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John 17:1-26 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours...My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message
John 17:9, 20
Did you look at the title on your handout and expect to be heading towards Matt. 6, this morning? When we think of the Lord's prayer, we think of the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. But, I think it's fair to call this prayer in John 17 The Lord's prayer. It's the longest recorded prayer of Christ that we have. This prayer reveals his heart in a very special way. It's known as "The High Priestly Prayer" because he is representing all believers before God's throne. Many have referred John 17 as the Holy of Holies of the N.T. “We may well despair of doing justice to the deep thoughts of this prayer, which volumes would not exhaust. Who is worthy to speak or to write about such sacred words?” Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture There's just so much here! ...and it's not easy to break down. I must have looked at a dozen outlines that were each quite different than the other. But, when you think about it, we're eavesdropping on "God talk" here. The thought patterns naturally would be complex. It's not linear, like Paul. I can really relate to Paul. He takes me in a straight line: A is true, B is true, therefore we need to consider C. That's the way Paul presents his arguments. But, Jesus isn't making a presentation; he's not dumbing his teaching down so we mortals can understand. He's conversing with His heavenly Father. So, it's not linear, but circular. Each part leads to another that eventually leads back to the first. But, we do get an important glimpse into our Lord's thoughts. We find out what's foremost on his mind at this crucial point in the incarnation and in history. MacArthur: Of all the prayers of Jesus, this one is the most profound and magnificent. It's words are plain, yet majestic; simple, yet mysterious. They plunge the reader into the unfathomable depths of the inter-Trinitarian communication between the Father and the Son. As we look at this chapter, we'll just be scratching the surface, pulling out a few themes to examine. Some of those themes will pop up over and over. themes like 'indwelling' The Father in the Son, the Son in the Father, us in Christ, etc. themes of knowing, of glory. That's why I say the prayer is more circular than linear. You could legitimately study the passage by just tracing out each theme. This is one of those studies where we won't have an application at the end. Even though these various themes will inevitably bring up points of application, this isn't a case of God says 'A', therefore I must do 'B'. Sometimes it's proper to just absorb what God says and let it marinate.
Jesus Prays For Himself (1-5)
We read that "After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed." After he said what? Well, in general all the things we've talked about the last three weeks. Specifically, he had just finished saying "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." I think I've often equated this passage with Christ's Gethsemane prayer where he prayed "Father, let this cup pass from me." Like the mood is an extension of the agony that he went through anticipating all that he would go through at the cross. Do you see this prayer that way? ...with a somber, almost dreadful tone? As I studied it and looked back on what Jesus had to say just before, I've rethought that conclusion. He had just talked of joy, and peace, and told the disciples "Take heart! I have overcome the world." So, I think he was much more upbeat. As the writer of Hebrews put it: who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. I'd like to think it was that joy that prompted his prayer. "lifted up his eyes." "the time has come." He had often said, throughout his ministry, that his hour had not yet come. But, now he tells them that it had come. It's time for him to fulfill the purpose for which he came into the world. "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matt. 20:28 So that time has come. That's the background, the reason for Jesus' prayer. In a sense, he's putting his affairs in order, so to speak. But, notice - 5 verses out of 26 record prayers for himself. I don't know about you, but if I knew that I was about to die, undergoing such an unspeakably traumatic experience, I'd imagine that my prayers would be quite different. I would hurriedly say something like "take care of those I'm leaving behind" and then go on for hours about me. But, that's not our Savior. Not much of this prayer is for himself. In fact, his request for himself is really just one thing - glory.
Glory - a word that we don't use often in our day to day conversation. What does it mean? Two senses: God's Glory: The glory of God is the beauty of His spirit. It is not an aesthetic beauty or a material beauty, but it is the beauty that emanates from His character, from all that He is. That's what Moses asked to see - the visible representation of God's person. And how did God respond. He said ok, I'll let you get a glimpse of my goodness. Are you familiar with the Westminster Catechism? Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. What do we mean by glorifying God; to give God glory? It's not as if we can enhance God's character. We certainly can't make Him 'more God' But we spotlight his character. Make His beauty, His greatness known. We magnify Him. if you look at something tiny in a magnifying glass, you don't really make the object bigger, but you make the details plain. That's how we glorify God - we make his greatness plain, easy to see.
