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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

High Prayer

John 17

Lesson audio

(The reader will note that two rather different treatments of this chapter are also available on our web site. It is a very rich passage.)

Jesus Prays for Himself

John 17:1-5 NASB Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, (2) even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. (3) "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (4) "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. (5) "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Glory

The glory of God is a subject passing the perceptions of man. We can simply note a few items:

  • This glory of Christ is pre-incarnate. Christ is eternal, and before time was created (if I might say, “before”) the glory of God was the glory of Christ.
  • Stunningly, we are told[1] that we too shall receive this glory with Christ. You have never met a mere mortal!
  • This glory proceeds from the Father – for Christ asks to God to glorify him “with Yourself.” The glory of God is part of the very nature of God. As Aquinas might put it, it is one of God’s attributes, and therefore it is one of Christ’s attributes.
Authority

The Greek word here is not simply “authority” in English; it also carries with it the meaning of “power.” What is stunning in this passage is the purpose given for this authority. It is not so that Christ may lord it over humanity; rather, its purpose is so that we may have eternal life.

Think of that! So great is Christ’s authority that it extends to giving eternal life to those whom He loves. More than that, the reason such awesome authority is given comes out to be the love Christ has for us – that we might be saved.

Eternal life

There are two ways in which we may take the verb, “to know.” We use it to mean that we are acquainted with someone or something; we also use it to mean a deep understanding – as in, “he really knows his stuff.” The word used here could be translated, “really know.”

To really know what? Not what, who. First, to know God is eternal life. If you know God, you will know Christ (and vice versa). The “personal relationship” so beloved of Southern Baptists carries this truth: if you memorize the Scripture, but do not know the very heart of God, it is vanity, as Solomon would say.

Revelation of God

John 17:6-8 NASB "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. (7) "Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; (8) for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

The Father, the source

There is an old expression of the church that good things come “from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father.[2] What gift, then, has the Son brought us from the Father?

  • First, there is the Name of God. When you know someone by name, it’s personal! We do not worship an abstract “force” but one who has taken the astonishing step of introducing Himself personally.
  • We also have, obviously, the words of God – as revealed by Christ. Indeed, Christ is the Word of God.
  • Even the disciples themselves are gifts of God the Father, given to the Son. (Did you ever think of yourself as God’s gift to Jesus? Think about that one for a while.)
Through Christ

The Father is spirit; how can He give us things in a material world? Through His Son, who was sent into that material world for us. And what does this result in? Our belief, our faith. God did this for us, out of His great love.

Intercession for Disciples

John 17:9-13 NASB "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; (10) and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. (11) "I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. (12) "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (13) "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

Glory to Christ, from the disciples

Look at verse 10. Did you ever think of yourself as bringing glory to Christ? Well, you do – or at least you should. Christ speaks this aloud so that his disciples will know this fact, from which we may conclude that it is not entirely obvious. If we bring glory to Christ, do we not thus automatically bring glory to God? Makes you want to think about your conduct, doesn’t it?

Protected by the Name

There’s an obvious problem here. Christ is leaving – but the disciples are not. They are still in the world. They are citizens of the kingdom, and therefore the world hates them. Christ has overcome the world[3], but they haven’t. Yet. So Christ provides them with the protection they will need – not just to resist, but to triumph. A protection so strong that even death cannot threaten it – the Name of God. In this Name, triumph.

So why is Christ telling them this? Is it so that they won’t be so afraid? No; he is telling this to them so that they might have joy! In this we imitate our Lord, who despised the Cross for the joy set before Him.[4]

Disciples in the World

John 17:14-19 NASB "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (15) "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. (16) "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (17) "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (18) "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (19) "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

We have a problem: if we love Christ as we should, the world hates us.

In the world, not of the world

To every problem, there is a solution: neat, plausible, and wrong. Such a solution would be to simply take the disciples out of this world. Start again on another planet, say. God has chosen instead to protect us while we’re here.

But protect us from what? Persecution, beatings, death by the cruelest of means – millions of Christians have been quite literally crucified – doesn’t seem to be included. Nor are they. We are protected from the real dangers. Do not fear the one who can kill the body, but the soul.[5] We are citizens of the Kingdom of God; therefore we are aliens here. And you know how aliens are treated in this country.

 

Sanctified by Truth

Let us be clear about something. Christians are different. They’re sanctified, or holy. The word means to be set apart for a particular use. In our case, the use is spreading the kingdom of God. Why do we need to be set apart like that? Because of the Truth.

Truth has no fellowship with lies; truth that is mixed with lies is, by definition, no longer the truth. Each of us has a decision to make: go with the truth, or go with the convenient. If you choose the truth, that sets you apart.

God expresses this in prophetic language:

Zechariah 8:3 NASB "Thus says the LORD, 'I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.'

It appears that Truth is so much the nature of God, and is so inseparable from holiness, that even at His return we find this division.

Sent into the world

We may not be “of the world” but we are certainly sent into it. It is not an accident. The great commission is clear. But we may ask why God would do such a thing; why didn’t he send a string of angels (for example) to do the job?

Simply put, we are ambassadors of reconciliation.[6] As such, only humans will do – for an ambassador must be able to deal with the citizens of the land to which he has sent. We’re the ones who know, personally, what it is to be sinners – and what it is to be saved.

Prayer for the Church

John 17:20-26 NASB "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; (21) that they may all be one; even 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 sent Me. (22) "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; (23) I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (24) "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (25) "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; (26) and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

It is an astonishing fact: Christ, on the last night of his life, prays for us – the church.

Unity

He prays on our behalf for our unity. Why?

·         So that we may be like God – who is One, yet three persons.

·         For the sake of the lost – that they might see one church, just as there is one way to God.

·         For our own sakes – division in the church is painful!

Knowing God

All thought to the contrary withstanding, we’re the ones who know God – not the folks of the world. Oprah will create her God in her own image, and call it good. But the truth is not something we create; the Truth Is. We know that. We must proclaim what we know.

What the world should see in the church

We know one answer already: unity. But there is another here: unity – so that the world may know that the Father has sent Christ to us. Everything revolves around that mission: bringing others to know Who He Is. There is only one question that counts: “who do you say He is?”

How are they going to see that? What will convince them? The mechanism might be preaching, but the underlying power is this: the love of God. If we have the love of God within us, given by the Spirit, then we become a picture of Christ to the world. God is love, and love walked among us. Now we should walk in the world in that same love.


[1] Romans 8:17

[2] James 1:17; the phrasing is from the King James.

[3] John 16:33

[4] Hebrews 12:2

[5] Matthew 10:28

[6] 2nd Corinthians 5:19

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