JESUS SUMMARIZES HIS MISSION
by Bob Wheeler
As Jesus comes to the end of His intercessory prayer He summarizes His requests, and in a way summarizes His whole mission here on earth. That mission was about to end. But what did He accomplish?
He begins by describing he condition of the world into which He had come. “O righteous Father! The world has not known You . . .” (John 17:25; NKJV). The Greek word used here for “known” means to know something by observation and experience, as opposed to mere theoretical, abstract knowledge. The world is estranged from God. It may (or may not) acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being in some formal, abstract way, but it has no personal dealings with Him as the living God. The average person rarely thinks about God at all, let alone prays to Him. People go about their daily lives as though God simply did not exist.
And then Jesus reflects on His own relationship with the Father: “. . .but I have known You . . .” In contrast with the world’s darkness and ignorance, its estrangement from God, Jesus was God’ the Father’s eternal Son. He had coexisted with God the Father from all eternity, and enjoyed a warm, loving relationship with Him.
And then Jesus turns His attention to His disciples: “and these have known that You sent Me.” Among the unconverted mass of humanity this small band of disciples had come to know that Jesus was no ordinary human being, but that He was, in fact, the Son of God who had come into the world.
But why had Jesus come into the world? Jesus goes on to explain: “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it . . .” (v. 26). The world translated “declared” could be rendered more literally “made known” (NASV). But how did He “make known” God’s name? In biblical times a person’s name was much more than a mere verbal marker. It was meant to be a description of the thing itself. Thus God’s name refers to the character and being of God Himself. When Jesus made known the Father’s name He was revealing to mankind God’s essential character in a way that it had never been know before. Granted, God had previously made a revelation of Himself through Moses and the Old Testament prophets. But by coming into the world, by teaching and personal example, and ultimately by laying down His very life, Jesus made a clearer manifestation of the character of God – a God who is just and holy, but also loving and merciful. It was a clearer revelation of God’s character than the human race had ever seen before.
But what was the ultimate aim of it all? What did Jesus intend to accomplish by this? He goes on to say: “. . . that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” There is a broad, general sense in which “God so loved the world,” but as Jesus uses the term here He is referring to what theologians call God’s “love of complacency” or His “complacent love” – the kind of love in which God is genuinely pleased with someone. Jesus notes that this is the kind of love that the Father has for Him as the Son. And so now He prays that this same kind of love might also be “in them,” in His disciples as well. This would be, first of all, that they too would become the objects of God’s complacent love – that they would be brought into such a relationship with God that they would experience God’s love personally. But it may also mean that their own hearts would become filled with Christian love so that they would love others the way that God loved them – that God’s love would not just be towards them, but “in them.”
But Jesus goes further and adds, “and I in them.” This points to the mystical union that genuine believers have with Christ – that Christ actually dwells inside their hearts through the Holy Spirit. It is not so much a matter of our own trying harder, in our own strength, to meet God’s standards. Rather it is Christ living inside of us, transforming us inwardly, so that we live lives that are pleasing to Him. As the apostle Paul would put it, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). What an amazing thing, to have the infinite, eternal and holy Son of God living inside of us!
That, then, is what Jesus accomplished by coming here to earth. As human beings we were lost, rebellious, and deserving of God’s wrath. Jesus came into the world as a light shining into the darkness, bringing salvation and eternal life to mankind. As a result of what He did individual men and women can come to Him in repentance and faith, receive the forgiveness of their sins, and have eternal life in Him. What a remarkable demonstration of God’s love and mercy!
“I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner condemned unclean.
“How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
Is my Savior’s love for me!”
Charles H. Gabriel