The Priestly Prayer (John 17:1-23)

By | October 27, 2013


John 17:1-23 (NRSV)

[1] 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.

[6] “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

[7] Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

[8] for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

[9] I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.

[10] All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

[11] And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

[12] While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.

[13] But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.

[14] I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

[15] I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.

[16] They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

[17] Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

[18] As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

[19] And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

[20] “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

[21] that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

[22] The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

[23] I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.


     The very first time I read this passage in the Gospel of John it grabbed me. It totally amazed me. In the middle of His betrayal; while all the plotting, exchange of blood money, and gathering of The Temple Guard was going on, Jesus was praying with and for the Disciples. That’s very obvious. But what really grabbed my attention was that part of the prayer where Jesus prayed for us.

     Did you miss it? It’s easy to miss because we’re so familiar with this passage that sometimes when we read or it is read in Worship or a Bible Study our minds just shut off. I think there has to be a whole section of the brain titled “Been there, Done that or Heard That.” From my point of view, I’ve seen eyes glaze over; I’ve watched them lose focus and take a little mental nap when I read familiar passages. So, listen to verse 20 again.

[20] “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,”

     There it is. There’s not getting around it. According to John, Jesus was speaking about us, for we have believed through the witness of those early disciples. We’ve believed because people like John, Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul decided to write down the things Jesus said and did. We have believed because of their eyewitness reports. And that night, moments before His betrayal, Jesus prayed for US. And it’s a very powerful prayer.


     Like I said, this is a very powerful prayer that covers a multitude of concepts. But before we go any further, I have to share something Randy Mac shared with the Lions Club and couple of weeks ago. In the midst of all of his animal impressions, Randy Mac showed us how to do a perfect duck imitation. I want to demonstrate.

     Now, why did I do that stupid duck imitation? Well, you know how bent my mind can be and how I can see connections to God in weird places and circumstances. In working on the lesson for last Thursday’s Bible study, I had a thought pop into my heard about how we’re called to Follow Jesus like ducklings follow their mother.

     I went to search for that quintessential picture to show but instead, ran across some videos which caused me to take a detour in the direction of this sermon. You might want to Duck, because today I want to look at some of the key concepts of this priestly prayer, through the eyes or life of a duck. I know it sounds weird but I promise it’s all connected.


     Jesus prayed: “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine.”

     Later on Jesus says, “they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

     One of the very first things I want us to notice is that we belong to Jesus. God gave us to His Son. Compared to all the rest of creation we are the icing on the cake. We are the sunshine of God’s soul. You are the apple of God’s eye.

     In Deuteronomy 32: Moses describes how God sustained and cared for his people and in verse 10 we read. [10] “[God] sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye.”

     He didn’t think that only of Moses but of every single one of us. After creating us and placing us in the garden, God looked at all of creation and said, “It is Very God.”

     God created us to love. Everything else in creation came out of the imagination of God’s mind. But you and I were created out of the longing of God’s heart. We were created in the very image of God. You and I are God’s best work. And we were given as a gift to God’s only Son. God gave His Son the very best, US. And then because God loved us so much, God gave us His Son, Jesus.

     We belong to Jesus. And that makes a claim on our lives. It not only makes a claim on our lives but it gives us hope. And when we hear Jesus reiterating this at the beginning of this prayer, our hearts should sing for joy. Our spirits should dance the Lord’s dance. We belong to Jesus who cares for us deeply because we are a precious gift from God, His father. And that’s the power behind this prayer.

     All of that struck me when I say this video from ABC News. I’ve edited the length a little to make it fit the sermon. WATCH.

     When I saw that video one of my first thoughts was how that illustrated what I was just talking about. For those few moments, the mama duck was like God. She gave her most precious gift into the hands of that banker. And that banker was like Jesus. Because those ducklings, like us, were a precious gift from their creator (the mama duck) just as we are a precious gift from God to Jesus. And just like Jesus rescued us from sin and death, that banker rescued those ducklings. By doing so, the banker gave them new life and filled them with joy just like Jesus does for us.


     Because WE BELONG TO JESUS, Jesus prays for our PROTECTION. As much as we would like to say it’s different, we know that life is unpredictable. Tragedy can strike at any moment and change everything. But we also know that sometimes it’s not tragedy. Sometimes it’s our own decisions or the result of those decisions.

