< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Jesus' Prayer for us

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Jesus' Prayer for us

This prayer is also an announcement of Jesus’ finished work and a revelation of His glory with God.

John 17:1-5 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus prays that the time of His passion may prove to be the decisive means by which He glorifies his Father and God glorifies Him. He basically reports that the work given to Him by God is finished. Finally He prays that God will give Him, as man, the original glory that He had in equality with God before the foundation of the world and before His incarnation.

Jesus is also praying that He reveal God’s character and person in suffering on the cross, in victory over death at the Resurrection and in power at the Ascension that through Him the world will see God’s glory and therefore, glorify His name in repenting and receiving eternal life.

When Jesus became man, it wasn’t only so that humanity could see the person and character of God perfectly revealed in a human being. It wasn’t only to show, by example, how a fully human man could, by dependence on God, fully obey God on earth against every opposition and hindrance that every man faces on earth. He came to earth not only to show people how to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. He came to earth to give people eternal life.

Eternal life is a gift and Jesus Christ is the only one with the authority to give it. It is more than a mere decision one makes. It’s more than mere membership in church. It’s more than an intellectual knowledge of the Bible. Eternal life consists in a person-to-person relationship with God, where we are convinced we are accepted by Him and He communicates with us and we communicate with Him.

John 17:6-19 6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. 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. 12 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.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Jesus’ prayer in this part is specific to His disciples. He says, “they accepted” “they believe” “now they know.” Later He prays for the world’s forgiveness and conversion.

Jesus values the disciples because they are God’s gift to Him. They came to Jesus because God drew their hearts toward Him. They chose to respond to this drawing. And He loves them for God’s sake, as one loves the gift because of one’s love for the giver. We should be able to see ourselves as of infinite value to Jesus for the same reason!

Jesus revealed God’s full character to these men. He also gave them God’s words. And the men chose to believe them. They believed that God had sent Jesus to them personally.

Next to God Himself there is nothing greater than the words that reveal God. The Bible is a precious gift to us! The New Testament is the only record we have of both the life and words of Christ. Unbelievers don’t understand the Word. But those who reject it will be judged by it on the last day.

Those who love Him will keep His Word, meaning to constantly read them with a view to living by them.

The disciples were also valued by Jesus because He was glorified in them. They represented the fruit of the Lord’s labor. The fulfillment and glory of Christ’s work on earth is that He has achieved the purpose for which He came. Through the testimony of the eleven, in every age a great harvest of people whom God has drawn to Jesus to receive eternal life and to be conformed to His image continues to be reaped.

Verse 11 records Christ’s particular petitions for His disciples in the light of His experiences on earth, in the light of all He knew about them and in the light of all that was before them when His bodily presence would be removed to heaven at His ascension.

 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. 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.

So, “I will remain in the world no longer.” Until now Jesus had lived with them. He was their Light, Comforter, Companion, Leader, Counselor and constant Help. He was always there for them taking complete responsibility for them. But very soon, no more.

“But they are still in the world.” Why did Jesus leave the disciples behind? Why does He leave Christians here instead of taking them straight to Heaven the minute they become believers?

For one thing – believers are the light of the world. God loves the world still. He wants more people brought to Him and the way that happens is through His disciples.

Secondly, we are left in the world for our transformation and perfection of our Christian character. We are to suffer the same trials as the world yet discover by experience how to overcome them.

Thirdly we are left in the world for the honor of His name – that God through us may manifest His character toward us and be glorified. Every time we come through a trial giving God thanks for His help we glorify Him.

Every time we say no to the devil we glorify God.

“And I am coming to you.” Jesus’ time on earth was over and He was going back to the Father. He was going where no enemy could follow Him, no weariness distress Him, no temptation – but the enemies, the weariness, the temptation was all still in the world and while He would take His victory, wear His crown, ascend to the throne and accept the praises and obedience of countless hosts of angels – His loved ones would stay behind, caught up in the struggles and battle.

Jesus sounded like He was leaving His heart behind. We can take comfort in knowing that He’s watching US from Heaven – deeply feeling for us as He sees us going through trials and pains. He loves us and He cares!
You could almost change this verse to, “Father, keep them, for I come to You, but my heart is there with them.”

“Protect them by the power of Your name.” God’s name is all His attributes. He has sufficient power, wisdom and love to remove us out of this world if it were for our good. Another reason He has left us in this world is to prove His power to keep us faithful to Him, to keep our faith, to keep us from evil.

1 Peter 1:5 says we “through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

So, we are assured not only of God’s love for us and our value in His sight, but of His keeping power and our future inheritance in Christ and with Him.

“That they may be one as we are one.” This oneness is the theme of the entire chapter. First Jesus prays for oneness with God and Himself. There can be no oneness with God or with Christ when a person does not believe that Jesus is equal with God or that God’s purpose in sending Jesus was to redeem us from our sins by His sacrifice on the cross. One cannot be one with God and with Jesus if one doesn’t believe that Jesus ascended into heaven in His human body. And one can’t experience oneness if one doesn’t share the same eternal life dwelling in Jesus through the same Holy Spirit.

And secondly, there can only be an inward oneness with one another as each person is one with Jesus and God. Paul describes this in Ephesians 4: where he writes about one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord (Jesus Christ), one God and Father of all. Think about that – we are to be one with God – admitted into their innermost fellowship!

“The world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”

The only thing that can truly harm us and spoil our oneness is sin, and Jesus is praying that His disciples will be protected. He wants us to be holy. God’s name is Holy. Jesus just called Him Holy Father, His Word is the Holy Bible, His spirit the Holy Spirit, His people, the Hebrews, were known as the holy nation and God’s temple is called a holy temple.

It is more important that we be holy persons in God’s sight (and therefore before others) than to make our sole concentration to win people to Christ. What did Jesus come for but to save us from our sins? His name means that! So, Jesus prays for His own to be kept from evil before He prays concerning their commission to the world.

I wonder if when we get to Heaven we’ll know how many times God kept us from evil?

It’s not just the devil himself trying to tempt us, but people who are consciously or unconsciously his instruments. Even the entire world system of which Satan is prince. We couldn’t do it without God!

In verse 17 He says, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." To sanctify is not only to become more holy, but to be set apart. And in this case to be set apart for God’s use. And that was to be sent out into the world.

And to sanctify them by the truth – again, God’s Word is truth and God’s Word is the Bible. We can never win people to Christ except through the truth revealed in the Bible. Although an unprejudiced open mind will recognize the existence of God through nature and his interventions in history, almost everything we know about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit is obtained only though the Bible. All of Jesus’ words are in there!

John 17:20-26 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

24 “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.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I 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.”

We are one with every believer who has ever lived. We speak the same heart language!

In verse 24 Jesus emphatically says I WANT those You’ve given Me to be with Me and see My glory.

Thy will be done! 😊

The last two verses of the prayer are especially beautiful. The world does not and never did know God before Jesus Christ. He is the ONLY way to God. By contrast Jesus knows God intimately. Now those disciples know God, too, because Jesus has fully declared who God is and they have received the revelation.

We can’t even begin to imagine what the love between the Father and Son is like, yet Jesus is asking for that to be between them and believers too! Ephesians 3:16-20 promises that the Holy Spirit alone can enable us to comprehend “the width, the length, the depth, the height of this love and to know this love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”

This awareness of God’s love and fullness of joy through the Holy Spirit is the highest answer to this prayer of Jesus for us.

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