Now we have come to the magnum opus of prayer. No other prayer that has ever been uttered can begin to equal the prayer that is found coming from the lips of Jesus as we begin reading John 17. Jesus had finished sharing the most important things for His disciples to remember when He prayed this prayer before going to the cross.
Throughout history Bible teachers have all come to the same conclusion that this is the prayer, of all prayers ever offered to the Father. Martin Luther is best remembered for starting the Protestant Reformation by nailing the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in protest of the Catholic Church. Luther was overwhelmed by the prayer of Jesus in John 17. Luther said, “This is truly, beyond measure, a warm and hearty prayer. He opens the depth of His heart both in reference to us and to His Father, and He pours them all out. It sounds so honest, so simple; It is so deep, so rich, so wide, no one can fathom it.” Philip Melanchthon, the first systematic theologian of the Reformation and close friend of Martin Luther commented on Jesus’ prayer with these words, “There is no voice that has ever been heard, either in heaven or on earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than this prayer offered up by the Son of God Himself.” One of the greatest Bible teachers of our lifetime, Dr. John Stott, said,
John 17, without doubt, is one of the profoundest chapters of the Bible. …There are depths here we will never fathom; all we can do is paddle in the shallows. Here are heights we cannot scale; we can only climb the foothills. …Here we are introduced into the presence, mind and heart of God. We are permitted to eavesdrop, as the Son communes with the Father. …this is holy ground. (John Stott.)
I’ve read Jesus’ prayer over and over again this past week. It is a prayer that will both encourage you and me and overwhelm us to the point of driving us to our knees in awe and humble worship of our glorious King and Savior. This morning we will read the entire prayer. Let’s turn to John 17 in our Bibles and read together.
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:1-26 NIVO)
There has been some discussion by Bible teachers about the difference between Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and the prayer of Jesus found in what we call the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Synoptic comes from the Greek words, “syn,” which means similar, and “optic,” which means seeing. The Synoptic Gospels “see” and “present” the story of Jesus’ life in a similar way. Let me show you the theme of the Synoptic Gospels presentation of Jesus’ prayer. Turn to Mark 14:32-36 and let’s read together.
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:32-36 NIVO)
You will read the same scenario in Matthew and Luke. Bible teachers who have taken notes about the difference between what we’ve just read and Jesus’ prayer in John 17 point out that in John 17 there is no hint of Jesus’ agonizing in prayer. This doesn’t mean that we have to choose between the agony of Matthew, Mark, or Luke and the prayer of Jesus in John 17. John tells us about the agony and sense of feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of going to the cross which Jesus felt. John tells us, in John 12:27, that Jesus’ heart was troubled. Let’s take a look at John 12:23-28.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:23-28 NIVO)
Jesus was troubled, He agonized at the thought of the suffering He would endure, but He also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that “it was for this very reason” He had come. Surely it would not be too difficult for us to imagine that Jesus prayed more than once during this most pressing period of His life.
There is something that we must stop and meditate on as we take a look at Jesus’ prayer. I want us to recognize the importance of prayer in the life of Jesus so that we can understand how vitally important prayer is for you and me. Prayer was like breathing for Jesus. He prayed when He had important decisions to make. Luke tells us Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing His disciples. Turn to Luke 6:12-13 with me.
12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: (Luke 6:12-13 NIVO)
Jesus prayed with others, but He frequently retreated from the disciples and the crowd and got alone with God in prayer. Luke tells us, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIVO) Jesus prayed for others. In Luke 22, Jesus prayed for Peter that his crisis of faith wouldn’t be his undoing. Peter had no idea what was coming in the near future, but Jesus did and had already prayed for him. Take a look at Luke 22:31-32 with me.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 NIVO)
Jesus both taught His disciples to pray and He taught His disciples about prayer. In Luke 18:1, we read, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1 NIVO) Jesus also taught His disciples to pray. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t sit His disciples down one day and say, “Ok guys, if you are going to be My disciples then you need to know how to pray. I’m going to give you the definitive lesson on prayer.” That’s not how the disciples learned to pray. Jesus was praying one day, He had His disciples with Him, and they were either watching Him pray or listening in to His prayer or both. However it happened, when Jesus finished praying one of His disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Turn to Luke 11:1-4 with me and let’s read together.
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'” (Luke 11:1-4 NIVO)
There’s a great lesson in Jesus’ prayer life for you and me. We are to pray. When? Well, we find Jesus praying early in the morning, during the day, and into the night. Jesus prayed when He was in need as well as when His friends were in need. He prayed when He had decisions to make. He praised God and gave thanks in His prayers. He interceded for others often in His prayers. Why are we to pray? We are to pray because God desires for us to communicate with Him about everything in life. We are to pray to show our absolute reliance upon God. We are to pray because we just don’t know. There are times when we think we know, but if you are like me there have been times I was certain that I knew, but when it was all said and done I was wrong. We are to pray because our God is omniscient, He knows. We are to pray because our God is omnipotent, He is all-powerful. We are to pray because our God is omnipresent, He is everywhere present and He is with us. We are to pray because our God is Sovereign–He knows, is in control, and He is able.
