The disciples of Jesus were far from perfect. Yet John 17 says they had been given to Jesus out of the world. Jesus had given them the true knowledge of God. Jesus said that his disciples had “accepted” his words about God. They “knew with certainty” that Jesus had come from God. They “believed.”
But they were not perfect men. They had the same shortcomings as we have. For example, we can remember how the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest. The brothers James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to burn up some Samaritan villages. Thomas had a skeptical attitude and seemed to question everything.
Jesus knew that they would fail him. They would be scattered and leave him at the time of his death. He predicted that their most outspoken member, Peter, would deny him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning. In the upper room at the last supper he patiently put up with their questions and interruptions. They did not grasp the seriousness of Jesus’ last words to them before his death.
Yet he looked upon them with love and he prayed for them to be kept by the power of the Father’s name. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name” (John 17:11). Jesus is going away and leaving the disciples in this world. So he prays to the Father in heaven for their safe keeping. His prayers for them assure them of their eternal security. “They are yours,” Jesus prays.
Their assurance of eternal life did not come from their faithfulness. Their faith and obedience were often weak and faulty. But Jesus prayed for their preservation (“protect them” — v. 11), and their sanctity (“sanctify them” — v. 17). This fact (Jesus’ prayers for us) is also the basis for our assurance of salvation as well.
The book of Hebrews has a lot to say about Jesus’ present ministry of intercession for his people. It is called his “High Priestly Ministry.” Unlike the imperfect priests in the Old Testament who had to offer repeated sacrifices for their own sins, Jesus’ priesthood is perfect because he is perfect and his sacrifice is perfect.
His priesthood is permanent. “Now there have been many of those (Old Testament) priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25). Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. His permanent priesthood means salvation is forever.
The security of salvation is Jesus’ perpetual intercession for believers. John MacArthur said, “We can no more keep ourselves saved than we can save ourselves in the first place. But just as Jesus has power to save us, he has power to keep us.”
Does the Father answer the prayers of his beloved Son? I cannot imagine our heavenly Father ignoring or dismissing a prayer of Jesus. The Son would never ask for anything outside of the Father’s will. If our Lord asked the Father to protect and guard his people, that request would surely be granted.
Those first disciples and believers today (v. 20) belong to God and also to Jesus. “They are yours,” Jesus prayed. “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine” (John 17:9-10). If we are Christ’s by faith, we are included, not excluded. We are secure in him, not because of our perfect obedience and faithfulness, but because of his perfect sacrifice on the cross, and his present ministry of intercession for us at the right hand of God.
John 17 pictures this. Read it to see how Jesus prays for those who are his own.
Pastor Randy Faulkner