Jesus’ Last Words to His Disciples – His Great High Priestly Prayer

Text — John 17:1-26


  1. Introduction
    1. Jesus concludes his farewell discourse with His Great High Priestly Prayer
      1. It has been titled that because Jesus is our High Priest.
      2. Whereas the Jewish High Priest went into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God to make intercession for God’s people;
      3. The Hebrew writer tells us that the earthly tabernacle was a shadow of the true dwelling place of God in heaven.
    2. So Jesus goes into the very presence of God and intercedes for His people. We have listened in on that prayer. Now let’s look at it in some detail.
  2. Exposition of the text
    1. First notice that Jesus prays for three distinct people or people groups
      1. Verses 17:1-5 He prays for himself
        1. He asks the Father to glorify him that the Son may glorify the Father.
        2. Jesus prays for His own glorification not as an end in itself, but as a means to the greater glory of the Father.
      2. Verses 17:6-19 He prays for the disciples
        1. He informs the Father that “they have believed that you sent me.”
        2. He goes on and asserts they are not of the world, but must remain in the world.
        3. Which brings us to his request: He asks that they be protected from the evil one.
        4. Reports that He has given them a mission to the world.
      3. Verses 17:19-26 He prays for all believers
        1. The final section He prays for all who will become Christians through their witness.
        2. His first request is that we would be one just as the Father and the Son are one
        3. Second, He asks that we would be with Him and see His glory.
        4. He closes with a statement and a promise. He has made the Father known to the Disciples and he will continue to do that so that the love God has for the Son would be in His disciples.
      4. Second, notice that it is a model for intercessory prayer
        1. In the case of His disciples and for all who would come after them:
          1. He accurately states their relationship to Him and to the Father
          2. He states His concern. (I kept them safe, but I’m leaving the world)
          3. He asks the Father to supply what He can no longer do (Don’t take them out of the world; protect them from the evil one)
          4. The motive for His request (So that they may have the full measure of His joy)
        2. Romans 8:34, “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
      5. Finally, notice that His prayer for us is that we would be one
        1. Verses 20-21
          NIV “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you and I are one.”

          NRSV, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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.”

          NKJV, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

        2. First, it is important that we define unity, especially as Jesus did: He in the Father; the Father in Him; and us in them. To understand this we need to look at the three institutions that Scripture calls for oneness:
          1. Marriage: Genesis 2:24, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.
          2. The Trinity: “I in you and you in me etc.”
          3. The Church: John 17:23, “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.
          4. Note what is common between these three things:
            1. There is unity, but not uniformity.
            2. Each party maintains its own personality
            3. The relationship is based on agape love.
        3. As we look at the Christian world today, many, if not most would argue that we have fallen woefully short of Jesus’ request.
          1. This is based upon an unscriptural assumption that all of God’s people in the church will be under one federal head. The facts are that there are four types of church government that God has used and blessed:
            1. Roman Catholic or a monarchy with the power based in one person the pope;
            2. Episcopalian or and oligarchy where the power is place in a small group of bishops;
            3. Presbyterian or a representative democracy where the power resides in a group of elected elders and
            4. Congregational or pure democracy where the power resides in the congregation or laity.
            5. The form of church government does not define unity. It is the choice of the Christians involved and depends very much on the general level of maturity of the people.
          2. Some point to the major divisions in theology and argue that this shows that Christ’s prayer was not answered on a general scale; In order of appearance:
            1. Greek Orthodox
            2. Roman Catholic
            3. Protestant in two forms
              1. Calvinism
              2. Wesleyan-Arminianism
          3. What those critics fail to realize is that while each system of theology is consistent within itself, they begin with certain basic assumptions. As human beings we are finite. The reason that the Trinity is unified in the realm of theology is because they are omniscient.
            1. Paul put it this way, Ephesians 4:3; 13, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. . . until we all reach unity in the faith and become mature . . .”
            2. Our unity is in the Spirit, not in our theology.
          4. The thing that defines the unity of God’s people is neither their polity nor their theology, it is their love: John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
      6. Sources of Disunity
        1. Romans 16:17-8, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.
        2. What are the characteristics of those who cause division in the church?
          1. Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, / and a gossip separates close friends.”
            1. Perverse: (of a person or their actions) showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.
            2. They tend to be troublemakers in all walks of life.
          2. They are smooth talkers and draw supporters to themselves.
          3. They disrespect leadership
          4. They approach conflict with a win at all cost mentality.
            1. If you look at every major church split you will find that it is always about power and someone insisting upon having their own way. (like toddlers)
  3. Conclusion
    1. In His prayer Jesus made it clear what would define our unity. 17:26, “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.”
    2. It’s love. What we need to have together is our hearts not our heads.