"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)
THESE are words taken from one of the most wonderful chapters in this great and glorious narrative. We tread indeed upon holy ground when we come to the 17th of John, and it is becoming to us to do spiritually what Moses was commanded to do literally, that is, to loose our shoes from off our feet, because the ground on which we tread is holy.
We have in other of the Gospels what is commonly called "The Lord's Prayer," but which is the prayer He gave to His disciples: "Our Father which art in heaven." But this 17th of John is indeed and of a truth the Lord's prayer itself. We read of our blessed Saviour teaching His disciples to pray; we read of Him praying for them during the long midnight hours, but we never, so far as I know, read of our Lord praying with His disciples. When you come to think of it, there would have been something incongruous in our blessed Lord praying with His disciples. He teaches them how to pray, He prays for them, but He does not pray with them; they stand, in that respect, upon a different footing from Him who is their glorious and glorified Redeemer.
Now here in the 17th of John our blessed Lord, before He went into Gethsemane and suffered upon Calvary, yet speaks throughout to His Father as if His work was absolutely completed. Therefore we are right in looking upon this prayer, or this series of requests, as based upon the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, completed when He cried with a loud voice, "It is finished."
Then, you ask, why was it not given after His resurrection from the dead? Why did our blessed Lord antedate, as it were, this prayer? Because He would have His disciples strengthened and comforted before the accomplishment of His decease in Jerusalem, and because in this chapter we have a transcript in human language of the nature and objects of the intercessory work of our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. We are not to suppose that the intercession of our blessed Lord in heaven is of a verbal character. His appearance in the heavens of our God at the right hand of the Majesty on high means for you and me every word which He expressed in this 17th of John. The Holy Ghost here has been pleased so to provide that not one sentence in this most wonderful series of askings has been omitted. Is not this in itself a proof of the divine inspiration of the Word of the living God? When was this Gospel written? After the Book of the Revelation had been written; evidently the last of all the writings of John the Apostle. But though so many years had elapsed, the Holy Ghost so quickened the memory, so revived everything in the mind of the Apostle, that he sat down and wrote word for word every solemn utterance which he, with his own ears, listened to in the upper room at Jerusalem, before the little company passed through Jerusalem to Gethsemane as the prelude to Calvary.
Now here in our text, the Lord Jesus Christ is pleased to gather up and to express His ultimate object in becoming incarnate, in suffering and dying. He has been pleased to reveal in our text that great object which He had in view when He laid down His blessed and spotless life for His people. What was His ultimate object? That all who had been given to Him by His Father should be with Him where He is; that they should behold His glory which His Father had given unto Him.
"Where I am." Our Lord speaks as if He were already in heaven. When He went to heaven as the Mediator and Head of His Church, it was on the basis of His own finished work. What is heaven? Where is heaven? We know not, but it is "where I am," says the Lord Jesus Christ. When a precious Christ comes and visits your soul and mine in His house, in our own rooms, and upon our beds, "Where I am," there it is heaven below.
But where Jesus is, there is heaven even on earth; and when we reach the place where He is we shall know the fullness of this glorious verse.
"Where I am"--the Saviour and the saved. "Where I am"--the Father and the children. "Where I am"--the Bridegroom and the bride. "Where I am"--"the Friend who loveth at all times," (Prov. 17:17) and those concerning whom He says, "I have called you not servants but friends." (John 15:15) Chosen to salvation; called to His kingdom and glory; justified, sanctified, and here declared to be glorified.
Let us, in looking at our text, attempt to answer three questions: Who is it that Speaks? Who are the People spoken of? What is declared of Them?
Who is it that speaks? Oh, what a prayer was this? We are not to consider this chapter as a series of ordinary petitions; they are requests; they are askings; they are the askings of our Mediator in His official character. John 17 does not consist in prayer to an unwilling God. "Father, I will," and the Father's will and the Son's will were in absolute harmony. "Father, I will." It was asking of Him who had glorified His Father on the earth, and who had finished the work which He had given Him to do.
