Jesus’ Missional Prayer

John 17
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor
Michael Gunn on August 19th, 2007

“There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son of God Himself”
Reformer Phillip Melanchthon

“God’s demand for supreme praise is His demand for our supreme happiness. Deep in our hearts we know that we are not made to be made much of. We are made to make much of something great.”
John Piper

Today we see an end of John’s 3 chapter farewell discourse of Jesus’ at His last supper right before He is delivered over to authorities to be executed for inciting the people against the state, and the religion of the people, which is why Jesus publicly died, but John has made a clear point that no one took the life of Jesus; He laid it down (John 10: 18). In today’s prayer we see the glory and the mission of God coming together in perfect fashion. This is truly the culmination of what John wants to convey to his hearers, so that they would believe. He wanted to take back the curtain on eternity, and show us a glimpse of His glory in the incredible work of the cross, and the subsequent affects it has had and will continue to have on millions of people that God calls His own. Today there are three aspects of Jesus’ missional prayer that inform us of His glory, and our subsequent glory as a result. This is more than a prayer; it is a manifesto of His glory!

From the Head…
Jesus Prays for Himself (John 17:1-5)
At the outset, as a human, depraved with sin, we can interpret this piece as arrogant and lacking in humility. After all He is asking to be glorified. In this passage we realize a few things about eternal life, and the glory of God. In John 12:23 we read that, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” What He meant there, as well as in our passage, was His imminent death on the cross. This is the hinge of time. It is why Jesus came, and what God had been promising through the prophets for centuries. This prayer is a missional one. It is a prayer to accomplish His mission, which is dying for the sins of His chosen. God’s glory would be displayed in an act of love to free His people from sin, so that they could gain their joy by worshipping and knowing the one true God for eternity. As pastor John Piper writes, “His demand for supreme praise is His demand for our supreme happiness.” Atheist Ayn Rand once said that, “Admiration is the rarest and best of pleasures.” If this is true then what we admire is important, and the scriptures tell us that God is worthy of supreme admiration/praise (Psalm 16:11; 147:1). Jesus secures this glory as an act of love on the cross for our own sake (Romans 5:8). Therefore Jesus’ prayer for glory is ultimately a missional prayer for our joy and pleasure, because without His death, we would not be made worshippers in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Not only do we see Jesus’ intention here, but we also see that through His obedience, we are given eternal life, which is defined as an intimate knowing of the only true God (v. 2-3)., and we see that this glory is a glory that was with Jesus before time began. This is the culmination of an eternal plan before the universe existed. God knew this plan before creation, and before the fall of humanity. In the planning of God, His glory was so important that the fall was necessary. WOW!

Jesus Prays for those that Follow Him (John 17:6-19)
Jesus goes on to pray for His disciples, and to explain how they have come to know God through His manifested glory (John 1:9 cf. Hebrews 1:1-3). It is also important to note that His prayer here is not for the world, but for those that have been chosen to realize who He is, and what He came to do. Everyone else is blind in their rejection of God, and only open to their own devices whether they are personal, political or religious. Jesus makes it known that those that are in Him are secure in Him (John 17:12). If God chose us, we do not choose out. We are secure in His grace. He prays for three things. First, that His disciples would remain unified as He and His Father are unified in purpose (John 17:11). Secondly, that the disciples would have His joy. This complements His desire for His glory in the above verses. Here He is praying that His followers would appropriate the reality of their salvation, and begin to see their lives crafted in Him, so that they would glorify Him, and in so doing, would gain much joy in their lives. Thirdly, that they’d have a proper relationship with the world (John 17:15-16), and Fourthly, that they would be sanctified (Set apart) in His truth, the word (John 17:17-19).

Jesus Prays for The World and Future Believers (John 17:20-26)
Jesus didn’t stop with His present; He continued to pray for us too! He prays that they’d be one “Even as we are one” (John 17:21-22). He anticipated that the church would be built, and that we’d be in need of unity, “To let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). It is in this unity that we come to really know God by seeing His glory (Acted out in the body of believers), and realizing His extreme love for the world (John 17:24). Jesus ends His prayer by praying that He would continue to illuminate the world with the knowledge of who God is, and of His love, even though they continue not to know Him. He is truly a missional God, with a heart of love for the world that rejects Him.

