The PriestRev. Philip Miller | June 20, 2021
Selected highlights from this sermon
In John 17, we come to what is the pinnacle of John’s Gospel. Jesus is about to be betrayed by Judas Iscariot. He will be put on trial, condemned to death, and crucified the following day. But right before all of that happens—and He knows it will happen—Jesus offers a final prayer known as “The High Priestly Prayer.” Through this prayer, we find what is most important to Jesus.
Pastor Miller shows us four main points of this prayer: Jesus’ request, His report, an intercession, and His desire. You may be surprised when you find out that you and I are on the mind of Jesus right before He’s betrayed.
Today we come to what is arguably the pinnacle of the book of John. It is Jesus’ last night on Earth. In the very next few hours, He will be betrayed by one of His inner circle, by Judas Iscariot. He will be put on trial. He will be condemned and crucified the following day, and Jesus, knowing everything that awaits Him, has been pouring out His heart for His disciples. In chapter 13 He washed His disciples’ feet, and He shared a meal, the Last Supper. In chapter 14 He started intimating to them what was coming, that He was about to return to the Father by way of the cross. And then all the way through, He is pouring out His heart, chapter 14 and 15 and 16, and now in chapter 17 Jesus offers a final prayer. It’s known as the High Priestly prayer of Jesus.
Now, when someone knows their time is short on Earth, when they gather their loved ones around, and they open up their heart and share their final words, you listen, don’t you? You lean in close, you hang on every word. You drink it in and treasure it forever, because what they are sharing is what is most important in the universe to them, right? And friends, this is Jesus’ final night. He has His loved ones surrounding Him, and He is opening up His heart. And in His final words, Jesus prays. This is His final prayer in His final hours. And in this prayer, friends, Jesus shares what is most important to Him in all the universe. And I’m telling you, it’s staggering.
So grab your Bibles. John, chapter 17. We’re going to look at the whole chapter today, verse 1 all the way down to 26. If you want to use the blue Bible that’s in the rack by your knees, you’ll find today’s reading on page 903. Nine-Zero-Three. And today we’re going to look at the entirety of Jesus’ prayer. Someday, Lord willing, we’ll do a series, a multi-part series just on this prayer. It’s worthy of our attention. It’s densely packed with theology, but our aim today is to see this prayer as a whole. To catch the large contours of what Jesus is doing here, we want to zoom out and see the big picture. And in this final prayer of Jesus we find: a Final Request, a Final Report, a Final Intercession, and a Final Desire. A Final Request, a Final Report, a Final Intercession and a Final Desire.
Would you bow your head? Let’s pray as we turn to God’s Word together.
Heavenly Father, we pray now, as we listen in on this prayer of all prayers in the final moments of Jesus’ life, when His heart was closest to the surface, Father, that You would help us see what really matters in life and eternity. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.
So first, the final request. John 17:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come.’” Just pause for a moment. All throughout the Gospel of John we’ve seen time and time again Jesus saying, “My hour is not at hand, my Hour has not yet come, my hour is not here.” This hour now has come. This is the hour of His death, His crucifixion, the hour of His glory. As Jesus is lifted up on the cross He will draw all men to Himself, and He will be glorified. This is His moment.
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”
So Jesus says, “It’s time. It’s glory time. The hour has come. Everything in my life and ministry has been leading up to this moment as I’m about to lay down my life in obedience to you, Father. And so I ask you, Father, for glory. Let this cross of shame become glory in your hands. Glorify your Son as I walk in obedience to the cross so that I might in turn glorify you.”
You see, friends, it is the glory of the Father to glorify the Son. And it is the glory of the Son to glorify the Father. And what we ask is the basis of this request for glory. Well, it’s because Jesus is Lord of all and He’s the Lord of life. Look at verse 2: “Since you have given him authority,” Jesus says–Authority is rule and Lordship, right? “You have given him authority over all flesh,” over humanity–Jesus is Lord of all “to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” And so He’s the Lord of life, of eternal life.
And so there’s a logic to Jesus’ request here. He says, “Father, you’ve increased the scope of my responsibilities, and now I’m asking for the honors that are befitting of the new office that I hold.” Right? “I’ve been given a promotion. I’d like the corner office.” Right? That’s what’s going on. “I’m asking you for the glory that befits one who will now go to the cross and defeat sin and death and Satan forever, and rise again as King of kings and Lord of lords, and become the means of eternal life to all who will believe whom the Father has given to me. I want the glory that goes with that.”
