CHRIST’S DESIRE FOR HIS SAINTS
A Communion Sermon preached by Robert Murray McCheyne on January 19, 1840
Excerpted with minor editing from
 Memoirs of McCheyne (Simpsonville: Christian Classics Foundation, 1996)


“Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am;
that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me;
for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
(John 17:24)


This is the most wonderful prayer that ever rose from this earth to the throne of God, and this petition is the most wonderful in the prayer.


1. The Manner of this Prayer


Father, I will.” No human lips ever prayed thus before. Abraham was the friend of God, and got very near to God in prayer; but he prayed as dust and ashes. “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, that am but dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27). Jacob had power with God, and prevailed, yet his boldest word was, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” (Gen 32:26). Daniel was a man greatly beloved, and got immediate answers to prayer, and yet he cried to God as a sinner: “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hearken and do!” (Dan 9:19). Paul was a man who got very near to God, and yet he says, “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:14). But when Christ prayed, He cried, “Father, I will.” Why did He pray thus? He was God’s fellow. “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow” (Zech 13:7). He thought it no robbery to be equal with God. It was He that said, “Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen 1:3). So now He says, “Father, I will.”


He spoke as the Intercessor with the Father.—He felt as if His work were already done: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (Jn 17:4). He felt as if He had already suffered the cross, and now claims the crown. “Father, I will.” This is the intercession now heard in heaven.


He had one will with the Father.—“I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:30). One God, one in heart and will. True, He had a holy human soul, and therefore a human will; but His human will was one with His divine will. The human string in His heart was tuned to the same string as His divine will.


Learn how surely this prayer will be answered, dear children of God. It is impossible this prayer should be unanswered. It is the will of the Father and of the Son. If Christ wills it, and if the Father wills it, you may be sure nothing can hinder it. If the sheep be in Christ’s hand, and in the Father’s hand, they shall never perish.


2. For Whom He Prays


They also whom thou hast given me.” Six times in this chapter does Christ call His people by this name: “They whom thou hast given me” (vv. 11, 24, 6 [2x], 9, 12). It seems to have been a favourite word of Christ, especially when carrying them on His heart before the Father. The reason seems to be that He would remind the Father that they are as much the Father’s as they are His own; that the Father has the same interest in them that He has, having given them to Him before the world was. And so He repeats it in verse 10: “All mine are thine, and thine are mine.” Before the world was, the Father chose a people out of this world. He gave them into the hand of Christ, charging Him not to lose one, to bear their sins on His own body on the tree, to raise them up at the last day. And, accordingly, He says, “Of all whom thou has given me have I lost none” (cf. v. 12).


Is there any mark on those who are given to Christ? They are no better than others. Sometimes He chooses the worst! “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (Jn 6:37). One of the sure marks of all that were given to Christ is that they come to Jesus: “They all come to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling” (cf. Heb 12:24). Are you come to Christ? Has your heart been opened to receive Christ? Has Christ been made precious to you? Then you may be quite sure you were given to Christ before the world was. Your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and your name is on the breastplate of Christ. It is for you He prays, “Father, I will that that soul be with me.” Christ will never lose you. The Father, which gave you to Him, is greater than all, and none is able to pluck you out of the Father’s hand.


3. The Argument


For thou lovedst me.” He reminds the Father of His love to Him before the world was. When there was no earth, no sun, no man, no angel, when He was by Him, then “Thou lovedst me.” Who can understand this love—the love of the Uncreated God to His Uncreated Son? The love of Jonathan to David was very great, surpassing the love of women. The love of a believer to Christ is very great, for they see Him to be altogether lovely. The love of a holy angel to God is very ardent, for angels are like flames of fire. But these are all creature loves; these are but streams; but the love of God to His Son is an ocean of love. There is everything in Christ to draw the love of His Father. Now discern His argument, If You love Me, do this for My people.


Just as He said to Paul, “Why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4). He felt Himself one with His afflicted members on earth. Just as He will say at the last day, “Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me” (Mt 25:40), He reckons believers a part of Himself; what is done to them is done to Him. So here, when He carries them to His Father, this is all His argument: “Thou lovedst Me.” If You love Me, love them, for they are part of Me.


