John Chapter 17 is a passage that is packed, pressed down, and running over with the most revealing truth about the heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the plans He has for you and me. Early in His earthly ministry, the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them to pray…(Luke 11:1). In response, Jesus gave them an outline of a model prayer. However, in John chapter 17, we are given an incredible opportunity that allows us to “hear” our Lord offer a life-changing, extraordinarily comprehensive High Priestly prayer for Himself, the early disciples, and the subsequent believers of all ages after them. In this prayer, Jesus gathered the entire human race into Himself and stood before the Father to make supplication on its behalf. “Father the hour has come…,” He began, (John 17:1). The hour for which Jesus came into the world was the hour He would leave it; the hour He would lay down His life for the seed of Adam; the hour He would be scourged, beaten, spat on and cruelly nailed on a Roman cross for you and I- a most ignominious death. This is the background against which this remarkable prayer was offered. Jesus was well aware that Satan was preparing to unleash his unbridled, vile force on him. So much was at stake. The redemption of the whole human race was the crux of the matter at that moment. Jesus turned to His Father. He needed to speak with One who understood the unfolding events; One from whom He could draw strength to endure the impending harrowing experience. That is why this prayer is unique. It is dense with emotion and passion, and fills the reader with wonder and adoration for our Savior and Lord.
In this prayer, Jesus made an astonishing request to His Father. He said “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. ” (verse 24). Just pause for a while and contemplate on this stunning request and its staggering implications. Jesus, the Son of God, made this timeless request on your behalf and mine. He was calling you and I a gift to Him from His Father. Just think about the unparalleled worth this bestows on us. God saw you and I and decided to make us an eternal gift for His Son. We are God’s love gift to His only begotten Son. Jesus does not desire that we should be with Him because we have inherent goodness. It is because of His marvelously abundant grace. He loves us enough to want us to be with Him in glory!! In essence, He was saying to His disciples and to us who believe through them, “I will miss you and I want you with me where I will be.” How we all long to be wanted and loved not because of what we can give, but just for who we are. That the pre-existent second Person of the Godhead, the One through who all things were made, should think and long for your company and mine is a stunning thought. We were chosen before the foundation of the world and adopted of God so that, in the metaphor of marriage, we have become the corporate, spiritual bride of His Son (Ephesians 1:4; 5: 25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2). Jesus wants us with Him in His presence not for a limited period of time but for eternity!!! If you are ever tempted to think that no one loves you, think again. On earth, believers only saw a silhouette of His glory. But in heaven Jesus’ glory is unveiled in all its magnificence. His power is unbridled. This is what He wants us to experience with Him. On that eve, over two thousand years ago, Jesus was obviously aware of the rigors, harshness and sordidness of the night of our earthly existence, and He desired to give us an eternal rest. Although He would be leaving the believers, His desire was to, ultimately, have us all gathered unto Him, an eternal gift from His Father. This is one time the gift will take on the appearance of the its recipient. “But we know that when He appears [to take us home], we shall be as He is…” (1 John 3:2). Of course, this does not mean that we shall take on His deity. Rather we will also have a glorified, eternal body, just as He has. No wonder the apostle Paul exultantly exclaimed that ““Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him, (1 Corinthians 2:9). In the book of Revelation, the apostle John was blessed with a vision of heaven and shared it with us. He said he did not see a temple there because the Almighty God and the Lamb are the temple. Nor did he see the sun or moon shedding light on the city of God because Jesus is its Lamp. The radiance from the Person of Christ illuminates the entire city for eternity because. There is not night there. Jesus is heaven’s infinite Light. They need no batteries or generators or power plants as sources of light there. Jesus shines forever. John saw Him in full disclosure. He was fully displayed as He has always been from eternity past, not as a flickering light but gloriously bright and incandescent, and we shall experience Him in this state forever. I don’t know about you, but this strengthens my resolve to be there with Him, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord. My spot is waiting for me because of Jesus who ever lives to make intercession for us, and I don’t intend to miss it.
Inside every believer a battle is raging between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh’s agenda is contrary and hostile to that of the Spirit. A relentless gravitational pull constantly threatens to pin us and fasten us firmly to the natural world while dissuading us from focusing on the spiritual realm. Our own feeble efforts and determination to walk in the spirit yield pitiful results at best. It is a frustrating and terribly discouraging problem. But thanks be to God for the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Remedy for this spiritual quagmire. The Bible states that when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we pass from death unto eternal life (John 5:24). This becomes a new reality for believers even in this life and God always speaks the truth in His word, “Let God be true, but every man a liar,” (Romans 3:4). He also watches over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12).
