After thus comforting them with the knowledge of their standing, as the family of the Father, and, as it were, making gracious amends to them for His own absence from them "after the flesh," and the hatred they were to suffer from the world, the Lord again exhibits, in this chapter, one of His priestly services, as He had done in John 13. But the services are different; both, however, together constituting a full presentation of His ways as our Advocate in the heavenly temple. In chapter 13 He had, as it were, laid one hand on the defiled feet of His saints, here He lays the other hand on the throne of the Father--forming, thus, a chain of marvellous workmanship reaching from God to sinners. In chapter 13 His body was girt, and He was stooping down towards our feet--here, His eyes are lifted up, and He is looking in the face of the Father. What that is asked for us, by One Who thus fills up the whole distance between the bright throne of God and our defiled feet, can be denied? All must be granted--such a One is heard always.
Thus we get the sufficiency and acceptance of the Advocate; and we may notice the order in which He makes His requests, and lays His claims, before the Father.
First.--He makes request in behalf of the Father's own glory. "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee." His first thought was upon the Father's interest; as He had before taught His disciples, ere they presented their own desires and necessities, to say, "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name."
Life eternal the Lord lays in the Father's hand; saying, "As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." By this our Mediator bows to the truth of God, which Satan of old had traduced, and which man had questioned. Gen. 3: 4. But He then adds, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou has sent"--owning that life is now to be had only through redemption, that it is not the life of a creature merely, but of a ransomed creature, a life rescued for us from the power of death by the grace of the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour.
Secondly. - He claims His own glory. "Glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." And this claim He grounds upon His having finished the work that had been given Him to do; saying, "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." For this was a work into which no blot had entered, in which, therefore, God could rest and be refreshed, as in His works of old; a. work which the Father might behold, and say of it, "It is all very good;" in which He might again find a Sabbath.
And this is the believer's comfort, that he sees his salvation depending on a finished work, in which God smells "a savour of rest." Gen. 8: 21, margin. At the beginning, on finishing the work of creation, God sanctified the seventh day, resting, in full satisfaction, in all that His hand had formed. But that rest man disturbed, so that God repented that He had made man on the earth. Again, in due time, the Lord provided for Himself another rest, erecting a tabernacle in Canaan, and offering to Israel a place in that rest, giving them His Sabbath. (Ex. 31: 13. By the sword of Joshua, this rest in Canaan was first made good to Israel (Joshua 21: 44; Joshua 23: 1); and then under the throne of Solomon. 1 Chr. 22: 9. But Israel, like Adam, disturbed this rest--the land did not keep her Sabbath, for the wickedness of them that dwelt therein. 2 Chr. 36: 21. The blessed God has now found another and a sure rest, a rest that can never be lost or disturbed. In the work finished by the Lord Jesus Christ (and which the Lord here presents to Him) God again rests, as in His works of old, with fullest complacency. This finished work is altogether according to His mind. By the resurrection of Christ, the Father has said of it, "Behold, it is very good." It is His rest for ever; He has an abiding delight in it. His eyes and His heart are upon it continually. The work of Christ accomplished for sinners has given God a rest. That is a thought full of blessing to the soul. And when faith sets a right value, that is, God's value, on the blood of Christ, there is rest, God's own rest, for the soul. But it is then that the saint (or believing sinner) begins his toil. The moment I rest as a sinner, I begin my labour as a saint. The rest for the saint is a rest that remaineth; and therefore it is written, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." The sinner rests now; the saint labours still, and will till the kingdom come.
Thirdly.--He prays for His people. He asks that they might be kept through the Father's name, and sanctified through the Father's truth, so that they might be one in the communion of the Son's joy now; and He asks that they might be with Him where He is, and there behold His glory, and be one with Him in His glory hereafter. These are large requests. The divine Advocate would have all His saints one. See vv. 11, 21. But this oneness is not such, I judge, as it is commonly interpreted to be--a manifested ecclesiastical oneness. It is a oneness in personal knowledge of, and fellowship with, the Father and the Son--oneness in spirit, in the spirit of their minds, each of them having the "Spirit of adoption," which was the peculiar grace and power of that dispensation which He, the Son, was about to introduce. The desire is, that such a spirit might have its course in the hearts of each and all of the elect now to be gathered.