I think both aspects come into play in Jesus' request. He asked to be glorified in the sense that his greatness would become known; that his magnificent love and his amazing self-sacrifice would be plain to all. Not because he is arrogant or egotistical, but because that glory brings even more glory to the Father and also brings people to him for their salvation. And the irony is that the very thing that was devised to be disgraceful and degrading: death on a cross was to be what brings him glory! But Jesus is also thinking about the other aspect. He says: "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." This reminds me of Phil. 2:5-11, theologians call this the Kenosis passage from the greek word for emptying. It talks about the Son leaving the majesty of his throne in heaven and leaving behind all that glory to be a mortal man. And it's that glory that he prays to return to. To be back in the Father's presence; to know that same glory as was his from eternity past. Eternal Life Defined v. 3 When you think of eternal life, what do you think of? Obviously life that last forever, right? That's certainly not wrong, but that's not the way Jesus defined it. He had a whole different perspective. He says that eternal life is simply knowing God. Now when we talk about eternal life, we get there eventually. We would tell someone that you have to have a relationship with God through Jesus in order to have eternal life. But there you go - we tend to approach it as if the relationship is the means to the end. We might ask "do you want to go to heaven when you die? Do you want to live forever? Then you have to enter into a relationship with Christ." Jesus doesn't see it that way. The life is knowing God. That's end - not just the means to the end. That it lasts forever is a byproduct, not the main element. Paul had it right when he said in Phil. 3:8: "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." That's the perspective that Jesus is talking about. Eternal life is so much more than a "Get Out of Hell Free" card.
Jesus Prays For The Disciples
Having prayed that he be glorified and for the Father's glory, he turns his thoughts toward the eleven. But, in a real sense, he hasn't changed his focus at all. That glory depended a lot on those 11 men. The spreading of the gospel message depends on their faithfulness. If the message is to take a toe-hold in the world, it's up to them to them to preach it. If they fail at their mission, Christianity itself is in danger. Humanly speaking, who'd want to bet on their success? Time after time, they showed that they didn't 'get it.' They miss the point more often than they understood what Jesus was trying to teach them. Within a few hours, they will run off and abandon the Lord. After his death, they'll cower behind locked doors in fear for their lives. They don't seem like men you'd want to depend on for the salvation of the world. But, it's not up to them. It's God's message. He's committed to it and He'll see that it is effective. He'll equip the disciples to do the work that He's given them.
Jesus says he has revealed the Father to the disciples. How did he do that? His Presence Jesus had said that to see him is to see the Father and to know him is to know the Father. These men had spent night and day with Christ. They were able to watch him as he interacted with people. They witnessed his miracles and saw how he ministered to people. They saw God's heart in action. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the best, the perfect revelation from God: In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1:1,2 His Word But they also heard God's words spoken. Much of the Lord's ministry was teaching and preparing these men for the time that was coming. They could be thick-headed at times and there was much that they didn't yet understand, but they did have an unshakeable faith that Jesus had for sure come from the Father. Now, they hadn't yet gotten all of the theology hashed out. I don't think they've thought through the concept of the trinity, yet. They were pretty shaky on the whole idea of the atoning death and resurrection. But they were convinced that the things that Christ said were the very words of God. They accepted his teaching even if they didn't understand much of it. That's a solid foundation that God can work with.
Jesus could be confident in his prayer for the 11 because they belong to the Father and the Father would therefore take care of them. Jesus had received them from the Father. He protected them for as long as he had them. And now he is about to leave them so he turns them over into the Father's hand. He knows the huge task that's before them and he realizes the stakes. And so does the enemy. It's crucial that they're kept safe from Satan's hands. All of the resources of heaven (the power of His name) will assure that they be kept safe from the evil one. He know with certainty that they are safe in the Father's hand. For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus Phil. 1:6 Protect them by the power of Your name. (NIV) could also be translated as "keep them faithful to your name." Keep them loyal to your character, keep them in sync with who you are. The purpose for that faithfulness, he says, is that they would be united in their mission reflecting the deep unity between the Father and the Son. "The emphasis of verses 6-10 is that Jesus has accomplished all that the Father sent Him to do, in terms of equipping the disciples for their “mission.” Jesus has revealed the Father to them and given the Word of the Father to them. He has told them all that they need to know,102 and thus His earthly mission of making disciples of them has been completed. Of course, His atoning work on the cross of Calvary still lay ahead, but that too is as good as done. Jesus is now free to leave and to return to the Father because He has accomplished all that the Father gave Him to do." Bob Deffinbaugh
Unity He prayed "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." If their mission was to be successful and the church was going to take root and grow, unity would be necessary. Unity in purpose - they can't each go off on his own with different goals in mind, unity in the message - there is only one gospel and the apostles will need to be clear and united on exactly what that message will be. Joy One of the results of God's protection and safe keeping is Joy. Notice he didn't just say they'd be filled with joy. Everybody has joy at times. But, they would be filled with HIS joy. A supernatural joy that isn't based on circumstances (as we discussed in our John 15 study) And it's not as if they had no joy at this point. They had joy but Christ's prayer is that they'd have it in full measure. If you recall, we spent some time talking about joy in chap 15 - the vine and the branches. I think there's a strong connection back to that passage, here. It's that abiding that results in joy and God's preservation certainly includes that idea of keeping them close or in other words their abiding.
