As we enter chapter 17 of John’s Gospel we come to what has been called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. It is a great prayer — a wonderful prayer of our Lord’s. It is in fact the longest prayer of Christ’s we have recorded for us in God’s Word.
Title: The Joyful Prayer of Jesus
Scripture: John 17:1-5
Speaker: Kevin A. Pierpont
I think it’s interesting that the prayer we typically call the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 is really the Disciples Prayer because Jesus didn’t actually pray that prayer and could not have prayed it, because that prayer contains confession of debts and sins which Jesus did not have. That prayer He gave to the disciples and those who would be His disciples to instruct them in the manner of prayer.
The prayer we have here in John 17, Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, is the prayer we can actually call The Lord’s Prayer because this is a prayer He did pray.
This prayer also teaches us much about the importance of prayer and the content of prayer. We’re going to begin this morning with the first 5 verses of this prayer which makes up chapter 17.
17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Right away we can see here that this is a prayer which Jesus prayed for Himself. But this is not a selfish prayer. Note how this prayer begins in verse 1.
17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
Remember now that as we left chapter 16 that Jesus had told His disciples to not lose heart. Why? Listen to chapter 16 verse 33 again.
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
And now as we enter chapter 17 Jesus begins this wonderful and powerful prayer that begins with, Father, the hour has come.
What hour is that? It’s the appointed time of his death but it’s more than His death, it’s His sacrifice for sin. And that is just how Jesus has overcome the world. And when Jesus speaks of overcoming the world in chapter 16 He’s talking about sin, and death and Satan and Hell — and how does He overcome them? He does it by His once for all sacrifice for sin.
So what we have here when we begin studying this wonderful prayer of Christ’s is not a sad and mournful prayer as some read it but it is a very forward looking and joy filled prayer. Why? Because by His sacrifice Jesus is victorious over sin. So this is a very forward looking and joy filled prayer in which Jesus prays for himself, but it certainly isn’t a selfish prayer.
Now let’s note what it is that Jesus prays for Himself. We see it beginning in verse 1 where Jesus prays, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.
Jesus is looking to the cross here. The cross is the purpose for which Jesus came. And He came because it was the Father’s will. And when he accomplished the will of the Father becoming the sacrifice for sinners on the cross He would be glorified by the Father and the Father would be glorified by the Son’s obedience.
So this is a prayer which Jesus prayed that God’s will would be accomplished. And what Jesus prays for Himself here is a good pointer to how Christ’s followers ought to pray also.
How are we to pray? Are we to pray for selfish reasons? Are we to pray that God would bless us with riches and happiness and peace and tranquility so that we can be satisfied and comfortable and trouble free while we live on this earth? Or are we to pray for God’s will to be done in our lives?
Aren’t we to pray with the purpose of our prayers being that in the answers God gives He would be glorified? We are.
Remember, Jesus has just finished teaching the disciples at length about the Holy Spirit, He had just been encouraging them about the help they would receive and the encouragement and courage and strength that would be there’s as they are lead into all the truth by the Helper, the Holy Spirit which He would send them. And part of that teaching which we saw in chapter 16 dealt with the matter of prayer as Jesus taught the disciples that they would ask the Father in prayer in Jesus name and when God answered their prayer they would know a full joy. But to have those answered prayers and full joy they and we must pray according to God’s will.
So Jesus had given them this wonderful teaching and these wonderful doctrines that would sustain them when they followed them. But He doesn’t stop there after teaching them the truth to be obeyed, here in chapter 17 He proceeds to show them. He shows them by this prayer that they too, if they are to see the blessing of the Lord on the work they perform for His glory, they too must pray, and they must pray in such a way as not to be thinking of their own comfort but they must pray with this same attitude which was Christ’s. Christ prayed, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you. And how is Jesus glorified? By His obedience, by His sacrifice for sinners, by going to the cross and His obedience would glorify the Father
We ought to note here that just as Jesus prayed with this forward looking joy that was His as he walked in obedience to the Father’s will we learn that there’s an incentive here to pray with faith and joy, as Jesus did.