Has this failed? That could not be. And all the epistles witness to us that it has not. For there we find the saints in every place, whether Jew or Gentile, considered as kept by the Father in His own name; kept as sons, as "accepted in the Beloved," as having the "Spirit of adoption," as being brought together into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. All such statements are assertions that this desire of the great Advocate had been answered, each believer having the joy of the Son fulfilled in himself, and thus all of them one in the spirit of their minds. This desire does not, I assuredly judge, respect any ecclesiastical condition of things. That thought has led to many a human effort among the saints. They have condemned themselves for not realizing this prayer of the Lord by a manifestation of unity; and then they have taken means to bring this about. But I ask, Is this prayer of the Lord made contingent on the energies of the saints? Is it not addressed to the Father, for what rested simply in the good pleasure, and power, and gift of the Father? Surely. It appealed to the Father, that He would keep the elect in His name, sanctify them by His truth, and impart to them, the joy of the Son, so that each might have that joy fulfilled in himself.
This desire has been realized. The spirit of the Son is equally for each and all of the saints, and they are one in that spirit and in that joy. When the due season comes, we shall see the other desires of this chapter also made good. All who are to receive the testimony have not yet been called, nor has the glory yet shone out and been imparted to them, so that as yet the world has neither believed nor known that the Father has sent the Son. See vv. 21, 23. The world as yet knows them not. 1 John 3: 1. But in their season these requests will be answered. And so, in like manner, the vision of glory. See v. 24. As far as we have gone in divine dispensation, the desires have been answered; the rest only wait for their season.
To us, however, beloved, it is most comforting to find that all these glorious desires for the saints our Lord grounds simply on this, that they had received the Son's testimony about the Father, and had believed surely in the Father's love. "I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me."
But how full of blessing it is, to see that we are presented before God simply as believing that love! How surely does it tell us, that the pleasure of our God is this, that we should know Him in love, know Him as the Father, know Him according to the words of Him Whom He had sent. This is joy and liberty. And it is indeed only as having seen God in love, seen the Father and heard the Father in Jesus, that makes us the family. It is not the graces that adorn us, or the services that we render, but simply that we know the Father. It is this which distinguishes the saint from the world, and gives him his standing, as here, in the presence of the Father. It is simply this (as the Mediator here tells the Father about us), that we have received His word, received the Son's testimony of love brought from the Father.
Thus does the divine Advocate plead before the throne. The Father's glory, His own, and His people's, are all provided for and secured. And, having thus poured forth the desires of His soul, He commits "the world," the great enemy, to the notice of the righteous Father. "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee." For it had now proved itself to be a world that indeed knew not the Father, that hated Him Whom the Father had sent, and out of which the Lord was now drawing His people. He does not, however, call for judgment upon it; but leaves it simply under the notice of the "righteous Father," to Whose judgment it belonged.
And it is merely as being ignorant of the Father that the Lord presents the world. He does not arraign its sins before the throne, but simply presents it as ignorant of the Father; as before, when presenting the Church, He did not speak of her graces or services, as we saw, but simply this, that she knew the Father. For as the knowledge of the Father makes the Church what she is, so this ignorance of the Father is that which makes the world what it is. The world is that which refuses to know God in love, so as to rejoice in Him. It will make up its own pleasures, and draw from its own resources; it will have any thing but the music, and the ring, and the fatted calf of the Father's house. The world was formed by Satan in the garden of Eden. There the serpent beguiled the woman; and, being listened to and spoken with, he formed the human mind according to his own pattern. We have the history and character of this evil work in Genesis 3. God's love and God's word were traduced by the enemy - man believed the slander, and made God a liar. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, were planted in the soul as master-powers (Gen. 3: 6; 1 John 2: 16); and then, conscience and fear and avoidance of God became the condition into which man was cast. The man and the woman began to know that they were naked, and they hid themselves among the trees, retreating from the voice of God; and then, from the covert where they lay, they send forth excuses for themselves, and challenges of God. "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat," says Eve--"The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat" says Adam.
Such was the man then, and such has the world been, ever since. Man's own lusts are ruling him, with dread of God, and desired distance from Him; and the secret whisper of his soul is this, that all this mischief must lie at God's own door.
From such a world the saints are in spirit and in calling delivered, and the world itself is left, as here, for judgment. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." The world had no place in Jesus. The prince of it came and only drew from Him the full witness of this, that He loved the Father, and would do as He had commanded. John 14: 30, 31. So the saints have left it. They have come forth from their covert at the voice of the Son; they have heard of the Father's love towards them; they have believed it, and have walked forth in the sunshine of it. The promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head drew Adam forth from behind the trees of the garden; though dead in sins, he believed this promise of life, and came forth accordingly, calling his wife "the mother of all living." And so, as we have seen in this chapter, it is just the believing of the message of love which the Son has brought to us from the Father - it is just this, that makes the saints what they are--an election out of the dark and distant regions where the world dwells, and where the spirit of the world breathes. And it is, as we have also seen, the refusal to listen to this message of love that keeps the world still the world. "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee." For men have only to receive God's word of reconciliation, to believe His love in the gift of His Son, and then to take their happy place in His family as His chosen ones, "accepted in the Beloved."
