The Fifty-Third in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
As you read through Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” prayer in John 17, one thing virtually jumps out of the text. In this prayer we immediately see the deep and abiding relationship Jesus has with his Heavenly Father. Although the gospels tell us that Jesus often spent time in prayer with the Father, little is revealed about the content of his prayers. But in John 17 we are given insight into Jesus’ prayer life when we see his fervent desire to obey the Father’s will, and bring glory to himself and to his Father. We also see Jesus’ concern for his disciples–from whom he is about to depart. Jesus knows that because his disciples have received and believed his word, the world will hate them, just as it hates all those who value God’s word over human opinion. Another thing we will notice in this prayer is that Jesus’ redemptive work is focused upon saving those specific individuals whom the Father has given to the Son. It is far too commonplace for professing Christians to sneer at Reformed Christians for supposedly “limiting the grace of God.” Yet, this focus upon salvation being accomplished for the elect arises not from the cold Calvinist heart, but directly from the passionate prayer of Jesus in John 17, who prays “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
For a number of weeks, we have been considering the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17), as Jesus prepares his disciples for his imminent departure from them–which, as they are discovering (but are having trouble accepting), includes our Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension. We have completed the teaching portion of the Upper Room Discourse, and we are now working through Jesus’ final moments with his disciples, when Jesus stops to pray, before departing for Gethsemane and his fateful encounter with Caiaphas (the high priest) and members of the Sanhedrin, who will arrest him. The content of the so-called “High Priestly Prayer”–which is the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in the Bible–is given in John 17. In this prayer, Jesus prays first for himself (vv.1-5), then for his disciples (vv. 6-19), and then, finally for all those who will come to faith (that’s us) through the word of the disciples (vv. 20-26). We are considering the second section of the High Priestly Prayer in which Jesus prays for his disciples.
In our last sermon on John 17 (vv.1-5), we covered the first portion of the “High Priestly Prayer” in which Jesus prays for himself. Knowing that is about to be arrested and will then suffer and die, Jesus lifts his eyes toward heaven and prays to his Father that he (Jesus) would be glorified with that same which glory he possessed throughout eternity in the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit. We observed last time, that before returning to the Father, Jesus must complete his messianic mission by securing eternal life for all those given him by the Father. This, Jesus says, he has done–and is about to finalize–through his impending death and resurrection. Those who, as Jesus puts it, “know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,” are the ones for whom Jesus is praying (in the balance of the prayer), and these are the ones for whom Jesus has completed his messianic mission. In accomplishing his messianic mission, Jesus will bring glory to the Father and, in turn, bring glory to himself through his death, resurrection, and ascension.
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