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The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:7-8

John 17:7-8  “Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.  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.”

I so love the way that, so often, God brings together different parts of his word to say the same thing at the same period in time.   Over the last few Sunday, I have been walking my people through some truths I call Foundations, and we have covered, among other things the Trinity and, most recently, what the theologians call The Hypostatic Union, the truth that Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man; a perfect combination of the fullness of the human and divine natures in one person without the dilution of either.  In my own words, part of a hymn I wrote a few years ago, “As the living word of God, came to earth the Son of God; undiluted deity, joined to our humanity.”

I made the point that arithmetic was never my strong point, and theological arithmetic even more so.  In the Trinity we discover that three into one does go and the answer is one.  In the Hypostatic union we discover that theologically it is correct that one plus one equals one!

The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to understand any of the above, we just have to believe it, and we have to believe it because it is clearly taught in the God-breathed, infallible and inerrant Scriptures.

That longish preamble is, in my mind, the key to grasping what Jesus says about his disciples in the next description we have of them in verses 6-10 of John 17.  Jesus’ disciples, first and foremost the 11 who were still with him on that evening of his betrayal were, as Jesus as told us in verse 6, those to whom he has revealed the name of God; those who have been given to the Son by the Father out of the world and so already belonged to God, and those who “have kept your word”.

We saw that the “word” mentioned in that verse, the logos, referred to the whole, the body, of Jesus’ message and could almost be taken as a synonym for or equivalent to the gospel.

And we also saw that the fact that they had “kept” the word indicated that they had embraced Jesus’ teaching, keeping it as a precious treasure.   In general, they accepted it, obeyed it and guarded it.

Now we move from keeping something to knowing, receiving and believing something.

First, Jesus says that the disciples “know that everything” Jesus has been given is from the Father.  Then he develops and clarifies that a little by saying that the “everything” that he has been given by the Father is ”the words that you gave me”.  Not logos this time, but rhemata, which, here, seems to emphasise more the specific, individual teachings and commands of Christ.

Two things are very striking here.  First, the fact that Jesus stresses the origin of those things he has taught and shared with the disciples.  We would probably call it tautology in English, but in just these two verses, Jesus says four times that his discipled understood and believed that, “everything you have given me is from you….the words that you gave me….that I came from you….you sent me.”  What a wonderful, God-glorifying attitude of utter dependence on the Father and absence of any sense of self-glorification or self-promotion.

Secondly, what strikes me here, is that that level of understanding and belief is what underpins the disciples’ acceptance of Jesus’ “words” (v8) which “…they have received”.

As Don Carson helpfully puts it,

They may not have understood that their Messiah had to die and rise again; they may not have grasped how he was to embrace and fulfil in his own person Old Testament motifs of kingship, sacrifice, priesthood and suffering servant. But they had come to the deep conviction that Jesus was God’s messenger, that he had been sent by God and that all he taught was God’s truth… They may not always have understood [the words], but so attached had they become to Jesus that they accepted his words as true revelation from God.” [1]

A few verses back, Jesus had said that the disciples “kept your word”, but we know full well that there was much that they didn’t fully understand or necessarily keep in the sense of observance, at least not perfectly.  

But, and here’s the point that is, I hope, such an encouragement to you and me – they know the source of the word and the words, and they know the one through whom the word and the words come to them, and believing in him and who he was is enough for them to receive and keep them.

Despite the many limitations of their understanding the disciples have grasped the fundamental truth that you can’t receive and believe in Jesus apart from the Father, and you can’t receive and believe in Scripture apart from the Son.

Accept who Jesus is and who sent him and you can accept anything and everything he said, and continues to say through his word.

[1] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel According to John. IVP. p. 559)

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