High Priestly Prayer (In But Not of The World)
EASTER 7B John 17:20-26
The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.
Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 296.
In the lectionary system, Easter 7 (Series A, B, C) is dedicated to Jesus’ high priestly prayer. The whole chapter of John 17 is divided into three sections that correspond with the lectionary.
A theme of the sermon for Series A (John 17:1-11) could be: What is eternal life but knowing God in the present and accomplishing the work that God gave us to do?
A theme of the sermon for Series B (John 17:6-19) could be: What does it mean to be “in the world” but not part of the world? That Jesus would not isolate us from the world around us but help us be strong? What does it mean that Jesus protects us while we are living in the world?
A theme of the sermon for Series C (John 17:20-26) could be: What does it mean to be perfectly one in a world with so many deep divisions among nations, political parties, religions, factions within religions, factions within the church, etc.?
In the New Testament, we often think of Jesus and prayer. We recall Jesus teaching his disciples to pray as in the Lord’s Prayer. We also think of Jesus praying and agonizing at the Garden of Gethsemane for the will of God to be done, rather than his own will. We think of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer here in John 17, where Jesus intercedes in prayer for his disciples, past and future.
The prayer in John 17 is called an intercessory prayer because John is interceding in prayer for his disciples.
#329. THE INTERCESSORY PRAYER John 17:1-26
The gospel text for Easter 7A (John 17:1-11) begins here:
-After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, Jesus has finished his teachings and now concludes his teachings with a moment/word of prayer. This prayer is often called the “high priestly prayer” or Jesus’ “intercessory prayer” in which he prayers for his disciples and future followers (such as you and me.)
Underline the phase, “He looked up into heaven.” Jesus is beginning his prayer. It is important to know that Jesus prayed for his disciples and also prays for us today. This whole chapter is about Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, past and future. In this prayer, Jesus was not praying for himself as he did in the Garden of Gethsemane but was praying for his disciples, past and future.
-‘Father, the hour has come; Circle the word, “Father.” Jeremias is one of the finest Biblical scholars of the last generation and he said that the primary teaching of Jesus was the truth about Father/Abba/Pappa/Daddy and the intimacy of God. In the Old Testament, prior to Jesus, no one ever addressed God by the intimate and endearing term, “Father.” Instead, the Old Testament authors used words like “the Lord God omnipotent.” Jesus shocked and transformed the Old Testament religion by simply calling the Lord God (God’s name in the Old Testament) as “abba/pappa/daddy.”
“The hour” that has finally arrived in the hour of crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. It is the hour that Jesus has been waiting for, the final moment, the most significant moment of his whole life and God given destiny.
Scan the following references to THE HOUR in the Gospel of John:
Joh 4:21 - Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
Joh 4:23 - But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
Joh 4:53 - The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he himself believed, along with his whole household.
Joh 5:25 - "Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Joh 5:28 - Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
Joh 8:20 - He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
Joh 12:23 - Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Joh 13:1 - Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Joh 16:2 - They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.
Joh 16:4 - But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
Joh 16:21 - When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.
Joh 16:25 - "I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming
when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father.
Joh 16:32 - The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.
Joh 17:1 - After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,
Joh 19:27 - Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
-Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. The Lord God glorified Jesus so Jesus could glorify God. Jesus glorified God by being perfectly obedient to God, through his death and resurrection.
Jesus has been given the authority by God to give eternal life to all who belong to him. Underline the phrase, “give eternal life to all who belong to him.” That is what we all want: eternal love in our current existence and eternal love in our future existence. Jesus is the dispenser, the giver, the instrumental person who dispenses eternal life. That authority to give eternal life has been granted to him by God the Father.
-And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. So what is eternal life? To know the only true God and to know Jesus Christ who has been sent by God. Eternal life does not begin sometime in the future, after our death or when we are in paradise with Christ. Rather, eternal life begins now, here on this earth at this moment, during our earthly existence. Eternal life is knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ … now.
We all know that the best gift that a person can have is to know God and Jesus Christ. All of us parents want our children to know God and Christ. That is the best gift we can give to our children: that they would know, love, and walk in the ways of Christ. As parents, we are keenly aware that we cannot force this gift onto our children or grandchildren, but we pray that the miracle of the Holy Spirit will occur in their lives and that our children and grandchildren will walk with the Lord. This kind of knowing is the most important attribute/value/quality that a person could ever have.
-I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. Underline this phrase. We often feel the same way. That is, the way we glorify God is by finishing the work that God has given us to do here on this earth. During the epochs of our lifetime, it seems that there are various jobs and various roles that God has given us. In our youth, we were children, then young adults, then perhaps married partners, then perhaps parents, then perhaps parents of teenagers, then perhaps workers in various occupations, then perhaps older and approaching retirement, then perhaps retired, then getting older, then living in a retirement home, then living in a primary care unit getting ready to die. We have all experienced various epochs of life during which God has given us different work to accomplish, different jobs to do. One way that we glorify God is by doing the work that God has given us to do.
