Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
Many secrets! Jesus has been whispering these to His disciples on this night before His death—secrets recorded in John 14-16. Secrets, these are, of God to men, of Grace to graced, of Love to lovers, of Friend to friends. These are secrets of the covenant, of that blessed relationship “God with us.”
What secrets? Secret of God with us in Jesus. Secret of heaven. Secret of the Savior’s love. Secret Spirit. Secret of the fruit of the Vine. Secret of tribulation. Secret of the peace Jesus leaves.
Secrets which the covenant God will have with and in those that fear Him (Ps. 25:14). Secrets which the Mediator of the covenant will, therefore, speak into the heart of his confidants. Secrets which will be for secret knowledge which is eternal life (John 17:3), and for living.
Secrets! Jesus’ fare-you-well! Secrets for the life of full joy (15:11), the life of faith (16:1), the life of peace in Him (16:33)….
Did you hear them—those secrets? Have they across the ages and from heaven to earth now by Christ’s Spirit been whispered…to you? Sweet everythings, these whispers! Sweet salvation. You just must hear them! They are your life! How do you fare? Well?
Now another secret. The John 17 secret. A secret, a communion shared not first of all between Jesus and the disciples, but between Son and Father divine. For, His last discourse to His disciples now ended, Jesus turns to His heavenly Father in prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer! Look! Listen! Jesus is praying: “My Father which art in heaven…!” Here a secret revealed to us, to be sure. But certainly also a sanctuary into which we cannot go. For in this Lord’s high priestly prayer are these secrets:
Secret of our Lord’s humiliation: the sovereign Lord of glory—what need has He? How possible that He bow, that He ask, that He be outside the eternal glory praying that once again that glory be restored?
Secret of our Lord’s exaltation: the future glory He shall once again have, what will it be like for Him? Does Jesus taste this exaltation, even now (as He prays: “and now, O Father, glorify thou me…17:5; cf. 16:33b)?
Secret of predestination and particularity: why is the Christ Mediator and pray-er only of some, and not of the world (17:9)? Why is He priest of us—whose natural sanctuary is the world, who so easily and readily make abundant offerings to self?
Secret of church: she is preserved! How, in this present evil age? She is one! How, as the Father and Son are one (17:21)?
Secret of Christ’s work, Christ’s praying in the sanctuary of heaven: for will He not pray similarly, until the kingdom come, also in the glory and in the bosom of the Father?
Searcher of the Scriptures! How do we dare look into this sanctuary of Jesus? Let us follow the lead of one Marcus Rainsford who wrote his thoughts on John 17:
“The Lord Jesus Christ in prayer! What a wonderful theme for study and contemplation! Prayer was the messenger He was wont to send on all His errands, and in this He is an example to us. By prayer He held His constant intercourse with heaven; and we have no better way of doing so. Prayer was the arrow of Christ’s deliverance, and the shield of His help….”
To the disciples Jesus “had opened His whole heart to them. He now opens it for them to Him before whom ‘all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid’; and having poured out His soul into the ear, and into the bosom of God, He went forth into Gethsemane. May God the Spirit be with us and give unction and understanding to our hearts, while we meditate on His most precious prayer.”
Let us follow the lead of the Spirit who wrote John 17 itself. Into the secrets of the Lord’s Prayer. That there may be disciples oft earnestly praying…in the secret love communion of the covenant of grace. You?
For Study, Mediation, & Discussion
1. Jesus’ prayer for His glorification (vv. 1-5).
For what is the Son asking when He prays that the Father may glorify Him? Is this too much for Him to ask? Is it a glory equal to the Father’s? Search these verses and others for proof. What do the
creeds say about this (cf. the Athanasian Creed and the Creed of Chalcedon)?
The Son is glorified, and so is the Father, in the glorification of the church. What, according to John 17:3, is the glory of the church? What does this teach is the relation between eternal life and knowledge? How can we grow in this knowledge, and, therefore, in this eternal life?
2. Jesus’ prayer for His eleven disciples (vv. 6-19).
What, according to verses 6-8 (cf. also vv. 25, 26), has Jesus manifested to the disciples? What is the fruit of this revelation?
Some like to say that Jesus is the Savior of all men, or that He at least wants to be. How does v.9 refute such notions?
Jesus describes the disciples as those who are “given” to Him of the Father (cf. vv. 2, 6, 9, 24). When were the disciples given to Jesus? How were they given to the Son?
How is Jesus glorified in the disciples (v. 10)? How is He glorified in us today?
Jesus kept eleven of the disciples. But one who was with the eleven was lost, even Judas. What does Jesus mean by calling Judas the “son of perdition” (v. 12)? Does Judas’ falling away mean that there is a possibility of any of God’s people falling away? Explain this in light of Scripture’s teaching of the nature of the work of God, and the preservation of the saints. Explain this in light of Jesus’ prayer to the Holy Father to keep all those given Him (v. 11).
Jesus utters “these things” of His prayer, and of His last discourse to the disciples, that the joy of Jesus might be fulfilled in the disciples (v. 13). How will this joy so occur through the things Jesus says? Are Jesus’ words your joy? Are they more significant in your life than the things which make for sorrow and which would work despair?
The Savior will go to the Father. The disciples will be left in the world. They are not left in a monastery, or on a desert island, or in a cave on the side of a mountain. They are truly in the world, and supposed to be in the world, rubbing shoulders with it. Yet they are not of the world, and are not to be of the world. What does this mean—in the world, yet not of the world? How can we err on either end—world flight or worldliness? What is the world’s reaction to the disciples in the world? Why does Jesus keep the disciples in the world (vv. 14-16)?
The eleven disciples are sent into the world, even as the Son was sent into the world (v. 18). The word “sent” implies “commission” and “calling.” The eleven disciples (apostles or “officially sent ones”)
were officially charged with a great God to represent and great work to do! Just what was their charge and work? What is ours?
What, according to verse 19, is the relationship between Jesus’ own sanctification and His people’s sanctification?
What, according to verses 17, 19 is the relationship between sanctification and truth? What are some practical implications of this relationship?
3. Jesus prays for the disciples who will in the future believe (vv. 20-26).
Jesus prays that the church may be one. A glorious one, to be sure! A oneness like unto the unity of Father and Son! A oneness of glory! Reflect on these things of the unity of the church revealed in verses 21-24.
Not long ago in Lacombe, Alberta where I was minister, there was an ecumenical service held at the local CRC. An Anglican minister preached on John 17:21a: “That they all may be one.” Other local ministers were involved in the service. And I believe a Roman Catholic priest presided. Is this the kind of oneness of which the Bible speaks, and for which Jesus prays?
How do we promote true unity: at home, in our local church, in the denomination, and inter-denominationally? Is there any way we can join with the world—say, to promote the right to life of the unborn?
4. Perspective: John 20:31.
This Lord’s Prayer!
These things written, this prayer recorded, that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…and have life through His name!
What of the Christ-Priest, Prophet, King do we learn in this prayer of our Lord?
What do we learn there is more to learn of?
Let us pray.