Notes on John 17

This chapter has a very peculiar character, in that it is not the address of the Lord Jesus to His disciples even, much less to the world. It is their admission to hear Him address His Father about them. And we can easily understand that, where such a privilege is given them, we should be let into the fullest possible apprehension of the place in which He has set us. When He spoke to the world, Christ suited Himself to their capacity; and we, in our measure, ought to seek to do the same. But when He was addressing His Father, we can naturally understand that He would speak freely of what He had on His heart about His disciples. But still, as it concerned them (now, through grace, we have received the Spirit who communicates these things to our souls), He spoke it in the audience of the disciples, so that they should hear and know what His heart felt about them. Let me ask you this: If we find that Christ has an interest in us, and that He is speaking to His Father, and speaking of us - of what He has on His heart for our blessing - do our hearts turn with interest to listen and to know what He feels about us? We have wretched cold hearts, it is true - nothing is worse than their deadness and indifference to God. An openly bad, vile man of the world is bad enough; but if I saw a son do what was wrong, and if his father went out and entreated him with all the tender affection of a father, and he did not trouble his heart about what he said, I should say there is no hope now.

Therefore, when I find this first truth, that Christ has us on His heart, and can speak to His Father about us - that we are become the object of their common interest; surely our hearts should turn to it. "These things," He said, "I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." The character of Christ's love being perfect, was to bring us into the same blessing with Himself. It is very true, but it is not all the truth, that we are blessed through Christ: we are blessed through Him, and that was the perfection of His love. He loves us enough to have us near Him, and have us all in the perfectness of His own heart; and having opened our understandings to see what He is, and to delight in what He is, He gives us the consciousness of His own perfect love. "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." If I always saw perfect blessedness before me, with the consciousness at the same time that I never should have it, that would not give comfort to my heart; but if I have a perfect object before me, with a certainty that I shall possess it, I shall be occupied with that object.

Whilst here below we have the consciousness, in looking at our blessing in Christ, that we are not perfectly like what He is; we desire it, we long to be conformed to the image of Christ. But still, if we have in any measure tasted the loveliness of Christ, what distresses the heart is that we are not like Him. But here Christ engages the affections, and brings the heart to this point - the consciousness that this is our place in Him before God, and that all the blessedness that He has is ours. Does it become us to say no? Is it humbleness to be short of that, to say we are unworthy? Is God right? But it is no humbleness to refuse grace. And then, when it is seen to be such grace - unmingled grace - it is no humbleness to speak of not being fit to have such things. If I talk about not, being quite worthy, there is the thought that if I were worthier I should be fit to have these blessings. Here is just where the want of humbleness is. "You ought to be on the right ground with the Lord. That which enables us to have this thought and desire of being brought into the presence and blessing of God, and to be like Christ, is, that all is grace. We are nothing. If we, look at the glory that is before us, it at once puts out the thought of all worthiness in ourselves.

Here, then, the Lord is just setting us in His own place upon earth. Poor feeble creatures we are for it; but He is setting us in His place on earth. "Father," he says, "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." This chapter is often spoken of as being a prayer. The half is a prayer; but, all the other part is a plain and full exposition, of the ground on which He places us, beginning with His going up to heaven; and then going on to the glory which He will give us: There is the prayer, too - a prayer for us while we are passing through the trials and difficulties of this world. Christ, gives us this place with Himself above, but He speaks while still in the world, that we might have it from His own lips in the world. It is not as taking us out of the world; but He begins it all from that starting-point, that we shall be in the glory. When He was here He did not want any witness; He was Himself the heavenly witness; but now He is gone He sets His saints as His living active epistle in a world that they do not belong to any more than He did.

First, then, look at the way in which He introduces us into this place; You will see in the first few verses that it is a question of Himself being glorified "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, glorify thy Son . . . as thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him. . . I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glory thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Now there are two thoughts which the Lord brings out there. He says, "Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee," - that is the title which His person gives Him to this glory. And the other is, "I have glorified thee on the earth," etc.; "And now, O Father, glorify thou me," etc.; that is, the Lord presents these two grounds on which He is asking for His glory as man. He is glorified in virtue of His person, and then glorified in virtue of His work.

