WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? – A STUDY OF THE LIFE OF JESUS (46)

THE HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYER OF JESUS – HIS INTIMATE COMMUNION WITH THE FATHER – JOHN
17

Jesus has been sharing His deepest thoughts with His disciples (John 13-17)
as he prepared to leave them. They were confused and discouraged as Jesus had
told them many times He was going to leave them. They greatly needed some encouragement
and Jesus, Who sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, greatly encouraged them
(and us) through six promises and assurances He gave them. 1) the promise of
heaven; 2) a personal relationship with God; 3) the promise of prayer; 4) the
promise of the Holy Spirit; 5) knowing the love of the Father; and, 6) the supernatural
peace of Jesus. Now He intercedes for them and for all who will come to know
Him in time (you and me). Again we see how other-centered our Lord is for as
He faces the worst hours of His life, the cross, He is more concerned about
His friends than Himself.

The context is that Jesus and His disciples had left the upper room, passed
through a vineyard in the Kidron valley on the way to Gethsemane (the Vine and
branches allegory) and shared His final thoughts and prayers (chap. 16, 17)
before His agony in the garden of Gethsemane and His arrest. (chap. 18; see
Matt. 26: 36-46) To hear someone pray heartfelt prayers says a lot about their
relationship with the Lord and here we get to listen in to Jesus’ "prayer
requests" as He prays earnestly to His Father. Praying out loud and publicly
was part of the Jewish tradition (John 11:41-42; 12:27-30) and was often accompanied
with physical gestures such as raising the eyes and/or hands toward heaven.
(v.1)

In vv. 1-5 Jesus prayed for Himself (so that He could glorify the Father on
the cross and in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension); in vv. 9-19,
for His disciples; and in vv. 20-26, for all who would come to know the Lord
through them. Our spiritual genealogy (the one that really matters) goes back
to the first disciples – an unbroken chain from one generation to the next.
Christianity is always only one generation away from extinction. And remember,
Jesus was not a victim on the cross. He gave His life away voluntarily (John
10:17) and it led to His resurrection and glorification. "It is finished"
(or accomplished – John 19:30) was a statement of victory. He completed all
the work His Father sent Him to do (v. 4) and soon returned to Him in glory
(v.5). We are all culpable for Jesus’ death (our sin – Rom. 3:23-25; Gal. 2:21)
but some are more culpable than others. (John 19:11)

We see Jesus’ priorities as He prays for the glory of God (1-5, 10, 22), the
unity of all believers (21-23), the sanctity and holiness of His followers (17),
and the winning of the lost (18-19). Jesus’ passion was the glory of His Father
and Scripture says it should be our passion too, "the chief end of man".
(Isaiah 43:7, 21; Rom. 11:36, 16:27; 1 Cor. 10:31)

See vv. 2-3. Another priority for Jesus was and is an eternal relationship
with people, you and me. He considers us a gift from the Father. "Knowing"
(personally and experientially) the Father and the Son (and only through the
Son) is "eternal life," a new quality of life that begins the moment
of salvation and will be fully realized in heaven. But this "knowing"
is not attained by intellectual knowledge but by a revelation from the Father
and the Son. We cannot know the Father apart from the Son (John 14:6). And Jesus
makes an astounding claim in Matt. 11:27: "All things have been committed
to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows
the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him
."
What a claim for the deity of Christ! But John’s gospel and Scripture never
deny human responsibility as we respond to God’s choosing. " And this is
the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given
me, but raise them up at the last day. "For my Father’s will is that everyone
who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and
I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:39-40)

V.4 Jesus was passionate about completing the work the Father gave Him to do:
His messages, His miracles, the training of the disciples and His sacrifice
of His life on the cross. So we see three particular purpose statements by Jesus
in the gospels: 1) accomplishing the Father’s work – John 17:4; 2) "to
serve and give my life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45; and 3) "to
seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

Each of us has been given a work to do for the Father: "For we are God’s
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in
advance for us to do." It is very helpful to write out your unique spiritual
purpose statement and let it motivate and guide your life. Often we can be more
diligent in setting goals for our business than asking the ultimate question,
What on earth am I here for? (See LifeKeys by Kise, Stark and Hirsh and
Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, especially chapter 40) Like Jesus
we each have a destiny from the Father to fulfill. I suggest you take a personal
retreat and read these books and carve out your Life Purpose Statement before
the end of January 2006. It will serve you well. The last ten to fifteen years
of our life should be best years of our lives as we bring convergence of skills,
life lessons and spiritual gifts together and hone all of these for God’s purposes.
We may retire from work but not from the kingdom.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Review Jesus’ priorities in prayer. What are your heartfelt prayers and spiritual
priorities? How can Jesus’ priorities influence ours?

At the end of the day life is all about relationships. The Father and the Son
make this their highest priority to the point of the Father giving His only
Son and the Son giving His life. How much priority do you give to making new
friends, building quality relationships and restoring broken relationships?
Is there anything you could do differently at home, at work, at play that would
make relationships a higher priority?

"I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me
to do." (Jesus Christ) How does this strike you? Does it inspire you to
want the same for your life?

Do you have a Life Purpose Statement? If so, share it with your group. My life
purpose statement is "To grow in intimacy with Jesus Christ and to share
Him deeply with others so we will be conformed to His image to the glory of
God." (See Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 3:18) This motivates me, shapes me and guides
me in making choices in life. It took me years to work this out but it started
with time away from the rat race to pray, read and reflect on how God had wired
me and what I was passionate about. How does the idea of a personal retreat
in the next 30 to 45 days to begin this process sound to you?

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