     But we can take hope in the fact that whether it’s the consequence of bad decisions, old lifestyles catching up or just unexplainable tragedy, we know God is with us and will BE with us not matter what. We know “the plans God has for us, plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us a future with hope,” as Jeremiah said. We know this because Jesus prayed for God to PROTECT us. Especially from the evil one.

     I found this duck video that illustrates what I’m talking about. WATCH

     OK there are a couple of things I want to point out relative to this video and the prayer of Jesus.

1.     Storms happen. There is nothing in scripture that guarantees a storm free, tragedy free life. What IS guaranteed is that we won’t have to face it alone. God IS and WILL BE with us.

2.     The storms affect God, too. God feels them as much as we do because God IS with us. Jesus experienced not only a storm but the combination of a Category-6 hurricane and an F-5 Tornado. It tore everything up and turned everything inside out and upside down. But there in both the eye of the hurricane and the center of the funnel you could find God, smack dab in the middle just like Jesus, not destroyed but giving hope. God does the same for us. You noticed that the mother never left even after she was blown clear across the walkway. Her first thought was for her ducklings.

3.     God is just like that. Did you notice that she didn’t even stop to preen or get her ruffled feathers in place. Her first thought were her duckling.

4.     And did you notice how the ducklings banded together? How they checked on each other while running to mom?

     That’s our part, when the storms hit. That’s what Jesus meant when He prayed for God to PROTECT us.


     Jesus also prayed for ONENESS. He prayed that we would be ONE. One with Him; ONE with God; ONE with each other. There’s another video I want to show you but first I want you to know that everything works out OK. No ducks were harmed. They might have been a little frightened but none of them were harmed. It’s also from ABC.

     Now you see why I warned you. The point I want to make is they stayed together. The ducklings followed their mother, their leader and everyone made it across. Even against the odds. They were buffeted and scattered and had more than one close call but they made it because they stuck together and they stuck to mom.

     That’s why Jesus prayed for our ONENESS. He wants us to be as ONE with Him and as ONE with each other as He is ONE with God. That’s always been his prayer for us and for the Church as a whole.

     I think it breaks His heart when he sees us fight. I think it breaks His heart when He looks down and sees all the denominations in the world today. Do you really think that’s what He wanted? Or what He envisioned for His followers?

     I got curious, so I decided to see how many Christian denominations there are. How many do you think there are? I thought maybe there were 15 or 1600. Do you know how many there are? There are at least 41,000 different Christian Denominations. I don’t think that’s what Jesus was praying for.

     Jesus wants us to be ONE with each other and One with as He is ONE with God. That takes work and prayer; prayer for and prayer with one another, so that we CAN be ONE.


     And that brings us, finally, to the JOY OF CHRIST. Jesus prayed that we would have the same Joy that He has. Jesus wants our lives to be Joyful. That joy doesn’t come from possessions or position or power or praise it comes from that ONENESS with Christ. It comes when we give ourselves away in service for Jesus. I have one more short clip.

     Whenever we give ourselves in heartfelt service for Christ, we are filled with a sense of joy. It’s not because of what we have done but because of what has been done through us. That’s the secret of CTCYM Mission trips. The youth and adults grow closer to God through their sweat equity.

     They can take pride in the work they have done but the real joy comes from knowing they have been used by God to touch and change someone else’s life and life situation. The real joy comes because they have witnessed this Priestly Prayer of Jesus being answered in a physical as well as spiritual way.


     This Priestly Prayer of Jesus reminds us that WE BELONG TO JESUS;

     It reminds us that He prayed for our PROTECTION;

     It reminds us that His desire for us is ONENESS;

     And that true JOY, the JOY OF CHRIST, isn’t found through Possessions, Position, Power or Praise. The JOY OF CHRIST can only be found when you give yourself away.

     Remember, WE BELONG TO JESUS. And because we do belong to Jesus, I challenge you to spend time this week reading and meditating on this passage. Read it and think about the JOY and the ONENESS we all felt last weekend during Lord’s Acre. And then give thanks to God for the PROTECTION God gives during the storms. But especially thank God for being there with us in the midst of the storm.

     While God doesn’t always calm the physical storm, through His Son, God WILL calm the spiritual and emotional storms so that we can make it through the physical storms by leaning on Him.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.