Calvary Road Baptist Church

“The Lord Jesus Christ Praying For His Remaining Apostles” Part 8

John 17.6-19 

I found myself very perplexed approaching my text for this message from God’s Word. There is so much distraction in the world around us, and I trust you are someone who consciously seeks to leave “out there” as much of “out there” as you can when we gather. That said, allow me a few moments to contextualize.

We have the ongoing Wuhan virus threat. And, remember, the COVID-19 virus was initially identified by the Chinese government as the Wuhan virus, so don’t let anyone get away with any of this politically incorrect nonsense about calling it the Wuhan virus somehow being racist.

We have the governor-mandated Covid vaccine demands that have been imposed upon public school children, employees of so many companies threatened with terminations, and health care workers who worked with Covid-infected patients for eighteen months before there was a vaccine. All this with masking mandates that almost everyone in California increasingly ignores. And is it not interesting that there is no cost to benefit analysis allowed when responding to this virus?

No one anywhere in the English-speaking world seems to be willing to discuss the tradeoffs people commonly make when deciding how to live our lives. After all, cars are driven sixty-five miles an hour at the risk of thousands of deaths on the highways every year, when we could reduce that death toll to almost zero by mandating that no one drive more than twenty-five miles per hour. But we take such risks of accident or injury as a necessary tradeoff in life. Why not with the COVID virus?[1]

We have different rules in different cities, counties, and states in the USA, and various countries, with anyone who thinks those differences have anything to do with science naive in the extreme. I heard on the radio yesterday that Universal Studios requires proof of no Covid infection to enter their amusement park. Yet, Cal Poly Pomona has no requirements of any kind to visit their large pumpkin patch.

One guy in Norway reports on Twitter that Norway is back to normal, with no masks, no covid passports, no social distancing, and everything now open, people have returned to normal.[2] Another reports that Norway has reclassified Covid-19 as no more dangerous than the flu.[3] And Portugal has now removed most of its restrictions, following Scandinavian countries removing their restrictions and opening up.[4]

The Gateway Pundit reports that India is now COVID-19 free by using Ivermectin. At the same time, India’s nearby ally, Australia, has become an actual police state, with arrests of individuals made on remote beaches and farms for not wearing masks when no one else is anywhere in sight. And here in the USA, podcaster Joe Rogan was soundly criticized by the left when his doctor treated him with great success using Ivermectin. But in the state of Illinois, one of our former Church members was refused Ivermectin treatment by his doctor, who told him Ivermectin was illegal in Illinois.

Add to that the political and military threats unfolding around the world. China is rattling its sabers in the skies over Taiwan as they fly jet fighters and bombers into Taiwanese airspace to fill the power vacuum created by our weak president. Australia has arranged to buy nuclear-powered submarines from the USA, angering both China and France. Predictions are surfacing that the increased Chinese belligerence threat will result in Japan abandoning the pacifist stance they have maintained since World War Two and likely going nuclear because the debacle convinces them in Afghanistan that the United States can no longer be trusted as an ally.

Add to that the ‘PROVOCATIVE’ Iranian naval boats filmed ‘harassing’ and ‘taunting’ US Navy warships in the Persian Gulf.[5] And did you know that a Democrat administration here in the USA spent American taxpayer money to unseat prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israeli elections while complaining about foreign interference in our elections?[6] So, the most effective prime minister the modern state of Israel has ever had is now out of office.

“‘The Iranians are clearly not afraid of us any longer,’ said longtime U. S. Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross. ‘That in itself means we really don’t have the level of deterrence we need, whether on the nuclear issue or in the region.’”[7] How would you say President Biden’s foreign policy is working out, especially after the former secretary of state, John Kerry, voiced his opinion that the president was clueless?[8]

I have not yet mentioned the impending crash of China’s largest real estate developer, which may very well provoke an economic ripple effect in our country.[9] And yet young people in the United States of America, with everything that is happening in the world, seem to maintain a confident attitude that they have a future without Christ. What, pray tell, are they thinking?