It is in connection with both these titles that we have to see our place on earth. He takes His place with the Father in virtue of His own personal title, and in virtue of His accomplished work. There is the basis which He lays for our admission into this place of blessing; and at the close He says, "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." The love wherewith the Father had loved Christ should be in the disciples. They should enjoy it; they should have His joy fulfilled in themselves. It is this that. we are called to: the enjoyment in this world of the love that Christ knew here below - of His Father's love. He was there the Son of God, as man in this world; and what was His delight? Was it from the world? Surely not. Was He of the world? He was not. He was walking in the world; but His character and place while there was as the Son of the Father. There was His joy; not from the world, no more than He was of it, but from the Father.

There was His constant blessedness. The wellspring of His delight in a world that hated Him was the constant inflowing of the Father's love to Him. He was His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased. Now the first point is, how such as we are can get into such a place. The Lord always retained the perfect consciousness of His Father's love. How can a sinner get there? Though He had declared His Father's name to the disciples (take, for an example, the sermon on the mount), did they understand it? No; they had not the Spirit of adoption. He revealed the name and character of the Father, but their hearts did not enter into this relationship.

Christ, as man walking down here, was the Son of man which is in heaven. His person gives Him this title. He walks through this world in suffering and trial. He suffers from man for righteousness' sake, and for love's sake. But whatever the suffering through which He was passing, He always addressed God as His Father during all the time of His life in this world; every expression of His heart was of His conscious relationship to God as Father. But when He comes to the cross, it is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Upon the cross, all that God was in His holy hatred of sin fell on Christ for our sakes; and hence it was not then a question of love and fellowship, but all else that God was was against Him, as bearing our sins. Was God true? That righteousness was against Him, because of sin. All that God was - His holiness, truth, majesty, righteousness - all, was against, Him, because in the cross He was as the One made sin for us. The one other thing in God's nature was His love, and that Christ necessarily could not then taste; therefore, on the cross He does not say Father, but it is, "My God, my God!" Afterwards, when just expiring, He does say, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Never was He more perfect, never more acceptable to God, than on the cross. God was a debtor in that sense to Christ; for His character was brought out as it never had been before. If God had merely swept away all men in anger, there would have been no love; if He had spared all in mercy, there would have been no righteousness. But Christ giving Himself up to death, and to the bearing of God's wrath on the cross, there is perfect righteousness against sin, and perfect love to the sinner. God was there fully glorified in all that He was; And now, having done that - the whole question of sin being settled, and all Christ was being proved in the resurrection - He says, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." The Lord Jesus then comes, having been heard and answered in resurrection; and now he says, "Go, and tell my brethren, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God;" that is, He brings out both these names now; the relationship in which He had been as a Son with the Father all His life long, and the full effect of all that God was as such, which He had borne as wrath against sin, He now brings, out as entirely for us. If it is a question of God's righteousness, we are made the righteousness of God in Christ. If it is His love, we are loved with the same love with which Christ was loved. Grace is reigning through righteousness by Jesus Christ. Everything that the Father can be towards sons, that He delights in - as He was to Christ, so He reveals Himself to us. Sin is put entirely away, and by the very word of Christ Himself the disciples are even brought, by the efficacy of His work of redemption, into a place along with Himself. He declares His name unto His brethren "I ascend unto my Father and your Father," etc.; and He puts them in this place after death and judgment has been gone through, and He is risen out of it, so that His righteousness becomes that in which we stand before God. While Christ was upon earth He remained entirely alone, because the atonement was not made. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." But He has died, and now He can bring them into the place belonging to Himself; and that is what He is doing now. Did sin hinder it? Yes; but it is put away. Did righteousness? Yes; but it is for them and for us.

If we speak of the sufferings of Christ, there were two kinds of suffering, quite distinct one from the other. In one sense He went through every possible kind of suffering. He suffered from man for righteousness' sake, and He suffered from God for sin's sake. The suffering from God for sin He took for us entirely alone; He suffered it that we might not suffer it. He took it fully - drank the cup to the very dregs, and it is done with. In His sufferings for righteousness' sake, He gives us the privilege of suffering with Him. "To you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." If we suffer from man for righteousness' sake, there we are with Him; but with suffering for sin we have nothing to do. He has taken it entirely alone: not one drop is left; no particle or trace of it remains for us. He took it that we might never have it. And now, having done that, He takes another place, in which man, as man, must necessarily remain a stranger to Him. But the fact that Christ is gone up on high is the reason why I can be with Him. When He was upon earth, I could not be in any full sense with Him. Why? Because He was holy, and I was not. But when sin has been put away, and He is gone into heaven, and has taken a place there in the presence of God, He has done that by which I can draw near. He has gone into the presence of God, with a righteousness which gives me a title to be there. Thus, the glory in which Christ is, which He has entered as having accomplished redemption, enables me to be with Him, instead of being a hindrance. I never could be with Him, if He had not been in this glory. He might visit us in mercy, but it is as risen from the dead and gone up on high that He gives us the place of union with Himself before God.