As a pastor, I have discovered again and again that an elderly person who has Alzheimer’s Disease still has purpose. Such people give and receive love and grace. At that closing chapter of life, they receive much more grace and love than they give but giving and receiving of love is what life is all about. That is the purpose of life: giving and receiving love. And you do that when you are old and senile.
We recall John 15:8 where a person glorifies God by bearing much fruit “ My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
-So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. Underline the phrase, “with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed,” and write the word, “pre-existence.” Here are words that clearly articulate that Jesus existed with God before the world began. One of the primary differences of Christianity compared with the other world religions is that those world religions believe that their founder was a great religious prophet who taught the spirit of truth about God. No other world religion today claims that their founder claimed to be God, that their founder claimed to be with God before time/the world began.
The gospel lesson for Easter 7B (John 17:6-19) begins here:
-I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. In John 17, Jesus is praying to God for his disciples, including praying for us. We need to imagine Jesus now seated at the right hand of God, right next to God, interceding for each one of us. John, chapter 17, is called the High Priestly Prayer because Jesus is our High Priest, who is interceding with God on our behalf.
“I” means Jesus. Jesus has made God’s name known to his disciples.
There is that word, “world.” For the first time in this text. Write the number “1” next to the word, “world.” The word, “world,” occurs twelve times in this short text.
Underline the word, “world,” every time that you see it in our Bible study and you will underline it and number it.
-They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Circle the word, “they.” “They” means disciples. The first twelve disciples. But also you and me. We too are disciples. We too are part of the “they.”
God gave us disciples to Jesus.
Kept your word. The disciples that God gave to Jesus kept/obeyed/followed the teachings and commandments of God and put them into action. Underline the phrase, “kept your word.” Write down, “God’s commandment to love God and neighbor.” In this section of the Gospel of John, there are repeated assertions that disciples are people who keep God’s word.. A crucial aspect of discipleship is not only to hear and understand God’s commandment to love but to do it, to keep that commandment. Keep means obedience and actually doing the commandment to love.
-Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. Like any good parent often repeats the truth to his/her children, so Jesus also repeats the truth to his disciples often and repeatedly, as if they did not comprehend it the first times.
A particular important aspect of Christian discipleship is to know and believe that Jesus Christ came from God, that Jesus was sent by God to earth and also that Jesus will return to God where he was initially, before the world began. Jesus repeats this theme again and again. This was another way of Jesus claiming his divinity, that he was with God before the world began; that God sent Jesus into the world and that when his work was done here on this earth, Jesus will again return to God from whom he came in the first place.
-I am asking on their behalf; Underline. Highlight. Emphasize. It is important to realize that Jesus prayed for his disciples and also prays/intercedes for us as well. Just as you and I pray for each other, so also Jesus prayed and prays to God on our behalf. Jesus, whom we picture at the right hand of God, is talking with God, conversing with God, interceding with God, his heavenly Father and ours, on our behalf.
-I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, The world is not interested in Jesus interceding with God on its behalf.
because they are yours. Wow. Underline it. Highlight it. Claim it as your own. The disciples, including you and me, belong to God. We are “yours.” Near the word, “they,” write in, “That’s me.”
All mine are yours, and yours are mine; The disciples belong to both God and Jesus.
and I have been glorified in them. We disciples glorify God by keeping the commandments to love God and neighbor. That is the primary way that we glorify God. Not by singing hymns and praying prayers and looking and smelling religious. The way we glorify Jesus is by keeping his two commandments.
-And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, See the words, “world” and write the numbers 2 and 3. We disciples are in the world. Jesus never takes us out the world with all its tensions and desires, but leaves us to live out our lives in the middle of a culture which is hostile to God, the values of God, the ways of God.
Jesus is no longer in the world; that is, Jesus is soon coming to God the Father.
and I am coming to you. This is a reference to Jesus’ coming ascension, where Jesus will ascend back to God the Father, from whom Jesus originally came. Jesus will be coming back home to his Heavenly Father.
-Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, Circle the word, “Protect.” What does it mean “to protect them/the disciples in God’s name?”
Does that mean that God protects us from disasters and trials of life? Sometimes, when we are in the midst of a disaster, we wish that God would protect us from the pain that we or our loved one(s) are going through. We, as suffering human beings, see the word, “protect,” and we grab onto it, erroneously thinking that the Lord God promised to protect us from the pain of life.
The protection that God offers us is the protection from sin. The Lord God offers us the armor of the Spirit whereby we stand strong in the testings of the flesh and testings of the spirit.
