The Greatest Prayer - Jesus Prays for his Disciples
1. Jesus prays for Himself (17:1-5)
2. Jesus prays for the Disciples (17:6-19)
3. Jesus prays for all Believers (17:20-26)
We shall concentrate on the second part of Jesus prayer tonight and the third part next week. Why did Jesus pray for his disciples so much? Because He knew they needed it! Because He knew how vulnerable they were going to be after he had gone. He had no illusions as to their ability to survive let alone work together without His help.
17:6-12 Past Tense - Praise for their Security
17:13-19 Present Tense - Prayer for their Sanctity
1. Praise for their Security 17:6-12
Several times in these verses, Jesus speaks in the past tense to describe the security of the disciples, and by implication believer also.
1.1. We are the Father's Gift 17:6
We are used to talking about Jesus being God's gifts to us, but did you realize that we are God's gift to Jesus ?
17:6 x2 and 17:9 Jesus says the Disciples were given to Him by the Father. Read 17:6 Our security as Christians stems not from the fact that we welcomed Jesus into our lives, but that God took the initiative. He chooses to save.
When you may ask ? Listen to what the Lord revealed to King David in Psalm 139:16. If you want a theology of ordination, that is the place to begin. Our security lies in the one who called us to Himself. We are the father's gift.
1.2 We have the Father's Word 17:8
Twice, in 17:8 and 17:14 Jesus says He has given the Disciples the Father's word. We know of God because He has revealed Himself here in Scripture. Our security rests not in our choosing him but his choosing us. Not from our searching for Him, but his revealing himself. Not from some ecstatic religious experience but through a book. God's book. God's Word.
And He took the trouble to ensure an accurate record survived. Don't take it for granted. We are the Father's Gift, we have the Father's Word, There is a third reason for our security.
1.3 We have the Son's Protection 17:12
Read 17:12. Its an interesting comment on the relationship between Jesus and the Apostles. He protected them. The source of His power lay in His name. His name stands for all the power and authority of the Godhead. By His presence and power He kept the Apostles safe. But now Jesus was about to leave, their relationship was about to change. Therefore Jesus moves from praise to petition. From their past security, to their future sanctification.
2. Prayer for the Sanctification of the Believer 17:13-19
Jesus prays for four things.
2.1 Jesus Prays for Unity 17:11
Jesus knew that internal division would be more devastating than external conflict. That is why He prayed for unity. The Puritan Thomas Brookes wrote,"For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous." Notice what it is that Jesus say's will be our unifying factor? The Power of His name. And what is it that reveals our divisions most clearly ? Our denominational titles, our "in house" labels we use to identify our sub groupings. Admit it, we love to categorize people. We feel so much safer. We have seen it this week in the debate over the selection procedure of students for Oxford and Cambridge University as well as the Diplomatic Service. Oxbridge. Names are important. I wonder how many children will be names Leo in the next few years. For Christians we must never allow our denominational labels to become more important than our unity with other believers through the name of Jesus Christ. The City of Durham has been famous for its Bishops long before the most recent dubious occupant. An earlier Evangelical Bishop Handley Moule writing at the turn of the century said this,
"The Disciples were never allowed to wander out of that Name; never to seek another name, one of their own imagining or developing; never to dream of safety or of home for their souls anywhere but within the revealed personal love and live of the Holy Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Within the mystical circle of a knowledge of God as Father they were to be preserved."
Jesus prays for unity. Unity in and through His name.
Lets pray for unity too, for the same reason, with the same goal.
2.2 Jesus Prays for Joy 17:13
I'm glad this was part of Jesus prayer. If knowing Jesus doesn't bring joy to our hearts when the world around us is such a depressing place, how will people ever know there's a saviour.
If the spoken name of Jesus doesn't bring a smile and sense of anticipation to your face, unbelievers have the right to doubt that we know him. One young lady getting married this year came with a relative recently. I asked her what her aunt thought of the service. "Oh she liked it, their always smiling..." Knowing Jesus is the most exciting, most joyful thing about us. Isn't that true? I get a unique view of the church during every service. I can tell so much from your faces, especially when you are singing. It really doesn't matter to me how loud we sing or whether for that matter we sing in tune. What I do look for is the joy of praise. A lady came to lunch recently who was new to the Church. I asked her if she is feeling at home yet, and getting to know other folk. She commented that although she didn't know everyone by name yet, people recognized her and....smiled..... She felt welcomed, accepted. That is why our fellowship is so influential in whether people are drawn to Jesus or repelled. Humanly speaking it depends on the welcome they receive, on the atmosphere they experience.