See how surely Christ’s prayer will be answered for you, beloved. He does not plead that you are good and holy; He does not plead that you are worthy; He only pleads His own loveliness in the eyes of the Father. Look not on them, He says, but look on Me. You loved Me before the foundation of the world.


Learn to use the same argument with God, dear believers. This is asking in Christ’s name, for the Lord’s sake; this is the prayer that is never refused. See that you do not come in your own name, else you will be cast out.


Come thus to His table. Say to the Father, Accept me, for You loved Him from the foundation of the world.


4. The Prayer Itself


a.  “That they may be with me.”


What He does not mean.—He does not mean that we should be presently taken out of this world. Some of you that have come to Christ may, this day, be favoured with so much of His presence, and of the love of the Father, so much of the joy of heaven, and such a dread of going back to betray Christ in the world, that you may be wishing that this house were indeed the gate of heaven; you may desire that you might be translated from the Table below at once to the Table above. “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ” (Phil 1:23). Still Christ does not wish that. “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (v. 15). “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now” (Jn 13:36; Like that woman in Brainerd’s Journal—“O blessed Lord, do come! Oh, do take me away; do let me die and go to Jesus Christ. I am afraid, if I live, I shall sin again.”).


What He does mean.—He means, that when our journey is done, we should come to be with Him. Every one that comes to Christ has a journey to perform in this world. Some have a long, and some a short one. It is through a wilderness. Still Christ prays that, at the end, you may be with Him. Every one that comes to Christ has his twelve hours to fill up for Christ. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day” (Jn 9:4). But when that is done, Christ prays that you may be with Him. He means that you shall come to His Father’s house with Him. “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (Jn 14:2). You shall dwell in the same house with Christ. You are never very intimate with a person till you see him in his own house, till you know him at home. This is what Christ wants with us, that we shall come to be with Him at His own home. He wants us to come to the same Father’s bosom with Him. “I ascend to my Father and your Father” (Jn 20:17). He wants us to be in the same smile with Him, to sit on the same throne with Him, to swim in the same ocean of love with Him.


Learn how certain it is that you shall one day soon be with Christ. It is the will of the Father, it is the will of the Son. It is the prayer of Christ. If you have really been brought to Christ, you shall never perish. You may have many enemiesopposing you in your way to glory. Satan desires to have you, that he may sift you like wheat. Your worldly friends will do all they can to hinder you. Still you shall be with Christ. We shall see your face at the table of glory. You have a hard heart, an unbelieving heart, a heart deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. You often think your heart will lead you to betray Christ. Still you shall be with Christ. If you are in Christ today, you shall be ever with the Lord. You have lived a wicked life. You have dreadful sins to look back upon.


Still, if you are come to Jesus, this is His word to you, “Thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). In truth, Christ cannot do without you. You are His jewels—His crown. Heaven would be no heaven to Him, if you were not there. This may give you courage in coming to the Lord’s Table. Some of you fear to come to this Table, because, though you cleave to Christ today, you fear you may betray Him tomorrow. But you need not fear. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” You shall sit at the Table above, where Christ Himself shall be at the head. You need not fear to come to this Table.


b.  To “behold my glory, which thou hast given me.”—There are three stages in the glory of Christ. It will be the employment of heaven to behold them all.


First, original glory of Christ.—This is His uncreated glory, as the equal of the Father. It is spoken of in Proverbs 8:30: “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” And again, in this prayer, “The glory which I had with thee before the world was” (v. 5). Of this glory no man can speak; no angel, no archangel. One thing alone we know, that we are to honour the Son, even as we honour the Father. He shared with the Father in being the all-perfect One, when there was none to admire, none to adore, no angels with golden harps, no seraphs to hymn His praise, no cherubim to cry, Holy, holy, holy. Before all creatures were, He was—one with the infinitely perfect, good, and glorious God. He was then all that He afterwards showed Himself to be. Creation and redemption did not change Him. They only revealed what He was before. They only provided objects for those beams of glory to rest upon, that were shining as fully before, from all eternity. Eternity will be much taken up with praising God that ever He revealed Himself at all; that ever He came out from the retirement of His lovely and blissful eternity.