The word, “protection,” or “guard” is used three times in this text. We think of numerous images of helmets that are given for our protection and need to be used while engaged in physically dangerous sports: a football helmet, a bicycle helmet, a ski helmet, a skating helmet, a skate board helmet. It would be foolish to engage in these sports without the proper protection of one’s head. It also would be foolish to live within this world of ours without needed protection for our heads and hearts.
so that they may be one, as we are one. Jesus intercedes for us and prays to our heavenly Father for our protection. But for what purpose? So that the disciples are one. Circle the word, “one.” This is the first of four times in this section where Jesus prayed for his disciples to be “one.” Why was this so important for Jesus? Why was it so important for Jesus that his disciples be one with each other and one in Christ? What did Jesus know about the future factions and divisions that would evolve around religion and Christianity?
Next year, on this Sunday, Easter 7, we will focus on the last section of this chapter, John 17, and Jesus’ desire to have his disciples perfectly one with each other.
-While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost. Jesus guards and protects us his disciples, not from the trials of life, but from falling away and becoming lost.
It is important that you realize this. So many of us have a hidden expectation that God is to protect us from the pain and misery of life here on earth, rather than protecting us from falling away from God and becoming lost.
-Except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. Write down the name, Judas. Except for Judas. It was Judas’ God given destiny that he would betray Jesus … for money.
-But now I am coming to you, Jesus is getting ready for his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, where he will be coming back to God. Jesus originally came from God who sent him to earth and is returning to God.
-and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. See the word, “world,” and write number 4 next to it.
Underline the phrase, “they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” Circle the word, “they” and write disciples above it.
Circle the word, “my joy.” We know that Jesus wants his disciples to have hearts filled with joy. We also know that there are “joy stealers” around us who would just as soon that we would wallow in misery, imperfection and sinfulness. But Jesus wants us to be filled with joy, to be overflowing with joy that is not based on material prosperity or physical health. Even when a person is economically poor and physically sick, there is this joy that comes from loving God, loving Jesus, loving one another. We know that the happiest/most joyful people of life have discovered the riddle that true joy is found in loving relationships with God, Jesus, others, self and the earth.
I remember a retreat about JOY. Those letters stand for Jesus, Others, Yourself. That is what joy is: to love Jesus, others and yourself.
-I have given them your word, Jesus has given his disciples, including your and me, God’s word, his commandments to love God and each other and to believe in Jesus.
and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Underline the word, “world” three times. Write the numbers 5, 6, 7.
Underline the phrase, “do not belong to the world.” Jesus has said this to us endlessly, repetitively, repeatedly. Jesus is like a parent who repeats the same truth/advice/perceptions to his/her children over and over and over again. Children need to hear the truth over and over and over again. It is in the repetition that a person comes to realize the importance of what is being said. There are some basic mathematical tables that are endlessly drilled into our minds so that we can remember them and put them into practice. This is also true of several of Jesus’ fundamental teachings. He repeats them over and over again until we finally begin to learn them.
The word, “world,” (kosmos) is used seventeen times in this whole chapter. The disciples’ relationship with their world and we contemporary disciples’ relationship with our world is the primary focus of this text.
“The world” does not refer to this planet Earth nor to our universe but the world, the culture, the civilization around us which is permeated with evil, imperfection, injustice and sin. In the Gospel of John, the world is always hostile to God but God still loves the world.
The world in which we live is incredibly beautiful. Skies of blue, red roses too. But this world is also permeated with evil and injustice.
Followers of Christ do not belong to the world. The world around us does not know what it means to love God with all one’s self and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do not belong to such values.
We remember that God/Jesus loved the world. We remember John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
We Christians are to love the world as God loves the world. Jesus did not condemn the world around him and we are not to condemn our world either.
-I am not asking you to take them out of the world, Underline the word, “world.” Write the number 8. Jesus is so clear. God loves the world. Jesus loved the world. And you and I are to love this world of God’s as well.
But we know this world around us is also infected with injustice and cruelty and Jesus wants us disciples to remain in this world that God loves.
but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. Jesus again tells us that his disciples are not being removed from the world but that God would protect them from the evil one. We remember the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Deliver us from the power of evil that wants to consume our lives.
This is the prayer of Jesus. This is the request of Jesus to God our Heavenly Father. Jesus does not ask us to be taken out of the world of temptation and seduction that is all around us. Jesus does not ask us to be taken out of the world of “skies of blue and red roses too.” Rather, Jesus asks God to protect us from the evil one by giving us his Spirit, by living inside of us and we living inside of Christ.
-They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Underline the word, “world” and write numbers 9 and 10.
