“THESE words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Sou also may glorify thee; as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom thou hast sent.”
Remarkable it is, indeed, that intelligent men reading the Scriptures have continued to miscall the language in the sixth chapter of Matthew, from the ninth to the thirteenth verses, the Lord’s prayer, when it is nothing of the sort. That language was addressed to the disciples by the Savior in the mount when he had intentionally withdrawn himself from the multitude to give instruction to his chosen few, intended for their ears and hearts alone. The intelligence and wisdom of man never appear so absurdly foolish as when applied to the unraveling of the mysteries of inspiration which God has from the beginning purposely hidden from human powers of research; but the foolishness of human efforts in this direction is never realized except by those who, becoming as little children in entering the kingdom of heaven, are given the discernment of the Spirit. The seven teenth chapter of John records one of the true prayers of the Lord Jesus. It is the intimate communion of the holy Son with the divine Father, the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous man, and as such prevails with God, so that not the slightest remnant of a doubt can prevail in our minds but that everything asked of the Father by his Son in this, as well as in every other instance, will most surely come to pass if it has not already done so. Having; eaten of the last supper in company with his disciples in the city of Jerusalem, Jesus left the city, and crossing the brook Cedron, soon came, as had often been his wont, to the garden called Gethsemane. His twelve were with him, and, John says, entered the garden with him, but after entering the garden, it is apparent from the records of Matthew and Mark that they proceeded not far before Jesus commanded nine of them to tarry, sitting while he went beyond them in company with Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John. Finally he came to a point where even these three could not farther go, so they tarried also, and Luke is responsible for the statement that Jesus advanced a stone’s cast beyond. In accomplishing the work for which Jesus came into the flesh, it became him to sound depths of tribulation and woe into which none of the elect shall ever come. It is very true that no sorrow is, or ever shall be, like unto the sorrow of the Son of God. All of the elect are called to taste of his grief to enable them to fellowship his sufferings, but more than taste will never be dealt to them. The everlasting arms are ever underneath them, for he was lower than each and all. But the prayer recorded by John in the seventeenth chapter of his narrative is not the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, as many suppose. The Gethsemane prayers, so far as we have any record of them, are found in Matthew xxvi., Mark xiv. and in Luke xxii. This prayer recorded in John, seventeenth chapter, was uttered by the Savior at some time previous to his entering the garden, just where and when is not positively known. It may have been in the supper-room or on the way from the city to the gate of the garden on the side of Mt. Olive, but the where and when of it is not so important as the how and what of it, which we shall now proceed to consider.
The first verse of our text strikes the keynote of the whole prayer, which is infused throughout with a desire for glory and glorification for himself, the Redeemer, all given him of the Father in the covenant of election before time began. Note with care that Jesus here disclaims any ability to glorify God, only as he himself is glorified of God. “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” Since the only perfect man that ever trod this earth felt the necessity of being glorified of the Father before he could glorify him in return, how can any one of earth’s sinful creatures ever dare to say or feel they can glorify God in and of themselves? Surely any one so presumptuous is blind indeed, to say the least. The fullness of glorification, like all other fullness treasured for the people of God, is in Christ Jesus, “for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” and as glory is an attribute of the Godhead, its fullness, too, must be in him, and no man can ever glorify God only as he is made a partaker of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Jesus was never satisfied with this world, all the time he was here in the flesh he was continually crying out for the living God. This sinful world was no abiding place for him; he had not where to lay his head; he was a pilgrim and a stranger. Despised and rejected of men, misunderstood even by his disciples, forsaken of God in the hell of Golgotha, he was alone indeed. One thing he desired, one thing his soul sought after, and that was to be with the Father in that glory which he had with him before the world was. The spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, using the psalm-singer David as a mouthpiece, says, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Does this not exactly express with conciseness the seventeenth chapter of John? Jesus here in the world was clothed in the likeness of sinful flesh, he had the image of the transgressor, and was not satisfied therewith, neither would he be satisfied until he had arisen from the dead and ascended on high, no more to wear the image of fallen man, but the image of the invisible God, as Paul says in Colossians i. 15. Then he should see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. It took glory, and nothing short of it, to satisfy him, and never will an heir