For years I wondered what Jesus meant when he prayed in John 17:11, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.”
But how, I wondered, could the Father give Jesus his name? Only the Father could be called “Father,” surely. Should we now call Jesus “Father” too, then, if the Father gave Jesus his name?
But then it dawned on me that the name the Father gave Jesus reflected who and what God is, because the name the Father gave Jesus was “Son.” In other words, God is not a single entity, he’s both Father and Son. When we say the name “God,” then, it means a relationship of Father and Son. And that’s backed up in the last part of the verse that says, “so that may be one as we are one,” or that we may be in relationship just like God as Father and Son are in relationship.
And it’s in our relationship of oneness that we come to know the Father and Son relationship that God is. Which all sounded very nice and theological, but what did it actually mean in my everyday life? What difference did it make knowing this is what it meant?
Well, if we could be “one as Father and Son are one,” what difference could that make in me as a Dad to my son? At the time I still had a ten year old son at home too. So I looked into the relationship the Father had with his Son, which fortunately, was summarized by Jesus right here in John 17.
And it began with Jesus’ statement in verse 2, “For you (Father) granted him (me, Jesus) authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”
The Father trusted his Son so much he “put him in charge of everything human so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge” (verse 3, The Message).
What a wonderful way for a Dad to treat his son, I thought. So why not try that with my own son, that I trust him too, regardless of how well or poorly he was doing. It was risky, yes, because for years his school report card wasn’t anything to write home about, but trust is what the Father did with his Son, so on that I’d base my relationship with my son too. I simply trusted him to take charge of his life, and to my deep delight it caused all sorts of wires to hook up in my son’s brain that turned him into a scholar student by graduation. It was my first real insight into the difference the relationship of God as Father and Son made in this life of ours, and I liked it very much, because look what happened when played out in the every day relationship between me and my son.
So what else, I wondered, was tucked away in John 17 that described the relationship between the Father and Son? Well, the Father gave Jesus a massive challenge (verse 6), which he knew would stretch Jesus way beyond his human ability to fulfill, so he provided Jesus with the equipment (“the words,” verse 8) to fulfill it. Well, that’s a great way to go too, I thought, because it applies brilliantly to the tough years of my son’s teenage when he’d face challenges way beyond his abilities to cope with as well.
So, what my son needed was my “words” too, then, which I interpreted as giving him endless encouragement. So I drove him to school every morning during his teenage, a six minute trip in which I would try to make him laugh and start his day off on a positive, happy note. And it was brilliant, because it created a relationship we have both treasured ever since.
And it was on just those two things, trust and encouragement – that Jesus clearly treasured in his life too – that changed me as a Dad. What a different Dad I became.
And the result of that relationship I now had with my son was the same as the relationship between the Father and his Son too, because in verse 11 Jesus says, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” Their Father/Son relationship would “protect” the disciples through whatever the world would throw at them. And how true that proved to be, because as Jesus said in verse 12, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.”
And my son too was kept “safe” through High School, because of our relationship as father and son. He was able to rise above, and not be drawn in or perturbed by, the attitudes of “the evil one” (verse 15).
It was all so real, a taste of “eternal life” in the here and now, from simply “knowing God and Jesus,” verse 3, as Father and Son.