Jesus’s prayer in John 17 gives us insight into where His mind was right before His crucifixion. If you’re reading this article the day I posted it, then today is the 14th day of the first Hebrew month–the anniversary of Jesus’s death. Following His instructions, we observed Passover last night in remembrance of Him.
The whole of Jesus’s prayer is an excellent thing to read this time of year, but for today’s post we’re focusing on the four times Jesus talks about His Father’s name. Here are those verses (click here to read them in context).
“I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. …
“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. …
“I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known so that the love you have loved me with may be in them, and I may be in them.”John 17: 6, 11-12, 26, NET
There are two key points here: 1) Jesus revealed the Father’s name–who He is, what He is doing, and how to know Him (since in Hebrew thought, names have to do with character and reputation as well as identity). 2) Jesus kept His disciples safe in the Father’s name, and asked His Father to continue keeping them “safe in your name.” The first marked a deeper level of intimacy with God that’s available to New Covenant believers. The second continued a tradition going back to the Torah.
People Belonging To God
Numbers records a specific blessing the Lord gave to Moses and told the priests to use (click here to read my post about the Aaronic Blessing). After the text of the blessing, God says, “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” (Num. 6:27, NET). The reason God stated for the priests blessing Israel like this was to put His name on them.
God’s name is used to identify His people and claim them as His throughout scripture. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, He describes them as “my people, who are called by my name” (WEB). Isaiah 43:6-7 talks about God gathering “everyone who is called by my name” (WEB). Jeremiah speaks of himself as someone “called by your name, Yahweh, God of Armies” (Jer. 15:16, WEB). We don’t use this phrase much in modern English, so another way to think of this idea is as us “belonging to” God (that’s the translation the NET uses).
There are incredible blessings in belonging to God. And, as James points out in Acts 15:13-21 (quoting Amos 9:11-12), God can choose to call anyone by His name who turns to Him. It’s not just a specific nation that gets to receive this blessing; even in the Old Testament people outside Israel were allowed to become people of the Lord, and the invitation is even more open now that Jesus came bringing salvation for all who will believe in His name (John 3:16-18; 20:31).
There’s an incredible blessing of belonging that comes with knowing God’s name and being kept in His name. Jesus “gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12, NET). We who have received God’s spirit get to call Him by the name, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15, NET). There’s family, belonging, and unity found in knowing and being known by God by name. Indeed, Jesus talks about that in His prayer as well.
“Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. …
“The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one—I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me. …
“I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them, and I may be in them.”John 17:11, 22-23, 26, NET
Jesus asked for unity–oneness–among the people called by the name of the Lord. That request is backed-up by the power of His Father’s name. It also contains a promise of oneness between us, Jesus, and our Father. Being called by God’s name means we are part of the family.
The Place for His Name
As I was studying the phrase “called by My/the Lord’s name,” several passages in Jeremiah caught my eye. God keeps referring to the “house, which is called by my name” (WEB), also translated “this temple I have claimed as my own” (Jer. 7:11, NET. See also Jer. 7:30; 32:34; 34:15-16). All these passages talk about Israel breaking covenant and defiling a place where God put His name. Today, we are that place.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, which is what you are.1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NET
We belong to God. He puts His name on us, entrusting us with the reputation of His family as we carry His name into the world. There are incredible blessings associated with that, and also a lot of responsibility. Nothing we do can change who God is (e.g. His goodness and holiness don’t depend on anything we do). But as people called by God’s name, we can affect how other people see Him. Every time we say we’re “Christian,” we identify ourselves with the name of Jesus Christ and the way we live tells people something about Him.
Also, though it’s easy to forget because being Christian becomes such a familiar thing to us, we tell ourselves something about our faith when we identify as belonging to Jesus and the Father. We ought to live with a mindfulness of what it means to carry God’s name, to know His name, and to be kept safe in His name. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag haMatzot) serve as a yearly reminder of that.
Featured image by Anggie via Lightstock