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John 17:6-12: A Prayer for Perseverance, Pt. 1 Print E-mail
Easter Season
Sunday, 26 March 2017

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I want to begin this morning by looking at the second verse of the song that we just sang, namely “He Will Hold Me Fast.” The lyrics state: ‘Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast; Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast. He’ll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last; Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.’ What an amazing thought that God delights in those that He saves! He delights in them. They are precious in His sight. And because He delights in them and because they are precious to them, He will not let their souls be lost. Since Christ has paid such a dear price for their salvation on the cross, we can take great comfort in the truth that He will hold us fast.

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In the second part of Jesus’ prayer on the night before His crucifixion, He asks the Father to hold fast to His disciples. He prays for their perseverance in the faith. We have seen recently the necessity of persevering faith from the book of Hebrews. Yesterday’s faith will never save a man. We need a faith that will keep going, even through the difficult days of life. We need a faith that will see us through to the end. Jesus prays for this type of faith for His disciples. He prays for the Father to persevere them in such faith in the second section of His High Priestly prayer. We will be looking at Jesus’ prayer for the disciples over the next couple of weeks. Today I just want to answer a couple of questions about this prayer: Who is He praying for and How does He pray for them? Let’s consider the first question.

Who is Jesus praying for?

In one sense, it is easy to answer this question: Jesus is praying for His disciples. But what I want us to see is how Jesus describes these men in His prayer. So who are these men that Jesus is lifting up before His Father?

First, they are those who know the Father’s name. Look at verse 6. What does this mean? The reference to God’s name is a reference to His person and character. Jesus has made the Father known, as John says in 1:18. He has revealed Him to the disciples and made known to them His plans. The disciples are still struggling to understand all that Jesus has revealed concerning God and His plan to redeem, but they know the Father’s name and will continue to grow in their knowledge after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Second, they are the ones that the Father gave to the Son. Jesus describes them in this way a couple of times in this passage. Look at verse 6b and 9-10a. The Father has given these disciples to Jesus. In fact, the Father has given all His people to Jesus. Look at verse 2. Jesus notes that all mine are yours, and yours are mine. The Jesus knows who are His and He has given them to Jesus to save. In particular, He has given Him the disciples. We see in this description the sovereignty of God over His people. The Father has given them to the Son. He chose them and appointed them to be witnesses to the work of Christ. God is sovereign over His plan of salvation and these disciples are those that the Father gave to the Son.

Third, they are those who have kept God’s Word. Just because God is sovereign over the appointment of the disciples does not mean that they had no responsibility to listen and believe in Jesus. Jesus notes this when He describes them as those who have kept your word. Look again at verse 6. What does this mean? Jesus goes on to describe how they kept the Word in verses 7-8. Look at those with me. The disciples are those that heard the Words of Jesus that were given to Him by the Father and they received them as truth. They believed that Jesus was sent by the Father. As such, they stand in contrast to the rebellious world who rejected Christ. Look at verse 9. Why does Jesus say that He is not praying for the world at this point? Carson answers: “To pray for the world, the created moral order in active rebellion against God, would be blasphemous; there is no hope for the world. There is hope only for some who now constitute the world but who will cease to be the world and will join those of whom Jesus says for they are yours.” The ‘world’ in John often represents creation in rebellion to God. Jesus is praying for those who have come out of the world by believing in Him. They have kept the Word and believed the Word.

Finally, they are those who glorify Jesus. Look at verse 10 again. Those who believe in Jesus and trust in Him bring Him glory. As we saw last week, to glorify Jesus is to realize and draw attention to His worth. The disciples have done this by being His followers for the last three years of their lives. They left all to follow Him. They have dedicated themselves to His teaching and His ministry. In this way, they have glorified Him. And of course, we know that they will continue to do this after His death and resurrection. They will turn the world upside down as witnesses for His sake. So Jesus is praying for them. They know the Father’s name, they have been given by the Father to the Son, they have kept the Father’s Word, and they have glorified Jesus in these ways. These are the ones for whom Jesus is praying.

How does He pray for them?

So what does Jesus pray for these men? The overall answer is that Jesus prays that they will persevere in the faith. This is the general request that Jesus prays for His disciples. In order to pray for this, Jesus includes some specifics that are necessary for the disciples’ perseverance. We will look at one of those this morning and then look at the rest next week.

So how does Jesus pray for their perseverance. He prays for their protection. Look at verse 11b. Jesus asks the Father to keep them in your name. He is praying for the Father to hold them fast, just as we sang this morning. Why does Jesus pray for their protection? Jesus prays for their protection because He is about to leave them. Look at verse 11a. Jesus knows that He is about to face the cross. He knows that the next time He sees the sun it will be rising on the day of His death. He is going to face the Father’s wrath against our sin, pay the penalty that we could not pay, rise again from the grave, and return to the Father’s side. All of this is about to take place. He has prepared the disciples for His departure in His final discourse in chapters 13-16. And now He is praying for the Father to protect them.

How does Jesus want the Father to protect them? He wants Him to continue protecting them in the way that He has protected them while He was on the earth. Look at verse 12. Jesus has protected and guarded the disciples throughout His ministry. He loves these men. Only Judas has been lost, but even that was part of God’s plan since it happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Jesus cares greatly for His disciples so He prays that the Father will protect them. I don’t think that Jesus simply means physical protection in this prayer. They have faced physical difficulties when following Jesus and they will face even more when they become witnesses to His resurrection. Jesus is not so much concerned about their physical protection. Rather, Jesus is praying for the Father to protect and keep them in the faith. As we read through the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, we know that these men will suffer for the Name of Jesus. They will be mocked and beaten and stoned. They will face ridicule and hardship. Jesus prays that through all of this, they will keep the faith. I wonder how many times they thought back to this prayer when they were going through those hard situations? How many times did John reflect on this prayer while he was being beaten with Peter or when he was later banished on Patmos? How encouraging would it have been for them to remember that Jesus prayed for the Father to keep them in the faith.

And what is the purpose of this prayer for protection? Jesus says: ‘Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.’ Jesus prays for the Father to hold them fast so that they can be unified in their fellowship with the Father and the Son. The persons of the Trinity have known such fellowship from eternity past. Jesus longs to return to that fellowship (see v. 5). And now He is praying that the Father will bring His disciples into that fellowship. Again, according to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son (see v. 3). So then, His prayer for unity is more than just a request that they agree or that they get along. His prayer is for the Father to keep them in eternal life, to keep them in fellowship together and with the Father and the Son.

If we follow Jesus in His prayer here, then we should be praying for people to be true followers of Jesus and for the Father to keep them in the faith. If you are here this morning and have never placed your faith in Jesus, then my prayer for you is that you would believe in Jesus and bring glory to His Name. Turn from your sins and give your life to following the One who died for you and rose again from the grave. As we see in Jesus’ description of the disciples, be a person who keeps His Word through faith and glorifies Him through obedience. For those of us who have turned from our sins and trusted in Jesus, my prayer for you is that God will keep you in the faith. We should be praying this for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Is someone among us going through a difficult time? Then we should be praying for God to protect them and keep them. Is someone battling with doubt and unbelief? Then we should be praying that the Father will hold them fast. Like Jesus, we should be lifting up one another in prayer for persevering faith and encouraging one another with this truth: “He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast, for my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.” Amen.

~ William Marshall


Last Updated ( Saturday, 08 April 2017 )

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