DOWNLOADS: AUDIO

I Am Not Praying For The World – Part 1

John 17:6-10 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

INTRODUCTION

Every so often someone confesses to me that they are so upset with someone, that they feel so painfully wronged by someone, that they cannot bring themselves to pray anything good for them. At best they pray prayers of justice and imprecatory Psalms.

Jesus says in this passage that He is not praying for the world (9). Is that that? Having explained all the ways “the world” had been hostile and hateful toward Him and would be toward His disciples, was Jesus simply acknowledging that enough was enough; that they’d run out of chances and were now on their own?

That is emphatically not what we have here. Instead, what we have here is a simple clarification that Jesus wasn’t praying for everyone. He has a different heart for different people. And in this passage, He was sharing His heart for a particular group, not “the world”.

Stepping back for a moment, as I mentioned last week, Jesus’ John 17 “High Priestly,” prayer consists of four sections. We considered the first one last week. It is found in vs.1-5. In it, Jesus prayed primarily for Himself. This week, we’ll begin looking at the second section, the biggest section, which covers vs.6-19. In our text for this morning, 6-10, once again, Jesus’ clarified precisely who He was and who He wasn’t praying for. Once I get back from vacation, starting in v.11, we’ll consider the content of His prayer for them. The third section is in vs.20-24. In it, Jesus prays for all of His future followers (including all of us). And finally, in vs.25-26, the fourth part of His prayer, Jesus simply shares His heart with the Father.

Well, if not for the world, who, then, was Jesus praying for in this passage? He was praying for those whom He manifested the name of the Father. But even more specifically, He was praying for a particular group among those whom He manifested the name of the Father. He was praying for those whom the Father had given Him, from out of this world, who responded to the Word of God in particular ways. In short, He was praying for His current disciples. He was praying for His true followers. He was praying for those whom He’d commissioned to carry on His mission and promised to preserve through persecution.

The big idea of this passage is that Jesus prayed for His disciples and in the processes gave a clear description of His disciples: Those to whom He manifested the Father’s name and who were given to Him by the Father, from out of the world, to receive the Word of God. The main takeaways are to pray for and call people to Jesus, out of the world, according to the Word of God.

PRAYING FOR HIS DISCIPLES

Immediately after sharing with His eleven disciples what was to come for Him and them, Jesus turned to His Father in prayer; first for Himself to glorify God, and second for His disciples. We don’t find much of the content of His prayer for His disciples until the next section. Once again, in our passage for this morning, Jesus makes clear who His disciples are and that He is praying for them alone. Specifically, Jesus named four things that mark His true followers: that He manifested the Father’s name to them, that they were given to Him by the Father, that they were given from out of the world, and that they rightly receive the Word of God.

Praying for the People to Whom He Manifested the Father’s Name

This section of Jesus’ prayer begins by identifying the objects of His prayer as those to whom He manifested God’s name.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people…

In the fullest sense, Jesus meant that He was praying for people to whom He had revealed the nature, character, and person of God. That’s all embedded in the words “your name.” The entire world hadn’t witnessed Jesus’ revelation; only a relatively few people had. But what does that mean exactly? Several passages get to the heart of what it means to manifest the name of God to people.

Likely, Jesus had Exodus 3:13-15 in mind,

Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

This is what Paul had in mind when He wrote Colossians 1:15,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

It is what Jesus mean when He responded to Philip (in John 14:8-10),

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

In other words, Jesus was praying for those who had heard His divine teaching, witnessed His divine miracles, and experienced His divine presence. He manifested the name of the Father in Himself. He is the manifestation of the name of the Father! That is why you cannot claim to love or follow or even know God if you do not know Jesus. To deny Jesus is to deny God. To experience Jesus is to experience the name of God manifested. And in that we have the first description of the people Jesus was praying for in this section…those who had experienced the manifested name of God in Him.

It’s important to highlight the fact that there were many people to whom Jesus presented Himself and, therein, the manifestation of the name of God, who completely missed it. As the next point will make clearer, Jesus was not praying for everyone who’d simply been in His presence or impacted by His ministry. He was praying for those people who had recognized Him as the manifestation of the name of the Father.

Praying for the People Whom the Father Had Given Him

Again, to make that fact clearer, Jesus added a clarifying clause.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me…

Those who received Jesus as the manifestation of the name of the Father are all who were given to Jesus by the Father. There is sovereign grace at work whenever anyone recognizes Jesus for who He really is; both in Jesus’ day and ours.

The idea of the Father giving a people to Jesus is one we’ve seen several times already in John’s Gospel. In this passage He is especially clear.

6 I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me…

and

6 Yours they were, and you gave them to me…

and

7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.

and

9 …I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

There is simply no question that Jesus was praying for His followers; that His followers were those to whom He’d manifested the name of God; that those to whom He’d manifested the name of God were those who experienced Jesus as the manifestation of the Father’s name; and that those who experienced Jesus as the manifestation of the Father’s name were those given to Jesus by the Father.