One might wonder how we are to respond to government intimidation of private citizens,[10] threats to public worship that will certainly return, the increased threat of violence in our cities, the chaos in the Middle East, the debacle in Afghanistan that has left so many veterans questioning their military service and sacrifice, and the predictions of war amidst threats by China to attack Australia and Taiwan, and Chinese incursions across the border with India?

Some are distraught, but I am not concerned at all. I trusted Christ as my Savior long ago, so I am sealed and ready for eternity.[11] I am thankful that my wife and daughter are squared away. And I have been at peace for scores of years with the fact that the United States is not mentioned in Biblical prophecy, meaning before the Rapture, our country will be reduced to insignificance on the world stage, likely as the result of war or economic ruin.

All these issues and developments are interesting because I am a news and foreign affairs junkie. And, of course, I am concerned about the safety and security of other Christians around the world and their suffering in this present distress. But am I worried? Not at all, apart from my concern for the lost, who have no hope. Every time I am tempted to distraction by the events going on in world around me, I turn to God’s Word.

I invite you to turn with me to John 17.13. When you find that verse, please stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

“And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” 

We have three phrases comprising this verse that I wish to treat with four comments: 

Phrase #1: The Lord prays to His Father, “And now come I to thee.”

Comment #1 

Notice, if you will, that this portion of our Lord Jesus Christ’s high priestly intercessory prayer is not a request. This is a declaration. This is a statement revealing to His audience what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing. Considered one way, you might recognize that since His departure from the Upper Room, the Lord Jesus Christ has embarked on His journey from this world to the throne room in heaven. And, in this second part of the greatest conversation ever recorded in God’s Word, He addresses His heavenly Father for the benefit of eleven witnesses.

What is sometimes overlooked is that the Lord Jesus Christ’s pathway back to His Father’s side in heaven’s throne room will take Him to, and through, the cross of Calvary. He will soon be exalted, but His exaltation will be preceded by His humiliation and substitutionary sacrifice. What might seem to us to be a circuitous route to the Father’s side in the throne room is the most direct route the Savior can take for two reasons:

On the one hand, we read in Proverbs 15.33 and 18.12, “before honour is humility.” So, the humility of the cross is the proper prelude to Him being honored by His Father, with His resurrection from the dead, His ascension to heaven, and His enthronement at the Father’s right hand on high.[12] On the other hand, there are those many, many Old Testament predictions He can only fulfill by His doing and dying on the cross of Calvary.[13] Thus, the word “now” in the phrase “And now I come to thee.” From the Upper Room, through His discourse, to this prayer, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to His arrest and trials, and His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension, He is now coming to the Father.

The Lord Jesus Christ has been on the earth for some 33½ years since Bethlehem. He has engaged in public ministry at this point for about 3½ years. Understand, however, that although He was baptized, was tempted of the devil, after which He selected and trained apostles along the way, and went about the countryside and cities teaching, working miracles, and ministering to many people, His primary purpose for coming to this world was to offer Himself a sacrifice for sins.[14]

He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.[15] He will accomplish many things along the way, journeying toward Golgotha’s brow on His way back to God the Father, victorious over sin and death Hell and the grave, and having conquered not only death but also the devil.

The initial phrase of our text, then, is an announcement. It is a declaration, a statement for the benefit of His audience, the remaining apostles. It is the Savior, the Son of God, telling His Father in their hearing, “I am on my way home.” 

Phrase #2: The Lord says to His Father, “And these things I speak in the world.”

Comment #2 

This phrase makes it very clear that the Savior’s intent at this point is the benefit that will accrue to His disciples. The remark is addressed to the Father, though it refers to that which the Father already knows. These are words spoken in the world, which is to say, words that are spoken on earth, words that are audible, so that mortal men might hear. Would the disciples receive immediate benefit from these words? That was not at all likely. It was more likely that over the next several days the apostles would be caught up in grief, sorrow, bewilderment, and a sense of abandonment.

