Jesus' Prayer for His Followers
The next and last chapter is where Jesus prays for His own. To understand this prayer, you must re-read John 16: 32-33 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “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.”
So, in His last conversation with the disciples He told them times of trial would come. Repeatedly He had warned them of the awfulness of this particular time that was now immediately before them. And also about the future.
But this warning was not the last word. He continued by promising them that, just as He had peace in the midst of trial, so in Him they would also experience peace. And His VERY last words were triumphant “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
He spoke in faith (which sees God’s promise as already accomplished) because actually He still had the cross before Him. We must remember that although Jesus was and is God’s Son, He overcame as the Son of Man on a human level by His personal faith in God’s promises. He therefore encourages the disciples to experience peace in the midst of trouble, to overcome the world, and to rejoice in the assurance of the outcome with the same faith that He would demonstrate for them as a human being.
He exercised this human faith when “for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He believed God would glorify Him after the cross and He would bring many to God.
This is the faith we are called to exercise today. It is the kind of human trust in God His Father that Jesus chose to exercise on the cross when as man He must have been tempted to not go. He was coming up to the point where He would struggle with the devil. The pressure would be so great that the blood would somehow force itself out through the pores of His skin.
It was a determined choice He made and that’s the kind of choice we must make in our faith. We choose to believe God’s promises!
John 17 is sometimes called the “Holy of Holies” of the entire Bible. In this prayer the disciples who represent believers of all ages, are admitted to the most intimate circle of Jesus’ friends. The disciples are even allowed to hear the words of the communion of the Son to His Father on their behalf.
There was a reason He did this. Jesus, as God, had no reason to pray for Himself. Therefore, it is Jesus as representative of man who prays here. As God, Jesus had glory with the Father before this world came into being. The added glory that would be His at His ascension would be the glory of the first man of the new humanity in heaven. Jesus is now in heaven for men, seated at the right hand of God, enthroned in glory. Even when the prayer seems to be for Himself only “Father….Glorify Your Son” it actually includes those who believe; for it was only after Jesus was glorified that the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers permanently.
This prayer is often called “Christ’s High Priestly Prayer.” Just as the high priest of the Old Testament carried the names of all the tribes of Israel upon his heart when he entered God’s presence, so Jesus here carries all who believed then, who believe now, and all who are yet to believe, on His heart in His prayer for those He calls His own, whom God has given Him.
Hebrews 7:25 tells us that “Jesus always lives to intercede.” He is our High Priest today, in Heaven continually praying for each one of us.
But it is in this prayer more than any other that we see Jesus’ desires for us. As we choose to cooperate with Him and pray this prayer after Him from our heart, nothing can hinder the complete fulfillment of His purpose, for Jesus has been given “authority over all people”.
Several words and phrases are repeated so often in John 17 that they clearly denote themes that are uppermost in Jesus’ mind as He prays for us.
Glory. The word glory or glorify is used seven times in the prayer. Sometimes this word means the manifestation of perfected character. Sometimes it means the praise and open approval of God. Sometimes it points to being raised to an exalted position of honor and authority. It often means honoring (glorifying) another by one’s actions or words. And the word glory is sometimes used to indicate the place of heaven itself.
The deepest desire of the Lord was to glorify His Father. His mission on earth was first to reveal the glory of the Person of God. In other words, the perfection of His character, for God’s glory is the manifestation of what God is. Jesus revealed this glory in Himself by being a perfect man.
Secondly His mission was to cause people to participate in the divine nature (through the Cross and the sending of the Holy Spirit) so that believers themselves could be conformed to Christ’s glorious image. So, God is glorified by men who are transformed into Christ’s likeness. This is the deep prayer of Jesus from which all other desires proceed.
Another word that shows up often in the prayer is world. 19 times. It’s used as a place: earth. Or as a society of fallen people who reject or ignore Christ.
He calls us out of the world (to be different), but also into the world (to share the good news.)
And it’s also used in the thought that the world is the enemy of believers. Christ prays in this prayer for God’s supernatural keeping power over us.
A phrase used more than once in the prayer is “those whom you gave me.” He is stating that every one of us who believes and belongs to Him was actually given to Him by His Father. Jesus cherishes believers as the greatest proof of His Father’s love to Him, even as the Holy Spirit teaches us to value the gift of Christ as the greatest proof of our Heavenly Father’s love for us.
This is a great phrase! It guarantees God’s love for us, our value in His sight, His keeping power, and our future inheritance in Christ and with Him.
The word one is used four times and gives the thought of unity or oneness. And there are three kinds of oneness: Christ’s oneness with His Father, the believer’s oneness with Christ and God, and the believer’s oneness with other believers.
And lastly the phrase “I gave them”. The thought of Jesus giving to His disciples what God has given Him is repeated throughout this prayer. Along with the main emphasis upon the oneness of Jesus with His own, who are God’s love gift to Himself, we find in this prayer that Jesus gives gifts to His own. These disciples whom Jesus called His friends are also said to be “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”.
Some of the things Jesus gives His followers are: eternal life, God’s revelation, His Words, His joy, His separation from the world, his commission to the world, His sanctification, His glory and His love.