Isn't it lovely when someone tells you they've been praying for you? You haven't asked for it, but out of the blue they let you know that you've been on their mind this week and they've been praying for you.
One of the most remarkable things the bible teaches us is that Jesus prays for us.
And in the passage we look at today we get an insight into Jesus prayers for us. And it's even more remarkable because Jesus prays this prayer for us as he waits for the soldiers to come and take him away to his trial and execution.
So a remarkable passage, and as we'll see a remarkable prayer. There's an awful lot of theology and depth to this, and we won't be able to cover it all in detail, but we're going to follow the 5 requests that Jesus makes through this prayer. If you haven't got it open please open up to John 17, page 763. .
His concern is revealed in the five requests of the prayer:
1. Glorify me
2. Keep the Disciples
3. Sanctify them
4. Make the believers one
5. May they be with me where I am
There's way too much here to do more than pick up the themes as we go through, so I'm sorry to say this will be a quick tour through Jesus prayer… so let's get on with it:
Vs 1-5 Glorify me, so that I may glorify you.
After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed: "Father, the time 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 may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing 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.
The time has come – in John 'the time' is one of the ways that Jesus speaks about his coming death (see John 12.23-28) – the time has come > now is the time for his death. He says this because he knows he's going to the cross, Judas has already set off to betray him, the wheels are moving, before the night is out he will be arrested and tried and sent off to Pilot for execution. And in all that the Son will bring honour to the Father by his humble obedience, even to death on a cross.
This is a prayer that the cross would come and that Jesus would carry it through to it's completion.
Notice that the Son asks the Father to give him glory because this will give glory to the Father. This glory is other person centred – the Son asks the Father to glorify him so he can in turn glorify the Father.
And notice that we're included in that - The Son glorifies the Father by completing the work the Father gave him to do – to save people.
Again this prayer (like Nehemiah's last week) reveals what is at the heart of God's work in the world – the world exists so that God can win glory for himself by redeeming a people to be his very own.
This isn't out of order as it would be if I lived for my own glory because I am not glorious, but God is, only right that he gains glory as it is due. And more importantly not introspective and selfish as it would be if I lived for my own glory because the members of the Trinity are other person centred – looking to honour each other. The son doesn't glory in himself, but in the Father, likewise the Father doesn't glory in himself, but in the Son. It's possible to make this sound very clinical, but it's not, the Son loves the Father – that's why he seeks to glorify him by making him known. And the Father loves the Son, that is why he delights in the humble obedience of the Son and gives him renewed glory and honour.
I think this is why God's glory is most clearly seen in his pursuit of a people to be his own, it reveals how other person centred he is. God loves us, and delights to save us – he glories in showing love to a people who deserve the very opposite.
In the Roman world a victorious general was honoured with a procession – this was the only time that a general was allowed to bring armed troops intoRome… the victory procession paraded through the streets so the glory of the victory could be enjoyed and celebrated by the good citizens ofRome. They led their captives in train and carted their loot around to demonstrate their glory and revelled in the praises of the citizenry. If you think of Sport as a kind of civilized version of war you can see how this is the patter for the open top bus tours that victorious teams do now.
But Jesus procession is very different – he's lifted up before the crowds, not on a throne or a triumphant procession, but on a cross. The crowd yells, but not to glory in his victory, they glory in his disgrace. And yet this is his glory, and through this suffering he wins victory through shame, disgrace and even death. Yes, he glories in that, and through this humiliating glorify he comes into his rule. His glory is to do the Father's will, and the Fathers will is to win a people for himself. Jesus glories in his obedience, and in the Father's approval of him, and in the people he rescues. What looks from the outside like weakness and shame is his moment of triumph.
So even as he prays for himself, Jesus concern is for others – for God's glory, and for our salvation. And that leads to the second request of the prayer.
Keep the disciples
Read with me from verse 6 (or verse 11):
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.
Jesus earnestly prays for his disciples. He loves them and he wants them to stand firm even after he goes back to be with the Father. Notice that behind this prayer is the certainty that they will face danger. In fact they have already been in danger, but so far Jesus has kept them safe. Soon he will leave them by death, and then after his resurrection go back to be with the Father. So he asks the Father to take over their protection. So how are they in danger?
