Theme week – 1 God, 1 Messiah: John 17
Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 7 & 8
Psalms Reading: Psalm 80
In John 17 Jesus prayed a lengthy prayer (his longest in the Bible), for the disciples who were with him, and for those who would trust in him down through the years. This took place just before the group left for the garden where Jesus was arrested, leading to his death. Knowing what was coming Jesus had tried to comfort his friends. He told them: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33; NASB). That was the attitude he had when he prayed – he had overcome the world. He was about to die, but not because he was defeated. What was coming would be painful, but ultimately it would bring glory to God and to His son. And what would take place would also benefit Jesus’ friends.
Over the centuries many people have examined these events with the wrong expectations, trying to piece together a story where Jesus is putting on a play or demonstrating his power, not one where he is incredibly brave and kind and suffers because that is what is needed. The goal was to bring people eternal life, and as Jesus said in verse 3 that eternal life came through knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom God sent. Or, to break that out, they were to know the Lord – meaning something like “I am that I am”, or in effect, “the self-existent one”. They were also to know Christ, that is from the Greek for Messiah, both words relaying the idea “anointed one”, which says Jesus was “one granted authority”. God gave Jesus the power and the words and love which allowed the plan to work. It is clear from the language in the prayer that the power and the words and the love are meant to go to those who trust in both God and Jesus.
Some of what Jesus said has been selectively picked apart and treated as evidence for Jesus leading a life that was ‘beyond human’ in a way that would deny God’s intentions. For example, Jesus declares that he wants the Father to glorify him, together with God, with glory that he had with Him before the world was (v. 5). Some take that to mean Jesus existed in some form before the world, to possess that glory then. But God is capable of giving glory to the son He intends to have, even before that son is born. This is the God who “sees the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). John 17:24 also sounds more like this description of the situation, and there are other examples, such as the parable in Matthew 25 which refers to inheriting “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (v. 34). And it is not as though the glory Jesus has is something beyond what humans may possess, for Jesus gives that glory to those who love him (v. 22). He does so with the intention for believers to be one in the same way that he and the Father are one (v. 22, this is another phrase that people have sometimes thought of as somehow ‘beyond human’ but really it involves unity of purpose and mutual care, not a distinction about physical nature or what-have-you).
We should recall that we are among the disciples Jesus was praying for. We are given great blessings and great purpose by a great man. Jesus faced everything and succeeded, and he did so for you and for me, as well as for John or Peter or James. He may not have known each of us then, but he was conscious of the choice he was making for us. And he knows us now, deeply, and he cares about our needs. And like his Father, Jesus does not desire anything bad for us.
Lord, thank you that you did not leave us without a savior, and thank you that you make it so clear what is necessary for us. Thank you for creating a family of believers for us to be part of. Please help each of us to be healthily a part of it. Please allow us to find people in the body whom we can be close together with in the unity we were meant to have. Lord, let us not be too ashamed to admit if we don’t think we have what we need in our connections to each other. Jesus said that it is in our unity that we will be a witness to the world, so help us be the witness you desire even if it requires some pain and openness along the way. In his name, Amen.
- Does it seem like John 17:3, with the rest of the chapter, may be repeating the theme of the two great commandments, that you must love the Lord your God with your whole heart but then you are also to love your neighbors with whom you are meant to be united?
- John’s Gospel picks up a lot of what Jesus had to say about “the world”, describing the negative routines of this life and its ways under that title. Jesus said that he wasn’t of “the world” and that those who followed him were not of “the world” either, with the result that “the world” hated them. Have you ever been able to feel like “the world” hates you for the “right” reasons of your faith? Have you ever found yourself feeling so comfortable with “the world” that you wondered if you were not living properly with God?
- Jesus prayed for the future of the believers, asking God to grant them unity. What actions would you want to take for the unity of the church for the next generation?
- Keeping in mind that eternal life comes from knowing God and Jesus (John 17:3)- from your Bible reading thus far this year, what do you think God wants us to know about Him, and what does God want us to know about Jesus the son He sent? And how important is it?