Sunday, May 28, 2017

I am not asking on behalf of the world

This Sunday's reading is from John 17:1-11, and in it Jesus prepares his disciples for his ascension,

"After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.'"

Jesus' prayer to God for his disciples,
"...protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one."
has been considered somewhat problematic since Jesus is leaving out the rest of the world,
"I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me"
Readers should not be dismayed because by the time we get to John 17:20 (not heard today in church) Jesus adds,
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;"
Matthew Henry in his Concise Commentary puts it this way,
Christ prays for those that are his. Thou gavest them me, as sheep to the shepherd, to be kept; as a patient to the physician, to be cured; as children to a tutor, to be taught: thus he will deliver up his charge. It is a great satisfaction to us, in our reliance upon Christ, that he, all he is and has, and all he said and did, all he is doing and will do, are of God. Christ offered this prayer for his people alone as believers; not for the world at large. Yet no one who desires to come to the Father, and is conscious that he is unworthy to come in his own name, need be discouraged by the Saviour's declaration, for he is both able and willing to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him. Earnest convictions and desires, are hopeful tokens of a work already wrought in a man; they begin to evidence that he has been chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. They are thine; wilt thou not provide for thine own? Wilt thou not secure them? Observe the foundation on which this plea is grounded, All mine are thine, and thine are mine. This speaks the Father and Son to be one. All mine are thine. The Son owns none for his, that are not devoted to the service of the Father.

Reading the whole chapter always helps. Just the same, the prayer is for Jesus' disciples and those who will come to believe in him thanks to the ministry of those disciples and not for those who are unrepentant and who reject him. For them we shall pray to be given the strength and courage to spread the Gospel ourselves to that unbelieving world which lacks the protection and unity that we have in Jesus' name.

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