Wednesday – Jesus’ Last Prayer
John 17v1-5: Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said: Father, it’s time. Display the bright splendour of your Son So the Son in turn may show your bright splendour. You put him in charge of everything human so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendour, the very splendour I had in your presence before there was a world.
On Monday night we learnt about Jesus’ mission and identity. Then on Tuesday, we learnt about Jesus’ final teaching – teaching his disciples about the Kingdom and his going back to the Fahter via the cross. Now, Jesus quite rightly now turns to prayer. Firstly praying for Himself, then for His twelve disciples and then finally for all disciples of all generations to follow, the church. This prayer is probably the pinnacle of revelation in John’s gospel. Here we see Jesus’ very words, revealing an unparalleled intimacy with His Father. Jean Calvin said in his commentary on this chapter the following “After having preached to the disciples about bearing the cross, the Lord exhibited to them those consolations, by relying on which they would be enabled to persevere. Having promised the coming of the Spirit, he raised them to a better hope, and discoursed to them about the splendour and glory of his reign. Now he most properly betakes himself to prayer; for doctrine has no power, if efficacy be not imparted to it from above. He, therefore, holds out an example to teachers, not to employ themselves only in sowing the word, but, by mingling their prayers with it, to implore the assistance of God, that his blessing may render their labour fruitful. In short, this passage of the Lord Jesus Christ might be said to be the seal of the preceding doctrine, both that it might be ratified in itself, and that it might obtain full credit with the disciples.”
This scene, as portrayed by John, shows the importance of prayer and how when doing anything for the glory of God, it must be covered in prayer.
Jesus prays for Himself
Central to this part of His prayer is glorification. That is the glorification of Himself, in order that God the Father who sent Him will be glorified. Glorify is rarely used outside of church circles today. If ever it is, is usually in the context of somebody pretending to be better than they really are. Glorify means, in a biblical context, to have the person’s true nature disclosed. So in effect, Jesus is saying in John 17v1: “May people see me for who I truly am, your Son. And may they also through Me, see Your true nature Father!” Praying as He does, just before He knowingly goes to His death on the cross, shows the importance of the cross. For it is through the cross, that both God the Father, and Jesus will be glorified. Jesus’ death on the cross reveals a God of love, faithfulness and forgiveness. John 17v4 reveals that it was this purpose that He came, in order to complete the work given. Jesus’ entire earthly life has been one to show divine love – to all people of every age and class. All His works and words were completed without even a hint of hypocrisy. His entire life was driven by the desire to see sinful people turn to God for reconciliation and forgiveness.
At the cross and through the cross, this is achieved. Jesus confidently prays that having laid aside His glory by taking on human form, He will return to God’s right hand, having achieved the work of redemption through the cross. The theme of eternal life runs throughout John’s Gospel (John 3v15-16; John 10v28). Eternal life is knowing God personally and intimately, and that is only achieved by faith through Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a free offer and open to all. It is the responsibility of all people to take up the offer. Once the offered is taken up, the responsibility is then to tell others of this offer.
Jesus prays for His Disciples
John 14v6-8: I spelled out your character in detail to the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; then you gave them to me, and they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything you gave me is firsthand from you, for the message you gave me, I gave them; and they took it, and were convinced that I came from you. They believed that you sent me.
In this part of the prayer, Jesus prays for His disciples. Note how He describes them: they were chosen by God Himself, seen God in Jesus and have received God’s words and obeyed them (John 17v6). John 17v6, 9-10 tells us that the disciples were in the safe possession of both the Father and the Son. John 17v7-8 shows what the disciples know. Despite misunderstanding frequently what Jesus was talking about, the disciples still grasped that Jesus had come from God. Having taught that they will endure persecution and suffering because they are His followers, Jesus prays for their safety. They will be safe, not because of their own cunning, character or conduct. They will be safe because of God’s care and protection (John 17v11-12). As they are God’s possession, He will ensure that they are watched over and protected. This security is also borne from glorifying God and being witnesses for Him (John 17v10). God is glorified whenever His salvation plan is explained and told.
Who are the disciples’ enemies and why do they need protecting (John 17v11-12, 15)? The first enemy is the world who does not know God and is therefore in rebellion against God. The disciples were told of this prior to this prayer. Satan is also an enemy of the disciple and will do all he can to stop God being glorified in the life of the disciple. How will God keep them safe? Their safety comes only through His mighty name and nature. By remaining loyal to Jesus, obedient to His teachings and telling others about Him, God’s name & nature will therefore protect them.
Jesus also prays that they may be filled with joy (John 17v13) and be dedicated wholly and solely to Him. The disciples now have a mission and purpose to fulfil – to tell others of Jesus. This mission though whilst their responsibility is not theirs alone, but is the continuation of Jesus’ mission to bring people to reconciliation and relationship with God. Part of that mission is to live a holy life in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is the real and true pioneer evangelist! Living a holy life means living a life not for themselves but for the glory and obedience of Jesus Christ.
Jesus prays for all Christian Disciples
John 17v24-26: Father, I want those you gave me To be with me, right where I am, So they can see my glory, the splendour you gave me, Having loved me Long before there ever was a world. Righteous Father, the world has never known you, but I have known you, and these disciples know that you sent me on this mission. I have made your very being known to them – Who you are and what you do – And continue to make it known, So that your love for me Might be in them Exactly as I am in them.
Now Jesus prays for all those who, through the work of the disciples, will become His followers. As such, it brings all Christian disciples into intimacy with Jesus and a part of a dynamic relationship with Him.
What does Jesus pray for His church of followers? Jesus prays for unity. That is unity on various levels. Firstly it is unity on the invisible, supernatural level (John 17v21-22). The lives of all Christian disciples are inextricably linked to each other, through the love and obedience of God the Son and God the Father. Christian disciples are united together because Jesus imparts upon them, the glory given to Him by God the Father (John 17v22). This unity is also physical, in so much as through a visible unity, people will come to know Jesus personally and take up the offer of reconciliation with God (John 17v21, 23). This unity is also physically seen, through the telling of the message of reconciliation (John 17v20). That is why different churches must be seen to work together – a visible sign of unity reflecting the invisible unity.
Remember Jesus’ words earlier in John’s Gospel? John 15v12-14: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.“
Much later in his life, John must surely have reflected upon this when he writes in 1 John 3v16-24 “By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him? My little children, let’s not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade our hearts before him, because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have boldness toward God; and whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded. He who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit which he gave us.”
If the world sees Christian Disciples loving others sacrificially, then unity is seen and it is an effective witness to the reality of reconciliation with God, and a vibrant living relationship with Him. It is also imperative that prayer covers all the work of the church and the Christian – prayer is the foundation and the backbone, just as prayer was the strengthener for Jesus as He faced the cross. Without praying so earnestly that he sweated drops of blood, do you think He could have maintained the cross and its supreme significance for humanity?