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Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer

John 17:1-5

“A godly man cannot live without prayer.” wrote the seventeenth-century English Puritan Thomas Watson. “A man cannot live unless he takes his breath, nor can the soul unless it breathes forth its desires to God.” The Bible commands prayer and records many examples of the prayer of godly people. Abraham prayed for God to spare Sodom. Isaac prayed for his barren wife Rebecca. Jacob prayed that God would protect him from his brother, Esau. Hannah prayed for a son. Samuel prayed that Israel would be delivered from their enemies. Job prayed in humble contrition. David prayed that his son might live. Solomon prayed for God’s blessing on the temple and Israel. Elijah prayed down fire from heaven. The New Testament is replete with the prayers of Peter, Paul, and John but the supreme example of prayer in Scripture comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.

In John 17 we are privileged to listen to God the Son converse with God the Father. The words of this prayer are plain yet majestic, simple yet mysterious. They plunge the reader into the unfathomable depths of the inter-trinitarian communication. The scope of this prayer encompasses all of redemptive history from pre-creation election to heavenly glorification. It includes the themes of regeneration, revelation, illumination, sanctification, and preservation.

The progression of thought is simple. Jesus first prayed for Himself, telling the Father He had finished the work given to Him (1-5). Second, He prayed for His disciples asking the Father to sanctify them (6-19). Lastly, He prayed for the church, that we might be unified in Him and one day share His glory (20-26).

There are many kinds of prayer; intercession, thanksgiving, praise, imprecatory, etc. for the child of God we utilize many forms of prayer. Here, Jesus communes with the Father, intercedes for the disciples and prays for the Church.

Today we will just examine the first part of the prayer: Jesus communes with the Father (1-5). Jesus begins by praying for Himself. “A prayer for self is not necessarily a selfish prayer,” wrote Dr. R. A. Torrey. “A servant of God has every right to ask God to help him glorify God.” “Our Father which are in heaven, hallowed be thy name” is how the Lord’s prayer begins and it is the first emphasis of this prayer.

The word “glory” is used five times in these verses. Jesus refers to his preincarnate glory that was laid aside (5) so that He might complete the work that glorified the Father (4). In verse one and five, He asks that this preincarnate glory be restored to Him. From a human standpoint Calvary was a revolting display of man’s rebellion and wickedness. From a divine viewpoint, the cross magnified the grace and glory of God because it demonstrated His wisdom, compassion, sovereignty and power. Jesus’ miracles, messages, training of the disciples, but most importantly His sacrifice on the cross was the work given to Him and the Father was being glorified now that it was complete.

The Scriptures tell us that believers are the Father’s gift to the Son (2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24). We are accustomed to think of Jesus as the Father’s love gift to us (3:16), but the Lord affirms that believers are the Father’s “love gift” to His beloved Son as a reward for the Son’s work of redemption. The Father gave His Son the authority to give eternal life to those whom the Father had given to Him. Humanly speaking, we receive eternal life when we believe in Jesus Christ. But from the divine viewpoint, we have already been given to the Son in divine election. This is a mystery that the human mind cannot fully understand or explain – we accept it by faith because the Bible says so. God’s plan of redemption was formulated by God in eternity past. Titus 1:2 says that salvation is “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Second Timothy 1:9 says God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

Sinners are saved not because they are inherently worthy of salvation, or wise enough to choose it (Ephesians 2:1-10) but because the Father lovingly draws them for the purpose of giving them as a gift to His Son. In response, the Son eagerly receives with open arms sinners prepared for Him before time began, and then seeks and saves them. Romans 8:29-30 provides additional insight into the glorious purposes of God.

It is a humbling but marvelous realization that the salvation of sinners is secondary within the scope of God’s eternal plan of redemption. Christians down through the ages have understood that the glory of God is the ultimate end of creation and redemption. That is what Jesus is communing with the Father about in these verses, the accomplishment of the eternal purpose of the glory of God.