A Prayer of Prayers Part 1
Veterans Memorial Chapel
By Ch Jim Odell
This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for July 25, 2021. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.
John 17 is a most unique chapter in all of Scripture. It is first, the longest recorded prayer of Jesus that we have; and secondly, the longest interaction in all of Scriptures between two of the Three Persons of the Triune Godhead, the Son and the Father. But thirdly, and most important for us, is that the subject of His prayer is for His followers’ protection and unity. Jesus is praying for us.
I would be amiss as a Bible teacher and preacher, if I did not teach a little Christian Theology out of this text. I would be equally amiss if all I spoke about out of this text is ethereal doctrine and neglect the applicational truth to live by this very afternoon. I will endeavor to do both in short order today.
The Christian Church has always taught a truth about God we call the “Trinity.” This is that God exists as three persons in one single Being we know as Almighty God. This truth is present but hidden in the Old Testament. In Genesis 2:26, God said “Let US make man in OUR image.” It takes least two people make an “us.” Otherwise He would say, “I will make man . . . .” This is but one example of the Trinity in the Old Testament. It is Jesus Christ in the New Testament which makes this very plain. We see this in particular in John’s Gospel, where it is one of his major themes. Jesus is God, and the Father is God, and they are One. In the Upper Room Discourse Jesus introduced us to the Spirit as God also. Thus Three persons, One God.
In our passage today we see the Son praying to the Father. In the first paragraph of the prayer, we learn that the Son was with the Father in “eternity past” and sharing in His glory. We also see Jesus calling the Father, “the One True God” (17:3). The Son came to earth at the request of the Father and did His Father’s will. He was then preparing to return to the Father. So, He requested to receive the same glory He had in the past. When Jesus was on earth, the only difference in His “godliness” (His abilities to function as God) was that He did not shine with the “glory” of God in a visible sense.
The Bible teaches, there is but One God (ie Deut 6:4), and He exists in three persons. Jesus is God, just as the Father is God, and as the Spirit is God. Each are equal in all ways. In this passage, in particular, we see that they “co-exist.” Some say the Father of the Old Testament became the Son of the Gospels, and then returned as the Spirit in the church age. Three “roles” or modes of One God. This passage seems to clearly say they co-exist at the same time. Jesus is not talking to Himself in chapter 17. They both exist at the same time.
It is also true that They co-exist as a single “Godhead,” not as “Three Gods” unified in purpose, as our Islamic friends charge we believe. So God is One God existing in three distinct persons. It is a truth which is unexplainable to the human mind on earth today. But it is truth. This passage, and others, clearly shows us this truth.
As a reminder, this prayer is the conclusion to the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). Jesus, on the night of His arrest, held Passover with His Disciples in the “Upper Room” of John Mark’s (Gospel writer) mother’s house in Jerusalem. He began a discourse with His disciples on how to live as disciples of Christ in the world when Christ is not physically present on the earth.
At the end of chapter 14, Christ and the Disciples left the upper room and headed off to the garden of Gethsemane (see 14:31b). By chapter 17, they have arrived at the creek Kidron. Jesus offered a concluding prayer for His disciples, just before crossing the “valley” (NIV) or “wadi” (creek bed) into the garden (see 18:1), where Christ will again pray and then be arrested. Thus, this is his last public prayer of His earthly ministry.
There are two specific requests made to the Father for the disciples. We will cover the first one today. First however, Christ noted that the Father had given into Christ’s control and care all who followed Him in His earthly life. This is a shepherding imagery. An owner of a large flock would assign certain sheep to a particular shepherd for safe keeping and care. Jesus receives those who followed Him as His personal sheep. Now He is returning them to the Father’s care. So, He requests the Father would care for and keep His sheep. In the context of this discourse, it is the Holy Spirit who will be sent by the Father to do this caring work. So this fulfills the promise of 14:16 that Christ “will ask the Father, and He will send you another Helper.”
Christ makes a strong distinction in his prayer (17:9) between His followers and the rest of the “world.” It is vital to be among His “followers,” one of His sheep, to receive the blessings of His promises. Just as there were those who followed Jesus in His earthly life, merely to eat a free lunch, or see some great miracle or healing; we have those who want the “good life” of a Christian environment, without committing to the Word and Law of God, or submitting to the will of Christ. These are not true followers. What about you, are you a true follower? Something to think about.
You may have noticed; we concluded our Scripture reading this morning in the middle of a sentence (17:20). I did so on purpose. The second request of Jesus is prayed in the rest of the sentence. So we will discuss that next time.
In verse 20, where we concluded our reading, Jesus expanded His prayer beyond both the disciples in His presence, and those who followed Him in His earthly life. He goes further to include all people of all ages, in all locations who “would follow” Him to the end of time. Christ’s request is for all who would believe and follow Him to the end of time (17:24). This includes the fact He prayed for you personally, if indeed you are a follower of Him.
His first request is for the protection of His followers. In particular, it is for protection of their eternal souls (17:12). He prayed that our salvation would be complete in Heaven. And that the “evil one” would not conquer us (17:15). All who followed Jesus were His, and of His followers, only Judas was “lost” and that because of a plan of God. Judas was an imposter, not a real believer. All who followed Jesus were “protected” from falling away irretrievably.
Now this protection comes through the power of His “name” (17:11). As we said last week, this is not a magical formula, but it is based in the character and reputation of the person with the “name,” Jesus Christ. If Jesus can fall out of God’s care, so can we. In other words, our souls are as safe as Jesus’ !!!
Jesus also reminds us that our salvation is secure not only through of the “keeping” power of the Father and Spirit, but also through actively remembering the “truth” that Jesus taught in the “words” He spoke to us. “Sanctify them (keep them safe) by Your Truth, Your word is truth” (17:17). Learning and knowing the Word of God will help us conquer the evil one and keep us on track in our lives.
So we see the first of the two requests of Jesus made for His followers in what has often been called “the High Priestly Prayer of Christ.” He prayed for the protection of His followers. We will look at request two next time, unity among believers.
CH Jim Odell