Note : We experienced some technical problems this morning and the live stream failed part way through the service. We were able to get up and running again so the second video link takes over – with a little overlap – from where the first one ended. Video link 1 and Video link 2.
The audio file is complete.
Jesus’ High Priestly prayer
We now come to the last section of the High Priestly Prayer and it’s really quite thrilling! Here, Jesus is praying for us. If you are a true believer, then Jesus is praying for you. It is the night before he will become the sin-bearer. What is on his heart and mind? Who is on his heart? It is his church – his precious people.
As Jesus prays, he looks ahead hundreds of years into the future, and sees the great multitude of people who will become Christians, people from all over the world, including us (if we trust in him), and prays for them. Jesus sees the certainty of his victory. He looks and sees his people with him in Heaven. ‘[Jesus] who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…’ (Hebrews 12:2) For Jesus, the crucifixion will be unspeakably awful, but it will be worth it, because he is redeeming a people who will be with him and share in his love forever.
What specifically does Jesus pray for on the eve of his crucifixion?
1. Jesus prays for unity
‘that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.’ (John 17:21)
‘that they may be one as we are one.’ (John 17:22)
‘so that they may be brought to complete unity.’ (John 17:23)
If this is what Jesus prays for on the eve of his death, then unity must be a hugely significant feature of church life. It must be confusing for unbelievers when they look out at all the different churches in their cities, towns and villages: Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Charismatic, and Independent, amongst others. To muddy the waters even more, there are groups who claim to be churches and call themselves such, but have departed so far from the basics of the faith, that they cannot be thought of as true churches at all. This all means that we need to be discerning. And we need to ask a crucial question – what is the basis of true Christian unity?
True Christian unity must involve Christian truth. This is a vital principle. There are several key truths or doctrines which we must believe in order to be Christians. It is God who decides on the fundamentals of the faith, and as we examine the Scriptures, it becomes clear what these foundational truths are. Christians must believe in the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross, and his rising again from the dead. We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We must believe that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. And there are other key truths too, which time does not allow us to go into.
‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.’ (Galatians 1:3-7)
There are several other helpful passages which underline core Christian truths which must be received and believed, such as John 20:30-31, Matthew 16:16, 1 John 2:22, and 1 John 4:2-3.
But there’s something else which unites Christians together – and that is our union with Christ. Jesus says, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ (John 15:5) That means all who trust in Jesus for salvation are part of the vine, along with every other born-again Christian on the planet. We are united. We’re united because we are all in the vine.
‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.’ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
All true Christians world-wide are one body, and belong to one another. We are united in Christ. As we come to trust in Jesus, we have that vertical fellowship with the triune God: we’re adopted by the Father; we are in Christ; and we are filled with the Spirit. It is this vertical fellowship which automatically gives us horizontal fellowship with other Christians.
What is the result of Christian unity? It is a tremendous witness to the world!
‘… so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ (John 17:21c)
‘… so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.’ (John 17:23)
Consequently, Christian unity at all levels, including within our local churches, is absolutely vital. If members of a local church are unwilling to forgive one another, or are gossiping or cold-shouldering one another, then this will of course undermine our message of reconciliation with God! However, more positively, when we interact with love and unity, helping one another and bearing one another’s burdens, then this is a powerful testimony to the authenticity of our message, and to the fact that Jesus truly is the Saviour. He is the glue who holds us together in unity. If there are Christians we need to be reconciled to then it is an urgent thing to go and sort things out with them.
What a wonderful blessing Christian unity is both locally and internationally. We can meet with Christians all over the world and sense that supernatural yet tangible unity, knowing that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Have you ever experienced that?
2. Jesus prays that we would be with Christ forever in Heaven and see his glory
‘Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory…’ (John 17:24)
Again, we must remember the context here: Jesus is about to die, but he’s looking ahead into the horizon of history, to God’s people from every age, and he’s praying that the Father would ensure that each one of us would end up in his glorious presence. During this pandemic, there are many of us who just want to be with our family and friends again. There are, for example, many grandparents who are unable to go and see and be with their new grandchildren.
Well, Jesus is looking forward to a greater reunion with all of his people. With you, if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who gave himself for your sins. Jesus wants to share the triumph of the cross and the resurrection with all of the saints.
Our Saviour Jesus wants our company. In John 17, he looks ahead and prays: ‘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.’ (John 17:21)
And again in verse 26, ‘that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’
Our destination is to be in a perfect world, to be with Christ and all his people, and to be caught up into the circle of the eternal divine love of the trinity. It’s almost too good to be true: but it is true. Jesus prays that for us, and he has every right to, as the Great High Priest, who pays for it all in his blood. These are some of things in the mind of our Saviour on the eve of the crucifixion!