John 17 – The Longest N.T. Prayer
In a real sense this is the “Lord’s Prayer.” It is the longest recorded prayer in the New Testament. And in it, Jesus prays first for Himself (vs. 1-5), then for the apostles (vs. 6-19), and, finally, for those who will later believe (vs. 20-26). Jesus prayed this beautiful prayer somewhere along the way between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane.
In vs. 1-5, the Lord prays for Himself. The hour had come in his ministry that he would be glorified by God and to depart out of this world back to the Father. For around thirty years, Jesus had given himself to mankind, walked among them, ate with them, talked with them and shared life with them. And as he had done, He continued to show the way to the Father through Him. But, he had to give himself for the world. This was coming to the pinnacle of His life of seeking and saving the Lost (Lk. 19:10). So now, as Jesus glorified the Father by doing His will upon the earth, now He requests the Father to glorify Him with the glory they shared before the world was created (Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1-2).
Now, Jesus had clearly showed the Father to the apostles and for the most part, they had received, kept, or observed God’s word. In vs. 6-9, the apostles have finally come to the point of receiving and understanding what Jesus has been declaring to them for three years and to accept the divine truth with their heart, mind and will and to pledge the continuation of the divine work on earth. So, Jesus is going to return to the Father and the apostles will be entrusted with carrying out the mission of telling the world about the Savior (2 Cor. 4:7). So, there is continued hope for the world.
In this spirit, beginning in vs. 11, Jesus begins to address the Holy Father. The Lord prayed here that the men He leaves behind will be united in purpose and will to perform the tremendous task He will commission them to do. This is the first of four times that Jesus prays that the disciples may be “one” as He and the Father are one. Thus, the unity of believers in Christ is an important biblical concept just as the disunity of believers is one of the greatest scandals before an unbelieving world. But, as vs. 12- 13 points out, His disciples need to be protected by the Father as they pronounce the good news and Jesus wants them to be well equipped to do so and to remain faithful. Now, Jesus is not asking that the apostles be taken out of the world, but that they be surrounded with protection from the evil one, their adversary, Satan (vs. 14-17) and that they be sanctified in the truth because the Father’s word is truth (vs. 17). If they do not have this, everyone does what is right in their own eyes and there is no more moral judgments from a holy standard (Jdgs. 21:6).
So, the apostles are to be sent in the world, having the commission of redemption, just as their Master, Jesus. They were to preach Jesus because he was suffered atoning death for man. And so, as Jesus prays to the Father, he not only prayed for Himself and for his apostles, but he also prayed for all of mankind. In vs. 20- 21, Jesus’ prayer concludes with a petition for unity among those who will believe the message preached by the apostles and those who will come after them (Matt. 28:18- 20). This unity is not only one of love; it is predicated upon the acceptance and transmission of God’s word throughout the ages.
This is a big job! So, Jesus gave glory to his disciples and they received the indwelling of Jesus, by which they were made partakers of the divine nature. In vs. 22- 23, we are told that Jesus will indwell the disciples just as the Father indwells Him. This will display the unity required by those who give authentic, credible, testimony to the world of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and the Father’s divine will. And so, Jesus prays for unity and that all who believe in Him will be in heaven (vs. 24).
This is such a beautiful prayer and one that needs to be taught on often. So often there is disunity in the world and even disunity in the church. But, Jesus’ prayer was that we all would have faith and hope in God (1 Pet. 1:17-21). He had made the Father known to his disciples so that the Father’s love would live in them and that Jesus would dwell in them. Today, it is still the desire that the Father, Son and Spirit dwells in those faithful to God. Jesus prayed for unity and the concluding vs. 25-26, reveals that the entire message of Jesus in the world was to do the Father’s will by revealing the Father to His apostles by words and works and that the love of God was made known through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.