Look for a moment or two at our blessed Lord here as giving to us an illustration of what is meant when it is declared that He is our Intercessor at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He was about to seal His work with His own blood! He speaks as from the other side of it. In Gethsemane's Garden He had offered up--(viewing Him as in heaven)--He had "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears." Then the nature of our blessed Lord's prayers was different from what it is in John 17. On Calvary's cross the debt was paid; there the bond was cancelled. Here He presents to His Father the people whose debts He had paid, whose bonds He had cancelled, and He "presents them faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." "Father, I will." Oh, beloved, think of the Speaker! He who never had an unholy thought. He who never did or willed anything that was not in strict accord with the law and the justice of a holy and heart-searching God. "I will!"--it is a prayer that is in harmony with God's justice. "I will!"--it is a prayer in harmony with God's law. "I will!" it is a prayer which reveals Him who is a just God and who is yet a great Saviour.
"Father, I have glorified Thee on earth"--as the Servant of the Lord glorifying His Father in thought and word and deed. "Father, I have finished the work that Thou gavest Me to do." The law has been fulfilled and made honorable; (Isa. 42:21) every farthing has been paid, and
"Payment God will not twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine."
"I will!"--it is the word of Him who said, "Light be," and there was light. It is the word of Him who said to the leper, "I will, be thou clean." (Matt. 8:3) It is the word of Him who in every act of mercy that He performed, and every deed of grace that He wrought, said, "I will." Here, then, is the will--may I say, for want of a better phrase, here is the last will and testament of our most blessed Lord. I do not think we will use the word "last." Here is the will and testament of our blessed Lord.
Where are wills registered today? In the Probate Registry in Somerset House. And how often when you go there you see the sad sight of people searching wills in which they vainly expect they may find their names; people who tell you they have been defrauded and wronged. Here is our blessed Saviour's will. Where is it registered? In the heart of His Father. Here is His blessed will, where is it endorsed? By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Here is His will, where is it recorded? In the Word of the living God, in Old Testament and in New. Here is His will, who has attested it, and sealed it? The Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Registered in the heart of His Father, and attested and sealed in the hearts of all given to Him by the applied and revealing power of God the Holy Spirit. What does dear John Berridge sing in relation to the experience of God's people? He says:
"These pinings prove that Christ is near,
And testify His grace;
Call on Him with unceasing prayer,
And He will shew His face."
Oh, pining soul, the will has been attested and sealed on thy heart and conscience by the power of the Holy Ghost.
"These pinings prove that Christ is near,
And He will shew His face."
Oh, is it not wonderful, a risen and glorified Saviour at that end within the veil, and a poor pining, trembling sinner down here at this end? The "I will" covers it all. "Father, I will" that that pining, thirsty, hungry, seeking one "shall be with Me where I am, that he may behold My glory." Why? Because I have saved him. Yes. Because I have redeemed him; but because he is a relation, because he is a relation! How? By the union between the Lord and His dear people, He wearing their nature in the glory, and imparting to them of His resurrection life by the power of His Holy Spirit! "Children"--that was the word after the resurrection. "Children, have ye any meat?" "Children," the Lord said again and again; hence He is called "The Everlasting Father" as well as the "Prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6) "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory."
