From “Studies in the Lord’s Prayer,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield
I was thinking yesterday about the changes that the world has gone through during the last 80 years. When our grandfathers were born, just after World War I, this was different place than when our fathers were born, just after World War II. And the world of 1970 was very, very different from the world of 2002.
Joshua, the son of Nun, went through a transition period much like our parents and grandparents. He was born a slave in Egypt and was about 60 years of age at the time of the Exodus. Despite His age, he appears to me to be a rather shy, unassured sort of person. But his mentor was Moses and his school was the wilderness. For 40 years, he and his family ate manna and lived under the shade of the pillar of cloud. He had both days of spiritual and physical victory — and defeat – during that time. But when he was called upon to lead Israel across the Jordan, he was a very mature and ready servant of God. And on that day, the manna ceased and the Pillar of Cloud dissipated. At Gilgal, on the banks of the Jordan, down the road from Jericho a new day and new world began.
The Lord Jesus was to the disciples in some ways like Moses was to Joshua. He was their Manna and their Pillar of Cloud. He had borne the heat against them and miraculously fed them for 3½ years. He is our shade by day, defense by night, our shelter in the time of storm. But in John 17 He was on Mount Nebo, looking across into the Promised Land, and the world of the disciples was going to be greatly different than it had been before.
“And now I am no more in the world . . .”
Once again we run into language that is not exactly human; we might call it “Christese.” It’s the language of the God-man; inexplicable apart from dual nature of the Lord Jesus. He was in a quiet corner of the world somewhere near Jerusalem when He said that He was no longer in the world. And as the omnipresent Creator, upholding all things by the word of His power, it is not incorrect to remind ourselves that the universe couldn’t exist one moment without His presence here to sustain it. And yet He says that He “is” no more in the world.
A. T. Robertson calls his language the “futuristic present tense.” The Lord, in His physical presence, would soon be ascending into Heaven. He would soon be enjoying the glory that He shared with the Father before the world was. If He was confined to time the way that we are, He would have properly said, “I will soon be gone from this world.” But the Lord Jesus, as the eternal Son of God, in one sense had already completed His appointed work on earth. He was already seated at the right hand of the Father, and yet He wasn’t – that was still a few days away. And even if today He is seated next to the Father or standing before Him interceding on our behalf, there is a very real sense in which He is still and always will be in the world.
But, as the familiar Master and Teacher of this troop of disciples, it was His physical presence that was ending. His earthly ministry as prophet and teacher was coming to an end. No more Manna in the wilderness to feed the 5,000. No more Pillar of Fire to scorch the enemy. He was soon to begin his High Priestly ministry, of which this prayer is a foreshadowing.
“But these are in the world . . .”
In the earlier verses of this prayer, the Lord was asking for the return of His former glory. But He’s not so intent upon His glory as to forget our great needs. Oh, that we could learn that simple lesson.
These eleven disciples, and all of us their descendants, are being left behind to continue His work. And just as the world hated Him, it will hate us for bearing His image and continuing the work. And just as the Devil assaulted the Saviour and tried to bring Him down, he will try to destroy us. And just as we have been weak and powerless in ourselves in the past, we will continue that way.
Why didn’t the Lord just take us all with Him when He left. Well, in a sense and in that divine language of “Christese,” He did just that. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” – Romans 8.
In the omniscience, but more importantly, in the covenant and will of God, all the saints have been taken to Heaven and glorified with Christ. But yet, I see you sitting there in this church, in the world, this second day of the year 2002. “These are in the world.”
“And I come to thee. Holy Father . . .”
This is the only recorded time that the Lord Jesus ever addressed the Father in this way, but certainly this is not unknown or unscriptural. The holiness of God is the key to His Being, the very heart of everything about Him.
Perhaps the Lord uses this appellation here to teach us something about prayer. Doesn’t this add just a tiny argument to the Lord’s request on our behalf? “Father, you are righteous and holy in all your just dealings with men. These disciples are those whom you have given me out of the world, and I am leaving them now to carry on our ministry in that world. Father, I know that in your Holiness you will keep them.”
Isn’t this just a little like Moses saying in prayer that if the nation of Israel was lost there would be a huge black spot on the Name of Jehovah. If these disciples, were not kept by the power of God, the Holy Name of God would be besmeared.
“Keep through thine own name those whom thou has given me . . .”
It was a common proverb that if the Shepherd be killed, then the sheep would be scattered. “Father, destroy that proverb. Keep them through thine own name.” Keep them in the sense of guarding them. Put a hedge around them and protect them. The image of God using a hedge to keep His enemies away from His people is a common one. Satan said, “Hast not thou made an hedge about Job, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?
In Jesus’ parable, “A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.” Have you ever thought about that business of a hedge? Hedges made of thorn-bushes might afford some protection, but they are not perfect. Little animals like rats and mice can slink through and eat the crop being protected. And snakes can slither through and bite the workers inside the hedge. And then larger animals can sometimes force themselves through if they don’t mind the temporary pain of the thorns. Hedges like the locks on our doors only keep out the honest people. We need the hedge that only the Almighty can plant and keep.
And the Lord pleads that everything connected to the Name of the Lord be employed to protect us. “Keep them through thine own name.” If the least of the children of God are lost then the name of the Lord will be dishonoured. And that is an impossibility.
And once again, we notice that the Lord’s only concern at this point is His elect. “I pray not for the world, but only for those whom thou has given me to save.” I have saved them, now Father, keep them through thy name.
“That they may be one, as we are. . .”
How are the Father and the Son one? They are one in essence – deity. They are one in objectives, will, understanding, and a thousand other ways.
And how are we supposed to be one? This is not talking about being one with the Father and the Son. Even though we may eventually be glorified, we will never be deity. But we all will be some day, and we should be today, one in objectives, will and understanding. We should be united in doctrine and understanding of the Bible, but unfortunately we are not. We should be united in our goals and service for God, but we are not. We should be one in spirit and attitude, but we are not. And there is no other way to explain it but the sinfulness of ourselves and our neighbors. All of us to some degree resist the Word of God and the leadership of the Spirit.
When we reach Heaven that will come to an end, but today that oneness is something that the Lord’s heart is set upon. It is one of the high points of His High Priestly prayer for us.
And there is another way in which this oneness might be fulfilled. How were the Father and Son one? In Christese, in the futuristic present tense, they were together in Heavenly fact. Included in our Lord’s desire is that day when we are all together around His throne. The Lord shall soon descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God and we shall be raised together to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Today we are kept by the power of God unto salvation ready to be revealed together in that day.
Praise the Lord for His intercession on our behalf. Where would we be without this great work for us even today. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.