1) Vs 13 Jesus is leaving them – he's going to die, if they are not ready for it their worlds will be shaken. But Jesus prepares them so that they can be full of joy, not fear and sadness.
2) Vs 14 the world hates them because it hates Jesus and they belong to Jesus (He expects persecution – look back over ch 14-16 , esp. 15.18-19; 16.1-4)
3) Vs 15 the evil one will attack them – the world is motivated in its hatred of Jesus by its evil desires, how much more so the devil.
Now those same things apply to all Christians, we must also expect attack from the world and the devil. But they are especially true for this group of disciples at the point when Jesus dies. The whole thing looks like it's about to go under, all Jesus work in the world brought to a halt by his death. He leaves his work in their hands. If they are not faithful the church would never happen. So he prays especially and particularly for the disciples.
The disciples might be weak and under attack, but they don't need to fear, because God's got their back. It's worth us thinking about how this prayer was answered. We know from the rest of the NT and church history that they were attacked, and often violently so. They weren't protected from attack – they were attacked; the earliest traditions we have are that John was the only one of the disciples who was not martyred – and he spend long years imprisoned on the island Patmos – they were not preserved from attack, but they were preserved through attack – not one of them abandoned his faith in Jesus, even in violent death. And through amazing courage and obedience they brought the message of Jesus to the world.
Like the soldier going off to war and entrusting his most treasured possessions to his parents for safe keeping. Jesus knows what is about to face him, and he cares about the impact it will have on his disciples. And he knows what will face them and us in the time until he returns. So he takes time to re-assure us that he is caring for us, and that the Father cares for us too. His death is not an accident, and nothing that happens to us will be an accident either – the father is strong enough to hold on to us.
So Jesus asks God to keep the disciples strong in the faith, but he doesn't stop there – true faith isn't just a matter of right belief or right teaching, but about growing in the likeness of Christ, becoming more like God – and so Jesus makes a second request for his disciples:
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.
Sanctify means 'make them holy' – sanctify is the verb form of the adjective 'holy'. He's praying 'Make them holy Lord – set part for you, as I have been holy and set apart for you'.
If the disciples are going to hold on and remain faithful to Jesus then they need to be holy. Go back chapter fifteen and sixteen to see Jesus explaining this to them – he says 'remain in me, if you obey my commands you will remain in me'.
The disciples are going to represent Jesus just as Jesus represented the Father. God is holy, therefore Jesus sanctified himself – you can not represent a holy God if you are not sanctified. Now the disciples must be sanctified too.
The special toothbrush that is set apart for me only – I don't allow just anyone to use it, it's precious to me, set apart for me. Chappo's story of the girl who didn't realise she had her own tooth brush until she reached her teens (the story helps us to feel the weight of it, I need to get back to telling more stories). Jesus wants us to be set apart for him – makes sense if he died to win us for himself, why would he let other gods take us from him.
Having prayed specifically for the disciples he leaves behind Jesus goes on to pray specifically for us and all believers.
Make them one
Read Vs 20-23
20 "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. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Along with Glory to the Son, along with remaining in Jesus by keeping his commands, love for one another has been a constant theme in chapters 14-16. Our unity is the love that we share through our connection to Christ.
Notice that: Behind this prayer is the desire that Jesus will be known as he is, so that the Father will be known, so that people will put their trust in the Son and so come to know the Father – our unity reflects the unbreakable love the Father has for the Son and so makes them known in us! We are included in their unity when we are united to the Son, so the Father and the Son make their home in us through the agency of the Holy Spirit. So we share in their unity, and so their glory. And so our unity testifies to Jesus' unity to the Father, and so convinces others of his testimony and so wins more glory for the Father and the Son. We are already united in Christ – one body etc., but that we need to keep being united.
Not like military unity, spectacular displays of united marching in war times, uniformed, uniform regiments, parading by… not quite like that, not uniform, retain our individuality and our character etc. but we are to become more like Christ, not clones, but growing increasingly like him, even as we become increasingly who we are designed to be…
And since Jesus is so other person centred, since God is love, growing in Christ likeness means we will love one another as he has loved us. We will be known for our love.
