John 17:20-26 – Jesus prayed for us!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 6, 2011 AM
“I’ll pray for you” are words often uttered as an empathetic gesture by many, yet they can have a tremendous impact on the life of a person. Have you ever had someone pray for you? Perhaps you were sick, maybe even in the hospital, and someone from the church stopped by and, after a brief visit, prayed for your recovery. Or perhaps there was a significant decision to be made, and someone from your family prayed with you and for you. How do you feel when someone prays for you?
We discover that Jesus paused to pray for his disciples, but did you know he also prayed for each of us as well? On the night he was betrayed, the Son of God himself prayed — not just for the little band of Galileans who followed him across the Palestinian landscape for three years — but for each one of us here this morning! Let’s discover what Jesus prayed…
We may have forgotten that prayer is much more than the mere asking of requests or the wishful thoughts of Christians. Prayer is a sacred intimate relationship between you and God. Jesus understood this fully and often taught his followers how to pray by his own example. Here in this passage we find that having prayed for those men who were to become his apostles, Jesus now focused his prayer on his future followers, us. Let’s find out what he prayed for. First we see that…
I. Jesus prayed for our Godly unity! (Vv. 20-21)
1. God wants us to walk in the unifying light of His Son, not stumble in the darkness of the world!
1) It is found in the unity of the message! Christians today are included along with the disciples as those who placed their faith in Jesus because of their message. From the 1st century to the 21st century, we are all one in faith! Paul wrote, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve… and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5, 8 NIV) From then until now, the message of the cross has been handed down and given to those who believed their message! WOW!
2) It is discovered in the unity of prayer! It is always encouraging to know that someone is praying for us. How much more to realize that Jesus prayed for us and how much more wonderful to know that he prays for us still! He is at the right hand of God interceding for us even now! Paul wrote, “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” (Romans 8:34)! Hebrews tells us that Jesus “always lives to intercede for” believers (Hebrews 7:25).
3) It is felt in the unity of fellowship! There is a purpose in Jesus’ desire for the unity of believers, “that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus saw the lack of unity as a hindrance to evangelism. We know from our own experiences that non-Christians often mention the division in the church as a reason for their lack of interest in the Gospel. This unity is described as koinonia, oneness in mind, will, and purpose that is expressed in our love for God and for all Christians. Paul recognized this “partnership in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5) and how Christians are to seek to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), being “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Philippians 2:2). Godly unity is important.
EXAMPLE: One of the major tragedies in the history of Christianity is the division among Jesus’ followers and the sheer hatred that they at times have shown to one another. An example of this may be seen in the reaction the Catholic Church had to the first complete translation of the Bible into English in the late 1300s under the influence of John Wycliffe. He was viciously castigated by the church, being called “the Devil’s Instrument, People’s Confusion, and Heretic’s Idol!” How terrible that someone who was trying to put the Word of God into peoples’ hands and in a language they could understand was considered an enemy of the God he loved and served. Several years after his death, Wycliffe was publicly condemned as a heretic, and his bones were dug up and burned. The ashes were then scattered in a nearby river. We need to remember that Jesus prayed for our Godly unity.
There is an incorrect theological undercurrent that says denominational loyalty causes disunity, thus all denominations are “bad” and that we do not need them. It is the Rodney King theology of “Can’t we all just get along?” This is a subtle lie. Christians are to be unified in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. However, Jesus never intended that his followers were to undermine the gospel or his teachings to do it. Unity disguised in compromise or the placation of basic Christian doctrines is ungodly. This is why…
II. Jesus prayed for our unified witness in the world! (Vv. 22-23)
1. It is a simple fact that if you walk with Christ, you can’t run with the world!
1) It is the unity Christians enjoy in sharing God’s glory! Jesus lovingly prayed about the glory (doxa – splendor) God had given him and how he gave it to each of his followers! Jesus lived in heavenly glory before he came to earth (v. 5). Eventually he would return to that glory at the Father’s right hand. This is the glory that Jesus shares with his followers, as verse 24 indicates! God “did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:23)! Paul wrote: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us… I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.” (Romans 8:18) We share in God’s glory because of the love of Christ in our salvation. It unifies us with God and his Son!
2) It is the unity of our loving witness! Such complete unity is a powerful witness to the world as Jesus prayed it would be! The world will know that Jesus came from God because of our unity. The world will also know that God dearly loves those who commit their lives to Jesus. Jesus taught, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Many in our society today are starving for such unified love that is different than the selfishness the world offers!
EXAMPLE: The other day as I was working around my yard I heard the little croaking of a tree frog. I paused from my work to see if I could find him. It took me several minutes and a little difficulty but I finally located him. His color was so well blended to the tree he was perched on that it was hard to distinguish him from the bark. Christians often take on the color of their surroundings as well. They can become like the people they associate with, whether good or bad. In Acts 4:13 it tells us that when the people realized that Peter and the other disciples “were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” The disciples had become like Jesus because they had spent time with him, learned from him, and followed his example. They were unified in Christ. We can become like Jesus as we spend time with him and his people in his church unified in our witness to a dying world. Jesus prayed for our unified witness in the world!
Jesus knew he would soon go to be with his heavenly Father again. There he would become our advocate before the throne of God. Knowing this, Jesus wanted those to come to always remember that there would be a time when he would not only come again, but a time when we would go to be with him when we die. It is one of Jesus’ most profound promises that has given all Christians throughout the ages a certain hope. What a joy to know that…
III. Jesus prayed for our future with him! (Vv. 24-26)
1. The last line in the life of every Christian’s story should be: “To be continued… above!”
1) Jesus now looked beyond his departure from his disciples and into eternity! He has been with these men for three and a half years. But he wants to be with them forever! The rewards of Heaven are not grudgingly given. Jesus wants all his followers to spend eternity in glory with him. The most precious promise all of us desire to hear, when we face our own death are the words the repentant thief heard from Jesus, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NIV) Yes Lord, I desire to hear that I will be with you forever!
2) Jesus’ desire was that his followers would continue the work he started! He relates, “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.” Jesus would go to the cross to complete his work. He desired that his disciples would continue in his work because he knew that the world did not “know” God (v. 25). In fact, since much of the world does not think it “worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (Romans 1:28 NIV) it was the disciple’s duty to tell the world! (Matthew 28:19-20)
3) Jesus’ prayer therefore was to make God known to the world through all of his followers – including us! Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26 NIV) Some of his last words to his disciples were, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21 NIV) Jesus continues to make God know through those who believe in Him. Just as Jesus made God known to us, he will be with us as we make him known to the world! He promised, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV) This is why the writer of Hebrews would state, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6 NIV)
EXAMPLE: The American evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) told a story of a soldier in the Crimean War. Though severely wounded he was able to crawl back to his tent. When he was later found, he was laying face down, his open Bible before him, his dead hand stuck to one of its pages by the blood which covered it. When his hand was lifted, some of the words were clearly visible on the pages where his fingers rested. The words were, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25) Moody stated, “I want a religion like that.” I do as well. It is one that gives me a future and a hope. It is one that reunites me with my Savior and Lord and those who willingly live for him. How wonderful to know that Jesus prayed for our future with him!
I am so glad Jesus prayed for me. Aren’t you? Jesus prayed not only for our unity in God, but for the witness we would have, and he prayed for our future with him. What a joy to know that Jesus prayed for us! Now, let me ask you – do you know the one who prayed for you?
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.