The Fifty-Fourth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
When Jesus prays for his disciples, there is one very important point of emphasis–that all of those whom Jesus will redeem, might be one. As Jesus prays, he asks that as he and the Father are one, so too may his people be one, so as to witness the glory of the Father and the Son, and to bear witnesses to the watching world that Jesus has been sent by the Father. If, in the one time in which we learn the contents of Jesus’ prayer for his people, and the thing for which Jesus prays is that we might be one, then we should get some sense of how important it is that we indeed strive to be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one. And yet, we must be careful not to disconnect the goal (unity) from the means by which the goal is attained, sanctification by the truth. This, then, is our focus as we consider the final section of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.
In this sermon we wrap up our time discussing the Upper Room Discourse as we conclude the 17th chapter of John’s gospel. The scene is well familiar to us–Jesus wraps-up the teaching portion of the discourse, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples. Knowing that his hour has come and that Jesus must now leave for Gethsemane–where he will be arrested, before standing trial, culminating in his crucifixion and burial the next day–Jesus stops to pray. His prayer makes up the entirety of John 17. Known as the “High Priestly Prayer” (the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in the New Testament), Jesus prays first for himself (vv. 1-5), then for his disciples (vv. 6-19), and then finally for us (in vv. 20-26)–all those who will come to faith in Jesus through the word preached by the disciples, and which is now inscriptured in the pages of our New Testament.
As we saw last time, when we covered verses 6-19 and considered Jesus’ prayer for the disciples, Jesus states in verse 9, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” According to Jesus’ prayer, he will give eternal life and faith to all those (but only those) whom the Father has given to him. In this petition, Jesus is referring to those specific individuals chosen by the Father for eternal life in eternity past (in the so-called covenant of redemption), and who are then given to Son, who, in turn, will secure for them the blessings of salvation through his suffering and dying upon the cross. That Jesus came to save those specific individuals given him by the Father is the foundation of the Reformed distinctive often identified as “particular redemption.”
In the final section of our Lord’s “High Priestly Prayer” (vv. 20-26) Jesus prays for those yet to come to faith at the time of his prayer–his is praying for all those Christians from the apostolic age until our own. Jesus’ focus upon those yet to come to faith grows directly out of his prayer for the disciples (in vv. 6-19). In verse 15, Jesus petitioned his Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Jesus’ disciples will not live lives free from suffering and persecution–far from it. All but one (John) will die as a martyr. Jesus does not ask that his disciples be spared from the troubles about to befall them just hours away (and of which, they are blissfully ignorant). Instead, Jesus asks that the Father protect the disciples from the evil one (Satan), who seduces one of their own number (Judas) to commit the despicable act of treason leading to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
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