Lesson 111: Jesus Prayed for Himself, For His Apostles, and for Us
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson # 111. This lesson is going to be built around John ch. 17. This chapter (ch 17) is Jesus' prayer. I would assume still in the upper room, as they were preparing to leave. Not only did this occasion end with a prayer, we'll learn a little later that they sang a hymn also. But, right now, before we focus on Jesus’ prayer, let's review just a moment. A week before, Jesus and his disciples were across the Jordan in what we have called Perea. On Friday they had left the house of Zaccheus (Luke ch. 19) and headed up the mountain toward Jerusalem. They spent Friday night and Saturday, the Sabbath day in Bethany. A supper had been held for Jesus on Saturday night, i.e. after sundown, which was really Sunday, according to the way they reckoned time. It was at the house of Simon the leper, Matt. 26:6, where Martha served and Mary poured the expensive box of ointment on Jesus' head during that dinner, that Judas Iscariot and some other of the disciples had been put down because they had "indignation" saying, "To what purpose is this waste?" But, Jesus had told them to leave Mary alone because she had done what she could; i.e. she had anointed him for his burial before it came to pass, he said. And it would appear that this incident may have been the thing that infuriated Judas Iscariot. You know that he ultimately went to the Jewish leaders, attended a council meeting Tuesday evening and said, "What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?" (Matt. 26:15). They gave Judas 30 pieces of silver. We're not sure if that was the total amount or only the down payment. On Sunday, the first day of the week, Jesus rode the colt into the city and the crowds of the city came over on to Mt. Olivet and made great ceremonial fanfare that was actually prophesied in the O.T. (Matt. 21:4). On Monday Jesus went to the temple and chased out the money changers and the merchandisers. On Tuesday morning, the Jewish leaders confronted Jesus in the temple in debate, saying, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" (Matt. 21:23). First one group and then another; but, when they had heard Jesus' words, "they left him, and went their way." (Matt. 22:22). "No man was able to answer him a word," (Matt. 22:46). Then, it was Tuesday afternoon, no doubt on their way back to Bethany, that Peter, James, John and Andrew, questioned Jesus on Mt. Olivet about the destruction of the temple and the end of the world, Matt. ch. 24-25, Mark ch. 13, Luke ch. 21. We're not sure about the timing of those things in the last part of John ch. 12. A very interesting passage in which Jesus said, "the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge [us]...in the last day." That's all we know until Thursday; when Jesus sent Peter and John into the city to prepare the Passover in the upper room. Then, Jesus and the other ten CAME about sundown. We've now spent about five chapters on the things that transpired in that upper room that night, John ch. 13-14-15-16. They ate the Passover. Jesus washed the disciples' feet, Judas left, Jesus was troubled in the spirit and began to testify, i.e. speak very fervently to the remaining eleven disciples (John 13:21). He told them he was leaving AND they could not come, John 13:33. He gave them a new commandment, THAT YE LOVE ONE ANOTHER (John 13:34). Peter wanted to know where Jesus was going. When Peter boasted of his faith, saying: "I will lay down my life for thy sake" (John 13:37), Jesus told Peter that he would deny HIM that very night. They began to speak up one by one, Thomas, then Philip and Judas Lebbeus Thaddeus. They wanted to know essentially the same thing Peter had asked, "Lord, whither goest thou?" Trying to console the eleven apostles in the upper room after supper and after Judas had left, Jesus explained to them that He would send the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, which Jesus called the Comforter. Jesus said, "he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13). Apparently, Jesus gave the signal to get prepared to leave the upper room in the last verse of John ch. 14; but it is apparent, that before they actually departed that upper room, Jesus began in a very extemporaneous way to give the parable of the "True Vine." In conclusion, He told them they would be hated of the world. He told them their sorrow would turn to Joy. He told them he had overcome the world. He told them more about the Holy Ghost. However, before their actual departure, Jesus looked up toward heaven and began to pray. That prayer as we have said, consumes the entire 17th chapter of John and must have taken about four minutes of their time. Let's read John ch. 17. We'll start in Vs. 1 and read to Vs. 26, the entire chapter before we discuss. Try to imagine you can hear Jesus praying to the heavenly Father, as you read these words. Beyond that, try to re-capture those four minutes in the upper room that night. Keep in mind the solemn context of this occasion. It's a real opportunity to learn the spiritual nature of Jesus. Are you ready to read? Beginning in Vs. 1. "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee, Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou has given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world. 0 righteous Father, the world hath not know thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou has loved me may be in them, and I in them."
You might notice the prayer did not end with an "Amen." And with a very broad stroke of the pen, John in the next verses said: "When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples." And, while this was transpiring; you'll remember, Judas was conferring with and mobilizing the Jewish leaders either in or somewhere near the temple area. Jesus' arrest by that mob was only moments away. Matthew, one of those apostles, after telling us about Jesus instituting the Lord's Supper, summarizes all this in Matt. 26:30 by saying, "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives." Thus, I conclude that after Jesus ceased teaching the apostles on that occasion, the session closed with a song and a prayer. We'll pick up again with their departure from the upper room in our next lesson; but, the remainder of our time in this lesson, let's try to review and analyze Jesus' prayer that we just read.