And what exactly is this eternal life? Verse 3: “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Friends, eternal life is not some abstract thing. It’s not a mythical fountain of youth that you just drink. It’s not fire insurance for when you die. Eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. To know the Father and the Son is to be alive eternally. This is not some academic pursuit. The word for “know” here speaks of an intimate, dynamic relational knowing. It’s like the shepherd who knows his sheep, and the sheep who know the voice of the shepherd. To know God is to be in Him and to have Him in us. It’s to have His eternal life becoming our life so that we come alive in Him forever. This is eternal life.
Verse 4: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
He says, “I glorified you, Father. I did everything you commissioned me to do. In my words, in my works, I’ve glorified you, and now I’m asking for you to do for me what I did for you. I’m asking for you to glorify me in your presence. Bring me back home and bring me back into my ancient glory. Remember, Father, before all of this, before creation, before the fall, before the need for redemption which I’m about to accomplish, before the incarnation when I came and took on human flesh and cloaked my glory, shrouded in my humanity here? Remember what it was like in the beginning when there was just Father and Son in eternity past? I want that glory back. And if I go to the cross, would you give me my glory?”
See, friends, in the face of shame, Jesus asks for the renewal of glory. In the face of shame, Jesus asks for the renewal of glory. Jesus is about to face the greatest possible shame in the presence of men on Earth, and He is praying for the greatest possible glory in the presence of God the Father in heaven itself. He says, “I’m about to humble myself under the mighty hand of God, and I pray that you, Father, in due time would raise me up and give me the glory that is rightfully mine.” That’s His final request.
Secondly, here’s His Final Report. Verse 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. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For 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.”
See, friends, the Father sent the Son on a mission. He’s submitting now His final report to the Father: “I manifested your name,” He says, “Your nature, your character, your power. I put it on display to these people whom you have given me out of the world. Yours they were and you gave them to me, and they have kept your Word,” Jesus says.
So, friends, Jesus’ mission in a sense was for the whole world, wasn’t it? “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is His mission to all, and yet in another sense, Jesus’ mission was particular for these that the Father gave to the Son.
Remember what Jesus said in John 6:44? Remember, “No one comes to the Son unless the Father draws him,” or John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me,” or John 10:27–30, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. [So] I and the Father are one [in holding these sheep].”
So to these people in particular, these disciples, these ones given from the Father to the Son that Jesus has now manifested His name in fullness, they are the ones who have kept the Father’s Word. They have received the Word. They have believed the Words. They’re the ones that know, experientially know, that Jesus came from the Father, and everything that He has is from the Father who sent Him into the world.
Verse 9: “I am praying for them (Jesus says). 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.”
So in this prayer here, now Jesus is focused on His disciples. Elsewhere He will pray for those who do not believe. Remember Matthew 23:37? “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
See, Jesus will pray for the world, but here in John 17 His heart is for those who believe, the ones that the Father gave Him who are held by Jesus and held by the Father. And they belong to each of them. “All mine are yours, and yours are mine,” and He says, “I am glorified in them.” See, their belief glorifies Jesus. Their reception of Jesus brings Him glory, which means that Jesus’ mission has been successful. And now He’s leaving the world. He’s returning to His Father as He says here, “I am coming to you.”
So here at the finish line, friends, Jesus has completed His mission. Here at the finish line Jesus has completed His mission. And this is His final report, “I have left nothing undone, Father. Mission accomplished! (applause)
His Final Request, His Final Report, and now a Final Intercession. As Jesus leaves this world, and His disciples will remain behind, He now as a high priest would pray on behalf of the people, He now prays here a final three-fold intercession on behalf of His disciples.
The first intercession is to fortify them. Verse 11b: “Holy Father—” Notice the intensity of the address has increased. “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Keep them in your name. What on Earth does that mean? Well when we put our name on something, maybe we monogram our luggage, or we monogram a tie, or something, right? When we put our name on something, what are we saying? “This belongs to me. It is especially mine. I will keep it. I will care for it. It is precious to me. It bears my name.” And of course, the ultimate naming is the naming of children. A father gives his name to his kids, and they bear the family name. He will protect them, provide for them. They are precious to him.
“Holy Father, keep them in your name, the very name which you have given me. I am your Son. Now they are your children. Keep them in your name. Keep them, guard them, fortify them, protect them, care for them, because they bear your name. They are sons and daughters united in me forever. Keep them in your name that they may be one as we are one. I want them to experience the family oneness that I have with you and you have with me, Father and Son. Now they get to be sons and daughters as well. Keep them in your name that they might be one.”
