Today: [John 17:] The Great Intercessory Prayer of Jesus: In our chapter today we are challenged by the scope of the prayer that Jesus prayed for His disciples and by extension for those of us in the body of Christ. The emphasis is unity and the character of love Jesus expressed His desire to see between believers. Will this prayer be answered? If so, it will bring a radical shift in Christian culture as we know it today.
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[Jhn 17:1-26 KJV] 1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received [them], and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are]. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17 contains what is known as the great intercessory prayer of Jesus. In this intimate portrait, we see the curtains drawn back to reveal Jesus’ personal communion with the Father. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus withdrawing Himself to isolated places where even His closest associates are not allowed to accompany Him. I know in my own life one of My great and treasured memories was listening to my father’s prayers. In prayer, there was an eloquence and an anointing that would come on my dad that wasn’t for anyone’s hearing but the God he served. To this day I hear his words resonating deep down in my spirit reflecting the sincere piety and reverential awe that my father walked in before God and that manifested in his prayer life.
Verse 1 reveals that as Jesus was speaking to the disciples about being the Good Shepherd and dealing with the Jews who were taking up stones to stone Him, that suddenly He forgets the crowd before Him and lifts His eyes up to pray. Can you imagine a pastor standing before his congregation, and suddenly he forgets that he is in the pulpit and his prayer life is in one moment of time revealed to the people in the sanctuary. We feel embarrassed for ourselves and for him. Because He didn’t retreat to a private setting, we are exposed, confronted by the vulnerability and intimacy of Jesus communing with His Father and pouring out His heart.
Jesus looks up to heaven and says “Father the hour is come, glorify thy Son…” Perhaps knowing He was to die at the hands of the Jews, He thought the stone throwing men in front of Him were about to do just that. We are reminded of Stephen under a hail of stones thrown by his countrymen, calling upon God to forgive their sin, and his face shines like an angel’s when he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Jesus goes on at the beginning of His prayer asking the Father to give His followers eternal life even as the Father had given Jesus Himself power over all flesh. This is not the prayer of a weakling. Jesus isn’t saying this to impress anyone. He is acknowledging what for Him was a blank and incontrovertible fact. He had power over all flesh. He could have called 10,000 angels, but He didn’t. He could have obliterated mankind with a wave of His hand, but instead, He refrained from acting on the attributes of His Godhead and asks the Father “instead of sending 10,000 angels to save ME, would you send salvation to all of those who believe on Me?” Does any prayer of Jesus go unanswered?
Notice in verse 3 that Jesus refers to Himself in the 3rd person. He is so one with the Father that His humanity, His human identity is an accompanying presence, witnessing His oneness with God in the depths of His being. In that place of intimacy (v. 5) He invites the Father to glorify Him with the glory that He knew He had been clothed with in the heavens before being born of Mary. He knows that He has finished His work. He that was the Alpha is now the fulfilled Omega, and He is ready to accomplish His final act of redemptive mercy.
In verse 6, He announces to the Father in His prayer that He has manifested the Father’s name and power before men and that those who committed to Him of his disciples had KEPT THY WORD. That is what brings the completion of the work of God in your life – when you KEEP HIS WORD. Jesus (v. 8) gave to His disciples and to us by extension all the words that the Father had commanded Him, and when Jesus now sees that they have received His word (whether they understood all He said or not), He now begins to pray specifically for them and by extension for us:
In verse 11 Jesus declares that He will soon be gone from the world in His humanity and that He will go to the Father. He asks the Father to keep us in His name. He is petitioning the Father to keep His followers even as the Father kept and preserved Jesus Himself throughout His earthly life on the earth. Do you think that the Father will answer Jesus prayer? How does Jesus think the Father will keep us? He prays that the Father will keep us (v. 11) by causing us to be ONE even as He and the Father are one. What is this talking about? He is talking about you and me being ONE with each other even as the Father and Jesus were one in His lifetime and are even now one in the heavens. Will the Father ever leave Jesus or separate Himself from Jesus? This only happened for a moment of time as Jesus was paying the price for our sins. As Jesus and the Father are one, He is praying that you and I as believers would be one. Is that prayer to be answered? Then what of the divided body of Christ? What of 16,000 denominations and sects and opposing congregations and groups refusing to come together? They are excluded! Will we be excluded? Only if we have the thinking of the son of perdition that Jesus mentions in verse 12. Judas thought he had a better idea. He thought he could force God’s hand, and brought his life to shipwreck as a result.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 24 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. 25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare [it]: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
In verse 14 Jesus prays something that bears on how Christians should consider the issue of separation. Jesus prays to the Father not that we should be taken out of the world but that we should be kept from the evil. Some interpret this prayer as contradicting the idea of a rapture that would take the saints out of the earth at a future time. What is more personal and immediately relevant for us is what the word “world” defines as. The term in the original language is “kosmos.” Jesus is praying not that we would be taken out of something called the “kosmos” but that we would be kept or preserved from the evil. The word kosmos there defines as “an aggregate of harmonious systems comprising a whole…” In this case, we are talking about human society and its constituent components. What are the elements of society around us? They include our towns and cities, their governments and their social units such as business, education, the medical establishment, the arts, theatre, entertainment, etc. Think about those things: if you work for a company, is there evil at your place of business? What about the school where your children attend, or the government that you answer to in your town, city or nation? Jesus is not praying that you withdraw to a remote stronghold and keep yourself independent of such things – He is praying that you be IN the world but KEPT from the evil thereof. This statement alone speaks against monasticism and the idea of joining a cloistered community. In the third century, many in the church withdrew to the desert in order to escape the evils of the world. In light of what Jesus prays here – this is in contravention of His heart to pray for us. What about Christian communities, or Christian schools, etc.,? We should pray this out. It isn’t a given that our children cannot be in public education or that we should leave our homes and join to an exclusive Christian community. We make this point because there are those that say if you put your children in public schools you are in sin. That is not true. Let every man be convinced in his own mind and not defy the choices of others that are not explicitly prohibited in scripture.
In v. 17 Jesus’ prayer is that we would be sanctified or kept separated not by joining isolated communities or programs but by giving ourselves IN THE WORLD over to the word and the word will keep us in a place of separation. Many think that only by segregating ourselves outwardly but the separation God is looking for in inward piety, not outward division and we need to think about this.
In verse 21 Jesus again comes back to the issue of oneness with the Father and one-ness with each other. Notice what Jesus prays and the order in which He prays it. He prays that “they would be one” in other words that we are one with each other each – so that we might be one with the Father. Again Jesus prays that we would be one together as believers TO THE DEGREE THAT JESUS and THE FATHER ARE ONE. He prays that we would be one with each other in Christ on order that we may be one with the Father. We cannot be one with the Father until we are one with each other. Why should this take place? So that the world will believe. Is it possible for the world to believe? If we are one with each other and thus one with the Father, it is possible for the world to believe. Let us press into this hope and this expectation.
How is this oneness going to take place? The final verse tells us. When the love that the Father loves the Son and the love that the Son loves the Father is in us and reflected to one another we will be one and the world will believe as the scripture says!
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