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John's Gospel, a New Look - Number 19, Chapter 17: Jesus Prays
The three vital prayers of Jesus.
After giving the disciples important information on the Holy Spirit and reassuring them about the support they will continue to get, Jesus now turns to his Father in heaven. He prays for himself, for his disciples and then for believers in every age.
Prayer for himself.
The first prayer is for the completion of his work here on earth, that God would glorify him and in so doing Jesus may glorify his Father (17:1). After all, this is why he came to earth. In this heartfelt prayer Jesus submits his will to his Father in heaven as he knows his time on earth is coming to an end.
Jesus prays for his disciples.
In this prayer there are two imperatives; firstly "to protect them" (vs.11) and then "to sanctify them". These two needs go hand in hand; that is, protection from evil, and receiving holiness. As we move away from the many temptations that Satan continues to throw at us, we need all the help we can get and that so God provides that. Paul reminds Christians that they will not be tempted beyond what they can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13) This keeps us in the saved relationship that we enjoy as adopted children of God, while living a sanctified life. The whole prayer is centred around the one essential and vital point: eternal life. This is after all why Jesus came to this earth, "to seek and to save the lost" as we find recorded in Luke 19:10. It is then also the reason why John is writing this Gospel as he states in 20:31 "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name". (NIV translation)
Jesus prays for the followers in every age.
Living in the world we have joy knowing that our sins have been forgiven and that we enjoy this new relationship with God.(Hebrews 10:14 Romans 8:9-11,16)
There are four privileges that can be found in this prayer by Jesus for the Christian life. Firstly there is enlightenment: "They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me" (vs.8). Then there is preservation: "..protect them by the power if your name..."(vs.11). Salvation means lasting security. Thirdly there is joy. Jesus offers them "the full measure of my joy within them". (vs.13) In the fourth place there is sanctification. Sanctification means to be made holy and set apart for a specific purpose. So we have been called to be "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)
Sanctification brings with it the responsibility of commission. We are saved to serve. "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world". (vs.18) Jesus gave his final instruction to his disciples just before his ascension, as recorded in Matthew 28:18,19 and Mark 16:16, to go into all the world and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now the words spoken to Nicodemus in John 3:5 can be fully understood. To be sanctified, to become a child of God, a person has to believe and be baptised to receive the indwelling Spirit that gives life, that counsels, guides, transforms and empowers. (Acts 2:38; Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 3:18)
Jesus also prays for unity and fellowship. Unity means being of the same mind and belief. United with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. The word instructs us in the truth and so we need to follow what Jesus taught. Often we are divided by opinions and manmade doctrines and teachings in Christianity (Matthew 7:21;15;8,9) and that bring the Church into disrepute as people are confused by the divisions that exist. No wonder Jesus prayed about it.
Notice that Jesus does not pray that his followers be taken out of the world. A Christianity that leads Christians to withdraw from the world is useless. Rather the followers of Christ are to be a light in the world. (Matthew 5:14; "You are the light of the world...") Jesus gives his followers the victory to overcome the world.
Jesus closes the prayer with a request for the fellowship that exists between the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the believer. Here he is praying about the way Christians are united with God and so partake in the divine essence of God. (Colossians 2:9,10)
Now the time of teaching and prayer is completed and in the last four chapters John records the events that took place as Jesus goes to the cross and how he rose from the dead, paving the way for us to also have life in his name.