But that's not all Jesus prays for us, he goes on to pray finally:
May they be with me where I am
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."
Here Jesus again prays for endurance of his people until they are made perfect with him in eternity. Think of that, Jesus wants us to be with him in heaven – this is the goal of our salvation – that God would win a people for himself. And that people will be gathered around the great and glorious throne and will spend all eternity glorifying the Father and the Son. For all eternity we will share in their glory in their reign. And our very presence in heaven testifies to God's great goodness and mercy – it's only by his grace that we can stand in heaven's courts.
So Jesus prayer is that we would be there in heaven and see that glory. Again I don't think this is narcissistic, simply a prayer that we would finally see him as he is – no longer cloaked in weakness, but glorious in his majesty. He is glorious, and to know him as he is requires that we see him in all his glory.
Let me illustrate – I once met a old and frail man – I was working in K Mart (think Primart version of a department store) and he came in to buy some shoes. He was unstable and having all kinds of trouble, I had to help him just to get his shoes on. I could have been tempted to pity him; he didn't look like much… I don't remember how we started chatting but he started telling me about his life. We talked about work - it turned out he had a very distinguished legal career. He went up in my estimation. We talked about sport – it turned out he had been captain of the Wallabies – that's the mighty Australian Rugby Team if you don't know. He went way up in my estimation.
He wasn't boasting or showing off. But in revealing things about himself he couldn't help but glorify himself because he'd done glorious things.
That's what Jesus is praying here – that he would be known as he is, in all his glory. Jesus came in apparent weakness and humility, so much so that many did pity him and reject him and despise him as weak and pathetic. But he came to reveal the Father to us, and in making him known he can not but be glorified – because we see that he is not weak as we assumed, but powerful, not foolish, but wise, not disgraced, but glorious. To see him as he is is to see his glory. 'Glorify me' is 'make me known as I am'.
Now what are we going to do with this prayer?
Well let me suggest some applications:
First take heart – Jesus is praying for you, for your growth in him and for your perseverance. He knows the trials and the difficulties we face and he prays for us through them. And Jesus' prayers are powerful and effective – God is with us in everything.
Second: Jesus first prayer is that he would be glorified – that should be our first and most desperate prayer too.
Jesus arranged his whole life around this, lived and died for it. We should too. The whole world is arranged around this, we should be too.
And so our prayers, and our lives should be for God's glory in Christ. So think back over the things you pray for – do they reveal a desire for God to be built up and glorified? Or do your prayers expose a heart full of other things, a heart full of love for yourself and your glory?
Third: Need to understand the importance of being holy – living for him, not for our own desires etc. Jesus wants us to be set apart as holy – to be set apart for God's use and not to be tainted by sinful desires and thoughts and actions.
Again the application is not just understand it, but pray it – for ourselves and for each other. Remember Jesus prayed expecting us to come under attack from the world and the devil and to face temptation. So we need to pray for each others sanctification, that God would set us apart from sin and keep us for himself. Fourth: Work and pray for unity – for love that reflects God's love. Thank God for the unity that we have in him and work to make it a reality.
This is God's glory shared with us – that the Son and the Father are perfectly united together, and we are caught up in that as we become their home, their dwelling place, and also their shared possession, bought at the price of Jesus' own blood.
Fifth: Put your hope in the resurrection of the dead – Jesus prays that we would endure to Heaven, not just to get over the line, but to enjoy eternity with him – a great hope, and a sure and certain hope. Dwell on that hope so that it will sustain you in faith and obedience.
Take heart – Jesus prayers are answered by the Lord – he will have the church for which he died as the hymn puts it.
And Jesus concerns are greater than our feeling good, or being happy or being comfortable, his concerns for us are eternal – not that we should be protected from persecution for example, but that we should be sustained through it so that we would be sanctified and not miss out on being with him where he is to share in his glory.
This is the greatest prayer that we can be praying for ourselves, our families and our Christian brothers and sisters. So let's pray.