By Joseph Ametepe
"Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which You gave Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world...I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known; that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:24, 26).
Every word in the longest recorded prayer of our Lord on earth is precious. Many books have been written on John 17. This is because it is so rich with spiritual truths for believers in Jesus Christ. In the passage above, we learn that it is Jesus' desire not only to save repentant sinners, but for them to spend eternity with Him. We also learn that it is Jesus' desire to share His glory with believers. Please, understand that the glory Jesus speaks of here far surpasses our best moment of glory on earth. The glory He speaks of here is indescribable. It is a glory that is full of matchless splendor. Yet, our Lord is willing to share it with believers, not just for a brief moment in time, but for all eternity. Oh blessed thought! Oh words with heavenly comfort fraught! Indeed, this should cause us to pause and ponder His incredible goodness to us. It should move us into exuberant and exultant praise of our Lord. Oh how gracious He is! Oh how good He is! Oh how generous He is!
There is another lesson in this passage which I would like to bring to your attention. It is a lesson about knowing deep down in your heart that you are loved by God. This passage reveals that Jesus knew in His heart of heart that He was loved by His Father. Twice in this passage, our Lord spoke of being loved by the Father. First, He declared: "for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." Second, with great confidence and conviction of heart, He asserted in His prayer: "the love with which You loved Me may be in them." No doubt, Jesus was convinced of His Father's love for Him. Earlier, in John 3:16, Jesus spoke of God's love for the world. In John 14:21, He assured His disciples of His Father's love for them and His own love for them, as they walk in obedience to Him. Now, in John 17, Jesus speaks of being loved by the Father. This is one of the few places in Scripture where Jesus Himself spoke of being the object of the Father's love. In fact, John's Gospel is the only Gospel that records Jesus' self-declaration of the Father's love for Him. In John 3:35 our Lord proudly says: "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hands." Again, referring to Himself as the Son, in John 5:20, He speaks of being the object of His Father's love: "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel." Also, in John 10:17, we hear our Lord speaking with great assurance about being loved by the Father: "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again." Finally, in John 15:9, Jesus once again speaks of being loved by Father: "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love." Although our Lord's self-declaration of being loved by the Father occurred only in a few places in Scripture, it teaches us an important spiritual lesson: knowing that you are loved by God is freeing and fulfilling.
As Jesus made it clear in His prayer here, the Father's love for Him is eternal. The Father loved Him before the creation of the world (John 17:24). However, at the beginning of His ministry on earth, the Father Himself reassured His Son of His love for Him in Matthew 3:17. There, the Bible says, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." This statement of reassurance was later repeated by the Father at the transfiguration of our Lord in Matthew 17:5. The NIV translates this verse as "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased."
The Greek word for the verb "to love" is agapao and the Greek word for the noun "love" is agape. "This word is not found in classical Greek but only in revealed religion. It is benevolent love. Its benevolent, however, is not shown by doing what the person loved desires but what the one who loves deems as needed by the one loved. For example, "For God so loved (egapesen) the world... that He gave..." What did He give? Not what man wanted but what man needed as God perceived his need. His Son to bring forgiveness to man. God's love for man is God doing what He thinks best for man and not what he desires. It is God's willful direction toward man."~The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible
The amazing thing here is that the same love God the Father demonstrates toward man He also demonstrates toward His only Begotten Son. How blessed are we to be loved with the same special love the Father has for the Son! It shows how valuable we are in God's sight. It reveals the worth God attaches to the redeemed. It shows how precious saved sinners are to God. It demonstrates how God did not hold back from pouring out His special, selfless, sacrificial love from us. A love that seeks His very best for repentant sinners. Eternity itself will not suffice to comprehend the height and depth and length and breath of this love. We should simply open our hearts to continually receive this love and constantly lift up our hearts in praise to God for bestowing this love upon such as us-redeemed sinners.
Now, I want you to notice this. Because the Lord Jesus knew that His Father loved Him, it freed Him to love and live a fulfilled life. Remember, the context of this prayer. Jesus was about to sacrifice Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He was soon to suffer the shame of the cross and die for sinners like you and me. Only He knew the suffering and shame He would be going through to pay for our sin debt in full. Yet, He did not hold back. He did not shrink from facing the agony and the shame of the cross. Why? Because He knew deep down in His heart that He was loved by the Father. Why? Because the love of the Father released Him to live the fulfilled life God the Father had purposed for Him. Please take note of this! Agape love frees. It frees saved sinners to live life to its fullest-that is, to reach our fullest potential in God. It releases repentant sinners to pursue God's purposes for their lives. It motivates God's redeemed people to become all that God wants them to become. It urges us to service and sacrifice that count for eternity. Satan, our chief adversary, knows how powerful and how freeing this principle is. As such, he does his wicked best to create doubts in our hearts about God's love for us. He often makes us question if God really loves us. If he finds any crack in our hearts about the lack of assurance of God's love for us, he exploits it in order to erode our confidence in the truth that God really loves us. That is why we must not give him an inch in this matter. We must, in reliance on the Holy Spirit, guard against the devil's wicked work of undermining our assurance in God's love for us.
Just as the Holy Spirit strengthened the Lord Jesus to be victorious over the devil, so He is eager and willing to do for you and me. Just as the Holy Spirit worked in Jesus' life to open His heart to receive the Father's love for Him, so He is ready to do for you and me. But the question is, are you convinced that God really loves you? Do you confidently and consistently say, "God loves me?" Do you hear the constant still small voice of the Holy Spirit saying to you, "God loves you?" If not, why not? Remember, Jesus was convinced of the Father's love for Him. His confidence in knowing that the Father loved Him did not wane nor waver. What about you? May the Holy Spirit assure your heart today that God loves you! May His assurance release and free you to live the life God has purposed for you!