Let’s go back to John 17 and begin to take a look at this prayer of Jesus. We read Luke 11 just a few minutes ago. The prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer. In actuality the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray should be called the Disciples Prayer. It is this prayer in John 17 that is truly the Lord’s prayer. We can divide these 26 verses into three different sections. In John 17:1-5, Jesus prays for Himself. In John 17:6-19, Jesus prayed for His disciples. Last of all, in John 17:20-26, Jesus prayed for all of those who would become His followers throughout the ages. Let’s take a look at the first section of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-5.
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (John 17:1-5 NIVO)
We could spend months learning from Jesus’ prayer, meditating on Jesus’ prayer, and marveling at Jesus’ prayer. I only want to share a couple of things that I’ve learned this past week in hopes that they will impact you in the same way they have impacted my life. The first thing is this, notice the first words out of Jesus’ mouth. Jesus prayed, “Father, the time has come.” The first thing that jumps out at us is the way Jesus approached God. Jesus calls God, “Father.” In these twenty-six verses Jesus uses the Greek word for “Father” six times. In verse 11, Jesus prays, “Holy Father,” and in verse 25 He prays “Righteous Father.” Jesus calling God, “Father,” was radical in His day and yet Jesus shared the most intimate relationship with God.
The second thing we need to notice is Jesus prayed, “…the time has come.” Jesus prayed, “Father, the time has come.” Throughout the Gospel of John we’ve been told time and time again that it was not the time. The first time the words are spoken by Jesus is found in John 2:4 when Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding at Cana. The guests had run out of wine. Jesus’ mother approached Him and said, “They have no more wine.” Jesus said to her, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (John 2:4 NIVO) Again and again, in John 7:6; 7:30, and 8:20, we learn that His time had not yet come. Now, at the beginning of Jesus’ prayer, we learn that the time has come.
We have to ask the question, “The time for what?” The time to leave the Upper Room? The time to leave for the Garden of Gethsemane? The time for what? We might ask the question, but there was no question in Jesus’ mind. The time had finally come for Jesus to go to the cross and die for the sins of those He had come to redeem. This was the very reason Jesus had come. Jesus primary mission was not to teach, heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the hungry, and bless children, but to die in the place of those who were hopelessly, eternally separated from God the Father because of their sins. We can see this clearly from what Jesus said in John 12:27. Read it with me.
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (John 12:27 NIVO)
“Father, the time has come.” This is the most simple, concise statement, and yet the deepest, most profound truth that you and I can grasp and use as we live our life from day-to-day. The suffering and death of Jesus was not a random act of violence, nor the culmination of anger and vengeance enacted by an outraged crowd upon the Son of God, but it was the ordained and appointed means of atonement and redemption determined by our Sovereign God. When Peter stood up to preach to the crowd at Pentecost, he told them what had happened. Turn with me to Acts 2:22-24.
22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:22-24 NIVO)
Jesus being handed over to His accusers, to His executioners, was by “God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.” Jesus was not roaming the Galilean countryside one day and determined that He would do something about the suffering of the people. He was not an activist, but the Savior who was sent from God to offer His sinless life in exchange for the sin-scarred lives of those He came to redeem. In 1 Peter 1:18-21 we read,
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 NIVO)
Throughout human history all of humanity has been standing on their tiptoes, hoping, longing for, expecting and anticipating someone who would come along to right all that was wrong with people and society. This hope transcends cultures, it is expressed in the arts, and is found in the literature of the world’s religions. Some have labeled the stories found in societies throughout history and spread across the world as cultural mythologies. We pay good money to go to the movies and watch our Hollywood versions of our cultural myths of the hero who comes to save the day and give us hope.
On Monday night Connie and I took our grandkids to see Trolls. For you connoisseurs of the arts, it is a must see. A shoe-in for “Movie of the Year!” I won’t spoil the movie for you, except to say that it is a feel good movie par excellence and a glowing example of the savior who comes to save the day. In this case, the saviors are Poppy and Branch!
There is something in us that wants to believe, that yearns to believe that the superhero will come to save the day. C.S. Lewis, before he ever became a follower of Jesus, loved the mythological stories of pagan gods who had come to sacrifice themselves. His friends, J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, committed followers of Jesus, helped C.S. Lewis to understand the origination of the wide variety of mythological saviors. Lewis wrote a letter to his friend, Arthur Greeves, in a letter in 1931 explaining what they had helped him to see. Lewis wrote,
Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things.’ (C.S. Lewis)
The “myths” which have stirred the hearts of people in every culture throughout time, the hope of a superhero, a savior, someone who would come to right all that was wrong became reality in Jesus. The hopes of each generation, throughout the world, became a reality which was more real, more marvelous, more glorious than any poet could ever dream. God had planned, since the beginning of time, to send His Son, our Savior, to die in our place, to redeem us and reconcile us to the Father, and then the time came. He was born, lived among us, and died in our place, but death couldn’t hold Him. He lives, up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes, and He wants you to know that now is the time for you and me to recognize the reality of the greatest longing of your heart and fall before Him in adoration. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 13, 2016