Jesus ended the discourse in Chapter 16 with what is known as the High Priestly Prayer of Chapter 17. The title High Priestly Prayer comes from the veil which was torn at His crucifixion and signifying that man no longer needs to go through an earthly priest. Man would no longer need to offer sacrifices through an earthly Priest for the remission of their sin, as Jesus sacrificed Himself for that purpose, that the wages of sin were paid by His life. Jesus Himself would now be the High Priest that we can pray through and have communion with the Father. (Hebrews 9:11-15)
Melancthon wrote, “There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than this prayer offered up by the Son of God Himself.”
Jesus first prays for Himself, but it is not a selfish prayer. Jesus prays that He may be glorified that His Father may be glorified, and to give eternal life to His followers. “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”
The “hour” had come, the expected time of His death and resurrection. By Jesus’ request to be glorified referred to His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension, and His outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Glorify means to make one known. Jesus now desires to be revealed in His true character the divine Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior of the world. The “hour” would result in the manifestation of who Jesus truly is. The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost would constitute or secure the answer to His prayer. By Jesus being glorified the glory of the Father would also be secured. God was never so fully revealed in all His justice and love and holiness and grace as by the “hour” with which we are now concerned.
By the revelation life was also secured for Jesus’ followers; “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” According to this Gospel of John to “know” is not an act of the mind only for the demons know God. To know requires love, obedience, faith, the response of the entire being. To know God as revealed in the Son is to have eternal life. This is not only a future promise but a present experience; it is not only and endless existence but also a heavenly blessedness. This first petition of Jesus in based on the fact that his work here on earth is finished; “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” In Jesus’ commitment to obedience to the Father the supreme sacrifice had already been made and His work was finished. Therefore Jesus cold pray, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”
Few of us feel, when in the shadow of death, that our life is complete, that our work is finished. Life is often a series of beginnings and failures and imperfect endeavors. Yet if one would walk in the will of God, life need not to end in a broken column of incompleteness. The ministry of Jesus was only three years, only a few sick healed, only a few sermons preached, only eleven disciples secured, no book written, and no organization formed. But the work of the Christ will be finished, as the cross remains and then glory.
Next Jesus prays for His disciples, the twelve who had been with Him. Jesus describes them in terms that have a meaningful message for all who follow Jesus. “The men whom You gave Me out of the world.” “And they have kept Your word.” “The words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received” “And they believed that You sent Me.” The Holy Spirit opens our hearts up to the truth of God’s Word and in our love and obedience to God’s Word we will follow Jesus in our faith.
Jesus at the time was praying specifically for the eleven who remained with Him. “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours” Jesus does pray for all in the world, as we should also, but on this occasion His prayer was specifically for the eleven disciples.
It is hard to understand that there was twelve and one betrayed Jesus. They all have witnessed three years with Jesus in His ministry and had heard His words and seen His many signs. Yet Judas Iscariot chose to sell Jesus for the price of thirty pieces of silver. Judas gave up his inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven for his greed and lust of the world. Much as Esau had done and who traded his birthright for a bowl of soup. (Hebrews 12:16) Judas had every opportunity to be a good disciple. However, Judas chose to leave Jesus, in order to hand Jesus over to his enemies. There was a prophecy about this (Psalm 41:9). And bad things happened to Judas (Matthew 27:3-10).
The petitions for Jesus’ disciples are two. First Jesus prays that they may be kept from evil. During the time that Jesus was with them He protected them. (Matthew 12:8) Now Jesus was leaving them and the world, as it had hated Jesus, would also hate His followers. Jesus commits them to the care of His Father, who had given them to Him. Jesus does not pray that they be taken out of the world or that they be spared sorrow, pain, and temptation, but from discouragement and sin. “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
The protection of the disciples was to be done by His Sprit, and also by the truth concerning His Father. “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name.” The unity between God and Jesus is a revelation for the followers of Jesus and they will be kept by the same means after His departure. “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me.”
The second petition of Jesus was that the disciples would be sanctified. The meaning here is not a reference specifically to holiness and separation from sin. These were covered in the first petition. Jesus is speaking more on their being set apart for service in witnessing to the truth. Jesus is praying for the sanctification of His close disciples to their appointed mission. “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” The revelation of the Father given to them through Jesus, “the truth” He had revealed was not only that which set them apart but the core of their service. Jesus then adds, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” Jesus is sending His disciples out into the world to testify to the “truth.”
Jesus now turns His prayer to all believers, “That they may all be one.” Jesus also prays that they may be with Him in Heavenly glory. Jesus first petitions for the unity of all believers. This oneness is far more wonderful than the church unity, the organic unity, a united Christendom which some suppose this refers to. It envisions a spiritual unity, which must be given a visible expression, which in essence is a union with Jesus Christ and through Him with God. “That they also may be in Us.” This prayer was first answered on the Day of Pentecost when by the Holy Spirit believers were all baptized into one body. Therefore the followers of Jesus become one body, the church, in one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.
This petition is yet to be fulfilled completely and for its complete fulfillment we are to work and pray. The spiritual unity in the Holy Spirit must be manifested into an irresistible argument for the divine mission of Jesus. “So that the world may believe that You sent Me.” This provides opportunity to every believer to accept and act on the reality of our vital union as members of the body of Christ. This Christian unity can be advanced only by increasing our knowledge of Christ and the truth which He reveals. As followers of Jesus we must manifest the love, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and patience which are the fruit of the Spirit. The believer must also look to the guidance of the Spirit to lead towards the manifestation of unity which a lost world still waits.
The time will come when this manifestation will be complete. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall we also with Him be manifested in glory. This petition is for the future glory of the Church that the prayer of Jesus has reached its climax. “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory.” The believers of Jesus have a present glory as well, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them.” It is the glory of being the children of God and possessors of eternal life. There is a greater blessedness in store for the believer the actual vision of Christ, a share in the glory granted to the Son by the love of the Father. Jesus pleads for those who follow Him in faith, and His continuing revelation to them, and His own abiding presence with them. “And I in them.” This last phrase is the assurance and condition of the answer to this High Priestly prayer of intercession. Jesus Christ indwelling us by His Spirit is the power and agent by whom His followers are being kept from sin, sanctified in service, given unity of life, and made ready for glory.
Hebrews 9:11-15, Psalms 41:9, Matthew 27:3-10, Matthew 12:8, Hebrews 12:16