John 17:1-26 The Prayer Of Christ
1. The Bible records that Christ had continuous fellowship with God the Father and lived in constant prayer. It tells us that at times he prayed all through the night. But, the words of Christ's prayers are barely recorded in the New Testament scriptures. That means that this passage is all the more precious. We ought to be grateful to the gospel writer who recorded for us the prayer of Christ.
2. First, we can learn through the words written here how we ourselves should pray. The prayer of Christ, in which he prayed to the heavenly Father as a human being just like us, shows us a model for prayer. And also what is written here has special significance as a prayer that God the only [begotten] Son prayed to God the Father. It is a prayer in which the one who prayed had eternal communion with God the Father. Therefore, this prayer is a prayer that continues to live for ever. The Bible teaches us that "The Christ Jesus who had been raised from the dead is sitting on the right hand of God and is interceding on our behalf," (Romans 8:34). Just as Christ had once prayed with these words, he continues to pray even now on our behalf.
Putting Our Attention On The Future
3. Christ ate a meal with his disciples and spoke with them. It was only a mere handful of persons who had remained there with him. That was all who had remained after three years of Christ's preaching work. And worse than that, the disciples who had remained were truly weak and impoverished. Christ spoke to even Peter whom we might call the top disciple as follows: "I clearly say to you. Until the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me," (13:38). In addition, the Lord said concerning the other disciples that "The time is coming when you will be scattered, go back to your homes and leave me alone," (16:32). Soon these things came true. Christ knew everything about his disciples as well as his own situation that he was in. In a short while he knew that he would be abandoned by all and that he had to be crucified.
4. But, this same Christ prayed like this, "O Father, the time has come. In order so that your son will come to reveal your glory, please give glory to your son," (verse one). The words of his prayer are so surprisingly filled with victory! Then after that come some more very unexpected and surprising words.
5. Please look at verse eight. "For, I have passed on to them the words that I had received from you, and they have accepted them, and truly know that I have come from you, and believed that you have sent me." Isn't this an overstatement, by any way you might measure it? Was it really so that they "truly know [that I have come from you]" and "believed [that you have sent me]?" If it was, how could it be that they forsook the Lord and ran away, etc.?
6. And that's not all. "I have received glory through them," (verse ten). That's how the Lord prays. What is it that they did that resulted in glory for Christ!? Then, in verse eleven he says this, "It is so that they will become one like we are." This is also a statement that is so very far from the reality. If you go by the other gospels, even while seated at the last supper, they were arguing over who would be the greatest, weren't they?, (Luke 22:24).
7. Then, in verse twenty he even prays like this, "Also, I ask on behalf of not only them, but even for those who will believe on me through their words." We must read this casting aside the preconception that the ones who were there would later be the apostle Peter and the apostle John. If we look at their actual miserable state right then and there, the words of a prayer like this should never even have appeared in the text as far as we could tell. As he has right before him disciples who would abandon him and scatter off, how could he pray regarding "those who will believe on me through their words?"
8. But, folks, you see this is different, this is the prayer of Christ. Christ did not pray looking at them as they appeared just then in front of him. He prayed looking ahead at their future. He did not pray looking at their actual miserable state. He prayed looking upward to the reality1 of God the Father. In addition, in this same way Christ offered himself in prayer even for us. It was not on our present weaknesses and wretchedness that Christ looked upon. He intercedes on our behalf all the while looking at the figure of what we will become according to the workings of the true1 God the Father. Also, we are being shown that this is how prayer really is. Since that's how prayer is supposed to be, then we too should pray like that. We mustn't forget the image of the Christ who prayed with his pitiable disciples before him yet all the while thinking of the many who would be saved through them.
Please Guard2 Them
9. Let's keep on looking at the contents of what Christ prayed. In verses six and on down, breaking it up into big [chunks], he prayed four things in particular. Two are for the disciples right there before him and two are for those who would believe in Christ through the disciples. On all counts, it is a prayer that has great significance for us.
10. The first is the prayer to "Please guard them." "I will no longer be in the world. They will remain in the world, but I am going to you. O Holy Father, please guard them according to the name which you have given me. It is so that they too will become one just as we are," (verse eleven).
11. "Please guard them according to the name," is a phrase that can just as well be translated "Please keep them in the name." What Jesus is praying is not just that they be protected from disasters and testing. That's not his prayer, rather it is a prayer that they always be in the name, in the name of God. In other words, if I put it in easy to understand language, it is that they would always be persons who would belong to God. It means [a prayer] that they would not separate from God and go outside the name of God ever. Christ prayed that all of the disciples would become one and be able to remain in fellowship with God the Father.
12. However, this is not a prayer that "they might build a community of only believers who are separated from the world." Believers generally tend to seek such a thing. But, Christ prayed this way, "What I ask is not that you take them out of the world, but that you guard them from the evil one,3 (verse fifteen). Christ is seeking for them to remain in the world. Because they have a mission in this world. Later Christ says this, "As you have sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world," (verse eighteen).