Sanctification Finally, he prays for their sanctification. What is meant by the term? 1. Set apart for a specific (holy) purpose. Consecrate. The disciples would be set apart, distinguished for God's specific purposes - to spread the gospel and to be His human agents in forming the church. Christ says that they are not 'of the world just as he is not of the world. They are set apart from the world. 2. Made holy. Progressively becoming more Christ-like. Jesus asked the Father to work in each of their lives to make them fit for their task. How does God sanctify His people? "by the truth." and he goes on to say "your word is truth." It's the Word of God that brings new life and that initial 'setting apart" from the world and it's the continual diet of the Word that makes us progressively more Christ-like. The Westminster Larger Catechism: How is the Word made effectual to salvation? “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to His image, and subduing them to His will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruption; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.” I gotta tell you - sanctification isn't optional. Heb. 12:14 tells us "without holiness (sanctification) no one will see the Lord." If you are a genuine believer, your life will be a process of sanctification. But, it's God's task, like we've said before, it's not a self-improvement program.
19"For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." He takes us again to the cross. He sanctified himself for our sanctification. That's a big statement. He sanctified himself in the sense that the animal was consecrated for sacrifice in the temple. It's only through his sacrifice that we can be set apart to God, made holy.
Jesus Prays For Future Believers
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message" The circle expands from the original Apostles to those who come to faith through their message. So, by extension, that includes us. All Christians of every age are a result of the Apostles message. Isn't that amazing: Jesus prayed for you before you were born. You can personalize it. Before He died for you, He prayed for you. Are you interested in what he prayed for? Union His major concern was for our unity; that we'd be one. One issue I take with American Evangelicalism is the sometimes extreme focus on the individual at the expense of community. We tend to think of Me and Jesus as opposed to Us and Jesus. But, in a real sense, I think that Christianity flourishes within the context of community. Lone Ranger Christianity doesn't work. On the coins in your pocket, you can see a latin phrase 'E Pluribus Unum.' What does that mean? Out of many, one. Of the 13 original colonies, a United States was formed. Many, but yet one. What a good model for the church - One out of many! Although the church is made up of many diverse individuals - different ethnicities, different languages, different backgrounds, different socio-economic levels, it is one entity, one body. In several of his letters, Paul emphasizes that point. For instance, I Cor. 12:12: "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." Again, we tend to individualize that idea. We stress the worth of the individual - that he is an integral part of the body. That's absolutely right, but we need to also see it from the other side - that we all come together to form one indivisible body. Now, if you look at the church today- with all the divisions and various denominations, it's hard to think of oneness. But, yet, we ARE one. We're never told to get united; to construct unity any more than the nose and ears should get together to form a body. We're told that we ARE the body. And we're told to "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:3 Jesus says when Christians are “one,” we provide a visible, tangible witness to the world. That's how they know we are His. We need to keep working in the direction of unity - within this local church and within the church as a whole. We need to keep unity in mind in whatever we do. We need to be careful not to say or do anything that will disparage other believers in the eyes of a watching world.
Reunion "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." Jesus wants us to see Him in all His glory. In Matthew 17:1-8, Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus’ glory when He was transfigured before them, but this was merely a dress rehearsal, a preview of eternity. We're going to be with him in Heaven where his glory will be complete. We'll see him as he is and we'll share in that glory because we'll be like him. That's a pretty awesome thought! And it's just the way that Jesus wants it. He is looking forward to the time when we'll all be with him for eternity. . Love "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." There's a lot in these two verses but it boils down to: knowing Jesus is knowing the Father and that puts God's love within us. Remember the knowing is more than head knowledge, it's a relationship. And that relationship is set in love. I wonder if John was thinking of this prayer when he wrote in 1 John 3: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
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