But what a lot of opposition there is in our hearts! How many things there are that say "no" when Christ says "I will." What says no? Memory rises up. That which is written on the leaves of the past often says to us, "No; look at that past: can you say that you will behold the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ with a past like yours?" Conscience says "No" again and again, apart from the sanctifying power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. My miserable failures say, "No; you behold the glory of the Lord?" My inconsistencies say, "No." My sins say, "No." Memory, conscience, failure, inconsistencies, sin, all with one heart and voice say "No; you are not fit for heaven, you will never go there and see Him whose face it is heaven to behold with joy." They challenge us, and it is a solemn and trying thing when memory, conscience, sin, and inconsistencies all challenge us. What shall we say to them? "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us"--the sinner's Friend--"if God be for us, who can be against us?" Who? "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Rom. 8:31,33) But memory does, the Devil does, conscience does, sin does, inconsistency does. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, and is now at the right hand of God. Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?" Memory, conscience, failure, inconsistency, sin! "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am." What is the characteristic of them as set forth in the context? "These have known that Thou hast sent Me." Now put that over against your memory, conscience, sins, failures, and inconsistencies. Do you know that God has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the poor, lost, and ruined sinner? "Yes, I do; I say amen with all my heart to that." "Father, I will that these"--He spreads His hand over them--"be with Me where I am;" they are those who believe the record that God has given of His Son; and so, as the Apostle John shows, demonstrate that they have been made partakers of eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13)
Now let us go for a moment or two to what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father which art in heaven." What is one of the petitions of that prayer? "Thy will be done on earth, even as it is done in heaven." There is a great scope for that petition; it has yet to be fulfilled in a larger way than we can conceive, but let us seek to bring it to personal and experimental things. Pray like this: the Lord says, "Thy will be done on earth." What is the Father's and the Saviour's will in relation to earth? That those who have been given to Him may be with Him where He is. And what does this involve? That they begin the journey on earth; and so conviction of sin, the life of God in the soul, those feeble desires, constitute the beginning of the will of God being done on earth even as it is done in heaven. How wonderful the tenderness and the grace of our dear Lord Jesus here. We have said that in this chapter, and in this intercessory prayer, He is speaking as the Mediator of His Church and people, and as Mediator, Spokesman, Saviour of His Church and people, we plainly see that those who have been given to Him are essential to Him; essential not as God, but as He has been constituted the Head of a people given to Him by His Father. Every member of that mighty company is essential to the Lord Jesus Christ in the completion of His mystical body. He the Head, we the members. If the feeblest of the members were missing, the mystical body of our blessed Lord would be incomplete. Hence we are right in saying that the whole of this prayer shows to us that the full salvation, the safe convoy, and the blessed arrival of His people, is essential to the Lord Jesus Christ, who will not be satisfied until they are all there; for He shall look upon the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. (Isa. 53:11)
What has the Lord not done for you and for me? Dear tried child of God here, trembling and often desponding one, I ask you this question, "Are you dead in sins this morning?" You feel powerfully again and again the presence of sin. But you know that you are not dead in sin; you are after God in Christ, you love His people, you love His house, your poor soul can find no rest or peace excepting in connection with the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I tell you that you are a child, although you are a long way, at present, from entering into the comfort and peace of it; you are among those who were given by the Father to the Son. Oh, that by the power of the Holy Ghost you may taste the sweetness of this truth, and realize its strengthening efficacy!
Secondly, let us speak of those of whom these words were spoken. We have spoken of our blessed Mediator, the eternal Son of the Father, constituted the Head of the people of the living God: made partaker of their nature, and they by His Spirit made partakers of His. "Them also whom Thou hast given Me." How much there is in this chapter, from the beginning to the end, about the Lord's people as His given ones. It is for the most part by this term that our blessed Lord refers to them--"the given ones." Now should not this enter more into our thoughts, since it entered so much into the heart of Jesus when He presented this intercessory prayer? You may depend upon it that when the truth of the Church being given to the Lord Jesus does not enter largely into our thoughts, there must be a flaw somewhere. Given by the Father to the Son. Why, security is wrapped up in that. Safety, blessedness, and all blessings are wrapped up in that. The final perseverance of the saints is wrapped up in that. Bless God, my inconsistencies, my failures, and my sins, over which I mourn, which are my plague and the distress of my very soul, shall not be suffered to separate me from the love of God in Christ. Given by the Father to the Son.
