MY REFLECTION ON JESUS INTERCESSORY PRAYER: JOHN 17
e all know Jesus as Saviour, Redeemer, Friend, Lover of children, Preacher, Teacher, Healer, Worker of miracles, raising people from the dead etc etc etc. However in John 17, we see Jesus performing another very special function, His role as an Intercessor, a Person of Prayer. John 17 contains the most extensive and profound prayer of Jesus. Going through the prayer three significant things can be highlighted.
Firstly, Jesus prayed to His Father. As is usual with Jesus this prayer starts with a direct call to God. The first word of the prayer is "Father", followed by Jesus many requests. Jesus' whole life has been centered on revealing to humanity who His Father is. At every point and in most situations Jesus would refer to His relationship with His Father. Jesus would acknowledge God, His Father as the source of His being. Jesus derived His essence from God His Father and so He would always acknowledge His dependence on His Father. This was vital to Him as it has sustained Him throughout His sojourn on earth. Many times Jesus would also teach about His Father. When the apostles asked him to teach them to pray, Jesus taught them a Prayer that starts with "Our Father". When he raised Lazarus from the dead He asked His Father to prove Himself for the sake of the people around so that they would know that His Father had sent Him. It is therefore not surprising that Jesus last discourse on earth would be a prayer, a deep communication with His Father, and a befitting farewell to the world that would draw a final attention to His Father. In this prayer Jesus affirmed His Father to be the Only True God. He prayed that the people may know God as such, and also know Him, Jesus as His Son whom He has sent. In this final treatise, Jesus also talked about the Glory of God of which He was a partaker. He asked His Father to glorify Him, His Son. Just as He the Son would glorify His Father. Jesus also talked about the glory which He had with God before the world was made.
Like a Good and Faithful Son, Jesus now told His Father that He has finished the work on earth that His Father had given Him to do. Jesus drew attention to His obedience to God, His father. He also affirms His subordination in this Father/Son relationship; the Father who gives the work to do and the Son who does the work. Jesus obedience, humility, and sacrifice also reflect the Love that exists between the Father and the Son. The question then is why would Jesus go to this great extent towards the end of His life to focus elaborately on His relationship with His Father. I believe that Jesus wanted to openly acknowledge one more time the Supremacy of God the Father.
Most times, prayers are private and secret communication between God and us. But this time Jesus said His prayers openly loud and clear for all to hear. The Bible says that Jesus "lifted up His eyes to heaven", and in an overt gesture, in an open affirmation and reference to God His Father, Jesus said "The hour has come". For Jesus it was imperative that His disciples do not forget about God the Father, whom He had been talking and teaching a lot about. It was important that they will forever remember what His Father meant to Him, and what His Father would mean to all who would come to the Father through Him. Remember His primary mission on earth was to reconcile humanity with His Father, to close the gulf that had been created by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Jesus offered Himself to be the sacrificial Lamb to effect this reconciliation, through His Death, His Resurrection and His Ascension which essentially is about Jesus returning to His Father after completing the task that He came for.
Secondly, Jesus prayed for His disciples. After talking a lot about Himself and His Father, Jesus in verse 6 swung focus to the men that God His Father had given Him. Jesus said "I have manifested Your name to the Men whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, You gave them to me and they have kept your Word". What a significant thing to say about His men. Who were Jesus men? His Disciples, of course. In this segment of the prayer Jesus acknowledges that He could not have done the work of His Father all by Himself. So He chose some men to be part of the job, part of the agenda, and part of the program. Of course Jesus could have chosen to ignore this fact in this Intercessory Prayer. But Jesus always doing the right thing and setting Himself up as a model for all of us, acknowledged His men and brought them in prayer before His Father.
As we know in this our world, people always ascribe ultimate power to themselves, especially in their position of authority. They see themselves as the beginning and the end of it all. Jesus was humble enough to acknowledge the role that His men had played in His Mission. Of course He would soon be returning to His father. Who would He leave behind to continue the work that He started? His men. Many men of power in this world do not think of succession. Jesus knew that there is a continuing aspect of the job that He had come to do for His Father. Phase one was completed. Phase two was imminent. If His men were to continue with the work that he is leaving them to do, they need the empowerment of His Father that He had benefitted from and had sustained Him. So He prayed for them. Jesus brought them to throne of His Father.
But before Jesus prayed for them He knew that He had to affirm them before His Father. Jesus knew that He had to tell His Father that His men were worthy of the responsibility that He was leaving them with, that His men could be depended and counted upon to continue the work He had chosen them for. Jesus citation for His men is in verse 8: "I have given to them the words which you have given me. They have received them and they have come to know surely that I came from you and they have believed that you sent me." WOW!!!!!!, What a recommendation!! A great summary of what His men represents.