Jesus has told us so many times: We Christians are not to belong to the world, just as Jesus’ heart and mind did not belong to the world but to God. By world, Jesus is referring to those powers of darkness around us, those dark powers of hate and injustice, those dark powers of selfishness and self-centeredness.
-Sanctify them in the truth; Make us disciples holy and truthful. To be holy is to be set apart of God’s way of living and loving in the world. To be holy is not to be sanctimonious, a “holier than thou” kind of people. To be set apart for a way of living and loving is not to carry a hidden attitude of spiritual superiority, “I am a little bit better than you non-members of the church.” As Christians, we always ask God to make us holy, and to make our lives more loving, to God, to our neighbors in the world around us.
- Your word is truth. This sentence is another zinger. Jesus’ words are God’s words. God’s and Jesus’ words are forever true. His words about God, about grace, about love, about forgiveness, about prayer, about discipleship, about death, about resurrection. We could go on and on and we know that Jesus’ and God’s words are true. The way we hear God’s words is on the lips of Jesus. Jesus is the Word. God’ primary word is God’s primary commandment: To love God with all one’s heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This word is forever true.
-As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. Highlight the words, “world.” Write the numbers 11 and 12. This is the eleventh and twelfth time we have seen them in this text. The word, “world,” is used more often in these verses than in any other place in the Bible.
Circle the word, “sent.” As Jesus Christ was sent to this world by God, so his disciples are also “sent” out into the world. The Greek word for “sent” is “apostolos” from which we get our English word, “apostles” or “apostolic.” An apostolic church/community is a community which is sent out in the world rather than waiting for the world to come into the doors of the sanctuaries.
And where are we sent? To the world around us. To people around us who do not know nor live by the values and actions of the Great Commandment to love God with everything inside of us and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We Christians are church members are forever a missionary people. Jesus is sending us today out into our world around us.
-And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. We disciples are made holy in truth.
Here ends the gospel text for Easter 6B.
Here begins the gospel text for Easter 7B (John 17:20-26)
-I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, Jesus is praying not only for his current disciples but for his future disciples like you and me. We are those people who believe in Christ because of the disciples’ testimony or Word or Scripture. In this sentence, Jesus is praying for his future disciples like you and me. What is Jesus asking for us? That we believe in him. That is the crux of life: to believe in Christ, his grace, his death and resurrection, his coming again, his gift of power for living and dying.
-That they may all be one. Circle the word, “one.” This is the second time that we have seen this word. Jesus looked into the future of his disciples and Jesus prayed that all of his disciples would be one. What does that mean? That all disciples belong to the same ecclesiastical hierarchy and organization? That all disciples belong to one church in the ancient Christian world/ That all disciples belong to the Roman Catholic Church? Why is it so important that the future disciples become one? What did Jesus know about the divisiveness of religion? What did Jesus know about the future factions of the church where people would say, “I belong to Peter. I belong to Paul. I belong to Apollos?” Very soon, Christians would form alliances around human personalities who appealed to their particular values, language, theological emphases, their version of the truth. Denominational loyalty and religious loyalty would become more important than the oneness that is found in Jesus’ love for all people. This divisiveness about religious issues is found not only in Christianity but wherever there is religion and religious people.
-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. Jesus was praying for the disciples to be in God and in Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus lived within the heart and mind of God, so we Christians are to live in the heart and mind of Christ. When we Christians live in the heart and mind of Christ, we discover that Jesus was sent from God. We also discover what it means to love other Christians. We also discover what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.
-The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, Circle the word, “one,” and the words, “completely one.” This is the third and fourth time that Jesus prays for the oneness of his future disciples, for you and me in today’s world.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT TO JESUS THAT HIS DISCIPLES BECOME PERFECTLY ONE WITH ONE ANOTHER? WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR US TO BE ‘PERFECTLY ONE’ WITH EACH OTHER?
-So that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. What is the purpose of oneness? So that the world will know that the love of God/Jesus lives in the Christian community.
-Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Underline the phrase, “that you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Write the words, “pre-existence of Christ.” This is the second time in this paragraph where Jesus taught his pre-existence, that he Jesus existed before creation of the heavens and the earth. This says that Jesus taught that he was more than a prophet and more than a great religious teacher. This says that Jesus taught that he was God and existed with God before the world began.
-Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.
-I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ Underline the phrase, “the love with which you love me may be in them.” This is the greatest prayer: the love with which God loved Jesus would also be in his disciples, in us. God loved Jesus with all his heart, mind and soul and that quality of love that God had for Jesus is to be in us as well. That is Jesus’ prayer. That the love of God would be poured into our hearts, minds and actions, in all that we say and do. Thereby, Jesus also lives in us.
We again see this mutual indwelling; that Christ lives in them and they live in Christ. That Christ’s love lives in us and we live in Christ’s love.
Here ends of the gospel text for Easter 7C.
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