We belong to God before we believe in Jesus. That’s the sovereign grace I mentioned a minute ago. That reality is simultaneously humbling and precious beyond measure. To have any real sense of the Bible’s description of sin is to know that, left to our own desires, we’d never ever desire Jesus. But thanks be to God, we are not left to our own desires. God’s sovereign grace grants new eyes to those who belong to Him, that we might recognize Jesus as the manifestation of the name of God, that we might believe in Jesus.

Jesus stated explicitly that He was praying for those who believed in Him (as the manifestation of the name of God) because they were given to Him by the Father.

Praying for the People Whom the Father Had Given from Out of the World

In that same verse (v.6), Jesus added still another clarifying clause. He was praying for the people whom He had manifested the Father’s name to, who had been given to Him by the Father, and who had been given to Him by the Father from out of the world.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.

All of His followers had been given to Him from out of the world. That’s a really significant statement. To appreciate its significance, it’s important to remember what John and Jesus had already said about “the world”.

John 1:10 [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people [of the world] loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

John 7:7 The world … hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

John 15:18 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

John 16:33 … In the world you will have tribulation.

In short, “the world” are the enemies of God and of the people of God. The world did not know Jesus. The world loved darkness and evil. The world hates Jesus. The world hates and persecutes Jesus’ followers.

As we read Jesus’ descriptions of the wickedness of the world and its treatment of Him and His followers, it is absolutely vital for us to remember that the disciples were all once “of the world,” even as all of us were once “of the world.”

No one is born a follower of Jesus. We are all born “of the world.” We are all born enemies of God in our sin. Who are Jesus’ followers? They are those to whom Jesus chose to manifest the name of the Father. Who are those whom Jesus chose to manifest the name of the Father? Those given to Him by the Father. Who are those who have been given to Jesus by the Father? Those who were formerly of this world. That’s the third element of a true follower of Jesus and that’s who Jesus was praying for.

If it is God who gives a people to Jesus and if He gives a people from among a people who by nature are hostile to Jesus, practically speaking, this prayer serves as an important charge to learn to love the sovereign grace of God, to pursue humility, to forgive quickly, and to share the gospel confidently. May it b so among us, Grace.

Praying for the People Who Rightly Respond to the Word

There’s one final (fourth) clarification of who Jesus was praying for in 17:6-19. We find it at the very end of v.6.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

I find it absolutely fascinating that all of this is found in the opening line (v.6) of this prayer. I find it even more fascinating and truly formative that the final clause (“and they have kept your word”) is the final link in a chain concerning the disciples’ response to the Word.

There is so much for us to learn from these few verses concerning the process by which the Word of God comes to and works in the followers of Jesus. Indeed, there are five steps listed here. Let’s consider them together.

1. They were given the words of God (8).

Before the disciples could “keep” the word of God, it had to first be given to them. You can’t keep something that you don’t already have. Jesus spoke to this in v.8.

8 For I have given them the words that you gave me…

A large part of Jesus’ ministry on earth was speaking all and only that which had been given to Him by the Father. As the prophet from whom all other prophets got their name, Jesus spoke the very words of God. He revealed the will of God to the world. He came to earth in large measure to give God’s words to the world.

We have the word of God. In the Bible, we have every word that God requires us to have. It is our job, therefore, not to add to what God has told us, but to give it freely as we’ve received it freely. Functionally, we give it in our counseling, our preaching, our evangelism, and our entire worldview. Most simply, we cannot follow Jesus apart from being given the words of God. And Jesus was praying for those whom He’d given them.

2. They received the words of God (8).

And yet, clearly, it is not merely by being given the Word of God that someone becomes one of Jesus’ followers. It’s can’t be less than that, but it must always be more than that.

8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them…

In our context, I’d guess that 95%+ of the people that we share or attempt to share the gospel with are indifferent at best and frustrated/hostile at worst. We are, technically speaking, giving the words of God whenever we share the gospel. But there is, of course, a big difference between those who merely hear the words and those who receive them.

Jesus made it clear that not only had He given the Father’s words to His disciples, but one of the most distinguishing marks of His disciples was that they eagerly received them. They took them in. It is those people who are both given and receive Jesus as the manifest word of God that are Jesus’ true disciples and for which Jesus was praying.

Grace, learn from this. Kids, learn from this. Every time you come to church on a Sunday morning, you are given the words of God. That is a gift. At the same time, the gift is useless, unless you receive it. You need to lean into it, do your best to listen carefully, and accept it as God’s Word.

3. They came to know the words of God (8).

There’s more still. Jesus was praying for His followers and His followers were those who were given, received, and came to know the word of God.

