John 17 The High Priestly Prayer

John 17      The High Priestly Prayer                                    WC McCarter

We will spend the next few minutes getting into the mind of Christ. We will listen in as He prays for Himself, the Apostles, and all future believers including us! This chapter is the longest of Jesus’ recorded prayers and is filled with valuable insights as it is spoken only hours before the cross. If any prayer can be called, “The Lord’s Prayer,” it is this one!

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Prayer for Himself (1-5)
The Apostle informs us that Jesus continues to speak, but not in discourse. We are told that Jesus’ eyes left the viewing of His disciples and lifted up to heaven. This was the typical way a Jew would pray. The dialogue with the disciples had ended, and Jesus’ conversation with the Father began.

When Jesus requests to be glorified, He means that He is ready for the Father to make the divine plan of redemption complete. He is ready to suffer and die on the cross for the redemption of man and the defeat of the evil one. The Father would be intimately involved in that glorification (and we will see this next week as we begin to look at the cross). Jesus has been given the authority to enact the divine plan of salvation over all flesh. The goal of the glorification of the Son of God is the gift of eternal life for man.

There is only one true God and you must know Him to have eternal life. You must also know the One whom God has sent, Jesus Christ. Christ has come to reveal the Father. In fact, you cannot know the Father if you do not know Christ. How is knowing the Father and Son eternal life? It will take an eternity to search the depths of God.

Jesus was so sure that He would follow through with the suffering that He says that He has completed the work. The preexistence of the Son is acknowledged here. He was the Word in the beginning, was with God, and in fact was God. Jesus prays for Himself in the sense that He wills to be back in the place of glory that He had left. Yet, this is not a selfish prayer by any means. It is the Father’s plan that Jesus be exalted back to His place in glory, and it would mean victory for all who know and believe in the Son of God. If Christ did not return to His exalted place, we would be shamed. Jesus Christ sought glory in the cross. You may think, why not military victory? Why not economic victory? Know this: the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of man.

Prayer for Apostles (6-19)
Jesus is having a conversation with the Father, and in this next passage He is referring to the disciples that He would soon be leaving. The largest part of the Lord’s prayer is devoted to His disciples. The prayer continues Jesus’ theme in the Upper Room Discourse of preparing those men for His departure. He had taught them all that He could, and now He prays for them. On the last night of Jesus’ life on earth, He spends much of His time in prayer. He prays here in John 17, and we also know that He prayed in Gethsemane.

Jesus states in verse nine that His concern in this part of His prayer was restricted to only the eleven men who were with Him. We know that God loves the world, but He loves His people in a special way.

Jesus acknowledges again that He is leaving. He asks that the Father continue to protect those who had put their faith in the One who was sent. You know, our culture has promoted independence and privacy, of which I hold near and dear. Americans have built a great country by working hard, supporting themselves and their own families, and by minding their own business. To some degree these are Christian principles as well. But, I must add that Christians are to be loyal to one another. We are to be uniquely united with one another and devoted to one another in love. Despite their gloomy future, Jesus intended that the disciples be united and He intended to fulfill their joy. Even in the worst of situations, your joy can be full.

The reason that the disciples could be said to be “not of the world” is somehow linked to them receiving the Word of God. I think this point is crucial. What is it that makes you outstanding from this world? You have received, believed, and kept the Word of God, which has at its center the Gospel. Jesus was not praying that the Father would take His disciples out of the world. He was praying that the Father would keep them from the evil one. When we come to the faith, when we accept Christ, we are not plucked out of this world and taken to heaven. We are left here, obviously with a task to do. We know that the task at hand is to make disciples of all the nations.

All along the way, even as we are making disciples, we are being sanctified, that is, being made holy. Sanctification is the progress of the believer’s life in Christ. It is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is done by the Holy Spirit who takes truth, the very word of God written on the pages of Holy Scripture, and applies it to our hearts.

Prayer for Future Believers (20-26)
Christ has prayed about His coming sufferings and exaltation, the Apostles, and now He prays for all future believers. Christ prayed for those who would later believe because of the Apostle’s word.  You and I have believed their message about Christ. So, He was praying for us! As we listen in on the last few verses of the Lord’s prayer, we hear Him praying for us.

We have come to saving faith in Jesus Christ because of the work of the Apostles. The Lord used them to write the pages of Holy Scripture. The Gospel message that we have believed is found in the New Testament which they wrote. So, we have continued in the Apostle’s doctrine even until today. The doctrinal authority of this church is not the preaching and teaching pastor, but the Apostles themselves. I believe what they believed, preach/teach what they proclaimed, and follow their practices in the New Testament, and so do you.

Jesus’ chief concern for you and me in this prayer is unity. This was His same prayer for the first followers. What is it that unites us? At this point He has said nothing about love. We will get to that. All He has mentioned thus far is the message of the Apostles. What is their message? It is the Gospel that unites us. We are all called to believe, obey, and proclaim the Gospel of Christ. The glory of Christ is found in the Gospel which has been passed down to us. Do we all understand what the Gospel is worth? The message of Christ crucified is the greatest treasure in all the world, and we are partakers in it!

But there is even more that unites us. Christ Himself has said that He would be in us. He will bring us together. That is how we are made perfect in one. The unity that the Lord wants to create among believers allows the world to see that the Father has sent the Son and that He loves us. I wonder if that message is getting across to the world. I wonder if that message is getting across to our community. Do they know that Jesus Christ has come to save them because of our unity? Do they know that the Father loves us because we are united? I can only hope so, and work to that end. Jesus prays in verse 23 that we would be perfectly united that is, completely united in purpose and love.

The Lord could not talk about unity and not include love. Love is the last note of His lengthy prayer for His followers. On several occasions in the New Testament, love is called upon last like the covering that binds all things together. The Scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins, and that is exactly what we need for unity. We need our sins covered, and they are by the blood of Christ and our love for one another.

Christ says that He has declared the Father’s name and that He would continue to declare it. I interpret His continuing work of revealing the Father to be through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In this way, believers are indwelt with the person and love of the Father and of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) If we are to apply the accomplishments of Christ in our own lives, church, and community, then we must seek to find glory where He found glory. He sought glory in sufferings and ultimately in His death on the cross. If you are going to point someone to glory, if you want eternal life for them, you must point them to the suffering of Christ.

(2) You have been called out of this world to pursue the things of Christ Jesus. We must pursue holiness, pursue truth, and make disciples. Do not follow the things of this word, but follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

(3) It is important to notice that Christ wants us to be united, and He has shown us what it is that should unite us. In unity we will find wonderful Christian friendship, a thriving church, and a community that will know that Christ has come to demonstrate the love of God.

(4) We often think that the Bible was written directly to us as individuals, but we forget that the books and letters of Scripture were written to certain groups of people at certain times in history with certain circumstances. It is our task to learn about those things, and then apply the lessons to our own lives. We must bridge the gap between Bible times and the contemporary era, yet there is no more direct comment made to future believers in all of Scripture than John 17:20-26. The Lord Jesus Christ was praying for us!