What He is doing now, is to reveal this name of the Father to us. When He spoke to Abraham He said, "I am the Almighty God, walk before me." God revealed Himself in a character on which Abraham's faith was to act: it is the revelation of Himself as the One who was all-powerful, whatever might be the difficulties of the path; and Abraham was to live by faith in that name. He says to Moses, "I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them." Now He takes this name with Israel: He puts Himself in relation with Israel by the name of Jehovah. He was the unchanging One, who would be faithful to His word and oath, however many the changes that Israel might have to pass through. He was thus a perfect Protector; He was the Almighty One; He was Jehovah; but that is not what I want, blessed as it is in its place. I want eternal life. But He comes now with another name. The Son reveals the Father's name. If I have found this, that the Father has sent the Son to be a Saviour, and that this work is accomplished, I say this is not now merely a Faithful and Almighty Protector, or the One true God that governs the world righteously: He is interested in my salvation. He takes the place of a Father to me, if I receive His Son. I get in Christ the revelation of my place with God, and that, consequent upon the blessed truth that He has taken away the sin that shut me out from the presence of God, and has gone up before the Father, that I may have the very same place that belongs to Him as the Son of the Father. Can I possibly have more than that? Yes, there is even more than that. In virtue of it, there is the Comforter sent down. "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." The Holy Ghost comes down because of Christ's being exalted at the right hand of God. He becomes the Spirit of adoption. "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." So that the place in which we find Christ thus glorified, we find the believer set in, as this righteousness presented to God. The Holy Ghost is given as that which seals me, and gives me the power and blessing of the place into which Christ has brought me. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." There is the relationship. Then there is the work, "I have glorified thee on the earth I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." He asks then that the Father should glorify Him, and adds, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. . . Now they have known that all things, whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee." It was not merely what Messiah received from God, but what the Son had from the Father, that was made known to them. And He adds, "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest met and they have received them," etc.

Two things you will find connected with the position in which the disciples' are thus set: first, that which ministers to their joy, and then the place which they have as witnesses for Him in the world. He has communicated to them all the means of this joy: "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me." "Henceforth," as He said before, "I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what His Lord doeth; but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." Now He puts us in the place of sons, and as sons the words that the Father gives Him He makes known unto us. What Christ does is bringing us into the enjoyment of His own relationship and place with God. The first thing He does is, to secure our being in it by this work of atonement. Then, having wrought this, the next thing is to give us the name by which we are called to know God as the Father; and accordingly He gives us all the words of the Father, that we may have the joy of this place in which He has set us. "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. . . Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." He puts them under the shelter of the name "Holy Father." He looked for them to be kept with all the a Father's tenderness; that is, they are in this world under this name of Holy Father. And then He presents these two motives to His Father for keeping them: first, "for they are thine;" and the other is, "I am glorified in them."