Here the third section of our Gospel ends. It has shown us Jesus, the Son of the Father, as our Advocate, doing His constant services for us--it has shown us also Jesus, the Son of the Father, revealing the Father to the children. The blessed God had got Himself a name, the name of "Jehovah," by His signs and, wonders in Egypt and in Israel (Jer. 32: 20); but now was He getting Himself another name, a name of still richer grace, the name of "Father." This name He gets in the person and by the work of the Son of His love; and the power of it is now made effectual in the hearts of the children by the Holy Ghost.
Lo, these are parts of Thy ways, our God and Father; but how little a portion of Thee do our narrow souls understand and enjoy!
But here, ere we enter on the last portion of our Gospel, I would suggest, that we receive an impression of intense personality, of a divine purpose to individualize us, when we read the writings of John. His Gospel at once gives us this. The world did not know Him Who made it, Israel did not receive Him Who owned them; but "as many" as received Him, He entitled and enabled to become sons of God. This we read at the beginning of the Gospel. We are addressed in our common place of ruin, and in our common character as sinners, victims of the lie of the old serpent. The scenes before us keep us in the sense of our individuality before God. They do not address us as in any relative place, or where previous dispensations may have put us; but rather where the common destruction of the nature has put us, in that "darkness," that alienation from God, which our fall and apostasy at the beginning brought us.
What a direct, emphatic character is thus given to these scriptures! How they tell us, whether indeed it be his Gospel or his epistles that we are reading, that we are to have, and to know that we have, each one of us, our own place and interest before the living God.
And, according to this, we may observe something in the Lord's own way in this Gospel by John that is peculiar to it, and characteristic of this intense personality of which I am speaking.
In the earlier part of it, or during His public ministry, the apostles are kept very much apart from Him; and then, in the following part, or in His interview and discourse with them, they are brought specially near to Him.
In the earlier part, or during His public ministry (John 1 - 10), we see Him very remarkably alone in His work, as, indeed, I have before observed. He does not, as in the other Gospels, appoint twelve and seventy to be the companions of His ministry; He is alone with sinners, settling with them the great interests of their souls, in the grace and virtue of the Son of God. And blessed it is to see this. It is one of the dearest thoughts to us sinners, that we may be alone with Jesus, and that apostles and churches, or fellow-saints and ordinances, are not needed for this business which is to determine our own personal, individual eternity. The well of Samaria, where the Son of the Father met the sinner, was to her as solitary a spot as Luz, of old, had been to Jacob. But like Luz to Jacob, it became Bethel to her, the very gate of heaven.
But, let me add, this being apart from His apostles or His disciples, this solitariness of the Son of God with the sinner, during His public ministry, was for the sinner's sake, and not against the disciples. He loved His servants and companions, and would not refuse them a share in His services and rewards. But He must consult for the sinner, and will not allow him to be deprived of the deep consolation which this thought must carry with it, that in the settling of his interests for eternity, none need be with him but Himself.
This public scene of His service, however, ends with John 10, as we have already said. The fruit of grace being sealed to sinners, in due time, as we have also already said, Jesus, leaving His ministry abroad, deals with His own in secret; and then we find that He brings Himself nearer than ever, as near, indeed, as He can, as near as affection could desire.
After Judas is gone (John 13) and all is over as between Jesus and the scene around Him, and He can be alone with the disciples, as He had been with sinners, we see Him then in the dearest, closest intimacies. John 14 - 16. He retires to them as into the bosom of a family, letting out the fulness of His heart. Of the Father, and the Father's house, the Father's love, and the Father's secrets, He speaks, promising also the Comforter to make this effectual to their souls, and that He Himself, though in a distant place, would still serve and remember them.*
*Because of the nearness of His heart to them, He feels their carelessness or indifference, and lets them know (as near affection would do) that He had felt this, and had been wounded by it. See John 14: 28; John 16: 5.)
What a sight thus passes before us in the progress of this divine Gospel! If, in the earlier part, the solitude of the Son of God with the sinner made him feel as at the "gate of heaven," what is this latter part to the soul of the saint, this intimacy of the Son of the Father with His elect, but heaven itself!
John's is, indeed, the Gospel of the intimacies of the Son of God, first with the sinner and then with the disciple. And blessed beyond expression is such a thought, had we but hearts open and tender to receive it.
All is grace, and grace delights to display the variety of its ways, as well as the riches of its stores. Oh for a simple, believing mind, beloved, that is able to occupy itself with such secrets and such treasures!