John 17:20 – “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…”

We are now going to examine the third and final portion of Jesus’ prayer for his followers. 

Jesus makes it clear that he is not praying just for the apostles, but for all people who will be converted by the subsequent preaching of the gospel.  Since we can expect to face many of the same trials, temptations and difficulties as the apostles, we are in need of the same grace, the same comfort and the same divine assistance as they were.  And thankfully, Jesus provides it for us, just as he did for them!  

Now here is an astonishing fact (take a few minutes to consider this):  Jesus prayed for YOU when he was here on earth, even though you were not yet born!  

Think about how much encouragement and strength you get when your pastor, spouse or a close friend prays for you.  How much more valuable is the prayer of Jesus himself!   

There can be no doubt that God heard and answered this prayer.  After this study is over, I recommend that you re-read the 17th chapter of John and insert your own name into the prayer.  It will give you some profound insight into what Jesus did for you!

In short, we will see that Jesus prays for his followers to have unity, peace, love and eternal glory.

John 17:21 – “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

The first issue Jesus touches on is that of unity among believers (‘that they may all be one’).  There are many reasons why Christians should be united. 

  • We are all redeemed by the blood of Christ; we all have the same Father.
  • We are all going to the same heaven.
  • We have a common enemy and we experience common temptations and trials.
  •  We have a common goal – to spread the gospel throughout the earth and make disciples of all people.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that New Testament Christians are represented as being wholly united – different parts of the same body and members of the same family (I Corinthians 12:4-31).

Romans 12:5 – So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.    

On the basis of this union, we are exhorted:

  • To love one another (I Thessalonians 4:9)
  • To bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • To edify each other (Ephesians 4:3, 11-16).  

Our example for unity in the faith is the relationship between Jesus and the Father.

This does not mean that Christians are united in every single respect like Jesus and the Father (John 10:30).  However, there should be a union among all Christians which is founded/based on our strong union with Christ.  We should be united in our plans, councils, purposes and goals.  With Christ as our head (Ephesians 5:23), we should be working to obtain the same ends – glorifying God here on earth, spreading the gospel throughout the world, and making disciples of all men. 

Furthermore, when we are united with each other under Christ, it is a powerful testimony to the world.  The kingdom of darkness is full of animosity, envy, bickering and unforgiveness. 

However, when the world sees how the gospel unites us, overcoming contention and resulting in love, it will conclude that nothing but divine influence could make people love and respect each other this way. 

This kind of unity was strongly evident in the early days of the church:

Acts 4:32-33 – And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that any of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.  And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

This divine testimony of love is extremely powerful.  It will convince unbelievers that Jesus (and the gospel) came directly from God; they will desire to know Christ and his salvation.

Of course, the opposite is also true – the more Christians break off into factions or denominations and fight with each other, the less the world respects or believes in the God we serve and the gospel message.  We not only hurt his glory when we are divided, we accomplish less for the kingdom than we otherwise would.  

John 17:22-23 – “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Throughout the scriptures, God’s glory is synonymous with his power (Psalms 19:1, John 2:11, John 11:40, etc).

Jesus had divine glory (power) before the world began.  He temporarily laid that glory aside during his incarnation, and he picked it back up when he returned to heaven.  So, just to be clear, divine glory always belonged to Jesus because he is a part of the Trinity.  Therefore it would be incorrect for him to say that Father God has ‘given’ him divine glory.

If God has not given Jesus divine glory, what kind of glory (power) did he grant to Jesus at that time?

The glory Jesus received from the Father and which he now passes to the disciples is his mediatorial glory (power).  In other words, God granted Jesus (as a man) the power to perform miracles and to preach the gospel with authority so that men might be saved.  Jesus now prays for that same power to be given to all believers beginning with the apostles and continuing on down through all generations, so we can continue his work.

This same glory/power will enable believers to ‘be one’ or to function in unity as his body on earth.  And again, this unity and our resulting love for one another will prove to the world that Jesus is Savior and Lord.

Now, let’s consider the topic of unity from another angle.  Unless the Lord returns to earth immediately, we are all going to go to heaven at some point, leaving the next generation here on earth.  So let me ask you a question.  If you were about to die in a few hours, and you had only a few minutes left to speak to your children and loved ones, what would you say to them?

I believe that, in general, there would be three topics of conversation.  Of course, we would express our love for our kids and family.  We would probably also ‘make things right’ or address any issues of forgiveness and reconciliation that needed to take place.  The third topic of conversation would probably be words of wisdom that we want to impart to those we love. 

This wisdom would center on things that we think are vital to a successful and meaningful life.  We might advise our children to pay closer attention to their spiritual lives, or to marry well, or to spend time with those they love. 

