THE PRAYER OF JESUS
THE TIME
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"Father, the time has come ...."
St. John 17:1
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IN THIS prayer of Jesus, which is unique in the Bible, we are led into an atmosphere high above us, and in an area so deep that we are unable to fathom it; but also into an atmosphere which touches our hearts and minds deeply. We are meant to be touched and have some understanding, otherwise the prayer would not have been recorded and preserved for us, and although our understanding must always be partial and imperfect, we are meant to be lifted spiritually by it. My prayer to God is that as we meditate together, at least on the first five verses of this prayer, the Lord may enable me not only to enter into the truth expressed here, but also to be given the grace and ability to be able to share it with you.

The glory of these first five verses is that we are taken out of and away from ourselves, and are focused upon God, his plans and purposes expressing his goodness and love towards our lost world. We are created for and redeemed for God, so God should be all our desire and the focus of all our love and worship.

The actual words, after a description of the physical action of Jesus as he prepares to engage in prayer, commences with these five words which head this meditation, but although the words are only five, yet in them is wonderful and profound revelation and meaning which must and will uplift our souls.

Jesus speaks of "the time". He says the time has come. It is plain that Jesus has something very particular in mind, which is something very important and in the forefront of the mind and action of God. Jesus makes seven references to "this time" in this Gospel of John - 2:4, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 12,27, 16:32 and here in 17:1 - and I commend the reading of these passages in John's Gospel to you. It is plain that it is a time constantly in the mind and thoughts of Jesus, because it was the focal point of all he came into this world to do.

THE NATURE OF THIS TIME

There can be no doubt about what Jesus was referring to by speaking of "the time". It was the time he came into the world for. It was the time when, as the Servant, he would renounce all his privileges and authority, and place himself under the authority of mankind, and become obedient to death. It was the time when Jesus would take the place of the sinner, and bear the sin of many. It was the time when he would satisfy all the justice of God on account of the sin of his people. It was the time when, by the infinite sacrifice of himself, he would make full and complete atonement for sin, so that God may be just and the justifier of the ungodly.

In a word it was the time when Jesus would go to the Cross and suffer and die, and be the propitiation for our sins, that is suffer all the wrath of God against sin in our place. It was for this time he came into the world, and became man to represent sinners and be the second and victorious Adam. It was the time when Christ, by his great work of atonement, worked eternal salvation for all who believe on him

THE IMMENSITY OF WHAT THIS REVEALS

It staggers the mind as we let the idea of "the time" sink into our minds and hearts. Jesus is talking intimately with the Father concerning this time. It is plainly something that they both know about and are working together over. It is plainly something that the Father and the Son had planned and worked for together.

There is a plan revealed here so very plainly. Here is something the Father and the Son, together most certainly with the Holy Spirit, had planned together. As we cast our eyes forward to verse five, we can see that this time was talked over, planned and purposed, by God in the eternal counsels of the Trinity. The time is not some time thought of suddenly or late in history. It was no plan which suddenly evolved from a whim or fancy, rather it was something in the mind and purpose of God from eternity.

"The time" is seen to be at the very heart of God and all his works and ways. It is seen to be the most important and prominent thing in the mind of God from eternity to eternity. In all the ages from the creation of the world, God, Father, Son and Spirit, were working for this time. The time had arrived. From this time the outcome and purpose has been in the mind and action of God, and will be so, until the end of time. It will no doubt be in the mind and heart of God for all eternity in glory, because it will be the subject of the renown and glory given to God forever.

THE CERTAINTY OF THIS TIME

As my mind dwells on these words of Jesus with which he opens his prayer I am overwhelmed with the importance which plainly this time holds in the mind and work of Jesus and the Father, but also as Jesus says "Father, the time has come" their flows from the words the absolute certainty of this time arriving, and all the purpose of this time being fulfilled.

From the point of view of human history, and all the ups and downs of the human drama that unfolds in history, with all the uncertainties which we limited human beings see in events, we can see nothing certain in our world. We can predict nothing. Plans which we make have to be modified to meet the varying evolvement of events which impinge upon us. We can never see how anything can be certain or be predicted with accuracy. We see only a little way ahead. Yet, through all the aeons of time from the creation of the world up to the point of Jesus uttering the words here, the time and its coming was certain. There is seen that there was no doubt as to the time coming just as God planned and purposed it to come. The very uttering of the Words "the time has come" reveals the invincible and sure sovereignty of God to accomplish his purposes.

As Jesus says these words, heard by us as we read them, we have this wonderful revelation of something planned, certain and sure, most surely brought to pass by God. And in the words also is the certainty, confirmed by the words of Jesus again in verse 5, that although he is speaking before the events the time was to include had happened, there is no doubt that every detail would be accomplished perfectly and surely.