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.”
As your Son, I am bearing your name in the world. I have kept these disciples who belong to you. I kept them safe for they were entrusted in my care. Only Judas who is the son, not of the Father but the son of destruction, he’s the only one that has been lost in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
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. 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. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
Jesus says, “I’m about to leave and I’m coming to you, Father. And that makes these disciples sad. But I’m praying all of this out loud so that they will share in my joy as they come to trust and believe that what I am praying right now is in fact true. They’re going to be persecuted. They’re going to be hated and despised. It’s because they don’t really belong here. I’m not praying that you take them out of the world. I’m asking that you would keep them from the evil one as they stay in the world. Holy Father, keep them, guard them, make them resilient and faithful and true. Fortify them.”
The second request is sanctify them. Sanctify them.
Verse 17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
To sanctify means to set apart. “I want you to set them apart, I want to make sure they are pure and distinct and holy just as you, Father, are holy. Holy Father, I ask that you make them holy. Like Father, like sons, like daughters. I want them to resemble you in holiness. Sanctify them in your truth. Your Word is truth. I want you to wash them with the Word. I want you to teach them, and correct them, and rebuke them, and instruct them, and train them in righteousness, and mature them. Make them complete and holy and righteous and pure in your Word. I want you not only to keep them in your name, I want you to sanctify them in your Word because they’ve got a mission ahead of them.
Verse 18: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” As you sent me in your name into the world with your Word on a mission of reconciliation, I now send them in your name into the world with your Word on a mission of reconciliation. This is what it’s all about.
Verse 19: “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
“This is why I’m about to do what I’m about to do. It’s why I’m setting myself apart. I’m consecrating myself.” It’s the same word for sanctified. “This is why I’m sanctifying myself. I’m setting myself apart for your purposes, like a lamb led to the slaughter. This is why I am going to the cross, to make myself the ultimate sacrifice, holy and pleasing in your sight so that they might also be set apart, that they might bear my name, that they might be sanctified by your Word, that they may be sent out on mission, to bear your name and Word into the world in order that others might be reconciled, and also be set apart to bear your name and be sanctified in the Word, to be sent out on mission to bear God’s name and Word into the world, to reconcile people to Jesus, and it goes on and on.” It’s a big flywheel of repetition. Sanctify them, Father.
The third request here, intercession, is unify them. Unify them.
Verse 20: “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.”
Friends, at this point, Jesus widens the scope of this prayer beyond these eleven disciples. Now He’s encompassing every disciple in all ages and times—you and me. Jesus is praying for us, and He prays that this word of the Father, faithfully proclaimed by the Son and His incarnation, now proclaimed by the disciples down through the ages two thousand years later, will now be believed by you and me, and Jesus is praying for us.
What is His prayer? Listen to this. This is for you. “[I pray] 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 sent me.”
So He says, “I want you to keep them in your name. I’m going to give them your family name, Father. I want you to sanctify them in your Word. Give them a family resemblance, holy like you, and I want you to unify them as one in us so that we might have family unity together. One family, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who are “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
And this is not just for us. It’s so that “the world may believe that you sent me.” Friends, our unity is our witness to the world. Our unity is our witness to the world. And let me just give you a quick aside here. Pardon me, I’m going to preach, I’m going to meddle. You know that whole thing? You’ve gone from preaching to meddling? You know that? I’m going to meddle.
In a world where there is an immense amount of money and resources designed to create the greatest possible divisions in this country because it’s politically advantageous, where there’s a whole machine trying to get us angry and frustrated with each other over politics and race and vaccines and masks, and a whole bunch of other stuff, friends, listen. We must never allow the world to divide what Jesus Christ has unified. (applause)
Verse 22: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
(Chuckles) As the Father gave His name and His glory to the Son, now the Son has given His name and glory to the disciples so that we might be children of God, and that is who we are in order that we might be one, one with each other, one in Christ, and one with the Father.
“I in them,” Jesus said, “and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.” So this oneness, friends, this abiding presence of God grows this oneness in us. You see this, “They might become perfectly one.” Not just one, but “perfectly” one in growing and cultivating in the abiding presence in the triune God. We are now one in order that we might become perfectly one. We see it’s a progressive thing, “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Friends, our unity in the world is not just a witness to Jesus, to the message of the cross, and all of this. But our unity in the world is a testimony to the Father’s love for us. When we live in unity with one another, the Father’s love for us, which is the same love that He has for Jesus, is put on display. Friends, we cannot live in love with the Father and live in disunity with our brothers and sisters. It’s impossible. It’s impossible. (applause)
So you have a final request, a final report, and a final intercession, and lastly, a final desire. In the final three sentences here, Jesus pours out his heart’s desire. This is what He most wants in all the universe.