That understood, this phrase makes it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ was thinking of their welfare that would follow His resurrection, and their indwelling by the Holy Spirit that He will give to them, and by their empowering on the Day of Pentecost.

What had Christ’s men been told of the world that they should keep in mind, or that the Spirit would bring to mind, as they considered their Lord’s words in this prayer? Here are several of many things I could point out had I more time:

First, remember that the world does not know Him, John 1.10: 

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” 

Next, remember that the world does not know the Father, John 17.25: 

“O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee.” 

Third, keep in mind that the world hates the Lord Jesus, John 7.7 and 15.18: 

7.7   The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. 

Meaning? The world does not hate Christ’s own for their own sake, but for Christ’s sake. 

15.18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 

Fourth, there is the world’s hatred of Christ’s disciples, John 15.18-19 and 17.14: 

15.18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

19  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 

17.14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 

Fifth, neither Christ nor His disciples belong to this world.[16]

Sixth, Christ’s own face persecution in this world.[17]

Finally, for now, but I could go on with many more considerations, the Lord came for the judgment of this world.[18]

What astonishing contrast exists between Christ and we who are His, on one hand, and those who are not His, on the other hand. In one’s own family there are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, who occupy the same territory while existing in vastly different realms. 

Phrase #3: The Lord concludes, saying to His Father, “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

Comment #3 

This phrase reveals why the Lord Jesus Christ uttered these words to the Father. The Savior spoke these words so that His apostles and believers coming after them, such as you and me, might have Christ’s joy fulfilled in themselves, in ourselves. Believers in Jesus Christ do not often note that the state of the Triune Godhead throughout eternity has been one of perpetual joy. To imagine that joy is related to immediate circumstances is to display an ignorance of what joy is. I will speak more on this in just a moment but suffice it to say that the Lord Jesus Christ has always known and experienced joy. God the Father and the Holy Spirit of God have also experienced joy as a consequence of their divine nature and delight with each other. Understood in one way, then, joy is seen as an attribute of God that can be communicated or shared with God’s children, being so communicated through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

You might remember from John 10.10, just before the Lord Jesus Christ described Himself as the Good Shepherd, He stated His intermediate goal to His men: 

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” 

To be sure, the Lord Jesus Christ’s ultimate goal, His primary goal, has from eternity past been to glorify His heavenly Father. One of the most significant means by which the Lord Jesus Christ accomplishes His goal of glorifying the Father is the Church that He founded, Ephesians 3.21: 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” 

And how does the Savior accomplish His goal of glorifying the Father in the Church throughout all ages, world without end? He gives life to His sheep and more. He gives to His sheep abundant life.

Allow me to recapitulate: Christ’s goal is to glorify the Father. He instituted the Church populated with His sheep as an instrument by which He accomplishes that goal of glorifying the Father. To effectively use the Church congregation to glorify the Father, the Good Shepherd gives life, abundant life, to His sheep to be brought into the Church. Indication of that reality is seen in the phrase before us, where the Lord Jesus Christ professes His intention that the result of what He says to His heavenly Father will be His joy fulfilled in His apostles. His words being “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

Years later, the Apostle Paul would reveal to the Galatian congregations how joy would be produced in the lives of Christ’s own, Galatians 5.22-23: 

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 

Finally, Comment #4 

Do you not find it interesting that the Lord Jesus Christ, as He was approaching His darkest hour, would speak to His Father about His joy being fulfilled in His apostles? Does that not fly in the face of what most people think joy is?

Most people confuse joy with happiness, just as they frequently confuse love with lust. However, though happiness depends upon what happens, joy does not depend upon appreciating the experiences of this life. Though there is a question about whether he was a Christian or not, C. S. Lewis was a notable scholar and author who is known for making some incredibly accurate statements about the Christian faith. On one occasion, he wrote a letter in which he stated, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”[19] What an insightful comment.

