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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Not One Will Be Lost!


"I have not lost one of those you gave me."

John 18:9

As Jesus and the disciples in the garden encounter Judas, a detachment of soldiers and some of the Jewish officials carrying torches, lanterns and weapons, Jesus asks them who it is that they want. ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ they reply. And confirming that he is the man they’re looking for, he says these words: ‘If you are looking for me, then let these men go’.

In John’s understanding, these words of Jesus are the difference between the deaths of all of them and his death alone. John tells us that Jesus said these words so that some other words that Jesus had said earlier in his ministry would be fulfilled. The words John has in mind are, ‘I have not lost one of those you gave me’.

Turning to John 6 we find the words John is referring to, ‘All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day’.

John records Jesus’ words on two other occasions speaking in a similar fashion. John 10, ‘My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand’.

And also, John 17, when he prays, ‘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. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that scripture would be fulfilled’.

Three times in John prior to the garden, Jesus speaks of not losing any of those the Father had given him. And in all three instances what he has in mind is an eternal or spiritual kind of protection.

In John 6, none are lost because all those found in Jesus will be resurrected.

In John 10, none are lost because all those the Father has given Jesus, he gives eternal life – they cannot perish. Not even Satan can snatch them out of his hand.

And in John 17, what seems to be in view is faith. Faith that continues in life all the way to death, and which brings about eternal life.

Of the disciples Jesus had gathered around him, only one failed to continue believing in him and walking with him – Judas. He was doomed to destruction, Jesus says, and that’s why he fell away.

The other disciples would have wandered away too, had it not been that Jesus protected them by the power of his name.

But now in the garden, John interprets Jesus’ request that the soldiers let his disciples go, as a fulfilment of his earlier words, when he said, that not one of them would be lost.

John seems, on surface level at least, to think that Jesus’ words about ‘not one being lost’ were intended to preserve the disciples from death.

I suppose that Jesus knowing all that was going to happen, could be understood to be preserving his disciples from the faith-destroying effects of persecution and death by asking the soldiers to leave them alone.

Perhaps Jesus, knowing their faith will fail, protects them from persecution and death so that their faith will continue until the end, and they will enter into eternal life. And in that way, none shall be lost.

I doubt that’s what he intends though. Afterall, John would end up exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith. Peter would be crucified for his faith in Jesus. And, if tradition is correct, James would be beheaded. That’s to say nothing of the others.

And, I don’t think John has failed to understand the nature of Jesus’ previous words and is now misunderstanding the significance of what’s going on in the garden either.

I think the point here is this - and it is 100% for our benefit that Jesus says what he says, and John interprets as he does - Jesus in his immense grace intercedes on behalf of the disciples so that none of them are lost – so that in his own death, not one of them dies. They are all preserved. All protected. John wants us to know it. He wants us to know that all the disciples saw Jesus die and all of them were alive and there to witness him alive again.

So, what does John mean, that these things happened so that Jesus’ words would be fulfilled, if indeed he hasn’t missed the fact that Jesus had eternal things, not temporal things in mind when he spoke them?

What he means is for us to understand that what happened in the garden is a tangible, visible, helpful, hopeful reminder that Jesus will keep all those who he died for in life (by providing faith), in death (by his death) and unto resurrection (by his resurrection).

Because he was able to preserve the disciples from arrest, persecution and execution, John says ‘understand that he is able to ensure that not one of you will fail to be preserved unto eternal life. Not one of you will be lost. He will keep you all by his death and resurrection’.

If you see a precious saint die in sweet reliance on Jesus, do not think it was for naught. Death can have no hold on them because Jesus will not let one of his blood-bought sheep be lost. He will rescue them all even in death, from death and bring them out into eternal life through the resurrection of all his people unto eternal life.

And so, we are given a visible reminder, not dissimilar to these emblems we’re about to enjoy now, that Jesus really is powerful to save all those the Father has given him – not one of us will be lost.

So, take heart little flock.


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