Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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Jesus’ Final Prayer

November 22nd, 2009 by Vic

John 17

There are many things in John’s gospel that remind us this is a majestic unified piece of literature.  This chapter concludes the last major conversation that Jesus had with His disciples.  This conversation began in 13:1 and concludes in 17:26.  Notice the chiastic structure of this section.


13:1-38 Jesus makes God known in the love He demonstrates in the foot washing.  Through loving the disciples Jesus is glorified and God is glorified in Him.  The disciples will be the ‘sent ones’ of Jesus in the unity created by the love they have for one another.

14:1-31  Jesus warns the disciples of the challenges that will face them when He leaves.  They will be guided by the Comforter.  They will have the same love that unites the Father and Jesus, the Sent One.  Father

15:1-11  Oneness, Joy, and fruitfulness come from abiding in Jesus, the true vine, and being part of the oneness with the Father.

15:12-17 The disciples are to love as He has loved.  Son

15:18-16:3  Hatred, rejection, expulsion, and slaying will come from ‘the Jews’ the false vine.

16:4-33  Jesus warns the disciples of the challenges that will face them when He leaves.  They will be guided by the Comforter.  They will have the same love that unites the Father and Jesus, the Sent One.  Holy Spirit

17:1-26  Jesus has made God known in the perfect love he has shown to His disciples.  Through loving the disciples Jesus is glorified and God is glorified in Him.  The disciples will be recognized as the sent ones of Jesus in the unity created by the love they have for one another.


In every chiastic/pyramid structure, the focus is on the central verse.  Love one another as I have loved you.  Chapters 13-17 is all one message.  Chapters 13 & 17 have similar themes.  Chapters 14 & 16 have similar themes.  The middle verse of chapter 15:12 says love one another as I have loved you.  13:1 tells us of Jesus’ love for us.  17:26 Jesus prays that our love will be like His love.  The organization of these chapters is quality literature.

The death of Jesus is the hour that reveals the fullness of God’s glory (13:1; 17:5).  Jesus has made known that the Father has sent Him (13:3; 17:25).  We are also sent ones.   Compare 17:3 with 3:16.  How is eternal life related to Jesus and/or the Father?  What are the implications for us?

Four hundred years ago the Lutheran church started calling this chapter the High Priestly prayer of Jesus.  The word ‘Father’ occurs 3 times.  In 17:1 it is ‘Father’.  In 17:11 it is ‘Holy Father’.  In 17:25 it is ‘Righteous Father’.  The word “glory” or “glorify” occur eight times.

There is a command (an aorist imperative) in each of three sections.  In 17:1 Jesus says, “Glorify Thy Son!”  In 17:11 Jesus says, “Keep them in Thy Name!”  In 17:17 Jesus says, “Sanctify them in the Truth!” The grammar in each of these commands suggests that the action should be completed at a particular point in time.  Glorying, keeping, and sanctifying may be a process before the point of the action and it has continuing affects following the action, but the action will take place at a point in time.  So the commands to Glorify, keep and sanctify are about an action of God in our lives at a point in time.  Jesus is not commanding God to give us a holy life style, but a holy heart.  We are responsible for the life style.  Let’s look at Jesus’ prayer.

17:1 Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven, prays to the Father, and says He has finished making God known.

There are at least 4 different Greek words that are translated by our English word prayer.  The most common word is proseucomai.   It occurs 87 times in the N.T.  It is always used of prayer to God like in Luke 11:1-2.  He was praying…Lord teach us to pray…when you pray.  James 5:13-18 used this word 4 times.  But it is never used by John.

A related word eucomai occurs 7 times and 5 of those are translated wish in the KJV.  John does not use this word.  “I pray that you will help me.”

A third word is deomai.  It occurs 22 times in the NT and is translated beseech or besought 9 times.  Luke preferred this word for prayer.  This word was also widely used among early Christians for private and public intercession to God.  But John does not use this word either.

John uses the word erwtaw 28 times.  It is used a total of 57 in the NT.  The secular use of this word had contractual/legal connotations.  It suggested a process of asking an important question in order to draw up a contract or make a judgment.  The biblical use is a petition or an oral request of a friend rather than a judge.  For John, prayer was the request of a friend based on a prior contract or current relationship.  Prayer for John was not a formal routine.  Prayer was not a wish or a magical formula.  Prayer for John was talking to a friend with more authority than you have, knowing he would help.

I found 7 reasons for this prayer.

