It is worth considering– with the help of some strategic paraphrasing —whether Jesus of Nazareth may have intended neither to point to himself, in the flesh (i.e. to his social or historical persona) nor to make theological pronouncements about his unique standing (as the second person of the Trinity or the long awaited messiah), but that he was instead pointing to the Divine presence that is also in us–the Divine presence which is both deep within and high above that which we normally take ourselves to be. Moreover, let us consider, in addition, whether his references to the importance of hearing and obeying his word(s) [or the Father’s word(s)] were not merely (or primarily) references to his literal words (or words about him), as recorded in the scriptures, but rather to the possibility of recognizing and abiding in his Divine presence and of becoming attuned to the still small voice which is the Word of God in our hearts, here & now (cf. Hebrews 4:12 and the reference to “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17; cf. John 16:13). For if we have access to the same Divine presence and living Word of God that Jesus shared with his disciples, rather than taking refuge in worldviews, however plausible (or consoling; or personally empowering), let us instead take this opportunity to enter into life– the abundant, eternal life that Jesus offers –here & now:
John 17:3 [paraphrased] And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ [the Divine Presence] you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6a “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.
It is worth remembering that Jesus is said to be “a prophet like unto Moses” (cf. Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Acts 7). Not only is his description of himself, in verse 6a, above, somewhat reminiscent of the role of Moses, in the Exodus, his repeated use of the “I Am” expressions most certainly calls to mind Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush:
Exodus 3:13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, “What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.’ “
But in contrast to the children of Israel, in Exodus– who are characterized as a rebellious and stiff-necked people –the disciples are said to have kept God’s word:
John 17:6 “I have made your name [“I Am”] known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;
This is also in marked contrast to the scribes and pharisees:
John 7:19 “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law.
The disciples, however, being both hearers and doers of the word (cf. James 1:22; Matthew 7:26-27), now know with certainty that Jesus’ teaching is not just another worldview– that it is not some conceptual scheme intended to bring honor and glory to him, personally –but that it is, indeed, from God. This also calls to mind another verse from chapter 7:
John 7:17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.
There is no question, then, of merely “adopting” some abstract doctrine or worldview on the word of some itinerant preacher, however charismatic, and then mistaking some combination of group think and confirmation bias for a demonstration of its truth. Rather, when the word of the Lord– the Divine presence that “I Am” –is both heard and hearkened to, the Truth is obvious and it is seen to be in no way dependent on the turn of events. Indeed, the Divine presence that “I Am” is the condition for the possibility of any turn of events. One may simply
“Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalms 34:8).
Moreover, it is also obvious– to those who resolve to do the will of God in this way –that Jesus was not seeking his own glory, but the glory of the one who sent him:
John 7:18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.
Thus, in Chapter 17, he continues to pray as follows:
John 17:8 for the words that you gave to me [in the stillness of the Divine presence] I have given to them, and they have received them [in the stillness of that same Divine presence] and [they now] know in truth that [the Divine presence that “I Am”] came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
Moreover, just as Jesus had earlier affirmed his oneness with the Father (John 10:30), in the latter half of this chapter he prays that his disciples, including those of subsequent generations, will be also be one—one with God, one with him, and one with one another:
John 17:17 [paraphrased] Sanctify them in the truth; your word [the Divine presence that “I Am”] is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me [in the Divine presence that “I Am”] and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me [i.e. the glory of the Divine presence] I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I Am, to see my glory, which you have given me [i.e. the Divine presence that “I Am”] because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them [“I Am”], and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and [the Divine presence that “I Am” may be] in them.”
- are sanctified through the truth…
- are sent, by Christ, into the world…
- are one with Christ and the Father…
- share in the glory of Christ…
- are indwelt by Christ and the love of Christ…
It should be stressed, at this point, that those who attempt to “hear and obey” the words of Jesus in their own strength and according to their own understanding, will sooner or later realize the futility of their efforts (cf. Romans 7), while those who those who recognize the “I Am” presence and walk in that light– those who resolve to do the will of God, both in Spirit and in Truth –are truly free (cf. Romans 8).