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Last Prayer

John 17

This is one of the dramatic moments of the New Testament. Christ ends the Passover in the Upper Room with one last public prayer. It is often referred to as his “High Priestly Prayer” because it involves all the elements of intercession, just as a High Priest would intercede for the people.[1] We will look at it in a different light in this lesson. First, the words of our Lord:

1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

6“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. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For 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. 9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I 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. 12While 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.

13“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify£ them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

20“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Christ and the Father

This prayer concerns all of us; but it is primarily a prayer from the Son to the Father. As such, it gives us some light on the relationship of the two.

Equality with the Father

This prayer shows us some elements in which Jesus, the Christ, can be said to be equal to the Father:

  • They both share the same heavenly glory.
  • Each has eternal life “in himself” – that is to say, he does not obtain it from another, as we will.
  • There is an equality of possessions – all Christ has belongs to the Father, all the Father has belongs to Christ.
  • Those who have obtained eternal life know the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son.
  • Finally, there is that mystic “one-ness” which so frequently arises in Christ’s prayers – that He and the Father are one.
Supremacy of the Father

In the very same prayer we see evidence that the Father is superior to the Son (there is no evidence, anywhere in the Bible, that holds the Son superior to the Father).

  • The Father gives the disciples to Jesus – a gift, not a tribute.
  • It is the Father who grants authority to the Son.
  • Indeed, Jesus here tells us that the very words he speaks were given to him by the Father. Interpreted most crudely, this would make him a puppet. Rather, this expresses one-ness again. But even in that one-ness there is the flow from the Father through the Son and into us.
  • The Father is the one who gives the work to the Son – for the Son tells us that he has completed the work the Father has given him.
  • Most telling is this: the Father sends the Son into the world

This seems most curious. The Father and the Son are one; but the Father cannot be seen like the Son. The Son takes his orders from his Father. How can this be resolved? The ancients simply put it this way: He is equal to the Father “as touching his Godhood” and inferior to the Father “as touching his manhood.”

Christ – past, present and future

The passage also drops in quite a bit of information about Jesus. The items he listed in this prayer are the ones he thought his disciples should listen to; they are facts about Jesus (past, present and future) which we should know – and are of first importance.


By past we mean something which Jesus did before the time of this prayer.

  • He has brought glory to the Father by his ministry on earth. Do you see how it is that all that Jesus does points us to God the Father?
  • He has revealed the Father to those disciples selected. If God does not choose to make himself known, we can know very little of Him. If He chooses to make himself known, then we must know him by his words and by his example.
  • He has given the disciples “the word” – the teaching of the last three years. That time is now at an end.
  • He has protected them from the evil one by the power of the Name of God. Now Satan will have a chance to attack them directly.
  • He sent them into the world – as those who proclaim the good news.

Glory to God; the revelation of his Word, protection from evil – and the task of evangelism . These are the things Jesus wants you to remember about his earthly ministry.


Even as he prays this prayer, there is something to be learned.

  • “The time has come.” Surely you see that this implies the existence of the divine plan. Christ did not come when it was convenient; he came when all was ripe and ready. He did not come to stumble around on the planet; he came with a plan for our salvation. That plan is now about to come to its fruition. The Message? The Man Has A Plan.
  • He now prays for the disciples – and us. He does not pray for the world, and explicitly leaves them out. The Message? There is salvation by no other name; you’re with him or against him – no one comes to the Father except by the Son.
  • He tells them this – so that their joy may be complete. There is a short time of sorrow coming, then the dawn. When that dawn breaks, there will be great joy.

His prayer also looks to the future. What does he proclaim for the future?

  • First, that he will again be glorified as he was from the beginning. We shall see that glory when He returns.
  • Next, that he is about to go to the Father. Three days to the Resurrection; 50 days to Pentecost; 40 days to the Ascension – not a lot of time.
  • But He promises that he will continue to make known that which we need – so that the love of God may be in us.

His Commands to Us

All well and good; can we put down our pencils? Not just yet. There are lessons to be learned from this prayer! Lessons – on what we are to be, what he wants us to have and what he wants us to do.

He wants us to be…
  • In the world, but not of the world. He does not proclaim monasteries for the masses, but rather that the Christian keep himself separate from the world and its ways.
  • To be one – one body, one church. To be one to the same extent that He and the Father are one.
  • Sanctified – set apart for the service of God. How is this to be done? We are to be sanctified by the truth.
He wants us to have…
  • The knowledge of Christ and the Father. He wants fellowship with us; if we are to have that, we must know Him and know the Father. Therefore he hides nothing of who he is.
  • The full measure of his joy. He wants us to be rejoicing Christians, utterly unconquerable by the pains and grey drabness of our world.
  • Eternal life – he wants fellowship with us not just now but forever. He wants us to be like him, and he is eternal.
  • Christ in us – so much so that we shine with his love, and the world can see him in us.
He wants us to …
  • Intercede. If nothing else, this prayer is a model of intercession. We are to imitate our Lord.
  • Accept the word given to us. We are to study the Scriptures and find in them the Living Word.
  • Spread the Gospel. He sent the 12 out, he sent the 70 out. He prayed for them, He prayed for us – and He sends us out.

[1] You may find a lesson on such at http://www.becomingcloser.org/Life%20of%20Christ/intercession.htm

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