The Great Intercessory Prayer
"The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus"

(John 17:1-26)

Chapter 17 is commonly referred to as "The Great Intercessory Prayer," or "The High Priestly Prayer" of Jesus. It was not uncommon for farewell speeches to include closing prayers and this prayer is seen by many as Jesus' farewell speech.

Jesus Prays for Himself

Verse 1-2: "When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him."

Lifting one's eyes to heaven was a common posture of prayer.

Have you noticed that many times in this gospel the cross is linked with glory? Here, Jesus speaks of 'mutual glorification of the Father and Son upon completion of this mission,' the mission being to bestow upon all flesh the gift of eternal life.

The word "Glory" here, as Jesus used it in His intercessory prayer, goes beyond the way it is commonly used. In glorifying God, The Greek word "doxazo" means to make known; to make or leave a favorable impression or opinion, and Jesus life clearly did that. Jesus said that He glorified God by finishing the work the Father gave Him to do. One way we can glorify God then, is to do those things He has appointed us to do.

Verse 3: "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

Only the true God can provide eternal life, and that through what Jesus did on the cross.

A couple of interesting things here: The title "the only true God' is not found anywhere in John and is used here in His intercessory prayer to contrast, or differentiate with all the false gods of that day; also this is the only scripture where Jesus refers to Himself as "Jesus Christ." (Christ meaning Messiah, hence Jesus the messiah.)

Verse 4: "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed."

It is said that Moses reflected God's glory in Ex 33 and 34, but Jesus is to be 'glorified' in the same sense as the Father, with His preexistent glory.

Jesus sharing the Father' glory in this sense is a claim that He is deity.

It is believed that all of Jesus' work, even that yet to be completed on the cross was included in this intercessory prayer. The statement 'before the world existed' can only point to the pre-existence of the Son before earth and mankind were created. Jesus was returning to the Father where He belonged.

Jesus Prays for the Disciples

Verse 5-6: "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word."

Throughout the New Testament Jesus himself is identified with God repeatedly. In saying that he has made known the Father’s name is saying that he has fully revealed who God is, as well as His nature.

For Him to have manifested and revealed the Father to the people in a sense, sums up the purpose of His mission.

Verse 7-8: "Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me."

In verse seven Jesus affirms that the disciples are beginning to understand the uniqueness of the relationship between He and the Father.

And what did they understand?

In verse eight Jesus goes on to explain that the disciples understand that everything Jesus has received is from the Father:

  • He has come forth from and was sent by the Father
  • That Jesus being the word of God contains within Himself the words of God

  • That Jesus contains the divine revelation and communication to men

Verse 9: "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours."

Jesus now specifically prays for the disciples, not for those in the world.

Verse 10: "All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them."

As in John 16:15 Jesus affirms that everything that belongs to Him belongs to the Father, and that all the Father has is His.

Verse 11: "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."

In what sense is Jesus no longer in the world?

Jesus’ departure is so near that he speaks here as if he has already left. He does this to contrast his own situation with that of the disciples, who are still in the world.

In verse six Jesus says the disciples have kept God's word. Here He prays that the Father would keep them after He is gone back to Heaven and the Father, that they will be as one with the same unity as shared by He and the Father.

Verse 12: "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."

Jesus guarded and protected the disciples while He was with them. This reflects the image of the "Good Shepard" as He taught in Chapter 10, where He also said that 'He gives eternal life to His own,' and here affirms that indeed none of them have perished except Judas Iscariot 'that the scripture might be fulfilled."

The passage referring to His statement "that the scripture might be fulfilled" is not given, but it is believed to be Psalm 41:9, "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me" .

Verse 13: "But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves."

Jesus, in His High Priestly prayer, is praying/speaking these things for the comfort of His disciples that they might have joy fulfilled in themselves.

I believe we are supposed to have the joy of the Lord' in our lives. Jesus mentioned 'joy' many times in His ministry, as in John 15:11 (“These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be made full”), and in John 16:24 (“Ask, and you will receive, in order that your joy may be fulfilled”).

Verse 14: "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."

Jesus again makes reference to being in the world, but not of the world. The world hated Jesus, and here again He makes it clear that the world will hate His disciples.

We need to decide and to make it clear as to who we are following, the world or Christ. It is impossible to be "Worldly" and "Christ Like" at the same time. It is like trying to mix oil and water.

Wouldn't it be nice, or at least more comfortable for us to think the world will appreciate our Christianity, but according to Jesus, this will not happen. John 15:19— ”If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Verse 15-16: "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."

So Jesus wants them in the world, but at the same time asks God to protect them from the evil one, meaning Satan.

Verse 17: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."

To be sanctified means here to be dedicated, consecrated, or set apart. The disciples who were with Jesus in the upper room were the ones who continued with him (except for Judas Iscariot) knew the truth about who Jesus is and why He had come into the world. Because of this Jesus could ask the Father to set them apart in this truth, as He himself is set apart so that they might carry on His mission in the world after His departure. This in a sense, is the same commission the followers of Jesus have today. Christians are consecrated, set apart and dedicated by the Holy Spirit to serve God.

Verse: 18: "As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."

Just as God sent Jesus into the world so Jesus is sending His disciples into the world to continue His mission after His departure. Here Jesus is setting them apart to do the work He has called them to do.

Verse 19: "And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."

In John In 10:36 Jesus referred to himself as “the one whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world.” Here Jesus is “setting himself apart” to do the will of the Father, that is, to go to the cross.

Jesus Prays for all Believers, the ones who believe in him on account of the testimony of the disciples

Verse 20: "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,"

The disciples whom Jesus is leaving behind will carry on his ministry and in doing so will see others come to trust in him.

Verse 21: "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."

Here in His great intecessory prayer Jesus prays for each and every child of God to abide in the same unity which exists between He and the Father, a unity which allows for diversity of persons in dwelled by the Holy Spirit; thereby forming a oneness with God. The ultimate result will be that the world comes to believe that Jesus was sent by the Father.

Verse 22: "The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,"

Remember that Jesus is speaking, or praying for those who will believe because of the testimony of the disciples.

This is a prophetic, or proleptic statement as some scholars might say, in that He is speaking in present tense concerning the glory His followers will one day receive. I like to think of it as His speaking it into existence.

Verse 23: "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."

Jesus especially prayed, that all believers might be as one body under one head, animated by one soul, by their union with Christ and the Father in him, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

Verse 24: "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."

In the closing moments of Jesus'great intercessory prayer He asks that the ones who the Father has given him be with Him, where He is, so that they might see His glory. This is the glory given Jesus by the Father before the foundation of the world. Here again the pre-existence of the Son is mentioned with the relationship He shared with the Father in eternity past.

Verse 25: "O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me."

Jesus states that although the world does not know the Father, he does, and then affirms that these believers for whom he prays (both the disciples and those later believers who come to trust in Jesus on account of the disciples’ word) have come to know that he was sent by the Father.

Verse 26: "I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them"

Jesus now says that he both made known and will make known the Father’s name to these believers, so that the love with which the Father loved Jesus will be in them and in fact Jesus himself will be in them.

His concluding prayer reflects the presence of Jesus dwelling permanently in believers after his resurrection and return to the Father. He will not leave them alone and forsaken, but will be in them forever.

Gospel of John Bible Study


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Intercessory Prayer

Samuel L. Mills