(This sermon was preached on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO. You may listen to the sermon in its entirety here.)
This morning, we will be starting a new emphasis entitled “Jesus Is.” And this morning, we will be looking at an incredible chapter in the Bible, John 17. This is known as Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” This is an incredibly moving prayer as it stands. But we have known that prayer often comes in the cauldron of difficult circumstances. Haven’t you noticed this in your life? God brings along difficult circumstances, trials, and tribulations in order for us to recognize more fully our need for Him—to cast our cares on him because he cares for us. We humble ourselves.
But think about the times when you have gone through these circumstances, and you know that someone is praying for you during that time. Don’t you find strength? And no, it’s not a psychosomatic type of pseudo-strength but a power from on High.
Now think about the fact that none other our Savior is offering up this prayer! And that he is not simply praying for Himself, and not simply praying for His disciples—he is praying for all who believe in Him and those who believe in the testimony of the disciples—the New Testament writers. He is praying for those who have surrendered to Christ. He is praying for His church—and if we have surrendered to Christ, He is praying for us!
In 1 Timothy 2:5, we see that the apostle Paul tells us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” This is a priestly role, who intercedes to God for the sake of the people. Christ is the only mediator there is in order to come to the Father.
This prayer, as mentioned earlier, is offered in that cauldron of difficult circumstances. You have to go all the way back to John 13. After Jesus demonstrates true servanthood by washing their feet, he informs them that he will be crucified, that one of them will betray him, and another will deny him. In John 14, he goes into encouragement mode, “Do not let your heart be troubled—you believe in God, you believe also in me.” He then goes and tells them that he will go, but will come again and receive them unto himself so they will be where he is. He is the way to get there, the truth by which they get there, and the life by which they stay there eternally.
He also tells them that the Spirit will come, and how through him they are to stay connected to the vine! Israel had always been signified as a vine, but Jesus adopts this to show that only spiritual life and nourishment can come through Him.
But now Jesus prays. This closes this important section of the Gospel of John. Christ begins to pray. Through this prayer, we will see all the things that the Father gave His Son. This is important to see the position of the Son, which stands interceding for us. As he prays, we see that the Father gave Him …
- … authority over all flesh
- … this authority is for the purpose of “giving eternal life to all whom you have given him. Thus, as a gift, the Father gave His Son a chosen people.
- … His name (v. 11)
- … His Word (v. 8, 14, 17-19)
- … His glory ( v. 24-26).
This is significant! And this One stands and prays for us, intercedes for us as our great High Priest!
1. Jesus prays for His Father to glorify Him (John 17:1-5).
In John 17:1-5, Jesus comes in:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father,the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Jesus asked for the Father at this hour to glorify Him. This may seem odd to those of us who are followers of Christ, wondering why Jesus would on the surface seem to say something so self-serving. Actually, this mindset could not be further from the truth.
We see this in Philippians 2:5-11:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus could only be exalted when he was ultimately humbled by leaving his eternal home to come to the place He created among people who were born in abject and open rebellion against him. God exalted Him to the highest place, but only after he submitted to His Father’s will by going to the lowest place: death on a cross.
Martin Luther beautifully addresses this in his contrast of what he termed the theology of glory versus the theology of the cross. The theology of glory speaks of this glory as a demonstration of power and wisdom—even wealth. It is power in ways that most human beings would think. But in the theology of the cross, God reveals His power not through physical might and strength, but hides it in weakness. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18:
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
So Christ would be glorified. How? By becoming a celebrity? Fame? Fortune? A life of ease? No, his glory would come ultimately through his death on a cross!
Our glory as well comes through suffering! He told them in John 15 and will say in this prayer that the world will hate them because they hated Him first! But do we want celebrity? Do we want to be well thought of, even in church, and if so, on what basis? We seek to glorify Christ by loving Christ. If people love us because of our love for Christ, praise God. If people hate us because of our love for Christ and His Word—will we choose them, or will we choose Christ?