13. We do not separate from the world and preserve our faith. We are called to live as persons sent into the world. Christ has a purpose for us. Our lives are not just for ourselves. We do not live in the world for ourselves, we live in the world for Christ.
14. Still though, living by faith in this world is also a battle. The real adversary on the other side of the battle is not the world. It is not the people around us. No matter how much persecution a person undergoes, the real enemy is not the oppressor. Christ didn't pray that "they might be protected from the world," did he? No, he didn't, but he did pray that "he might protect them from the evil one(s)." The evil one(s) does not refer to what might be called "sinners." If we put this in English it would be The Evil One or The Devil, Satan. It is the great power that would tempt us to sin, to draw us away from God and would seek to destroy us. We must not keep living within such a power as that that is at work. The more we think of the power of "The Evil One" the more we understand the blessedness of Christ's praying for us. Without Christ's intercession for us, we could not remain in the name of God for even a second. Our existences are that weak. It is by no means our own power that has gotten us to where we are now. Therefore, in agreement with Christ's prayer, we too must seek by prayer for God's protection.
15. And the second [part of] the prayer is the prayer to "Please make them holy persons," (verse seventeen). What this becoming a "holy person" is about is not about becoming a so-called "saint." It means to live as a person who belongs to God. If we use the word from verse nineteen, it means "to become a person who is offered up [as a sacrifice to God]." The prayer of Christ has a passive side, that says "that they might be protected in the name of God." But, on the active/positive side, it has "that they might be enabled to live as persons offered up to God, that they might be able to live as God's people."
16. As we read previously in verse eighteen, Christ has sent us into the world. But, whenever we hear "to live on mission," don't we always turn our thoughts first on the what it is that we are doing? But, Christ does not pray "that they might be able to perform illustrious works." He prays "that they might become persons offered up to God." The really important thing is not what you have accomplished in life. It is to whom did you belong. It is [so] whether you are healthy or bed ridden. It is [so] whether you are talented or just average. He sent you as persons into the world like that in all kinds of capacities and conditions. Thus, the first thing that is important is not what can I do, but rather am I living belonging to Someone. The glory of God is revealed in the place where we live belonging to God.
Please Make Everyone One
17. Then, Christ prays on behalf of those who might believe in him through his disciples. The third [part] of the prayer was the prayer that "O Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, please make everyone one. Please make it so that they too might be in us," (verse twenty-one). When Christ prayed for his disciples and also when he prayed looking into the hearts of generations and generations of Christians his prayer was "please make everyone one." In reality, how difficult it really is for people to live with people and become one! But, Christ prayed that it might be a reality in the church first and foremost. It doesn't just mean that they might be one organizationally. It isn't an ecumenical type one worldish body. It is the prayer that "please make it so that they might be in us." In other words, it is the prayer that people might be able to live together in a fellowship of trust and love with Christ and God the Father. He is looking for them to become one in community with God.
18. If we truly look to live together in harmony, we must remain in fellowship with God. The fervency of a believer and this matter of a believer being in a living fellowship with God is not always the same thing. More frequently than not they are different things. A sense of mission that lacks prayer, a fervency that has lost true worship will bring division and strife and will only poison the body of the fellowship. We should not forget that we are called into fellowship with God the Father and Christ and that Christ prayed to that end. Consequently, we must seek for that in prayer, too.
19. Finally, Christ prays, "O Father, please make those whom you have given me be with me where I am." Christ prayed that ultimately we might be able to be together in the world to come. Our fellowship with our Lord to whom we are given and our fellowship with one another does not end with this world. Because Christ himself willed that he be with [us] for ever. Christ prayed to that end. What a blessing that will be!
20. This is the prayer of a Man by himself who has only eleven miserable disciples right before him, and who is keeping his death on the cross close to him. Oh, that they might be kept in His name, and that they might become persons offered up to God, and that the people might believe in Christ through them and become one in fellowship with God, and that they might ultimately be with Christ for all eternity.-- If we had been there and heard this, it would have surely sounded like an unrealistic and simplistic ideal. But, in prayer an ideal turns to certain hope worthy of our turning to. Christ did pray. He wants this for us and prays even now. He prayed while looking at not our current state but at our future. Since that is so, we too should sincerely covet for these things in our prayers. We are to truly become persons offered up in dedication to God, be in fellowship with God and become one, and on the day that is coming soon we are to be with Christ. We too want to beg in prayer for this as we are supported by the prayer of Christ.
1 Same words. God is the truth, the reality and as such he is true, loyal, faithful. All these meanings are packed into this word.
2 Guard, protect, or keep.
3 The Japanese is ambiguous here so that it could mean "the evil people, the evil ones, or the evil one, that is, Satan." Even the original Greek text seems ambiguous at first glance.