As well, joy ought to be the routine experience of every Christian. After all, we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, Who imparts joy to us, as we have already seen in Galatians 5.22-23. This is also reflected in Philippians 4.4, where the Apostle Paul directed his readers to 

“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” 

Interesting, also, is the fact that the Greek word for joy found in our text verse occurs at least 98 times in the Greek New Testament.[20] Therefore, the importance of us paying serious attention to John 17.13 seems obvious to me. This portion of our Lord’s prayer has to do with His intention of passing on to His men the fullness of His joy amidst their immediate and impending circumstances. Then there are the circumstances Christ’s subsequent followers have faced from that day to this. The virus pandemic, the concern of increasing violence throughout our nation, state, and country, the big power struggles taking place between the United States and other nations.

Have you noticed that we don’t lose? We quit! Then, there are millions of American citizens whose voting patterns suggest they are bent upon the destruction of the most materially prosperous nation that has ever existed. Does that not provoke our anticipation that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and great glory may not be far off? Yes, beloved, we are living in exciting times. There has never been a better time to be a child of God. So, what is joy? It is the delight that comes from knowing that you are a child of God, that your sins are forgiven, that you are bound for heaven, that all things work together for good for you, that God loves you, that Jesus Christ died and rose for you, that the Spirit indwells you, and a host of other things. None of these things are related to circumstances, which is why Silas and Paul were able to rejoice even in the Philippian prison.[21] In like manner, you can know joy and can rejoice in any situation if you know Christ as your Savior. 

That said, genuine joy can only be experienced by the child of God because it is a delight that originates in the bosom of God. With no relationship with Christ, joy is an impossibility.

I would never suggest that unsaved people cannot experience happiness. But happiness depends on what happens, doesn’t it? Joy does not depend upon what happens, but derives from a relationship with Christ that is executed by the indwelling Spirit of God.

At some point in a lost person’s life, the happiness runs out of steam. Crudity, jokes, folly, pranks, irresponsibility, vulgarity, and all the rest. Coupled with a realization that life has no meaning and there is no hope, it is why some people contemplate and even commit suicide.

Such tragedy is so unnecessary because Christ is the complete remedy. For sins, He provides forgiveness. For death, He is our life. For folly and stupidity, He is our wisdom. And for dullness, dreariness, meaninglessness, and despondency, He gives us His joy.

Won’t you turn to Christ? If not, why not? There is no other way. Come to Christ now.

__________

[1] See Glenn Greenwald’s insightful discussion of this issue on YouTube at https://youtu.be/oLmLiF4VPns

[2] @PeterSweden7

[3] @Bob_A_79807

[4] @PeterSweden7

[5] https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/11411493/uk-us-iranian-russian-militaries-coronavirus/

[6] https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/12/obama-admin-sent-taxpayer-money-oust-netanyahu/

[7] https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/28/iran-power-vacuum-middle-east-nuclear-power/

[8] https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/kerry-on-biden-he-literally-had-not-been-aware-of-what-had-transpired-on-submarine-deal/

[9] https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-evergrande-should-not-bet-govt-bailout-global-times-editor-2021-09-17/

[10] https://thefederalist.com/2021/10/06/across-america-parents-refuse-to-be-intimidated-by-bidens-attorney-general-labeling-them-domestic-terrorists/

[11] Ephesians 1.13

[12] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[13] Psalm 22; 34.20; Isaiah 53; Zechariah 11.13; Matthew 27.3-10, 31-38; Luke 24; John 19.33; 1 Corinthians 15.3-8

[14] Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12.10

[15] Revelation 13.8

[16] John 8.23; 15.19; 17.14

[17] John 16.33

[18] John 12.31; 16.11

[19] C. S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm, Fontana Books, 1962, page 9.

[20] Brian A. Russell, The Greatest Prayer Ever Prayed, (London: Grace Publications Trust, 2010), page 104.

[21] Acts 16.25

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