  1. Jesus prays for himself (1-8)

1. The time has come

2. To glorify God by giving us eternal life.

  1. Jesus prays for his disciples in the world (9-19)

3. (17:11) So we may be one

4. (17:13) So we may be protected

5. (17:19) So we may be sanctified

C. Jesus prays for God to be known (20-26)

6. (17:21) So we make God known

7. (17:26) So God’s love may be in us

1. Jesus prays because the time had come to which His whole life and mission have been moving.  (2:4; 7:6,8,30; 8:20)

(12:23; 13:1)  “Now”  It is the ‘now’ of God’s timing.  Jesus lived by God’s calendar.  If Jesus wants us to live by God’s calendar, then what would Satan want?  This prayer summarizes Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the relationship he wanted the disciples to have with Him and the Father.  If Jesus was willing to wait for God’s timing, who tempts us with instant gratification?  If patience is a fruit of the Spirit, what would satan specialize in giving us?  If Jesus practices deferred gratification, what will the children of satan practice?  If God’s children are willing to wait for the promise, what do satan’s children do?  (Heb 11)

2. Jesus prays to glorify the Father.

(17:3) Jesus brought eternal life into the story of man by making God known.  God has been made known in Jesus.  Eternal life has something to do with knowing God in relationship.  The believer has eternal life by knowing the God revealed by Jesus and Jesus was the ‘Sent One’ of God.  Jesus has made eternal life possible to all mankind.  That revelation through His life is now complete.

God has been made known.  To reveal the ‘name’ is to reveal all that can be known of the reality of God.  Eternal life flows from the knowledge of God, not information about God but knowing God.

If Jesus wants to give you life, what does satan want?  If God’s plan for you is eternal life, why would you settle for smoke and mirrors, the illusions of satan?  If God is willing to show you abundant life, why would you want to watch vampires?

It is the biggest surprise the world has ever seen.  The departure and crucifixion of Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of God’s glory.

3. (17:11) Jesus prays to the ‘Holy Father’ that the disciples might reveal God as Jesus did and continue His ministry.  Jesus is able to point to His disciples as proof of His claim that He has brought to perfection the work the Father gave Him.  So Jesus prays that the disciples may be one (11, 21, 22).  This oneness is not by legislation, not in a physical sense, not in a particular place or building.  This oneness is like the Father and the Son were one.  It is oneness of nature.  You must be born again.  The unity of the Father and the Son was maintained by perfect obedience and perfect response to God.  The unity of the Father and Son was in character and purpose.  Our oneness is in the Vine.  Keep them that they may be one.

The unity of the followers of Christ is based on the nature of God and maintained by obedience to God.  One flock, one shepherd.  No Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female.  No gulf created by culture, traditions or politics if you are obeying God, you are abiding in the Vine.

4. Jesus’ 4th petition is that disciples may be protected.  We will be hated because our life is a radical contrast to the world.  We have a new and different nature.  We laugh at different jokes.  We use our time for different things.  We are abiding in the Vine.  There is joy in being what we were created to be.  The joy of the Lord protects us.  The joy of the Lord gives us strength.  And Jesus prayed that God would keep you safe.  Jesus does not ask God to put us in a safe place.  He did not ask God to build church buildings so Christians can be safe.  He did not organize convents or Christian communities.

Jesus prays for the disciples in the world.  (9-11a) Jesus is about to leave, but the disciples will remain.  Jesus is still physically present, but He feels the process has begun.  He knows the disciples need prayer and Divine protection.

(11b-16) Jesus prays that the Holy Father will keep the disciples safe and protect them.  The disciples were very fragile.  They will not survive without the Fathers care.  Their protection is His Name (11b).  In His Name they are secure.  This knowing relationship with God is where we experience security.

Most commentators assume the ‘son of perdition’ is Judas (12).  It may be satan.  Jesus could not care for satan.

5. The 5th purpose is in 17:17.  Jesus wants us to be sanctified so that we may be one as Jesus and the Father are one.  And the reason that He wants us united is (6th) that the world may have faith in Jesus and believe that He was sent by God.  Several purposes are interconnected.

Remember in Chapter 15 God kept the branches of the Vine trimmed and clean with His word.  We are the branches and God wants us to look like we are cared for.  He will keep us clean if we keep abiding in the Vine.  This identification with the design of God will make the disciples holy.  To be holy requires a relationship with the Holy Father.  As Jesus’ relationship with the Father determined His life, the disciples’ relationship with Jesus determines theirs.  They are to make God known as Jesus made God known as the Sent One of a holy God.  To make God known requires clean hands and a pure heart.

