They are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name …so that they may be one as we are one.—John 17:11
This Scripture contains the first preparation of Christ for death, where he sets his house in order, prays for his people, and blesses them before he dies.i The love of Christ was ever tender and strong to his people, but the greatest demonstration of it was at parting, in two ways especially: in leaving support and comfort with them in his last heavenly sermon, in John 14 through John 16, and in pouring out his soul to the Father for them in this heavenly prayer, John 17. In this prayer he gives them a sample of his intercession, which he was just then going to perform in heaven for them. Here his heart overflowed, for he was leaving them and going to the Father. The last words of a dying person are remarkable—how much more a dying Savior?
We have here Christ’s petition in behalf of his people, not only those at that place, but all others that then did or afterwards would believe on him. And the sum of what he here requests for them is that his Father would protect them through his name, where you have both the mercy and the means of attaining it. The mercy is to be protected. Protecting implies danger, and there is a double danger anticipated in this request: danger in respect of sin and danger in respect of ruin and destruction. To both these the people of God lie open in this world.
The means of their preservation from both is the name, that is, the power of God. This name of the Lord is the strong tower that the righteous run to and are safe (Prov. 18:10). Alas! It is not your own strength or wisdom that keeps you, but you are kept by the mighty power of God. This protecting power of God does not, however, exclude our care and diligence but implies it. God keeps his people, and yet they are to keep themselves in God’s love (Jude 21), to, above all else, guard their hearts (Prov. 4:23).
The arguments with which he urges and presses on this request are drawn partly from his own condition—within a very few hours he will be separated from them in regard to his corporeal presence; partly from their condition—“they are still in the world,” that is, I must leave them in the midst of danger; and partly from the joint interest his Father and he himself had in them: Keep those you have given me.
- John Flavel, “Of Christ’s Humiliation unto Death, in His First Preparative Act for It,” sermon 20 in a series, The Fountain of Life Opened Up, from The Works of John Flavel, vol. 1 (1820; reprint, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1968), 1982; downloaded from the Electronic Public Library, http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09:flafn-20.txt. Wallis, D. (2001). Take Heart: Daily devotions with the church’s great preachers. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. [↩]