Now Jesus knew this. He also knew how easily we can lose that joy and get deflected or distracted by pressures or problems that seem to overwhelm us. That is why He prayed that they and we share His joy in full. His joy.
Joy is not a natural or common commodity.
Joy is one the signs or fruit of the Holy Spirit's presence.
So lets pray for one another that we experience His joy.
2.3 Jesus Prays for Protection 17:15
How are we protected?
2.3.1 Insulation - The "Hoarding Wealth" approach to cushion from the world. It fails because you can never know if you'll have enough.
2.3.2 Imitation - The "Identification" approach. But marry this age and you become a widow in the next.
2.3.3 Isolation - The "Desert Island" approach to escape from the world. It fails because we take the world with us. (see cult)
People adopt this approach in more subtle but just as lethal ways. I don't make it a habit of frequenting pubs, but on one occasion recently I indulged with a friend. We were having a good time just chatting. Suddenly the door burst open, and in came a team from a local church collecting for charity and distributing tracts. When I realised they were Christians, I was about to let them know I was on their side, you know to encourage them, but my friend nudged me and whispered something to the effect that they probably wouldn't be impressed that we were using a Pub for the purpose it was built. Fine to raid it on evangelistic manoeuvres, or collecting for charity but not a place for Christians to relax. You may or may not agree. But are there any no-go areas on your map of Virginia Water? Any places that are out of bounds?
When we start to colour in red light districts, we begin to lose sight of what Jesus is praying here. Withdrawal has always been a religious temptation. In Jesus day the Pharisee's succumbed to it. The word Pharisee literally means separatist. Their goal was to escape the contamination of society. That was not what Jesus intended for His disciples. Jesus wanted to take that contamination from our hearts so we could serve him every where. Jesus prays for our unity, our joy and our protection,
2.4 Jesus Prays for Sanctification 17:17
Read 17:17. Sanctify means to set apart, or to make holy. How are we sanctified ? By truth, truth revealed through Scripture. That is why its so important that we read and understand and digest what God has revealed about Himself. Hodder and Stoughton the Bible publishers are trying to spice up the image of the Bible for secular markets. One of their recent slogans was "Easier to digest than the tablets" Its true. Thank God we are not living in the fifth century AD, having to cope with parchments and massive hand written copies on skins. Even in the time of the Reformation, a Bible was so big and expensive, there was usually only the one copy chained to the lectern to stop people walking off with it. What are thieves after today ? The lead.... Says something about current values. When I was in Prague a few years ago, before the fall of communism, one of our goals was to arrange for the Jesus Video to be dubbed into Czech. It fell through so my friend had to visit the film studio to get several thousand pounds worth of recording equipment, literature and master tapes back.
You know the one thing that had gone missing ? A Bible. The Film Producer had a very high standard of living by Czech standards, but he or his secretary knew what a Bible was then worth on the black market. Thank God too for the technology that enables us to use and understand his word so much more easily today. Compare concordance with floppy disk. The trouble is, because its more accessible we take it for granted.
At Theological College we had a list of commentaries worth buying second hand for our libraries. It was put together by Dr James Packer. There were three categories under which they were listed. A = Basic; S = Outstandingly valuable; but the ultimate was SS which meant = "Sell your shirt to buy this". Do you treasure this book above any price ? Would you sell your shirt for it ? Do you value it beyond price ?
We need to read, to hear, to study, to meditate and memorize this book for it is uniquely the living word of God. It is not only the truth, its the tool the Lord uses to make us Holy. Jesus not only prayed for our sanctification, He provided for it too. Read 17:19. If the disciples are to effectively set apart for the work which they must do, the Son must first set himself apart for the work which he must do. He therefore consecrates Himself to God on their behalf: Chrysostom paraphrases "I sanctify myself" as "I offer myself in sacrifice". I offer myself in sacrifice. The meaning of Easter is not in what the Roman authorities and Jewish leaders did to Jesus. It lies in what Jesus did himself.
He was both priest and sacrificial victim. That is what marked his sacrifice not only completely voluntary but uniquely sufficient. That is why Jesus could praise the Father so emphatically for our security, we are His gift, we have His word, That is why Jesus could pray so confidently for our unity, our joy, our protection and our sanctification.
Because He made it all possible that first Easter. Lets thank Him. Lets pray...
I am grateful for the ideas and material used from Warren Wersbie's "Prayer: Basic Training", to Bruce Milne's, "The Message of John", and Merill Tenny's "John: The Gospel of Belief".