Second, When He became flesh.—“The Word was made flesh” (Jn 1:13). Christ did not get more glory by becoming man, but He manifested His glory in a new way. He did not gain one perfection more by becoming man; He had all the perfections of God before. But now these perfections were poured through a human heart. The almightiness of God now moved in a human arm. The infinite love of God now beat in a human heart. The compassion of God to sinners now glistened in a human eye. God was love before, but Christ was love covered over with flesh. Just as you have seen the sun shining through a coloured window—sunlight and yet it shines with a mellowed lustre—so in Christ dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. The perfection of the Godhead shone through every pore, through every action, word, and look—the same perfections—they were only shining with a mellowed brightness. The veil of the Temple was a type of His flesh, because it covered the bright light of the Holiest of all. But just as the bright light of the Shekinah often shone through the veil, so did the Godhead of Christ force itself through the heart of the man Christ Jesus. There were many openings of the veil when the bright glory shone through.


When He turned the water into wine.—He manifested forth His glory, and His disciples believed on Him. Almighty power spoke in a human voice, and the love of God, too, shone in it; for He showed that He came to turn all our water into wine.


When He wept over Jerusalem.—That was a great outlet of His glory. There was much that was human in it. The feet were human that stood upon Mount Olivet. The eyes were human eyes that looked down upon the dazzling city. The tears were human tears that fell upon the ground. But oh, there was the tenderness of God beating beneath that mantle! Look and live, sinners. Look and live. Behold your God! He that has seen a weeping Christ has seen the Father. This is God manifest in the flesh. Some of you fear that the Father does not wish you to come to Christ and be saved. But see here, God is manifest in the flesh. He that has seen Christ has seen the Father. See here the heart of the Father and the heart of the Son laid bare. Oh, wherefore should you doubt? Every one of these tears trickles from the heart of God.


On the cross.—The wounds of Christ were the greatest outlets of His glory that ever were. The divine glory shone more out of His wounds than out of all His life before. The veil was then rent in two, and the full heart of God allowed to stream through. It was a human body that writhed, pale and racked, upon the accursed tree; they were human hands that were pierced so rudely by the nails; it was human flesh that bore that deadly gash upon the side; it was human blood that streamed from hands, and feet, and side; the eye that meekly turned to His Father was a human eye; the soul that yearned over His mother was a human soul. But oh, there was divine glory streaming through all; every wound was a mouth to speak of the grace and love of God!


Divine wrath shone through. What infinite hatred of sin was there when He thus offered Himself a sacrifice without spot unto God! Divine wisdom shone through: all created intelligences could not have devised a plan whereby God would have been just, and yet the justifier. Divine love: every drop of blood that fell came as a messenger of love from His heart to tell the love of the fountain. This was the love of God. He that has seen a crucified Christ has seen the Father. Oh, look on the broken bread, and you will see this glory still streaming through! Here is the heart of God laid bare—God is manifest in flesh. Some of you are poring over your own heart, examining your feelings, watching your disease. Avert the eye from all within. Behold Me, behold Me! Christ cries. Look to Me, and be you saved. Behold the glory of Christ! There is much difficulty about your own heart, but no darkness about the heart of Christ. Look in through His wounds; believe what you see in Him.


Third, Christ’s glory above.—I cannot speak of this. I trust I shall one day soon see it. He has not laid aside the glory which He had on earth. He is still the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, But He has more glory now. His humanity is no more a veil to hide any of the beams of His Godhead. God shines all the more plainly through Him. He has many crowns now, the oil of gladness now, the sceptre of righteousness now.


Heaven will be spent in beholding His glory.—We shall see the Father eternally in Him. We shall look in His face, and in His human eye shall read the tender love of God to us forever. We shall hear from His holy human lips plainly of the Father. “In that day I shall no more speak to you in parables, but show you plainly of the Father” (cf. Jn 16:25). We shall look on His scars, healed, yet plain and open on His hands, and feet, and side, and heaven-bright brow, and shall read eternally there the hatred of God against sin, and His love to us that made Him die for us. And sometimes, perhaps, we may lean our head where John leaned his, upon His holy bosom. Oh! if heaven is to be spent thus, what will you do, who have never seen His glory?


Conclusion


Oh, beloved, if your eternity is to be spent thus, spend much of your time thus! If you are to be thus engaged at the Table above, be thus engaged now at the Table below.