we must not come to God like this. But for Jesus this is entirely appropriate, for He expresses the will of God triune, the eternal, unchanging will and desire of God. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
The ground for such confidence is God’s eternal, electing love. Twice, in this verse, Jesus speaks of those whom the Father has given to Him. That “giving” refers to eternal election. In election God entrusted the elect and the work of their salvation to His Son. Closely connected to that giving, and logically preceding it, is God’s eternal love for the Son, for we are “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Jesus appeals to the Father’s eternal love, “For thou hast loved me from before the foundation of the world.” If the Father would not bring His elect to glory, that would be paramount to God breaking off His eternal love for the Son. “Father, you have given them to me, and you love me, so you must bring them to glory.”
It is as He goes to the cross that Jesus prays this prayer for His own. That too is the foundation for His confidence. The cross will pay the price of their redemption. Not one of them will perish because “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). There was no wavering in the Savior’s resolve to bring many sons to glory through His atoning death. Next, He would pay the price which would secure their place with Him in glory.
A prayer answered
“Father, that they may be with me.”
A few hours later, from the cross, Jesus would tell a dying thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” When that thief died, God answered this petition of Jesus. What the thief saw, and his immediate experience upon death, our words fail to express. We know a little from this life of the joy of the Savior’s presence and love as we walk with Him, but the fullness is yet to come.
Ever to be with the Lord, that will be our eternal privilege. To behold His glory, that will be the ongoing activity of heaven.
O, blessed day, not only when Christ shall come, but also when I shall go to be with Him.
“And every man that hath this hope purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3).
The hope of being like Christ, and of our being permitted to dwell with Him eternally, will lead the believer to an earnestness in holy living. The one who has pure desires for heaven will seek the things above where Christ dwells and not the things on this earth (Col. 3:1, 2).
“Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”
Is this your hope and longing?