Five Minute Devotions: John 17
John 17 records an otherwise unmentioned part of the Passion story. The disciples have left the Upper Room and are on their way to Gethsemane when Jesus stops to pray. This chapter, known as the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus, gives us some deep insights into the Son’s relationship with the Father and with his disciples. In the prayer, Jesus prays for three distinct groups of people.
Jesus Prays for Himself
I have glorified you on the earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with that glory I had with you before the world existed. – John 17:4-5
There is no way for us to humanly imagine the longing of Jesus to receive the glory that was due him as God. For his earthly existence, he had veiled and contained that glory. The glory of the cross was that, at the end of it all, he would regain his glory and become the firstfruits of all whom God glorifies.
This section shows us the heart of Jesus to glorify his Father and gives an example to follow. We too should seek God’s glory, and as a result of finding it through the indwelling of the Spirit, we have the responsibility of showing that glory to others.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. – John 17:17-18
We are not sanctified and set-apart like Grandma’s china, you know the delicate and fragile plates that are always kept on display and never used. No, we are sanctified for hardcore use. We are purified and cleansed to prepare us for a battle. We become more like Jesus to better stand apart and walk within a sinful world.
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Sanctification sets us up to be different. If the Holy Spirit indwells us, we must be different. The Spirit sets us into these culturally and racially charged situations and demands that we create peace, not war. It demands that we love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with our God, as Micah says. It supernaturally enables us to be the conduits of Christ on this earth. Which is exactly what God created us to be. Exactly what Christ prayed for us to be. And it’s exactly what the disciples did.
Jesus Prays for All Believers
I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them. – John 17:26
This final verse of John 17, the last words of his high priestly prayer, says that we are to be known by our love. Not just our love for those like us. Not just our love for those in our church. But our love for our enemies. Our love for those who are least like us. Our love for those whose life choices we may not even agree with.
How do I know it means that kind of love? Because that’s the love Jesus had. That’s the love the Father has had for us. And yet, all too often, Christians are known by what they hate. We have become known by what we stand against. I would humbly submit to you that isn’t the way of Jesus.
He was known for tearing walls down. Between the rich and the poor. The Jew and the Gentile. Slave and free. Male and female. He took the prejudices of his day and said they had no place in his church. His prayer was that we would be united. Are we living that?
Father, may we all be one, as you and Christ are one. May we also be in you, so that the world may believe you sent us. Christ has given us your glory, so that they may be one as you are one. May our oneness and unity be proof to the world that you have sent us and have loved us. Father, we want to be with you and see the glory of Jesus, which you gave him because you loved him before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you through Christ Jesus. I will make your them known to the world made your name so that the love you have loved me with may be in them as well. (Adapted from John 17:21-26)
Given the way that Jesus stresses unity, what place do denominations serve in the modern church?
What should this unity and oneness look like among varying congregations? How should it look within a congregation?
Are there any times a Christian should break unity and fellowship with a fellow believer?
Today’s header image is part of the 14th century Maesta by Duccio.
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