2. Jesus prays for His Father to keep His disciples (17:6-19).
Jesus had a vested interest in the twelve who stood with him as we was praying. He had chosen them out of the world. Whereas God by his gracious choice gave His people to Christ, he called the Twelve especially for a task. In John 6, after an especially hard teaching, Jesus knew that the majority would not follow him. In John 6:65, he says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” He turns to the disciples and says, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil” (John 6:68-70).
So only by the grace of God are the disciples and we chosen and rescued out of our sin, but Jesus is praying that by this same way are we kept, protected, and equipped to persevere in the faith. How? In three ways:
Jesus prayed that they would be kept in His name. In verse 6, Jesus manifested the name of the Father to His people, the church, that were given to him out of the world. And it is by this name that he prays they are kept. Look at verse 11: “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
The understanding of this is that they may be kept by the character, by the power, and in loyalty to your name. Again, they would be chosen by God because of His grace, and they would be kept—and it would not be based on their faithfulness.
Look back at John 16:29-33:
29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
These disciples were spoken to plainly. They felt they had arrived. They felt they had turned a corner. But Jesus reminds them that they would fail. In Christ’s greatest time of need, they would be scattered. But they would be kept
Jesus also prays they be kept from the evil one. Who is this evil one? Satan himself, the adversary. The apostle Peter warns of him:
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The evil one first appeared in God’s garden in Genesis 3. We must be aware of His schemes, for the first words that he speaks are this: “Did God really say… ?” The evil one is out to have his disciples question his Word—and thus have others who follow question His Word. Not only questioning His Word, questioning God’s name, His character, His work—everything about Him. They would be sorely tempted when the guards would come to arrest Jesus.
Jesus prays they be kept in His sanctifying Word. In verse 8, Jesus said that “I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed you have sent me.” As God called them out of the world, he converted and crafted their hearts to believe His words!
So now they would be kept in that way. John 17:17-19:
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
The Word of God saves, and the Word of God sanctifies. Spurgeon once said, “A Bible which is falling apart usually belongs to someone who is not.” And Christ begs his Father to sanctify them continually. We are set apart by the Word for the propogation of the Word. In Ephesians 2:19-21, the apostle Paul says:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
The Spirit-filled, Word-driven, Christ-centered disciples would be the foundation for all that would happen after his resurrection.
3. Jesus prays for all who will believe in their testimony (John 17:20-26).
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
In the sanctifying work of the Word by which these disciples were consecrated, there would be others who would follow and believe in Christ through the Spirit’s work through them. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
We would be remiss in not mentioning this: Jesus prayed for everyone of us in this room who have believed in Him or would believe. May this be of great encouragement to you that our Savior, knowing that within days he would be butchered upon a cruel cross as an innocent man paying, he was praying for us! In what way is he praying for us?
Verse 21: that they may all be one, just you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
He prays for our unity! Unity how? The unity that is found in the Trinity! The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in purpose and one in love.
So we are unified in the truth. “It is not achieved by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator.” We are united in the full truth of God’s Word, not just ‘the basics.’ We are constantly moving forward and digging into unity through the truth.
When playing a piano, you notice that certain notes get along with each other better than others. If I played a middle C along with the E a third above it, it sounds nice. They get along. But if I play a C and a C#, those two sounds clash.
Some of us are C’s, and we come alongside E’s, and it’s easy street. Some of us those have our C#’s as well. But if you play an entire song filled with all the notes in different spots, it’s beautiful music—even with all of those notes. That’s a harmonious church!
We are united also not just in harmony, but in hope! Look at John 17:24-26:
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
He speaks of this as if it has already happened.
Does this prayer that Jesus prays apply to us? Are we in His Kingdom? Remember, He is not praying for everyone in the world here—he is praying for those whom the Father has given to Him, the Church! Have you surrendered to Christ? Is He drawing you to Himself today? What an advocate Christ is—may He be your advocate today!