One theologian has said that this prayer of Jesus is the holy of holies of the gospel – an amazing moment whereby we get a glimpse of the intimacy between the Son and father as the Son converses with his Father on the eve of his death for the sinners of the world.
We have not read the entire prayer this morning – just a portion. But even in these first 11 verses we see something very important. Jesus is facing incredible suffering and death. But here he is, not a victim about to be taken to the cross but a victor about to fulfill his father’s will. Jesus has complete trust in the Father in spite of what awaits him. In fact, in the previous chapter of John, 16:33, Jesus tells his disciples that he has ALREADY overcome the world.
Jesus is an overcomer even though he knew that suffering lay ahead. And the prayer his prays is deliberately meant for his disciples ears. He knows not just the storm he will encounter in the next few hours but he knows the storms and trials his disciples will face in the coming days, weeks and years ahead.
This prayer Jesus spoke aloud to His Father is meant to give the 12 disciples, and us, immense security and comfort.
And I think it is because of this prayer that the apostle Peter was able to write 1 Peter 4:12-19.
Peter tells us four things which, while they are tough to hear, we need to hear as Christians. All of which come back to what Jesus says in these verse from John 17.
- Firstly, Peter says that as Christians, we must expect suffering. That is not something we want to hear – but if you remember, neither did the disciples when they heard that Jesus was going to suffer. Jesus knows what is ahead of him – and while the disciples saw it at that moment in the upper room as a disaster. But Jesus does not. Invariably we receive bad news badly. But what Peter says and what Jesus models is that even bad news can be used for the glory of God. Which leads to the second point Peter wants us to understand
- We should Rejoice in Suffering. Now this is getting a little too hard. Really? You want me to rejoice in my trials and suffering? Why? How? Interestingly Jesus uses the word glory 5 times in first 5 verses of John 17. And while we don’t have time to look at the significance of this fully this morning, don’t miss that for Jesus, the cross was not a disaster but the means of glorifying the Father. Not because pain and suffering glorifies God – but because Jesus was following the path the Father had for him. In order to reach the goal for Jesus – that is, his returning to his pre incarnate glory – returning back to the place of honor in heaven he had before he was born as a human being – he had to go through the cross. Therefore for Jesus the cross glorified the Father. For Jesus, just as his life glorified the Father, so will his death glorify the Father, because he knew where he was going and what awaited him. As Christians we want our life to glorify God – but have you thought about how your sufferings and trials can glorify God? Our suffering can be a great witness – it can be a far greater witness to unbelievers than our words. And what about our death? Have you ever prayed that we may die glorifying God? Or even that our death may be a witness! The issue is not I hope that if I suffer or have a great trial I might glorify God, but will I glorify God WHEN I suffer. Peter says that we must not be surprised about the trials and sufferings we receive because Christians are not immune or protected from suffering. Which leads to the third point.
- Peter encourages us to not waste our suffering. What do i mean? In the furnace of suffering we often end up contemplating how we got there or we try and figure out how it happened. A time of suffering and trial is often the time when we examine our life. As a Christian, we should be building our life on truth, humility, holiness and the desire to glorify God. Therefore we should use every trial, as a refining process – a process by which we allow God to remove the dross in our life and purify us. You know, God wants us to grow spiritual in our trials and sufferings. Romans 5:3 says we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
- Which leads to the fourth thing Peter wants us to understand – that ultimately, in our trials we must commit ourselves to God. The enemy has done a great PR exercise in persuading people to move away from God in suffering – to blame him and accuse him. But actually, trials and suffering SHOULD draw us to God. The Psalms describe God as a strong tower. 45 times in the Psalms God is referred to as a refuge. God is who we should run TO when we face hard times for refuge and safety. So, Peter tells us that we should – Expect suffering, rejoice in suffering, don’t waste our suffering and commit ourself to God in our suffering.
Now, we can are only able to hear these four things from Peter if we hear what Jesus prays in John 17. Because what Jesus wanted his disciples to hear and us to hear is this – Jesus is praying for us in our sufferings and trials. In fact Jesus is always interceding for us. We are told in Hebrews 7 that Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.. Jesus prays for us. Our security and protection is found in God’s character and nature and not in ourselves, or our circumstances.
Notice the last verse of our Gospel reading. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. Do you see that? KEEP THEM IN YOUR NAME. That is what he prays for the disciples and us – that God would keep us in His name.
v12 of John 17 says While I was with them, I kept them in your name. If Jesus, in his limited human body was able to keep the disciples safe and protected should he not be able to keep them and us now he is glorified in heaven?
God guards and protects his people – even when they suffer and face trials BECAUSE of the nature of God, the nature of salvation, the glory of God and the intercessory ministry of Christ. THAT IS WHY we can face suffering and trials and not be surprised by them; why we can rejoice in suffering; to grow in our suffering and to commit ourselves to God in our suffering.
1 John 5:4 says For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
To overcome suffering, John says, is to have faith.
In Christ we are over-comers, despite the mountains we face. Jesus knew as he prepared to leave the disciples that they would be scared and frightened in what they would face and so Jesus gives them the two thing which we also have to help us – the power of the Spirit and his prayers! These two alone make us overcomers.
And we must not let satan obscure this truth. Satan knows that if God’s people hear this and act on it then there will be a spiritual victory over him in our lives. Rev 12:11 says And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
We must never let satan rob us of our overcoming power through Christ’s finished work.