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Unpacking Jesus’ Prayer
Jesus’ prayer has several themes that are packed tightly into a small space. It is as if the entire message of the Gospel of John is squeezed into the few verses of John 17. To best appreciate what Jesus prayed, we are going to re-visit the first five verses to deepen our appreciation of three important themes.
John 17.1-5 – After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
The issue of authority.
Jesus prayed, “You have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (verse 2).
If you are familiar with Maywood’s vision passages, this part of Jesus’ prayer may sound familiar. The last words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel are this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28.18-20).
Let’s make sure we don’t miss the similarity in these two passages.
(1) Jesus’ authority is mentioned in both passages. He uses his authority to give eternal life to people.
(2) He brings people like us into a relationship with him, and gives us the privilege of working with him to help others experience the fullness of life.
Who is in control here?
The word, “authority,” answers the question, “Who is in control here?” A person on a cross is at humanity’s most helpless position. The “authorities,” who are in control, have the right to put someone on that unspeakably awful place of torture and death.
Paul reminds us,
“He humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2.8)
Jesus can say that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” because he did not remain in the grave under the power of death.
Again, Paul wrote,
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2.9-11)
What makes us appreciate Jesus all the more is that he knew that he had all authority before he went to the cross (John 17.2). To the question, “Who is in control here,” his answer would be, “I am.” Even though he had the unlimited amount of control and power that comes with “all authority,” he humbly embraced the absolute helplessness and horror of the cross.
We praise Jesus for his amazing character, with the words of the Philippians passage above. Not only do we admire Jesus, but we are called to imitate his behavior, too.
The heroes of the faith throughout the centuries were humble servants of the Lord. Many didn’t have “official” authority and power, but they were recognized as people who were in control, because the power of the Spirit that was present in their humble obedience to the Lord.
Authority to give eternal life
Jesus prayed about his authority and said, “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him” (John 17.2).
No one has ever made rules for God to follow. He is the rule-maker and out of his own freedom he chose to use his authority to give the best life possible to people like us. Jesus made it clear that we don’t have to wait to get to heaven to enjoy his life. His full and complete life is designed to be lived the moment we begin living in a relationship with him.
Here is how Jesus’ life becomes a reality in our lives. I want us to look again at Galatians 2.20. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I have provided an outline of this verse to help us plumb the depths of it.
(1) When Jesus died on the cross, people who trust their lives to him, died with him. This is something that only God can accomplish, but he does it because he loves us and wants us to have the best life possible.
(2) These people live, but they no longer live their lives separate from Jesus. Instead, Jesus lives his life through them.
If we live our lives separate from Jesus, Paul tells us we will look like this: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5.19-21).
(3) When we trust Jesus to live his life through us in our daily existence, it makes a profound difference. What sort of a difference does it make?
Paul answered this question in Galatians 5.22-23. He wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” These qualities actually become a part of our personality and produce in us the life we have always wanted.
I encourage you to take time and talk to Jesus about Galatians 2.20. Please consider using the three steps I have outlined to help you in your talk with the Lord. Please experiment and ask Jesus to live his life through you for a day. See what sort of difference it will make.
We really can know God?
Jesus prayed this about eternal life, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17.3).
Several years ago, Dan Mears who is KC Wolf, spoke to Bible School children at Maywood. This was when Michael Jordan was the most popular basketball player in the country.
Dan asked the kids, “Do you know who Michael Jordan is?” Everyone raised their hands with a fair amount of excitement.
Then he asked, “Is anybody a personal friend of Michael Jordan?” Not a single hand was raised.
There is a very big difference between knowing about someone and being someone’s friend. The absolute greatness of God is this, he wants us to know him. He used his authority to make it possible for us to live in a personal relationship with him as his friend.
Going back to the Galatians 2.20 passage, consider how much God loves you. Not only does God want to know you in a personal way, he wants to live his life through you so you can live the best life possible.
God is worthy of our love, devotion and praise. Please spend some time today thinking of God’s great gift to people. Tell God how much you love and appreciate him.
Please take some time to talk to Jesus about Galatians 2.20. You may want to speak to him with the words of today’s prayer.
Dear Jesus, because of your grace, when you died on the cross, I died with you. I am alive, but really you live your life in me. Today, I ask that you live your life through me. I trust you that you will live through me and produce in me your abundant life. Thank you for your love and grace.