Look at this. 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.”
So Jesus began this prayer, asking for glory, for His ancient glory, and now we know why. Jesus wants more than anything in the universe that we would be with Him, that we would behold His glory, His undiluted glory of the love of the Father that is rooted in the dawn of time before the foundation of the world. He says, “I want them to see me in my ancient glory. I want them to see me as I really am,” because 1 John 3:2, says this, “Beloved, we are God’s children now (Amen?), and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
Matthew 13:43 says one day “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Friends, to see Jesus in His glory is to be transformed and become the people we were created to be, sons and daughters of the Most High God, and that is who we really are. (applause)
Verse 25: “O righteous Father (righteous Father), even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love, (listen) that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
He says, “Look, I know you fully, like no one else, and these disciples, they know that you sent me. I’ve made known your name, and knowing you is having eternal life. (Yes?) And I will continue to reveal your name, so that as I walk on this path to the cross and to glory they would see you.” And it’s all to one end, “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Friends, here in the end, Jesus’ deepest desire is for perichoresis. Jesus’ deepest desire is for perichoresis.
Do you remember perichoresis, that divine dance of eternal loving embrace, each person of the triune Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit) lovingly self-giving unto each other, and welcoming and receiving one another into themselves with unrestrained, overflowing intimacy, delight, and everlasting joy!
Remember perichoresis? So that the Father is in fact in the Son, and the Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Spirit, and the Spirit is in the Father, and the Son is in the Spirit, and the Spirit is in the Son?
Here in the end, Jesus’ deepest desire is for us to enter into this perichoreticdance. He wants, more than anything else in all the universe, that we would enter into this dance of mutual indwelling of radical self-donating love in union forever with the triune God. His heartfelt prayer is that we would join the dance, that we would be sons and daughters united in the eternal love and life of the triune God, one with each other, one in Christ, one with the Father, one in the Spirit, one forever.
And so here’s the takeaway, friends.
Our true, real, good, and beautiful life is found in intimate rapture with divine glory as we are forever enfolded into the perichoretic love of our triune God.
Our true, real, good, and beautiful life is found in intimate rapture with divine glory as we are forever enfolded into the perichoretic love of our triune God.
This, friends, is what you were made for. This is what your soul aches for. This is what you’re looking for in all the wrong places. This is the meaning of the universe, or to make it even more simple, we come alive forever in the eternal life of God. Because we come alive forever in the eternal life of God.
I just have two questions for you. Do you know this life? If you don’t know this life, friends, it could be yours today. It could be yours today. You could be one of the ones that Jesus prayed for when He said, “I pray for those who will believe in me through their word.” You could be in that group.
Coming to Jesus is never easy, but it’s always simple, as simple as A, B and C:
- A: We admit. We admit that we’re sinners, far from God.
- B: We believe. We believe that Jesus has done everything to make us right with God when He died and rose on our behalf.
- And C: We commit. We commit our lives to Him, and say, “Come be my Savior, be my Lord, be my everything. I will follow you.”
Admit, believe, commit.
And even today, if you would just come forward, as our prayer partners are up here, at the end of the service, we’d love to pray with you and introduce you to this wonderful life that is found in Jesus Christ.
My second question is for those of you who follow the name of Jesus, and that is do you live this life? Do you live this life? Do you abide in union with God?
It’s amazing how busy we get, and how the most important things in the universe can get pushed to the side. The most important part of your day is to seek your Father’s face, to know His presence, to read His Word, to open your heart in prayer, and to never be alone because He’s with you. Do you abide in union with God? Do you dwell in unity with God’s family? Do you make it a huge priority to remember that what unites us in Christ is far greater than anything that divides us in this world, to live in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
Let’s abide in union with God. Let’s dwell in unity with one another.
Heavenly Father, how do you offer a prayer after a prayer like this? Father, help us to love what Jesus loves. Help us to prioritize what Jesus prioritizes. Help us to let His final words matter in the rhythms of our daily lives. Help us to love in His love, forged before the dawn of time, in all eternity past that will exist beyond the end of the universe, this love which is now ours through the blood and body of Christ given for us. May we live in what you have provided for us through Jesus, by the power of your Spirit.
We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.