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.
Lack of knowledge can be a source of a warped worldview that distorts our outlook to life and hinders us from tapping into the resources available for our physical and spiritual well-being. Lack of knowledge can also lead to a twisted view about reality which can, in turn, can lead to ghastly repercussions. For instance, improper knowledge about HIV, in some parts of the world, led some people to believe that sleeping with a virgin could cure the disease. Such a horrifying distortion of reality can lead to untold suffering as innocent people are placed at risk for infection, which can lead to an exponential spread of HIV. Thankfully, sustained rigorous and aggressive community education by public health professionals has corrected that paradigm. Reality never changes and, as long as we live, we will have constant encounters with it wherever we are, one way or another. But if our knowledge of it is inaccurate, our encounter with it will be painful or even deadly. This is just one of the numerous examples of the deleteriousness of lack of knowledge.
A second example is that lack of knowledge regarding traffic rules will not prevent accidents. The reality is that if we do not stop our vehicle when the traffic lights are red, we can cause an accident that could endanger our lives and those of other innocent people. Lack of knowledge cannot insulate us from inevitable consequences of erroneous behavioral choices.
In the spiritual realm, lack of knowledge about how to inherit eternal life has negative eternal consequences. Jesus told Nicodemus that being born again (of water and of the Spirit) is the prerequisite to see and enter into the kingdom of God (John 3: 3-5). Denying this axiomatic truth does not change it one bit. God’s Word is infallible. It is neither dependent on popular opinion nor is it impacted by rejection. It stands forever because God will not alter the thing that has gone out of His mouth (Psalm 89:34). Our spiritual life is the most important aspect of our existence because it determines our eternal destiny. Therefore, right knowledge about our salvation is paramount over any other prospect.
Unharnessable, uncontrollable, irreversible, unalterable, and non-negotiable is the enigma known as time. Time is a mystery that is inextricably bound up with mankind. All our experiences are determined and marked by time: past, present and future time. We know that the past exists because of fleeting events; events that are no more. Without passing events, the past does not exist. The present is marked by current events. If there were no current events, there would be no present.1 The future is a projection or anticipation of what has yet to be. Our past experiences become our memories. Although we live in the present we, at the same time, look back in the past and hope for the future. All this is a futile attempt to describe time.
Everybody operates under the auspices of time. We are all inseparably wrapped up in and with time. We perceive every activity and make every decision from the vantage point of time. Furthermore, our consciousness of time is an ever-present reminder of our own mortality. We race against time, as it were, because sooner or later, time “runs out” on us. There are no rehearsals; no encores.
To each one of us has been given a sliver of time to enter and exit this earth in a process called life, which the Apostle James describes as “a vapor” that appears for a while and then disappears. Our life, this vapor, is measured by time. It is as a flower that blossoms with the morning dew and withers with the scorching sun in the afternoon. The vapor, our life, is action-packed from birth to death. It is characterized by expectations, celebrations, sorrows, ambitions, goals, aspirations, anticipations, mourning and rejoicing. Sometimes excruciating suffering besets us. Other times joyful achievements come our way. Sometimes our hearts break because of heart-rending loss. Other times our hearts sing ecstatically because of unexpected blessings. We laugh in good times and cry and sigh in bad ones. Sometimes alone. Other times with loved ones. Still time goes on. It is never distracted or hindered or delayed by anybody or anything. Its pace cannot be altered or modified or slowed down. Time just goes on, indifferently, unfeelingly.
Our life is a transient experience foisted on us when we are injected somewhere in the current of time as it flows on. We gain myriad experiences for an uncertain period of time. The precariousness and brevity of our existence can be an unnerving experience because it underscores the fact that the probability of our bodily death is 100%. Nevertheless, this harsh truth is also mitigated by the reality of the corporeal resurrection of Jesus Christ, which gives eternal life with God 100% probability as truth.2 As such, faith in Jesus becomes the only worthwhile choice we can make if we must enter into eternal life, which St. Augustine calls the perpetual present: “If the present were perpetually present, there would be no longer any time, but only eternity.”3 Heman Humphrey positively viewed our short life on earth as “…a threshold of eternity-the infancy of immortality; that here our characters are to be formed for the innumerable ages of future being-that our everlasting happiness or misery is suspended upon our improvement of this inch or two of time.”3 This life is a probationary period and an opportunity to prepare for eternal blessings for believers who place their faith in the Lord Jesus to the end. This timeless truth gives the breath in our nostrils an impressive new meaning with an unimaginable, intrinsic value. We are standing on the brink of eternity! This fleeting existence is enough for us to prepare for our grand entry into a greater and larger existence. The relative ratio of life on earth to eternity is immeasurable. It is incalculable. “It is not one grain of sand to the sum total of the dusty particles that make up this huge and solid earth. It is less.” The eternity that awaits the believer “has no end, for it has no progress. It is duration not in motion, but at rest…The actions of this little limited life are empowered to decide for eternity…We are acting for eternity.”4 This is more than compensation for the shortness of this rigorous life. It is amazing grace with a sweet sound to it.
1.Hausheer, H. (Sept., 1937). he Philosophical Review, Vol. 46, No. 5 (Sep., 1937), pp. 503-512. Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review. Accessed December 4, 2016 from https://grattoncourses.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/augustine-on-time.pdf
2. Gibbs, C. (2012). Logos 1 of Writing God’s Book of Life. Published by R. Crafton Gibbs via Google E-Books. Pp. 18.
3.Hausheer, H. (Sept., 1937). he Philosophical Review, Vol. 46, No. 5 (Sep., 1937), pp. 503-512. Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review. Accessed December 4, 2016 from https://grattoncourses.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/augustine-on-time.pdf
4.Humphrey, H. (1833). Sermon No. 91: Time Measured by Eternity. The American National Preacher: 1834. Original Sermons from The Living Ministers of the United States (Dickinson, A. ed.). Vol. 7 & 8. S.W. Benedict & Co. 150 Nassau Street. New York. Pp. 290- 301