Christ's Desires for the Christian: Part 1

John 17  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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 intreated him with all the tender affection of a father, and the son 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 objects 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” (ver. 13). 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 with 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 not humbleness to refuse grace. And then, when it is seen to be such grace—unmingled grace—it is not 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 all thought of 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, glorify 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 here. 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 can such as we are 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, His holiness, truth, majesty, righteousness, all was against Him, because on 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—the whole question of sin being settled, and all that Christ was, 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 to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and 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 [anticipatively] put 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: “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father,” etc.; and He puts them in this place after death and judgment have been gone through, and He is risen out of them. 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.
J. N. D.
(To be continued)