When we enter into the understanding of this, it flows into our minds that the great tragedy of Adam's sin and the curse that then came upon the world, was not the terrible loss that it at first seems, because "the time" which would repair the loss had already been set in motion. So God could utter, at the time of the tragedy, the great words of sure hope that the seed of the woman would crush the serpents head. Then again in all the failures and set backs which appear in the history which follows, and the sin and rebellion of the people of God, where we might well be tempted to feel that all is lost, and feel that any certainty of salvation was very tenuous, yet as we hear Jesus say, "the time has come", we see that God had all in hand and that the time coming was never in doubt, in all its original purpose and plan.

These words bring us into the mind of God, and away from the uncertainties and subjectiveness of human experience. We are lifted high above the earth, into a security and glory which lifts us above the miseries of this sinful world.

THE VICTORY IN THESE WORDS

The very fact that Jesus utters these words here is evidence of great victory. The moment Jesus came into this world, Satan mobilised his armies to overthrow the coming of this time. Satan plans the death of the Baby Jesus through the malice he places in the heart of Herod at the time of the visit of the wise men. The moment Jesus commences his ministry, as Satan assaulted Adam and Eve the moment they were given life in the garden of Eden, Satan assaults Jesus with temptations in the desert. When Jesus reveals that he is the Messiah fulfilling Isaiah 61, and says "Today is this Scripture fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21) Satan mobilises the fear and hate in his followers amongst the Jews and they seek to stone Jesus to death. And so through all his ministry, the opposition grew, and Jesus suffered, but in all things was victorious, so the time would come and the plan of redemption be accomplished.

We read after the temptations that the devil had to leave him. When people sought to stone Jesus, we read he passed through their midst. When Satan sought to trip Jesus up, we find the people marvelling at the wisdom and answers of Jesus which confounded all the attacks against him. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the time was in the process of being accomplished, the soldiers who came to arrest him fell back until Jesus gave himself, according to the time, into their hands. Pilate was told by Jesus that he had no power over the Son of God, except it was given him from God, so the certainty of the time is revealed even at the moment of it being accomplished. So Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost could say "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23). Satan worked his wicked work. Men acted according to their free choice in their wickedness, but it was God accomplishing the plan and purpose of "this time" and so achieved eternal victory.

THE BLESSEDNESS OF THIS TIME

We cannot contemplate "the time has come" without realising that it was the time of greatest blessing for the world and specially for those who would benefit directly from it. The world has known, throughout its long history, many great times and times of great value for the world at large, but there has been and there never will be any time greater and of greater blessing to the world than this time, when God sent his Son into the world to make atonement for the sin of the world.

It was the time when the curse of Adam on this world - the curse that has brought all the misery and sorrow which has marred and spoiled this world - was lifted. Because of this time, human kind under the curse may now find deliverance and release from the curse. It is therefore the most important time in all history, and the time which brought the greatest blessing to the world.

Thus because of this time we are delivered from all the condemnation against us because of sin, because at this time God laid upon Jesus upon the cross the iniquity of us all. So because of this time and all the victory won in it, we may be delivered and are delivered from death, because whosoever believeth in Jesus is given eternal life. Because of this time we are delivered from our bondage to Satan, because through faith we are translated from the kingdom of Satan into the Kingdom of God.

THE COMFORT OF THIS TIME

We live in a troubled world. There are times when we may feel that there is no hope, and that chaos prevails. No sooner than the trouble in one part of our world is brought to some semblance of order and peace, a problem developes in another part. As we live in the world we are faced with the blight which the corruption of the human heart due to sin brings into life. Sometimes we face this at a distance, when for instance we see the attitude of politicians, or some other branch of society. At another time it comes nearer to home when we are on the receiving end of the selfishness and lack of love and caring in our society. If we are not Christians there is really no hope. At the turn of the century there was great hope and optimism developing. Science and technology had made such advances, and the standard of living had so leapt forward, that people believed things could only get better and better, and that utopia was just around the corner. But two world wars, the continued conflicts throughout the world, the destruction of our environment, the evidence that we are destroying our world with greed and exploitation, have changed this optimism into cynicism and despair.

Only in Christ and the fact of 'this time' is there comfort and hope. We see unfold here the fact that God is in control and has an overall purpose of love for this stricken world. We see that that purpose of love was and is willing to go to the greatest of sacrifice to bring salvation to our world. We see in the fact that the time came, and the blessings are still being distributed, that God's purposes of love are never thwarted or fail. Although in the revelation we know that this world has to come to an end, because of 'the time' we see that God had and has a purpose to redeem out of this stricken world a people for himself, to dwell in the new heaven and earth which he is going to create, in which will reign only love and righteousness.

Just as 'the time' came and the atonement purposed was most certainly accomplished, so the blessings will also be realised, and so as we live in the blessings which 'this time' brought through Christ, we know that we have a future to look forward to, a glory to be revealed in us, that will make all the sufferings of this life so very small in comparison.

CONCLUSION

So let us live in the light of out text. 'The time has come'. Jesus has wrought everlasting salvation. In him we are saved and our future is secure. Let us go out and share this Gospel in our hopeless world, that others may enter the blessings which 'the time' brought to mankind.