Yes, we’ve learned that all who are faithful to follow Christ will face trials and troubles and tribulation — we heard Jesus say so in chapter 16. But because Jesus was obedient, even unto death on the cross, and we know that by His death and resurrection He overcomes sin and death and hell, He overcomes the world, because of this we too can take heart, to pray with faith and joy. Why? Because we know that even as Christ suffered on earth, it was according to God’s plan and purpose and will. And by this God is glorified, and by this the Son is glorified, and by this sinners are saved.
There’s another reason for faith and joy as we pray, for God’s will to be done, and for God’s glory, even as we face hardship and trials because we’re God children — and the reason we can pray with faith and joy in the midst of trouble is because God is in control — God is sovereign. Look at verse 2 as Jesus continues His prayer saying,
2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
By what act does Jesus give eternal life to all whom the Father has given Him for salvation? It is by His death on the cross, because it is by this death He bears the punishment for our sins.
Now some look at the cross and see defeat. But God looked to the cross and saw victory. So the cross is a vivid reminder that God is in control.
And because God is in control we pray. And we can pray with joy and faith which brings glory to God as we wait on His perfect timing and His perfect answers — which they always are even if the timing He uses isn’t ours and the answers He gives aren’t the ones we thought He should give. Why? Because God is sovereign.
Who among us would have chosen the suffering of Christ on the cross to wash away the sins of all the Father has given the Son? I don’t think any of us would have suggested the cross. But God in His sovereignty chose the cross and chose to send to the cross His sinless son to be punished for our sin.
As Romans 3:23-25 shows us…
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Propitiation is the satisfying of God’s wrath by the sacrifice of Christ. So what some see as defeat, at the cross, in God’s wisdom He saw the cross as victory and so it is because though the cross was death for Christ it is eternal life for all who believe.
And that’s just where Jesus goes next in His prayer. Verse 3 is like a definition of eternal life.
3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
So here we learn that eternal life is far more than just living forever — it is knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent.
To know God is to have life, and to know the Son is to know God. And if we know the Son, if we believe in the Son, we’re forgiven our sins. But before we come to know Christ, the Son of God and God the Father we’re trapped and dead in our sins. We are like walking dead people without Christ.
Note how Paul says it in Ephesians 2:1-5
2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved.
And because of this wonderful work of God through Christ we know Him and to know God the Father and God the Son, to know the only true God, as Jesus says in verse 3, is to have eternal life, it is to be saved, it is to be made alive together with Christ. It is to walk in newness of life according to Romans 6:4 speaking of all who believe in Christ.
And that saving work of Christ at Calvary is just how He has glorified the Father. Note that in verse 4 that’s what Jesus is pointing to, even though He is not yet crucified for sinners, He is looking back on all He has accomplished by His obedience to the Father and He is looking ahead to the cross when he says, in verse 4:
4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
You see, all that Christ did on earth brought glory to the Father. His teaching, His working of miracles, and then since His hour has come as we heard Him say in verse 1, now the cross.
So Jesus prays,
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
So now again, as in verse 1 Jesus asks for the Father to glorify Him and again, He’s looking to the cross. This was His purpose in coming to walk the earth, that He might walk this earth in obedience to the Father all the way to the cross.
And we see here how Jesus recalls the glory He had enjoyed with the Father before creation. It’s a clear reminder that Jesus was there before the beginning as we know it, before creation.
What joy is Christ’s here as He looks to the cross. What a wonderful Savior we have who prays here to the Father and seeks the glory of the Father as He Himself will be glorified as He obeys the Father.
And what wonderful joy and peace is ours when we trust in Christ fully.
Joy and peace to pray and rest in the certainty the God is in control. And what joy and peace is ours in Christ because we know God through Christ — joy and peace to obey each and every day, knowing that God brings the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. And if that same joy and peace that was Christ’s would be ours, we must trust in Him.
Photo by: Wolfgang Staudt (Creative Commons)