John 17

Note to my readers: this is a very long post. The length indicates the significance of our chapter today, which is one of the deepest and richest sayings of Jesus in the Bible. I had some extra time today, so I decided to go all out. I hope it is a blessing to you.

This chapter is the real Lord’s Prayer. The night before Jesus died on the cross, He prayed this prayer in the hearing of His disciples and saw that was preserved in Scripture for us to read.

In this prayer, Jesus first prayed for Himself, then for His disciples, then for you! He prayed for all believers of all times. It has been called “The Prayer of Consecration,” “The Prayer of the Departing Redeemer,” and “The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.” Whatever you want to call it, it is a very special passage of Scripture. There are three clues in v.1 that this prayer is going to be very special:

“When Jesus had spoken these words” — He had finished teaching and comforting His disciples, and now it was time to talk to His Father.

“He lifted up His eyes to heaven” – a prayer posture that showed that He was giving His Father His full attention.

“The hour has come” – indicates the timing of this prayer: knowing He had just 12 hours to live, Jesus didn’t try to do any more public ministry. He didn’t try to heal a few more sick people, didn’t go to see His mother, didn’t break down and become depressed, didn’t panic – He prayed.

The main concern of Jesus in His prayer was the glory of God (He used “glorify” four times in five verses). What does it mean to glorify God? It means to give honor, to shine the spotlight on, to “brag on” someone. That was Jesus’ concern in His prayer, and if that was His concern, it ought to be ours. Two things bring Him glory:

1. People coming to know Him as the only true God (v.2-3). Jesus said (v.1b) that He would give glory to His Father by giving people eternal life. Then Jesus defined eternal life: it is knowing God.

“Know” (v.3) is not just knowing the facts about God or even knowing that He exists and that He loves you. It means knowing by experience, having a relationship. Not only is eternal life knowing God in that way, but it is knowing Him through the one He sent, Jesus Christ (the only time Jesus called Himself by that name-title).

His prayer was (v.1), “The hour has come, glorify Your Son.” For what was Jesus asking? To be glorified in His suffering, death, and resurrection – and for His Father to receive His sacrifice for sin and to honor Him because of it. So God is glorified when people come to know Him as the only true God, surrendering to His lordship.

2. Fulfilling the purpose for which God created you (v.4). Jesus finished His work: He had taught, discipled, healed, preached, worked miracles, told the truth about God, and confronted counterfeit religion. Then He comforted His disciples, washed their feet, and served them the bread and cup of the new covenant. He had finished His work. Now all that was left for Him to do was to die – to let happen what was already in motion (betrayal and arrest, punishment, crucifixion). Jesus said, “I have glorified you on the earth, I have finished the work You gave Me to do.” God is glorified when we fulfill the purpose He has given us.

Having prayed for Himself, Jesus prayed for His disciples (v.6-19). Jesus had spent all night in prayer before He chose His disciples at the beginning of His earthly ministry; now He spends time praying for them at the end of His ministry. I find two major themes in this prayer for His disciples.

First, Jesus gave a report on His disciples. Verses 6-10 sounds like a progress report from a military outpost on the training of new recruits. These men given to Jesus were the twelve He called to follow Him. They were twelve ordinary men, but Jesus called them out of the world and into His presence.

It helps me to think of their calling in terms of seven tasks: to witness Jesus’ resurrection, to preach His gospel, to verify His gospel (with signs and wonders), to record His words (the Gospels), to complete His revelation (the epistles), to establish His church, and to evangelize the world. With all that responsibility, they needed prayer! Jesus reported, “I revealed to them who You are” (v.6).

How did Jesus reveal to them who God is and what God is like? Not instantly, in a blaze of blinding glory, but gradually, in a period of three years of close association, He manifested the Father through His teachings (He is a God of truth); His miracles (He is a God of unlimited power); His dealing with the poor, oppressed, and sick (He is a God of love, compassion, healing, and forgiveness); His foot-washing (He is a God who condescends to touch man with His grace); His Transfiguration (He is a God of great glory and majesty); and even in His anger as He cleansed the Temple (He is a God of holiness and justice).

Jesus reported that He had taught His disciples the truth (v.8). He taught them by example, in principles, by parables, and in personal conversation.

Second, Jesus made requests for His disciples in regard to their mission. These men had been called out of the world (v.6) so they could be sent back into the world (v.18). As they began their mission, Jesus prayed for their protection (v.11a), their unity (v.11b), their joy (v.13), and their holiness (v.17-19).

In the last part of this prayer Jesus prayed for all believers of all times — including you. He prayed for our unity (v.20-23). Certainly this means an absence of infighting in the body of Christ. Nothing is uglier than a divided church, Christians at odds with each other. The Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks wrote, “Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous.” May we never be found “sowing discord” among brothers and sisters in Christ.

The unity for which Jesus prayed is not uniformity, everyone being just exactly alike – there is a beautiful diversity in the Body of Christ. And it is not unanimity, everyone always agreeing completely about everything – we don’t always have to see eye to eye to walk arm in arm.

It is a greater kind of unity for which Jesus prayed – a unity of purpose (v.21), “so that the world may believe.” Our unity is a witness to the world, for it makes us believable. When we come together in a unity of purpose, we are a powerful force for the gospel. May we never be found hindering the work of Christ because of petty divisions, infighting, or bickering.

How can you promote unity? Pray for each other, avoid gossip about other believers, build up others with encouragement, work together humbly, and have a servant’s heart. It has been well said that “Unity is the desire of the Savior, the delight of the saved, and the dread of Satan.”

Lastly, Jesus prayed that we would be in heaven with Him someday (v.24). Just think, the Lord of heaven wants you to be with Him! Jesus is looking forward to being with you in heaven! That ought to make you feel loved today. Jesus wants to spend eternity showing you how much He loves you (v.26)! What a thought! And what an exciting ending to this very special prayer. To God be the glory!