This a lot more than "Welcome good and faithful servant" This is Jesus Himself writing a report on the men that He had chosen to help Him with His work. God and faithful servant is general. But with these men, a befitting citation is needed to justify the requests He was going to make of His Father for them. Jesus said that they have received the teaching that He gave them. They have allowed the teaching to settle in them. They have not only acknowledged the teaching that He gave them; they have acknowledged Him Jesus as God's Messenger. How significant!!! Of course as humans we always suspect and reject people when we are not sure on whose behalf they are speaking. But to Jesus delight, His men never doubted Him; they left All to follow Him. They unconditionally accepted Him as the Messenger of God. They emphatically embraced and accepted His message, about Himself, and His Father who had sent Him. Jesus was not making a glib claim on behalf of His men. He knew them. He taught them. He had spent time with them, watched and studied them carefully. It was from this intentional focus that He was able to make that Expert Report and Affirmation to God His Father about His men.
How many of us called to do God's work will get that type of recommendation from the One we are supposed to be working for? Many called have rejected the Messenger. Many called have made a turn around saying I do not believe in this, I do not believe in that. Some have even questioned the Bible as the inherent word of God. Some would rather dilute the message of the Messenger to be politically correct.
I am not sure that Jesus Men knew that their Master was watching them that closely, that He would be writing a report, making a recommendation on their behalf at the end of His sojourn on earth. For those of us here, I think it is important that in whatever we have been called upon to do for Jesus and His Father, to know that Jesus is watching. Hind sight is 20/20. Now that we know Jesus would be writing a report on all of us to His father, I think it is needful to be mindful. Unto whom much is given much more is expected. So we better be doing some self-evaluation as we continue in this journey before The Master sends out His report on us to His Father.
In our secular jobs we all worry about promotion etc, so we make efforts. But in God's work we usually take things for granted. I think if there is anything to learn from Jesus Prayer about His men, it is that there is an Evaluation at the end of a period. Jesus is watching and taking note. Jesus men earned an Honorable Mention, and so Jesus asked God His Father to do some things on their behalf. In Verse 11 Jesus asked God His Father to keep them, to protect them, and keep them alive. In verse 15 Jesus expanded His prayer to "Keep them from evil". WOW!!! Evil abound, evil strikes at unexpected times and places, Jesus prayed that His men may be safe and secure from all alarms. Amen.
Then in verse 17 Jesus asked God to "Sanctify His men by His truth". I could preach the whole day on Sanctification. Suffice it to say that this is another powerful prayer that Jesus prayed for His faithful men. Talk of reward for a job well done, a prayer from the Master Intercessor Himself. Jesus' affirmation of His men should be tremendously encouraging to all of us the present-day disciples.
Thirdly, Jesus Prayed for All Believers. In verse 20-21 Jesus now expanded His prayer to all believers, you and me. He said "I do not pray for these my men alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word". Amazing!!!!! Jesus looks down centuries later saw all the people who will come to believe in Him through the work that His men will do. There are 7 billion people in the world today; over three billion are Christians, Believers in Jesus. You and I are part of the 3 billion who have come to accept Christ as our Saviour. Jesus knew that from His Twelve men, billions would continue to hear about Him and will continue to give their hearts to Him. So Jesus has already embraced us. He has already accepted us. In verse 23 Jesus then added the most significant prayer that continues to resonate well with people and continues to give Hope. Jesus said "that they will know that you have sent me and that I have LOVED THEM as you have loved ME". When you hear over and over again that Jesus loves you, this is where it comes from. Jesus loves us. Paul in Ephesians 3:19 prays that we may experience the "Love of Christ", though it is too great to understand fully. So what is this Love of Christ that we need to know, believe, understand and experience? "Love of Christ" refers to Jesus love for humanity which was shown through His death upon the cross. Corinthians 5:14-15 tells how the love of Christ changes our lives, when we come to believe it. His love in us allows us to see ourselves in new perspectives, no matter who we are, and no matter where we are coming from. The Love of Christ in us also helps us to show love to others, impacting people with it everywhere we go.
Jesus then prays that all of us may be ONE. He asked God to keep us together, that there may not be division among us, that we may be as one just as He and His Father are One. Jesus is talking of internal cohesion, that we will be in unity, that we will all be working together in unison, and that we will all be made PERFECT in that Oneness with God, Oneness with Jesus and His Father, and Oneness in our relationship with one another in God. No one comes to the Father except through the Son. Jesus shares in the deity of the Father. But because we believe in the Son, we have access to the Father. Jesus emphasizes the interdependence and mutuality that we have in Him and so in God. The love the Father has for Jesus is the same love Jesus has for us believers, indeed for the whole world. It is in this love that we become living proof of God's gracious character In is also in this love that we invite people to join and share in this union with God and His Son Jesus.
So what have we learnt from Jesus Intercessory Prayer? The presence of Jesus dwells permanently in those who have accepted Him as their Savior. He will not leave us alone neither forsake us, but will be in us forever. Jesus wants Unity for all His followers, for all Christians: that we may all be One. Unity!! Not that we may think and act or dress alike, but that we have Unity in Purpose, the mark of the Christian community. Every request which our Lord made on our behalf requires a personal input from all of us. We must be mindful of our own responsibilities in our prayers. Jesus has modelled for us how we should pray. Jesus prayer is constant submission to His Father. Our own prayer too must be consistent submission to Jesus Father and Our Father. May God's will be done at all times in our lives. May Jesus desire be fulfilled in us. Amen.