JESUS PRAYED FOR US
Just imagine – as Jesus’ prayer embraced the disciples in their desperate need at that moment, so His prayer follows every disciple from then to this very moment and beyond!
What was the kernel of His prayer for all those who would follow Him down the ages through the message of His disciples?
His passion for us, as it was for them, is for the unity among His followers which reflects our oneness with Him and with the Father.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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. (John 17: 20-21)
Why is unity between the Father, Jesus and His disciples so crucial to Jesus? As we have already discussed, only the life of Jesus flowing to and through His disciples can produce the fruit of His nature in them. Nothing will convince the world of the truth of who Jesus is like the love the disciples have for one another (John 13: 34-35) and the supernatural unity between them which reflects the unity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The amazing thing is that this unity already exists, even between strangers. Meet a true brother or sister in Christ for the first time and the connection is already there. Spirit bonds with spirit before a word is spoken. The opposite is true when the Spirit of Jesus encounters the spirit that is in the world. The clash of light and darkness is evident without saying a word.
How tragic, then, that the church of Jesus is so fragmented today that unbelievers have to ask why there are so many different denominations. The church, to a large extent has been hijacked by so-called “spiritual leaders” who draw followers after themselves instead of connecting them to Jesus.
Even the Apostle Paul recognised this as a symptom of disunity in the infant church at Corinth.
My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised into the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1: 11-13)
How do we foster and maintain the unity which the Holy Spirit has created between believers? Paul urged the Ephesian church, and all who read his letter, to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Why?
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4: 4-6)
How do we keep the unity? Submission is the key; dying to self (Gal. 2: 20); humbly submitting to Jesus as Lord (Eph. 5: 24); to spiritual leaders (Heb. 13:17); to one another (Eph. 5:21); wives to husbands (1 Pet. 3: 5-6); and having the attitude of Jesus (Phil 2: 5-11).
- Our glory
I have given them the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. (John 17: 22)
What was the glory which Jesus gave to His disciples? Certainly not the glory which Peter, James and John witnessed on the Mount of Transfiguration and of which John spoke in John 1: 14:
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,
Peter was an eyewitness of that same glory of which he wrote:
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain. (2 Pet. 1: 16-18)
The glory of which the three disciples were eyewitnesses was but a momentary glimpse of the glory that the Son had with the Father before the world began.
But Jesus referred here to another “glory” which was associated with His suffering. This was the glory which He gave to His disciples. “What kind of glory is this?” you may ask. Jesus gave Peter an inkling of the kind of glory his death would display:
‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ (John 21: 18-19)
There is a hidden glory in the suffering He asks us to endure for His sake. It is both the glory of identifying with Him in His suffering and the richness of His grace which, apart from our need, we would never experience.
Something unusual happens when people are thrown together in their suffering. Both the best and the worst comes out of them. Stories from the terrible suffering at the hands of the Germans in the concentration camps during WW2 reveal both the depth of selfishness and the heights of selfless love.
This was the heart of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in the future – that they would grasp the glory of sharing in the suffering of others so that their hearts would be bonded into one. In the midst of the darkness of a greedy and selfish world, the light of unselfish love shines brightly to reflect the glory of God.
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. (John 17: 23)
Deeper and deeper went Jesus into the relationship between Himself, the Father and His followers. He dared to ask the Father that the love they shared as Father and Son would be the same love shared between the Father and His human sons and daughters. At the Father’s instruction, Jesus gave them, and all those who follow after them His name. Included in the gift of that name was the power of attorney to use that name. Never before in all of history were people allowed to use the name of the Father. What did this imply?
So great is the love the Father has for His human children that He is willing to risk giving them power of attorney to use His name, to ask in His name and to receive whatever they asked for, because they ask in the authority and according to the nature of His name. This is like a father giving his son a blank cheque on the understanding that the love and trust between them would prevent his son from abusing the privilege. Because the father loves and trusts his son, the son in turn would honour that trust by spending his father’s money wisely.
This is the kind of love the Father has for His children, entrusting to us all the privileges of sonship on the understanding that we will not abuse those privileges because we love the Father. We will respond to His love by honouring Him and upholding what He values and stands for by our submission and obedience to Him.
- His glory
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17: 24)
Where is this all leading? Jesus renounced His right to retain His glory when He came to earth as a human being. But this was a temporary interlude. When He took on human flesh, He took it on forever, but when He laid aside His glory, it was for a season and for a purpose. The time was coming when the Father would exalt Him to the highest place, give Him a name above every name and give Him even greater glory than He had with Him from before the creation of the world.
What Jesus had before with the Father as His right would now be given back to Him in greater measure as His reward. We have a tiny inkling of that glory as Jesus revealed the Father’s mercy poured out on undeserving sinners through His life and death. It was only because mankind rebelled against God, spurned His love and disobeyed His instructions that God was able to reveal the greatness of His love and the depth of His mercy.
Why was Jesus so eager to receive back the glory He had with the Father and to reveal it to His disciples? The answer is simple. The more we gaze at His glory, the more we are being transformed into His image.
And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect (or contemplate) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3: 18)
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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