8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you…

Just as it is not enough to merely get God’s word, it’s also not enough to merely receive it. Paying attention and listening carefully are good. Likewise, receiving the words of Scripture as the words of God is good. But from there, we must come to know it in truth. We must understand it. We must grasp it with our minds.

Jesus named one specific truth that He’d brought to the disciples that they’d come to know; namely, that He was from the Father. He gave it, they received it, and they understood it.

Once again, this is critical for us, Grace. This is why the Catholic Church tradition of saying mass in languages not understood by the people was so misguided. By God’s design, the Word of God works in connection with our minds. We must come to know God’s word about Jesus if we are to become Jesus’ followers. Jesus’ disciples did, and that is why He was praying for them.

4. They believed the words of God (8).

The fourth aspect of the word of God that characterized His true disciples was that they also believed it.

8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

You’ve heard me talk about Dr. Green at MSU. He was the atheist dean of the religion department. He knew certain aspects of God’s Word better than I do still. He understood it on an intellectual level better than 99% of the world. But He didn’t believe a word of it. He was given it, received it, and came to know it, but he believed that it was just one more religious myth.

Kids, if you’ve been at Grace Church for any length of time, or in any good church for any length of time, or a home with Christian parents for any length of time, you undoubtedly have had the word of God presented to you over and over. You received it and probably understand a good deal of it by this point. But there is a big gap, an eternal gap, between knowing the stories and believing them with all your heart; of trusting in them with your life; of treasuring them above all. Coming to see them for what they really are—the words of God—and believing them as a result is a gift from God. Ask Him for that gift now and don’t stop asking until you get it.

Jesus was praying for those who had been given to Him, out of the world, by the Father and therein believed that Jesus was the manifestation of the name of the Father and that His words were true. Before they could believe them, though, Jesus had to give the words to them, they had to receive them, and they had to understand them—all of which had taken place and all of which is what marked them as His true disciples, those for whom He was praying.

5. They kept the words of God (6).

And that brings us all the way back to the beginning.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

To keep the word in this sense means obeying it over time. The disciples for whom Jesus was praying, were marked by keeping the words given to them in that they lived in light of them and in that they held onto them. They didn’t merely understand them and they didn’t merely obey once and then forget about them. Of course, they did not do this perfectly (as will become clear quickly). But by the grace of God, they believed that the words Jesus gave them were God’s own words and so it was their God-given desire to be conformed to them.

Again, in our passage for this morning Jesus made clear who He was praying for and insodoing, He made clear the true nature of a disciple. And one of the chief characteristics of a genuine follower of Jesus is being keepers of the words of God.

Is it your growing desire and increasing experience to keep the word of God? Do you long to hear the words of God and be transformed by them? That is the mark of a true disciple according to this passage. Therefore, helping people move through this progression is the great privileged and responsibility of every Christian. It is what Mat and Miranda and the girls are moving to the other side of the world to do. It is what we are continually equipping you for and commissioning you to. Is that your understanding of the nature of the mission of the Church, of the nature of discipleship, and the heart of your sanctification? It ought to be and Jesus’ prayer helps us to see that clearly.

But there’s something even deeper still embedded in this. It reveals the way in which true followers of Jesus respond to the words of God and in that, it also reveals the way in which true followers of Jesus respond to the Word of God. John’s Gospel begins with these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Just as Jesus is the manifestation of the name of God, He is also the manifestation of the Word of God. This means that His disciples are defined not only as those who are given, receive, understand, believe and keep the words given to Jesus by the Father, but also as those who are given, receive, understand, believe and keep the Word of God who was given by the Father, in love, to the world.

Practically speaking, Grace, we’re not given mere ideas, concepts, rules, commands, and descriptions, we’re given a Person who embodies them all. We’re not merely to accept a set of doctrines. We’re to accept the Person who embodies them all.

One significant part of our worship service every week is to give you Jesus! Would you receive Him this morning? Would you know Him, believe in Him, and keep Him? He is eternal life, fullness of joy, the perfect order, and the greatest treasure. In revealing the words of God and their goodness, beauty and truth, Jesus was ultimately revealing Himself, the Word of God incarnate. Awesome!

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, remember, the big idea of this passage is that Jesus prayed for His disciples and in the processes gave a clear description of His disciples: Those to whom He manifested the Father’s name and who were given to Him by the Father, from out of the world, to receive the Word of God. The main takeaways are to pray for and call people to Jesus, out of the world, according to the Word of God.

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

Jesus was praying for them because they glorified Him. And so may we according to the same grace and power of God that worked so powerfully in the disciples. If we will receive it in faith, we will be glad to echo Jesus’ prayers, to proclaim His glory from the rooftops, and to call people out of this world by sharing the same words of the Father that Jesus shared. May it be so.