of glory be satisfied with anything short of that same glory, whether it be revealed here and now in measure only, or hereafter in fullness, for the Spirit of Christ in the hearts of his subjects begets aspirations that are the fellowship of the days of his humiliation endured during his sojourn in the world. To us it appears that the basis upon which the Savior makes this plea to be glorified of the Father, is as the Father has given the Son power over all flesh. This absolute control over all things which is bestowed upon him affords the plea for his desire to be glorified of God. The attitude of the true disciple of Christ toward any blessing he hopes to receive is as this attitude of Jesus: hoping for more blessing because of blessing already received, desiring strength because strength has previously in a measure been given. Like begets like. After so much mercy past, the believer is encouraged to hope he will not be left to sink in trouble and despair at the last. The purpose for which the Son of God is given power over all flesh is that he shall give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him. It will be clearly noted here that the reception of eternal life by all the chosen of God hinges not upon their violation or effort, but upon the omnipotence of God manifested in the work of Christ. This same omnipotence is also the life and authority of all gospel preaching, for when Jesus, after his resurrection, told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, he prefaced his command to them with these words,“‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore.” This preeminence and sovereignty of the risen, victorious Son of God makes effectual the preaching of the gospel, and allows of not the least failure in bringing all the elect of God into the enjoyment of eternal life. In this connection we associate the gospel and eternal life, not for a moment to imply that the preaching can or does impart life, but simply to show that the same divine sovereignty dominates them both. When the word here declares that Jesus is given power over all flesh, it means as it says, “all flesh,” and not merely over some, or over part of the flesh. Paul, in the fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians, tells us there is one flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. Over all these Jesus has dominant sovereignty in order to give eternal life to the children of promise. Had he not had power over the flesh of the whale, as well as over the flesh of Jonah, the prophet would not have reached the destination God meant for him. He had power over the flesh of birds to compel the ravens to feed Elijah during the drought in Israel. He had power over the flesh of the ass to compel him to rebuke the madness of the prophet Balaam that bestrode him, and also the flesh of the false prophet he controlled so that in spite of his greed for gold he could not curse Israel to satisfy their enemies. Last, but not least, he controls the flesh of his own people, so that in his own time and way every doubt, fear, questioning and every rebellious thought and principle is quelled to give ascendancy to the spiritual life. Over the flesh of beasts, birds, fishes, men and devils, the anointed Son of God holds supreme sway, that he shall make effectual to all the chosen seed eternal life, which was given them in him before the foundation of the world. All things in creation, providence and grace are in his hand. It must be so, for if there should be one thing, however slight, in all the universe above, around or underneath, that is not subject to the authority of God, what assurance could we have but that that very uncontrolled thing might intervene to unseat some child of God from his right to an inheritance with the saints in light? Perish the thought! He works all things after the counsel of his own will, and works them together, too, for the good of those called according to his purpose. He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Upon this infinite ability of the Son to accomplish the will of the Father rests the everlasting security and safety of every one of the chosen people of God.
What is eternal life? Jesus says here it is the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. Life cannot be defined, only in terms of what it does, of how it acts. To say that life is independent of its manifestation is impossible. The knowledge that there is but one true and living God, and that Jesus Christ, sent into the world for the redemption of sinners, is his only begotten Son, is eternal life. Any knowledge short of this is not life in the eternal sense. This knowledge cannot be imparted by man to man, it must come by the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the individual experience of each one of the elect. It takes faith to say that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and at the same time to acknowledge one’s self to be the chief of sinners. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. When Peter confessed to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Therefore this knowledge, nothing more, nothing less, imparted to the subjects of grace, is eternal life. The life is not one thing, and the knowledge something different; the life is the knowledge and the knowledge is the life. Where such knowledge of God and his Son exists there must of necessity be life eternal, and where the life is, this knowledge will also inevitably be found.
These remarks, which are not intended as exhaustive at all, we now leave with our readers, in the hope they may stir up your pure minds to think upon these things. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 14
July 15, 1914