The holiness of God made visible in the human story by Jesus’ gift of himself for his own, is to be matched by the holiness of the disciples as we walk in His steps.  We are sanctified by walking in obedience.

The Scriptures also tell us that by obedience we sanctify ourselves.  That’s what verse 19 means.  The branch is a reflection of the gardener and the Vine.  The church as a whole can reflect His glory.  Not as a big foot or bouncing eyeball.

6.  Another reason Jesus prays is to make God known.  Jesus is stating again His desire for the Church, for all believers to be united.  So what do you think the Devil would like?  How do we promote unity? (Love covers a multitude of sins)  How does Satan promote division? (jealousy, slander, gossip, selfishness, pride)  Who is your father when you gossip, criticize, get angry, etc?  Who is your Father when you love?

There is a unity that makes God known.  Jesus has always declared His unity with the Father.  Jesus has made God know and now He passes on this task to His disciples.  Jesus is praying that we be taken into the oneness that exists between the Father and the Son.  He prays that the oneness of love that exists between the Father and the Son include us.  It is a mutual indwelling through the Holy Spirit that God might be known.

Only through God’s bonding us in the love that unites the Father and the Son will we make God known.  The world will know we are disciples if we really love one another.

Remember in Romans 11, Paul shared with us the mystery of the ages that was revealed in Christ.  No prophet in the O.T. had even suspected all that God was going to do in Christ Jesus.  Jews and Gentiles are to be one.  Jesus did not organize a Jewish church and a Gentile church.  He brought love so we can be one in Him.

Unity is never an end in itself.  Jesus is not praying for a unity in church doctrine.  Jesus is not praying for a unity in buildings or organizations.  This unity is not in the World Council of churches.  This unity is not in regular meetings and programs.  This unity is in Christ lived out in the world.  This is why it is important to testify about what God is doing through you, because I can rejoice with you.

Remember what Jesus prayed was God’s will. God wants you to be holy.  God wants us to be united in His love.  Not so we can be proud of our unity, but so the world may know God because we love one another.

Jesus does not plan for you to grow spiritually outside the sphere of the unity.  The unity of the believers with one another and the unity of believers with Christ and the Father are intended to be the perfect climate for growing Christians who make God known.  Our unity will witness to the world.  “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” (17:18)  Our unity in diversity must demonstrate the love of God.  This is the Great Commission in John.

What does unity in Christ mean?  In Ephesians 2:20-22 Paul compares us to a holy temple because God dwells in us.  He does not want the world to see a pile of rubble, but a holy sanctuary where God dwells.  What do we look like?  Unity in Christ means looking like Jesus.

The world needs Christians that look like Jesus.  The world needs church groups that look like Jesus.  The world needs Christians who pay their bills.  The world needs people who are genuine and honest.  The world needs people who love one another.  The world needs people who obey the laws of the land.  The world needs people who do what they say.  The world needs to see Christians whose walk is the same as their talk.  The world needs the real Jesus.  The body of Christ is to demonstrate Jesus to the world.  I am the church.  You are the church.  We are the church.  You can’t come to Church or go to Church.  That is why we call this building a chapel.

If we are really united, the world will see Jesus in us.  If we love one another as Jesus commanded, then we will feel sick when we hurt someone.  We will weep with those who weep.  We will rejoice with those who rejoice.  There is no place for hurting criticism in the church.  There is no place for jealousy or arrogance.

What the world needs is a household, a holy temple in which God dwells.  The world does not need a vision of Jesus on a cookie or a chicken Mcnugget; they need Jesus.  They do not need the shadow; they need the genuine.

We are one in the bond of love.  God is love and in Him we are one.

7. The 7th purpose is incredible.  Jesus prayed that God’s love may be in me.  The love that flowed between the Father and Son is to be in us and unite us and continue to make God known and knowing God brings eternal life.

We can have the love of God in us and the Spirit of Jesus can abide in us.  Can you imagine how much God loved Jesus!  And Jesus wants us to dwell in that love.  Jesus has prayed that God’s love would dwell in you and me!  I cannot comprehend.  I am not comfortable with that truth.  Jesus prayed that God’s love would be in me.

Read I John 4:7-21

Can the world see love in us?  Jesus prayed for us.  When Jesus prayed, the Father heard.

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