Do you believe that the Lord was speaking the truth? When He says He tells us these things, that we might have His joy fulfilled in ourselves, did He really mean so? I believe it. I believe that the Lord meant us to have His joy fulfilled in ourselves. If you tell me that we are poor feeble vessels to have it, that is most true; but He did not speak thus. The possession of life is not power. Power is in Christ, and in Christ alone; for the character of the new man is dependent and obedient. If you say, I have life from God, and therefore I have got power, it is not true; but if you say, I have got life from God, but I have got the temptations of Satan and the world, and all that can seduce me away from the range and exercise of this life, and you say, Father, keep me, I want to be kept, then there will be power. When Paul gets into the third heaven, what is the effect? When there the flesh is not puffed up; for he is there to hear things which he cannot even utter down here. But when he comes down the flesh would use it to say that no one had ever been in the third heaven but himself. He must get that broken down; therefore the thorn is sent, which brings the consciousness of weakness where boasting had been before. We are never in danger in the presence of God; but when we are thinking of having been there, danger is there - the thorn gives conscious weakness to the man himself. In Paul's case we know it was something that made his preaching contemptible. The Lord has to put us down in every way. The danger of the Christian is, that he is not consciously weak, that the flesh is not put in its place, that he thinks he can do something; but when the flesh is put down, where it had pretended to be something, then the believer can say, "When I am weak, then am I strong," and Christ is exalted. For when Paul, with all this incompetency, was the means of such blessing to others, it is quite clear that it was Christ, and not Paul, that was the strength. This is the truth that is brought out before us in 2 Cor. 12 - Christ's perfect righteousness and glory, which is ours, or the man in Christ; and then the man made nothing of, and Christ in him everything. There is where we get the Christian complete. In both cases it is Paul; but in the one it is the man in Christ, and in the other it is Christ in the man, and the man thus made nothing of. That which the believer has on earth is not only this place in Christ in heaven, but the power of Christ in this world. While we certainly shall have the experience of what we are, at the same time the Scripture shows us always, as such, no necessity in this world for being anything else but Christ. "To me to live is Christ." The fact that the flesh is in me is no reason that I am to walk after it. The power is not in the fact that we have the life, but in exercised dependence upon the life that we have got in Christ. We have seen the full blessedness of this place, that we may have His joy fulfilled in ourselves.

And now He goes on to their testimony before the world. "I have given them thy Word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Here I find the Christian's place in the world: he is no more of it than Christ. He does not say, They ought not to be; but, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." As Christians deriving your life from Christ, and having your place with Christ, you are not of the world. The life, the place you have got in Christ, all flows from the fact that He has given you a relationship with the Father, in virtue of which you are no more of the world than He Himself was. There is the manifesting of Christ to the world - but these duties and affections flow from a relationship that is established already. It is not as the way of getting into the relationship; but when Christ has become my life, then I must walk as He walked. To the world this becomes a testimony. Of what? What became of Christ Himself? The world would not have Him. "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee." It was as good as saying, There is a complete breach between the world and me. Christ comes into the world in grace, revealing the Father, and the world hated Him; and therefore He goes out of the world, and brings us into His place as gone on high. Will the world bear us any more love than it bore Him? It will not. He is there because the world would not have Him; and it is only as having entered that place by blood and death that He can say, "My Father and your Father, my, God and your God." Now, He says, I will make you a witness of that. You are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world," etc.

How are we to get the character and spirit proper to us as such? It is not that we can always be in the third heaven, but that if living the life of Christ, in the power of the Spirit, we shall be manifesting it before the world, as it was with Christ Himself. He could say even as to His path down here, "The Son of man which is in heaven." Was there ever anything in Christ inconsistent with the third heaven? Therefore my life being there, and my heart and affections, I shall walk according to that place. Where is the pathway for such a life through this world? "I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them," etc. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." That is not quite all. Christ is the truth: the word of God is truth about everything. Do I want to know what my heart is? The Word tells me. Do I want to know what God is? The Word tells me. What Christ as a Saviour is? What Satan and his wiles are? The Word will tell me. And therefore I have the Word to make all plain, when I want to go through the world, which is a labyrinth for any one else; for a labyrinth it naturally must be to all, and to the infidel specially. God is love, and yet there I see such misery of every kind around me; the child of three days old agonizing perhaps, through the fault of its parents; nothing but suffering and sorrow everywhere. Nobody, I say, can understand this: it is unaccountable, except as the Word of God, which is truth, explains it all. Take Christ Himself: He can appeal to them and say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" Yet how does it end? He is obliged to confess before men that God has forsaken Him. Their hard hearts take advantage of this, and say, If God delight in Him, let Him deliver Him All is inexplicable; and those who would make this world, as it is, a proof of the righteous government of God, are just doing what the friends of Job did. They were saying that this world could be explained as to the present expression of God's moral government. But no: there is Job, and he is in the depths of suffering. He was very naughty, but he spoke more rightly than they. He says, I have seen the righteous man suffering, He wants to find God; he says, Oh, if I could see him! but I cannot find Him. All this, I again say, is in itself inexplicable. But the moment I search into the word of God, I have got the key to it all. Take the infidel upon his own ground, and he has not a word to say he is the least capable of any of explaining the facts that are going on every day; for they are inexplicable, except as sin has come in. "Sanctify them through thy truth." It is the word of God applied to judge every thought and feeling that is in me. He does not say, "Sanctify them by the law," but by the word. Persons take the law as a rule, but you want power; you want an object that seizes your affections. What object does the law give you? Where is the thing - the One - you are to love? Where is He? Who is He? The law cannot and does not tell me, save of a judge: I have no object before my soul to give me blessed and holy affections; but the Father's word does give me this.