Put your eyes on John 17:1. The words that Jesus spake, mentioned in v.1 has reference to what Jesus had been saying in John ch. 14-15-16. John makes it appear that Jesus simply shifted instantly from teaching the apostles to prayer; i.e. the prayer immediately followed the comment in John 16:33, "be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." The fact that John says, "he lifted up his eyes to heaven" suggests that Jesus shifted positions in some way. Whether he was sitting, standing, or kneeling is not said. I would prefer to think he was standing. The fact that Jesus said, “Arise, let us go hence." at the end ch. 14, probably means the discussion in ch. 15, 16 and 17 transpired after they arose from the table and were in a gradual and natural transition of departing. In the example prayer that Jesus gave during the sermon on the mount, Matt. 6:9 and again in Luke 11:2; Jesus taught them to address their prayer to God by saying, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name..." But, in Jesus' precise and explicit prayer here in John ch. 17, he simply addressed God by saying, "Father, the hour is come...", i.e. the hour of conclusion of the great work for which Jesus had come to this earth. That is synonymous with the statement in v.4, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." Thus, Jesus was on a mission for the heavenly Father and the hours Jesus faced would soon bring that mission to completion and is here spoken of collectively as "the hour is come." We see also from this occasion that not all prayer is secret prayer, i.e. you will remember in Matt. 6:6 Jesus said "enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret..." Thus, we learn here there is a place for group prayer, family prayers, public prayers and cooperative prayers, as well as secret prayers. Let's break Jesus' prayer here in John ch. 17 into its broad natural divisions. In v. 1-8, Jesus prayed for himself and spoke to the heavenly Father concerning his mission. Then in v.9-19, Jesus' prayer took the form of an intercessory prayer, i.e. on behalf of the apostles. Finally, in v.20, Jesus shifted this intercessory prayer to include "THEM ALSO which shall believe on me through their word...", i.e. to include future disciples as well. Thus, Jesus prayed for himself, he prayed for his apostles and disciples; then finally, for all who would become Christian in the future.
Now, put your eyes on the first section (v.1-8). What did Jesus petition for himself and what did he say concerning his mission? (#1) Jesus ask that the heavenly Father glorify the Son and accept him back into the position he had known with the Father before the world was (v.1 and v.5). (#2) In v.2, Jesus stated that God has power over all flesh and petitioned or asked that God "should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him", i.e. those apostles with him that were faithful and obedient. In v.3, Jesus defined eternal life: "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." In v.8, Jesus said, "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me...[and]...they have believed that thou didst send me." Thus this verified, the words of the apostles were derived from Jesus as Jesus derived them from the heavenly Father. In this respect, Jesus said in v.4 he had finished the work that the heavenly Father had assigned him. The importance of faith is emphasized at the end of v.8 and if you follow that thought through v.20 it shows that faith in future disciples was to come through the words of the apostles. This you will remember is the thesis of John's book, John 20:30.
Then beginning in v.9, Jesus prayed for the apostles. The fact that Jesus said he did not pray for the world in v.9 does not mean he had no sympathy for the world. Because, you will remember Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:17) "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." First off, in v.10, Jesus stated, "all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them." That's simply a re-phrasing of John 10:30, "I and my Father are one." Then Jesus petitioned in v.11, that the heavenly Father would protect and keep the apostles and that they might be one, as Jesus and the heavenly Father are one, i.e. that a similar unity might prevail among the apostles as existed between Jesus and the heavenly Father. In v.15-18 Jesus said MUCH with reference to mission; his mission, the mission of the apostles, and the mission of Christians in general. Jesus said, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." To sanctify means to separate or to set apart for a special purpose. Notice that disciples are separated or set apart by the word. That word is here defined as "thy truth", i.e. the reality of God. Truth means: that's the way it is, i.e. reality. Thus, the certainty and evidence of reality is found in God's word; that's the way it is and that's the way it's going to be. An understanding of this truth sanctifies, separates or sets one apart from the world, i.e. if one repents and obeys that word. Would you re-read v. 16-17 real close? Do you remember John 1:12, faith gives us the power to become? The apostle Paul in paraphrasing this admonished the Corinthians in. II Cor. 6:17, "come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Then in v.18 Jesus said with reference to mission, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world."
Finally the emphasis in the last section (where Jesus prayed for future disciples), the emphasis is upon unity. Not just any kind of unity; but, unity branching from that true vine of Jesus. "As thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us..." (v.21). Notice that the word "one" 0-N-E is used in this sense five times in this section. It's quite a different concept than we find in the denominational religious world today. This prayer deserves a lot of study. Until our next lesson, have a good day.