Life Sustained By Jesus Through The Holy Spirit
John 17: 6 — 19
Chapter 17 of St John's Gospel has since early times been referred to as "High Priestly prayer" of Jesus. As has been said with wide agreement, "There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than this prayer offered up by the Son of God himself." Here we have what Christians have upheld as "the most precious fragment of the past".
For in this prayer, we enter into the very Holy of Holies of the New Testament; here we are given the most profound revelation of the very heart of our Lord. In accordance with long established tradition, the chapter is divided into Jesus' prayer on behalf of himself (v 1 — 5); his prayer for his present disciples (v 6 — 19); his prayer for all who will come to believe in him through the testimony of his disciples (v 20 — 26). This division corresponds to Leviticus 16: 17, according to which Aaron performed the ritual for himself, his family and for the whole community.
Some Notes On Our Text
Verses 6 — 8
As the prayer of Jesus turns in verse 6, to his disciples who were present and listening in silence, we notice that Jesus is thinking of his disciples as a body separated from the world and as given to him by the Father.
Jesus states briefly what he has done for the disciples and beautifully describes their response. We could restate verses 6 to 8 in the words of Amplified N.T (Zondervan, 1958):
The remainder of Jesus' prayer now reflects the tradition of the devout Rabbis who were accustomed to pray in this way for their pupils. It is by its very nature applicable only to disciples. He is leaving them, and commends them to his Father's care. They were the Father's before they were given to the Son. By that gift they have become the Father's even more fully as verses 6 — 8 reinforce. In the remainder of our notes, we focus on a passage from the commentary on "The Gospel of St. John" by Charles Erdman (Westminster Press). This author quotes The Revised Version of the Bible (American Standard Version), in his notes; but our text is in N.I.V.
For these men Jesus prays: "I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me." He does not mean that he never prayed for the world, or that we should not so pray; but on this supreme occasion he wishes to ask certain things for his followers.
Verses 10 and 11
The petitions are two in number. First he prays that they may be kept from evil. During the earthly ministry of Jesus he has guarded his disciples, but now he is leaving them. The world will hate them. He therefore commits them to the care of his Father.
Verses 12 — 16
He does not ask that they shall be taken out of the world, as he himself is learning the world.
He does not ask that they should be kept from sorrow and pain and temptation, but from gloom and discouragement and sin. "I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but thou shouldest keep them from the evil one." Their protection was to be effected by the agency of his Spirit, but also by the instrument of the truth concerning his Father. "While I was with them, I kept them in thy name," that is, by means of what God was known to be, by the revelation which, by the revelation which Jesus had given of the Father; and by the same means they will be kept after his departure: "Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me."
Secondly, Jesus prays that his disciples may be sanctified. This does not here refer specifically to holiness, or separation from sin. That was the burden of the first petition. The request is rather that they be set apart for service, and more specifically for the service of witnessing to the truth. It is really a prayer for the consecration of his chosen messengers to their appointed mission. "Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth." The revelation of the Father which Jesus had given, "the truth" he had revealed, was to be not only the instrument of their consecration but the sphere of their service. Therefore Jesus adds, "As thou didst send me into the world, even so I sent them into the world", that is, to be his messengers, to testify to "the truth".
It is our most firm belief, as Christians, that Jesus has ascended to the presence of the Father where he continues to pray unceasingly for his followers and their efforts to complete his work. We too can make bold to pray:
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