That is what He goes on to immediately. "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." Now I get something more than the word; it is Christ Himself who is the substance of all that the word speaks about. And therefore Christ says, as regards His place, "For their sakes I sanctify myself" He has gone up to glory, and there, sets Himself apart as the object for our hearts. The Holy Ghost reveals Him to me, and the word, is the revelation of all that is in Christ; it brings to me all that Christ is - "Sanctify them through thy truth." How?, "For their sakes, I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth." I have now got an object: it is the truth, which will judge everything that is in my heart. This it is that sanctifies me, by showing me the One that I love, and who has said that I am going to be like Him. I have a Christ who has got hold of my heart, who has given me a place with Himself, and has fitted me for it by the revelation of Himself to my heart. And that is what I find here. And besides this place I get the Comforter sent down taking of the things of Christ and showing them to me, revealing to me that He has given me what He has, that I may have it with Him, that I may be like Him, when I see Him as He is. And now the sanctifying power is that the Spirit takes of these things and shows them unto me. More than all, Christ Himself is mine. He is the perfect and blessed Man set apart in the presence of God; and that, transported into my heart in the living power that it has in me through the Spirit, sets me apart to God. It is the truth that sanctifies me; but if I look at what the truth is perfectly, it is Christ. We, "beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." "For their sakes," as our Lord says here, "I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth."

"Neither pray I for these alone" (He brings in other Christians there), "but for them also which believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." He imparts to us all that He has taken as man in blessing and glory. He will have us enter into His joy while upon earth; and then I find, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." When the Lord comes, and when the saints are displayed in the glory of Christ, and with Him, that will be the revelation to the world that we have been loved as Christ has been loved. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one: and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me."

But even this is not the best thing He has to give us. He goes on to say, "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" While He has given us the glory of the inheritance, He puts us before the world as those who have been brought into the same glory with Himself "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." And then the world will say, These poor people that we have despised are loved with the same love Christ was loved with. But while all that is true and most blessed, we shall, besides, have the enjoyment of Himself. We ought to have it now. "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." We get the present knowledge that we are loved as Jesus is loved; for He has declared the Father's name to us, and will declare it, that the love wherewith He is loved may be in us, and He in us. There is the place in which He puts the Christian now. Christ will bring us into the glory; but even that, in a sense, is an inferior thing, compared to the enjoyment of Christ Himself. I do not wait till then to know that I am loved as Christ is loved; I know it now the world will know it then. All being founded upon this work that He has done, and upon His being thus in the presence of God, which put us in this Himself, we can say, I know that I am loved as the Father loves Jesus, if Christ says it, "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." Is it in you? Have you believed Jesus' word, that the Father has loved you as He loved His own Son? It was not enough for Him to give His Son for you, but He puts you in the same place, and loves you with the same love. If we grieve the Spirit, we may not enjoy the power of it; but there is the place in which Christ has set us to stand with His Father and our Father, His God and our God, and to enjoy Him who is the truth, and who gives us the consciousness of being loved as He Himself is loved. It may be manifested before the world when He comes, but it is ours now; the Lord only give us to believe it. If we are seeking the world, that is not the Father's love, but enmity to it. "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away," etc. You will find these three always opposed the one to the other - the flesh and the Spirit, the devil and the Son, the world and the Father. "All that is in the world," if our hearts seek after it, damps the enjoyment of the Father's love; for we are not of the world, even as Christ was not.

The Lord give you to know it, as it is testified of Jesus Himself, and then, as walking in His steps, and sanctified by the revelation of Himself in your heart, to enjoy the real consciousness of the blessedness of the love wherewith the Father loves you.