Jesus: Great High Priest (17:1-25)

Bible Passage: John 17:1-25

This passage contains the ‘high priestly prayer’ that Jesus prayed for his disciples on the night before he died. It is the longest recorded prayer that Jesus prayed, and it includes Jesus praying for himself and his disciples, but also those who would subsequently come to faith in him (i.e. us). The prayer particularly focusses on three relationships, all of which interlink and give shape to one another.

The Father and the Son – In this prayer we get a peek behind the curtain of eternity to see what the relationships of the Trinity were like before the world was made. We see that in verse 5, Jesus had glory in the presence of his Father, and in verse. 24 that the Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world. These simple statements show us that love is at the very essence of the being of God. It is the most essential thing about him, and this truth shapes our understanding of everything else: God, creation, salvation, prayer, worship, the christian life, how we engage with the world, etc. etc. We also see that it is from the Father that the Son gets the right to bestow eternal life (v2), works to accomplish (v4), words to say (v8), and his name (v11-12).

The Son and Believers – We also see in this prayer the shape of the relationship between the Son and believers, and it follows the pattern of the relationship between Father and Son. The Son gives his people eternal life (v2), glory (v22), the Word of the Father (v8,14) and makes know the Father’s name to them (v6). He also prays for a unity between believers that is modelled on the unity within the Trinity between the Father and the Son (v22). He is describing believers participating in relationships with each other and with God that resemble the relationships of the Trinity. This is the mind-blowing reality of the gospel, not only that our sins are wiped away (as great as this is) but that we are invited to participate in the very relationships of God himself.

Believers and the World – The key concern in the requests that Jesus makes in the prayer is for his followers as they are sent out into the world. He is aware that they will face opposition and even hatred, just as he has (v14) and he prays for them to be protected. Believers are supposed to be in the world (v18) in the sense that we are to engage with people and participate in society, but not of the world (v16) in the sense that we should not go along with the value system of the world but should live differently. We have been sent with a mission that through our lives and words, others will come to know God for themselves (v23). These are challenging verses as there are equal dangers in being too withdrawn from the world to make a difference and in being too complicit in the world that our distinctiveness is compromised.

Potential Applications:

  • This passage reveals the Father and Son glorifying one another eternally. This leads naturally into a time of worship where we join in and give our glory to God too.
  • There is a call here for unity in our relationships. Challenge people to think about who they need to be reconciled with, and what steps they can take to do so.
  • The idea of being in the world but not of the world challenges different people in different ways. You could ask people to spend time considering whether the biggest danger for them is withdrawal or worldliness, and invite them to commit with a fresh resolve to be both in the world and not of it.