15. Jesus’ Last Prayer
John 17:1-5: Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said: Father, it's time. Display the bright splendour of your Son So the Son in turn may show your bright splendour. You put him in charge of everything human so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendour, the very splendour I had in your presence before there was a world.
After his last teaching on his last night, Jesus now turns to prayer. Firstly praying for himself, then for his twelve disciples and then finally for all disciples that will follow, the church. This prayer is probably the pinnacle of revelation in John’s gospel. Here we see Jesus’ very words, revealing an unparalleled intimacy with His Father.
Jesus prays for Himself
Central to this part of his prayer is glorification. That is the glorification of himself in order that God the Father who sent him will be glorified. Glorify is rarely used outside of church circles today. If ever it is, is usually in the context of somebody pretending to be better than they really are. Glorify means, in a biblical context, to have the person’s true nature disclosed. So in effect, Jesus is saying in John 17:1: “May people see me for who I truly am, your Son. And may they also, through me, see your true nature, Father!” Praying as he does, just before he knowingly goes to his death on the cross, shows the importance of the cross. For it is through the cross that God the Father and Jesus will be glorified. Jesus’ death on the cross reveals a God of love, faithfulness and forgiveness. John 17:4 reveals that it was for this purpose that he came, in order to complete the work given. Jesus’ entire earthly life has been one to show divine love. All his works and words were completed without even a hint of hypocrisy. His entire life was driven by the desire to see sinful people turn to God for reconciliation and forgiveness. At the cross and through the cross, this is achieved. Jesus confidently prays that having laid aside his glory by taking on human form, he will return to God’s right hand, having achieved the work of redemption. The theme of eternal life runs throughout John’s Gospel (John 3:15-16; John 10:28). Eternal life is knowing God personally and intimately, and that is only achieved by faith, through Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a free offer and open to all. It is the responsibility of all people to take up the offer. Once the offered is taken up, the responsibility is then to tell others of this offer.
Jesus prays for His Disciples
John 14:6-8: I spelled out your character in detail to the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; then you gave them to me, and they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything you gave me is firsthand from you, for the message you gave me, I gave them; and they took it, and were convinced that I came from you. They believed that you sent me.
In this part of the prayer, Jesus prays for his disciples. Note how he describes them: they were chosen by God himself, seen God in Jesus and have received God’s words and obeyed them (John 17:6). John 17:6, 9-10 tells us that the disciples were in the safe possession of both the Father and the Son. John 17:7-8 shows what the disciples know. Despite misunderstanding frequently what Jesus was talking about, the disciples still grasped that Jesus had come from God. Having taught that they will endure persecution and suffering because they are His followers, Jesus prays for their safety. They will be safe, not because of their own cunning, character or conduct. They will be safe because of God’s care and protection (John 17:11-12). As they are God’s possession, he will ensure that they are watched over and protected. This security is also born from glorifying God and being witnesses for him (John 17:10). God is glorified whenever his salvation plan is explained and told.
Who are the disciples’ enemies and why do they need protecting (John 17:11-12, 15)? The first enemy is the world who does not know God and is therefore in rebellion against God. The disciples were told of this prior to this prayer. Satan is also an enemy of the disciple and will do all he can to stop God being glorified in the life of the disciple. How will God keep them safe? Through His mighty name and nature. By remaining loyal to Jesus, obedient to his teachings and telling others about him, God’s name & nature will therefore protect them.
Jesus also prays that they may be filled with joy (John 17:13) and be dedicated wholly and solely to him. The disciples now have a mission and purpose to fulfil – to tell others of Jesus. This mission, though whilst their responsibility, is not theirs alone but is the continuation of Jesus’ mission to bring people to reconciliation with God. Part of that mission is to live a holy life in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is the real and true pioneer evangelist! Living a holy life, means living a life not for themselves but for the glory and obedience of Jesus Christ.
Jesus prays for all Christian Disciples
John 17:24-26: Father, I want those you gave me To be with me, right where I am, So they can see my glory, the splendour you gave me, Having loved me Long before there ever was a world. Righteous Father, the world has never known you, but I have known you, and these disciples know that you sent me on this mission. I have made your very being known to them — Who you are and what you do — And continue to make it known, So that your love for me Might be in them Exactly as I am in them.
Now Jesus prays for all those who, through the work of the disciples, will become his followers. As such, it brings all Christian disciples into intimacy with Jesus and a part of a dynamic relationship with him.
What does Jesus pray for His church of followers? Jesus prays for unity. That is unity is on various levels. Firstly it is unity on the invisible, supernatural level (John 17:21-22). The life of all Christian disciples are inextricably linked to each other, through the love and obedience of God the Son and God the Father. Christian disciples are united because Jesus imparts upon them, the glory given to Him by God the Father (John 17:22). This unity is also physical, in so much as through a visible unity, people will come to know Jesus personally and take up the offer of reconciliation with God (John 17:21, 23). This unity is also physically seen, through the telling of the message of reconciliation (John 17:20).
Remember Jesus’ words earlier in John’s Gospel? John 15:12-14: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” If the world sees Christian Disciples loving others sacrificially, then unity is seen and it is an effective witness to the reality of reconciliation with God.
For more to think about please do read John 17. Ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. How am I as a Christian Disciple glorifying God and being His representative?
Q2. What are the hindrances that I face regarding evangelism and telling others about Jesus?
Q3. What can I, as a Christian disciple, do to maintain a witness of unity with other Christian Disciples?