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People's New Testament
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Chapter XVII

The Lord's Prayer for His Disciples

SummaryThe Prayer of Christ That He May Be Glorified. The Disciples to Whom the Word Was Given. The Prayer, Not for the World, but for Them. That They May Be Sanctified. The Prayer for Saints in All Ages. That They May Be One. For Unity, That the World May Believe.

1. These words spake Jesus. This prayer, so solemn and so tender, would never have been recorded had it not been intended for our study and profit, but I approach it with a feeling that it is almost too sacred for the usual verbal and textual criticism. It is the overflow of the full soul of the Lord in devotion to the Father, a fitting close to the wonderful discourses beginning in chapter 13; offered in the Upper Room, just before the Lord led his disciples out into the moonlit night, on the way to Gethsemane. This is the real Lord's Prayer of the sacred Word; the prayer of Matt. 6:9–13, is the disciples' prayer, taught to them by the Lord. In order to drink in its spirit, we must realize that the Lord stands at the foot of the cross, is about to suffer, and before the separation from his disciples and the agony and shame of the cross, he goes to the Father in their behalf and in his own. Father, the hour is come. “The hour” of the great sacrifice, of the tragedy of the cross, the hour for which Christ came into the world, had now come. Glorify thy Son. He was about to stoop to shame. Had he been left in the tomb, the shame would have been complete. Christ not only prays that he shall be “lifted up,” but that he may so “drink the cup” that the cross itself shall be a glory.

2. As thou hast given him power over all flesh. This shows how the Son is to be glorified. It is by “giving him all power in heaven and earth,” and “committing all things” to him, raising him from the dead so that “he should give eternal life.”

3. This life is eternal, that they might know thee, etc. The knowledge of God as manifested in Jesus Christ is the first requisite to salvation and life eternal. The key to that knowledge is faith and love.

4. I have glorified thee on the earth. He had done this because he could say, “I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do.”

6. I have manifested thy name to the men which thou gavest me, etc. In the first five verses he had prayed for himself. Now he prays for his disciples. The apostles are especially meant.

9. I pray for them. The apostles. The prayer from verse 9 to verse 19 is for these. I pray not for the world. Not at this time; he came into the world to save it, and we are not to conclude that he would never pray for its conversion and welfare, Now, however, his petition is confined to the apostles, the little band who are hanging upon his words.

10. I am glorified in them. Christ's glory here upon the earth is manifested by his disciples.

11. I am no more in the world, but these are in the world. He now goes to the Father; these are left behind to preach the gospel, establish his kingdom, manifest his glory. Hence, he pleads that he may “keep them through his name,” or power and love. He especially pleads that they may be kept “one,” united as the Father and the Son.

12. None of them is lost, but the son of perdition. God had given him twelve; he had kept them in the name of the Father, and only one was lost, Judas, the traitor, the son of perdition, which the Scripture had predicted. See Psa. 41:9.

15, 16. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world. The world had hated the Master and was about to slay him, because he was not of the world. So it would hate the apostles, who were not of the world, and seek to slay them; he does not pray that they should be taken out of the world, for they have a work to do, but that the Father would keep them from the power of the evil one.

17, 18. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth. To sanctify is to render holy, or to consecrate. Those sanctified are saints. The means of canonization is not a Pope, but the truth; and, lest some should mistake, Christ adds, “Thy word is truth.” He prays for their consecration by the power of the word in their hearts. Every disciple should be thus consecrated, but the means is not a miraculous work of grace, but the reception of God's word into our hearts and the complete surrender to his will spoken in his word.

19. For their sakes I sanctify myself. He did this when he came into the world, when he made it his meat to do the Father's will, and when he gave himself to death. We sanctify ourselves when we “present our bodies as living sacrifices.”

20. Neither pray I for these alone. We enter upon the third section of the prayer, that for all disciples in every age.

21. That they all may be one; … that they may be one in us. This is a prayer for the unity of the saints. The Lord all through this discourse has shown the intimate union between the Father and himself. The Father is in him and he in the Father, all that is the Father's is his, and his is the Father's. They have no separate will, kingdom, or interests. Such a union is demanded among the disciples of Christ. Such union is impossible while they are divided into various denominations, with separate work, property and interests, separate churches, colleges, papers and missions. Denominationalism is utterly opposed to this prayer, and every apologist for it is disloyal to the spirit of the prayer. Nor is it fulfilled in any church where there are factions, where “all are not perfectly joined together, of the same mind and the same judgment.” If Christ abides in the heart, the one life will draw all who have Christ formed within them into one family. This unity is needful, and for it the Lord prays, That the world may believe that thou hast sent me. It must be a union that the world can see and recognize. It is therefore an organic union, one Body as there is one Lord. There is no other source of skepticism so fruitful as church quarrels and sectarian divisions.

22, 23. The glory which thou gavest me I have given them. God gave Christ the glory of Sonship and this resulted in their unity. So Christ gives to his disciples the glory of becoming the sons of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1). This glory, the adoption and gift of the Spirit, ought to effect that they be one as we are one. We cannot pray this prayer of Jesus and have the party spirit or labor to build up sectarianism. In the spirit of love we should oppose it, and labor to destroy sectarian names, creeds, organizations and interests. As the Son and the Father are one, have one work, one kingdom, one spirit, one interest, so must all that are Christ's. We must “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” There is “one body” and “one Spirit,” as there is “one Lord.”

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