Through the Bible in One Year

Day 167

John 17:1-12

We have now ended Jesus’ period of teaching and what we see in John chapter 17 is Jesus’ prayer for his all of his disciples (past, present and future).  Jesus prayed to the Father immediately after telling his disciples that in this world they would have trouble.  Chapter 17 is Jesus’ longest recorded prayer.  The prayer can be divided into three sections: Jesus’ prayer for himself, his prayer for his disciples and his prayer for future believers.

Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples shows our Lord’s deepest desires for his followers, both then and now.  It is also a Spirit-inspired example of how anyone who is any position of authority or leadership should pray for those who come under their authority.  In praying for those under our care, our greatest concerns should be:

  1. That they may know Jesus Christ and his Word intimately (vv. 2-3).
  2. That God may protect them from the evil influences of the world, keep them from turning away from him and give them discernment to recognize and reject ungodly beliefs and false spiritual teaching (vv. 6, 11 and 14-17).
  3. That they may constantly possess the full joy of serving Christ (v.13).
  4. That they may live be God’s standards of purity and truth in thoughts, actions and character (v. 17).
  5. That they may be unified in love and purpose, just as Jesus and his Father are (vv. 11 and 21-22).
  6. That they may lead others to Christ (vv. 21 and 23).
  7. That their faith will endure so they will one day be with Christ in heaven (v. 24).
  8. That they may constantly experience God’s love and presence (v. 26).

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.—17:1-5

Three thoughts stand out in these opening verses: Jesus’ confidence in the Father’s plan, Jesus’ passion for the Father’s glory and Jesus’ gift of eternal life to those given to him by the Father.  Jesus addressed God as Father.  Instead of praying for rescue from this hour, he prayed that God would glorify him so that he in turn might glorify the Father.  Jesus prayed, “Glorify your Son,” and he concluded the opening section by asking his Father to glorify him with his preincarnate glory.  The Father gave Jesus authority to give eternal life.  Believers are God’s gift to his Son.  Eternal life is defined relationally as knowing God and Jesus Christ.  Knowing means more than just intellectual apprehension or merely knowing about God and Jesus; it means knowing God and Jesus in personal way through faith.  Jesus glorified the Father by completing the work the Father gave him, especially his death on the cross.  Jesus spoke as if the work were already accomplished because there was no doubt that it would be.

Now let’s look in greater detail at this concept of eternal life.  Eternal life is more than an endless existence.  Eternal life is to know God, which is made possible through his Son, Jesus Christ.  God is not looking to spend eternity with people who have not taken time to get to know him in this life.  Through faith and devotion to Christ, we can experience the highest fulfillment in life and accomplish the purpose God wants for us.  Let’s consider how the New Testament describes eternal life.

  1. It is a present reality (John 5:24 and 10:27-28)—Eternal life is something Christ’s followers receive as a gift (Romans 6:23).  Those who are followers of Christ experience it in part from the moment they accept his forgiveness for sin and yield their lives to him.  However, we do not maintain eternal life based merely on a past decision to accept Christ.  That decision allows us to begin experiencing the benefits of this new life as we continue to grow in a relationship with Jesus.  Experiencing eternal life right now requires an active, ongoing faith and a deepening relationship with Christ because there is no eternal life apart from a relationship with him.
  2. It is a future hope.—Eternal life is the glorious opportunity to live forever with God.  Entering that aspect of eternal life is associated with either passing from this life through physical death or going with Christ when he returns for his faithful followers.  But experiencing eternal life is dependent on living by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 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. 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.—17:6-12

The central portion of Jesus’ prayer focuses on his intercession for his disciples.  This section divides into three thoughts: Jesus’ profess report on his disciples, his prayer for their spiritual protection and his prayer that they would be set apart to proclaim the gospel in the world.  Jesus revealed God’s nature to the disciples.  Now that they knew what God is really like, they were able to understand that God is the source of everything that has been given to the Son.  Jesus’ teaching was an example of this, and as a result, the disciples believed that Jesus came from God.  He prayed next for their spiritual protection from Satan and the world.  He prayed not for the world but for those God gave him.  His followers were no longer part of the world.  Jesus used the term “world” here to refer to human opposition to God.  His departure was near, and he was concerned about his disciples, who would remain behind.  Jesus desired that his followers be protected spiritually and remain united.  Evil powers would attempt to destroy their unity, and only God’s presence and power could preserve it.  The thought of unity is repeated again in vv. 21-23.  Jesus protected his disciples while he was present with them, and he did not lose a single one the Father gave him.  The one exception was Judas, and this was according to the Scriptures.

What we must take out of this prayer is simply this: Christ’s prayer for protection, joy, love, unity and sanctification applies only to those who belong to God because of their faith in Christ.  Those who genuinely belong to God will continually resist ungodly influences and beliefs as they remain separate from the behaviors and lifestyles that are common in the world.  They are able to do this because they accept and obey the commands, standards and teachings of Christ as revealed in his Word.  And we will pick up from here tomorrow as we finish John chapter 17 with the conclusion of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples then and then move into Jesus’ prayer for all his future disciples.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

1 Kings 20-21, Acts 12:24-13:15, Psalm 137:1-9 and Proverbs 17:16

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