There are two parallel kingdoms running side by side: the kingdom of God (the spiritual) and the kingdom of this world (the natural). Although they are distinct from each other, they are not entirely separate. Sometimes they intersect, and believers can have access to both kingdoms through Christ Jesus. Celestial beings have also occasionally penetrated the terrestrial realm through visions and varied epiphanies. We are told that the spiritual is eternal and the natural is temporary (2 Corinthians 4: 18). Because the spiritual is the believers’ eternal reality, the apostle Paul exhorts us to set our minds on things in that kingdom and not on things in the other, (Colossians 3:2). We must be eternity-focused if we are to walk in victory in the natural. The biblical formula for a sustained eternity-focusedness is looking unto Jesus (Hebrews. 12:2). Jesus is the door and through Him we enter eternity. He came not only to inaugurate a new existence that is available for whosoever will, but He also came to make eternity enter into time so that eternal life has become qualitatively available right now for us living within the confines of time and space. Looking unto Jesus is a seemingly innocuous little phrase carrying only three words. But, in actual fact, this is a radical formula for life. It is dynamic and pulsates with astonishing energy. Everything hinges on it for we live, and move, and have our being in no other than Jesus (Acts 17:28). Not a single person has ever willed themselves to come into existence. The Bible states that without Jesus nothing was made that was made (John 1:3) including you and I. Looking unto Him entails more than just a casual spiritual glance. It involves fervent prayer, and spending quality time with Him. It is learning to hear His voice, to recognize it, and to distinguish it from that of the Enemy. “My sheep hear my voice,” He said, “and I know them, and they follow me,” (John 10:27). Looking unto Jesus is to meditate upon His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His intercessory work right now. By looking unto Him our mind, soul, spirit, and will become radically transformed and aligned with His will. Looking unto Him is the antidote for a carnal mindset, and delivers us from the power of darkness to establish us into His kingdom (Colossians. 1:13). As we steadfastly look to Him, our choices, decisions and priorities are redefined. The losses we incur in this life become our eternal investments yielding exponential dividends. Looking unto Jesus gives us access to the Father and makes us habitations of the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus, we have contact with our heavenly family and have divine presence within us. Our thought process changes and becomes like His (Philippians. 2:5). We begin to see that which is invisible, and it becomes our reality. The fear and dread of life’s harsh twists and turns, and death dissipate as perfect love is enthroned in our hearts.
As we fix our gaze on our Lord and Savior, we enter and remain in our resurrected state (Ephesians. 2:6). We begin to filter all our life experiences through the context and framework of eternity, which brings a transcendent richness. In adversity, we are able to see beyond the immediate so that we can exultantly echo the apostle’s words, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians. 4: 8,9). Painful as life’s trials may be, we take heart in knowing that “… our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” because “we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen,” (2 Corinthians. 4: 17,18). This is not to say that we are in denial of adversities and cruel hardships. Rather it is to realize that there is meaning in them beyond our horizon. Pain and suffering certainly beat upon each one of us at one time or another, tossing us back and forth in the sea of life, threatening to disrupt and even to shatter the moorings of our faith. But Jesus is the Compass that helps us stay on course with eternity in mind. One of the gloriously stabilizing blessings of being a Christian is the reality and certainty that our lives extend beyond the grave to a new beginning into the eternal present; the assurance that at death we cross the threshold of this rigorous temporary existence and enter into a peaceful rest. The apostle Paul urges us to keep an energetic and living perspective of our resurrected position in Christ, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, (2 Corinthians. 5:1). Jesus has made all this available for us. None of us has to work for it. He has already done all the work. All we need to do is to keep our gaze on Him; focused on eternity.
When Israel left Egypt, they walked away from a past of servitude, brutality, dehumanization, and pain into a future of redefined moral values, total freedom, and adventure with God. They were carved out to become a community that would serve as the historical framework within which the Messiah, the Savior of the world, would be revealed. They became recipients and custodians of strict dietary, social, spiritual, health, and legislative laws for that same reason. Their entire culture was drastically changed. But at the Red Sea their past began to close in on them with all its horrendous and cruel bondage. Their unfolding freedom and promising future was suddenly threatened by the churning and menacing waters of the sea. The Red Sea was literally an open grave. Precipitous mountains and rocks stood on either side, and a massive army wielding formidable military weapons was closing in on them from behind. There seemed to be no way of escape for them. It seemed as if their short-lived freedom would soon be snuffed out. The way things appeared, it was more reasonable to surrender and be led back into slavery than to pursue Moses’ ill-conceived and abortive attempt to free them. Unarmed former slaves were no match for a renowned world Empire’s seasoned army. But God had other plans. He never leads us backwards. His plans are to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Call onto Me, He says to us, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know, (Jeremiah 33:3). Moses called out to God on behalf of the people of Israel and God responded by commanded nature to intervene with a night wind that parted the water and paved a path for the people to cross safely to the other side on dry ground, leaving clouds of dust behind them in the middle of the sea!! Water was standing on either side like a solid wall. Sadly, Egypt mistakenly thought God’s plans for Israel were theirs, too. Their cup of iniquity, arrogance, and irreverence was so full they assumed a sense of entitlement even toward God to their utter destruction. They believed they were entitled to be masters over other people forever. It was a fatal mistake that devastated the entire Empire.
Our painful experiences can be daunting. Each one of us has our share of Egypt experiences, as it were. They are often characterized by painful and harrowing suffering. Sometimes, severe trials akin to a fiery furnace beset us and plunge us into seasons of darkness devoid of even the promising glimmer of distant stars against the night of anguish. Our faith in God wavers; becoming almost fickle and hollow under the burden of intense pain. Chronic unhappiness and sadness endlessly stalk us, threatening to envelop us in a seemingly inescapable blanket of gloom. I do not know what type of sorrow the reader is facing right now, but I take heart in knowing that God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, is shining in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, our Lord (2 Cor. 4: 6). God has given us Jesus Christ as our Eternal Light to guide us and carry us through our earthly pilgrimage. He is our victory. In God, the past has no power over us. He makes all things new by making a new creation of us, in His Son. Jesus has parted our Red Sea and the Enemy has lost his grip on us.