Regardless of the specifics, we can be sure that whatever we told them in the last minutes of our lives would be the things we believe are important. 

With that in mind, we can’t help but notice that in his final prayer, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus placed a strong emphasis on unity among believers, using the relationship between himself and the Father as our example.

Do you know why he did that?  It’s because he understood our fallen natures.  He saw the dangers of strife and contention within the church.  He knows that we have a propensity to become ensnared in pride, controversy, envy and competition.  He was well aware that the strife caused by our own imperfections and selfish ambitions would bring dishonor upon true religion and his own precious name. 

1 Peter 4:8 – And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover a multitude of sins.

As children of God, we have a responsibility to overlook offenses and unimportant differences of opinion in order to maintain unity in the body of Christ.  We should be bound to each other by cords of love.  When we are one in heart and purpose, it will show in our actions – we will be effective in spreading the gospel throughout the world and bringing souls to Christ.

John 17:24 – “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Jesus now expresses one of his most earnest desires to the Father – that his followers will one day be with him in heaven, where we will witness his power, dignity and honor as our true high priest and mediator. 

This honor is given to Jesus by the Father, who loved him before the world was ever created.  God loves Jesus as both his only begotten Son and as the Redeemer/Mediator of mankind because through the work of Christ we are reconciled to God as sons and daughters.  

As followers of Christ, we have a glimpse of his glory now, but we are nowhere near beholding it in full.  But if we will believe, love, obey and persevere to the end we will be eternally united to Jesus, Father and the Spirit.  What an exciting time it will be when we are present in the throne room, experiencing this for ourselves!

John 17:25 – “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.”

In this portion of his prayer, Jesus addresses his Father as ‘righteous’.  Why does he use that description here?  It is because he is calling attention to a specific aspect of God’s character.  As a righteous Father, God will reward each person according to his own work (Job 34:11, Psalms 62:12, Proverbs 24:12). 

The world chose to reject God by rejecting his Son.  They will be ‘rewarded’ for their decision by spending eternity with Satan their father.

On the other hand, countless numbers of people believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world.  We too will be rewarded for our decision by being admitted into heaven when our life on earth is over.

John 17:26 – “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

When Jesus says he has made known the ‘name’ of the Father, he is referring to the nature, attributes, commands and councils of God.  This is information that we would never be able to know or discover by ourselves.  We can only obtain it by a special revelation of Christ. 

Jesus partially revealed the Father to his disciples here on earth.  But they were not able to understand everything he wanted to reveal at that point.

The good news is that Jesus promises to continue revealing the Father to mankind after his resurrection. He did this in person for his followers until he was finally taken up into heaven after 40 days (Luke 24:44-45, Acts 1:1-3). 

Afterwards, he continued to reveal the Father to the apostles through Holy Spirit.  This practice has not changed; Jesus is still revealing the Father to believers today through the power of Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit speaks to us through visions, dreams, words of wisdom and knowledge, messages in tongues and through the scriptures.  If we will listen, he will still reveal the nature, attributes, commands and councils of God directly to us.

The eternal love of God, which first rested on Christ is now imparted to us through Holy Spirit, as he permanently lives within our hearts.  Thus, God abides in us and we in him (John 15:5).

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Jesus prayed for YOU while he was here on earth.  How utterly amazing is that? 

Immediately afterward, he went to Gethsemane where he took your sin upon himself and then to the cross, where he made atonement for it.  Furthermore, Jesus made it very clear that he desires YOU to join him in heaven where you can see his power, dignity and honor.  Wow!  What more could he possibly do to prove that he loves you? 

So no matter what discouragement the enemy tries sends your way this week, just remember – Jesus loves you!  The difficulties of this life are only temporary; soon we will be with him in glory!  

Let me offer you some relief:

People are selfish and fickle.  Sometimes they only love you if you please them, or do as they ask, or perform up to their standards.  People will often withhold love from another person as a punishment or as ‘black mail’ to get what they want.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that God is like that, because he isn’t!    

The love of the Father, Son and Spirit is totally pure and genuine.  They don’t play games, they don’t base their love on your performance and they never withhold their love from you.  As we already mentioned, they loved you so much, they paid the ultimate price for you.

So don’t panic if you fail or mess up in your Christian walk.  Remember, God loves you because you are his child, not because you perfect.       

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus makes it plain that unity among Christians is very important; it proves to the world that God is real. 

Christian unity also benefits us as well.  Being a member of a local church is like having a huge, loving family who will walk with you through all the ups and downs of life.

They will rejoice with you during the happy times, and mourn with you during times of sadness or heartache.  They will pray for you, encourage you, and advise you; they will give practical help to you when you need it.

The fact is, God has put them into your life (and you into theirs) to provide strength and support for your life’s journey.  So thank God for your church family today!   

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