But you ask for a proof, a testimony that you are given. You have a very simple one given by the Lord Himself. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." If you are a coming sinner, you are a forgiven sinner, and if you are a coming sinner, coming day by day in penitence, faith, desire, affection, you come because you were given, and the Lord has said, "I will in no wise cast out." "Father, I will that that coming sinner be with Me where I am."
Given. For what purpose? To take charge of. The Father gave them to the Son before the foundation of the world to take charge of, to undertake for; given to Him to be cleansed in His precious blood, clothed with His perfect righteousness, fed as by a Shepherd, espoused to Him as a Husband. Given to Him to carry triumphantly through death, and through all foes. Given to Him to subdue their corruptions, to put down their enemies. Oh, He values them, He values us, and at what a price! Given by the Father to the Son. What is the price at which the Lord values poor hell-deserving sinners? "He loved me, and gave Himself"--there is the value--"and gave Himself for me." And who is He? God's own dear Son. He gave Himself for me.
You and I make daily discoveries of our own corruptions, and the evils of our own hearts. We are startled and staggered thereby, but, given by the Father to the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ knew us before He came to suffer and to save.
Given, and therefore safe. Given by the Father to the Son, they shall lack nothing for time or for eternity. The fullness of Christ is their reservoir and their storehouse, and being given, the Lord says in the 6th verse, "I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world." There is another test. One is the coming, another is the manifestation. "I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world." What is the manifestation of the Name of God? The manifestation of the character of God, the manifestation of His perfections. How does the blessed Lord manifest the Name of His Father unto those given Him out of the world? By displaying the Father's goodness, grace, and truth; that He is the God of mercy, longsuffering, and who will by no means clear the guilty, that is, visiting the sins and transgressions of His people upon their great and glorious covenant Head. Here, then, is the description of those for whom our Saviour prays in this verse.
Once more. What is it He asks His Father should result therefrom? To be with Him: "Where I am." "That they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me." That means that they shall be with Him in heaven. The first essential quality of heaven's happiness is to be with Him. "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself." "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." "Today shalt thou be with Me"--underline the personal pronoun--"Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Oh, dear friends, especially younger friends, put away from your minds and attention all those sentimental and carnal representations of heaven which we have in so many books. It is a place as well as a state, but if our hearts are right in the sight of God, and if we are much occupied with Christ, we shall want to know nothing more about heaven, until we get there, excepting that it is where Jesus is. When I was a young man I read a book that was very popular in those days, but one which, like so many of its kind, has gone the way of all the earth; but I have the nasty taste of that book in my mind today. It was by an American authoress, and was called "The Gates Ajar." It was full of the most carnal and wretched descriptions of what heaven must be that one can possibly read. The Lord says here, His objective, His purpose, is that His people should be with Him where He is; that they behold His glory.
What is it to behold the glory of the Lord? I do not know, excepting what our Lord has said in the 24th verse of the 14th chapter of John: "At that day"--when we get over to the other side--"at that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." Oh, we are in deep waters in that verse, waters of bliss, waters of wonder, waters of glory! But it is going to be opened up to us in heaven; "I am in My Father, and ye in Me."
What is Christ to you, dear friends? How stands the matter with regard to you and the Lord? Mrs. Cousens beautifully expresses it, where she says:
"The bride eyes not her garments,
But her dear bridegroom's face;
I will not look on glory,
But on my King of grace,
Not on the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel's Land!"
When I looked last Thursday at the beautiful dead face of my old friend at Horsham, whom I went to bury, his wife said to me, "Almost the last verse which he quoted before he died was this:
"Then shall I hear and see and know,
All I desired or wished below,
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy."
"That they may behold My glory," and "be with Me where I am." May we go away this morning with a comfortable assurance in our souls, inwrought by God the Holy Ghost, that having come to the Lord Jesus Christ, casting ourselves for full salvation upon Him, we have the demonstration that we have been given to Him for safe keeping, and final presentation faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.