…to the Heart
Jesus’ prayer isn’t for us to fondle and not be moved by it to act in concert with His mission here on earth! We are called by God, saved from our sins, empowered to live the life He lived in obedience to the will of His Father, so that the world (Nations) would know God through Christ, and that their joy would be made full through a perfecting knowledge of who God is.

For Further Reading: “The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John” William Barclay; “The Gospel of John,” F.F. Bruce; “The New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of John,” William Hendriksen; “Preaching the Word; John: That You May Believe,” R. Kent Hughes; “The NIV Application Commentary: John,” Gary M. Burge; “The Pillar NT Commentary: The Gospel According to John,” D.A. Carson; “The Word Biblical Commentary on John” George R. Beasley-Murray

Next Weeks Verses: John 18:1-11

2 comments so far

  1. Sarajane on

    John 17 is a favorite passage of mine. It has many striking comments, which make me pause and think. the first time i read this passage, and noticed what it said, i was amazed: Jesus was praying for me. which lead me to think of other instances, when the New testament refers to him as our high priest, who prays for us. and that is an encouraging thing, especially when in depression or pain.
    and the things he prays for are so very different than how we often pray. when he prays for the church, it isn’t mostly for protection from persecution, or harm, or danger, but pleading that the church will be unified. And it’s never for our benefit, directly, it is always for God’s glory. (which, as you said, will result in our ultimate happiness. a true statement, no doubt, but i think the danger of stressing it is that it tends to make it about us again, which it’s not. God really is in it for his glory. the amazing thing is, he chose to make his glory our happiness. he just as easily could have chosen it to be our suffering, as the pagan gods’ seemed to do)
    Christ’s prayer makes me question my own prayer habits. i pray for my friends, for my family: for their salvation or protection; and this is good, right? but then I look at Christ’s prayer, and it’s for those things, but his reason is so very very different. He doesn’t pray for the church’s unity or protection so that the church will be happy and thrive and grow. He asks these things to bring about glory to God. it’s a subtle difference, because in the end his glory will often be in the church’s growth, health, and joy. But what is our aim, or intent? do we ask those things because we want our friends and family to be happy, or because we want God to be glorified? it’s something i struggle with, because as a caring person, i want that. i am happy in my friends’ and family’s happiness. but that too can become my idol.

    a sort of out of context question:
    “what you love ultimately determines your outlook on life” ((maybe paraphrased)) ~mike
    me: what of fear? fear, legitimate fear, controls much of my life. it’s maddeningly frustrating, because i can’t not have that fear. it’s… a necessary part of coping with the difficulties God has given me… or feels that way anyway. it could be called caution, i suppose, but the truth is it’s fear. how does fear mix in with this? how closely are fear and love related? i know it’s not really a subject in this passage, so I’m sorry for being out of context, but it’s something I’m struggling with.

    Finally, in the John booklet, one of the questions to ponder was “What does it mean to know Him? is this possible?” thank you for the clarification on the word “know.” I suspected it was the same word, but it was too late last night to go digging through the concordance to verify my suspicions.

  2. sermonrant on

    Great post thanks! In regards to the idea that “God’s demand for His glory/praise, is His demand for our happiness is fleshed out pretty well in an article from John Piper I posted last week. Follow this link

    I do whole heartedly agree with you that our prayers need to be more directed to God and to His mission, and not just used up on our desires.

    As for fear? Where there is no doubt that fear can be a good thing (As in the fear of the Lord), it is most often a result of our lack of trust in Him. We all face fear and anxiety I think in proportion to our distrust of God. Hebrews 11:6 says that, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards them that seek Him.” We may believe He exists, but do we really believe that He is a good God and loves me? Fear is a real human struggle that affects all of humanity, but “Love casts out all fear,” in that we no longer have to fear judgment as we begin to “Know” the judge intimately. This is where knowing God with our head, must reach our hearts, so that our hearts cry out to Him in our fear, and we gain hope that He is truly there to comfort us in our pain (2 Corinthians 1:4). Hope this helps some! Thanks for posting!

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