For an introduction to this series, click here.
May 16, 2007
This chapter is one of the deepest passages in all the Bible. I have always wondered how John heard this. I understand he was inspired, but like we wrote about earlier, inspiration does not necessarily imply that God spoke to the person and told them what to write (of course there are exceptions, such as much of the material in the prophetic books). In most cases, it means God guided them as they wrote to make sure everything they wrote was true and was what God wanted. So was John eavesdropping on what Jesus was praying? Or did he receive this by special revelation? We don't know for sure, but we can be sure of its inspiration.
Anyway, this is the true Lord's Prayer. This is Jesus longing to be home with the Father and praying for His disciples and for all who would follow them.
This is so rich it's really hard just to pick out a few quotes and comment on them. The theme of the first section is the glory of Christ and the glory of the Father. He knows the end is about to happen, and He is longing to return to the Father.
The next theme is who the disciples are. Read the quote very carefully. I know it's long: "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." (17:9-15) Notice that Jesus is saying that the disciples belong to the Father, and the Father gave them to Jesus. Jesus says that He is going to be busy for a while, and that the Father needs to take care of them. He says the Father should not take them out of the world, but that He should keep them from the power of Satan. That's really a neat passage.
The overarching theme of the prayer, however, is unity. "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (17:20-21, ESV) When we look at the world around us, it is obvious the church is not one in outward form. It's the situation we have to live with. Two thousand years of church history has resulted in a fractured visible body.
But in a larger sense, the church is not divided. There is still one body of saints in Christ. Christ's prayer has been answered. Yes, there are times when members of the body are in sin. There are times when they are hateful toward one another. But thankfully Christ is still at work to build His church, against which the gates of hell have never and will never prevail.