James Chandler shares this story – “I was driving the other day with my family when a car cut me off. I pulled out to go around him. As I sped up so did he. Faster and faster we both accelerated. Finally I put on the brakes so I could let him go. AS I slowed down, he also slowed down. Now I was furious. (Stop me if this has never happened to you). I looked over at the driver so I could give him a piece of my mind and when I did, I saw a good friend and church member driving the car. He was laughing hysterically. Sometimes on the highway of Christianity, we allow little things to annoy us, to distract us, to make us forget where we are going and why we are going there. I know that I have better days and “worser” days in relationship to this. Sometimes, spiritually speaking, we need to pull over at a rest stop, look at the map and make sure that spiritually we are going the right direction to reach our destination." In a sense, this is what Jesus is modeling by offering His High Priestly prayer on behalf of Himself, the apostles, and for all of His followers. He certainly knew precisely where He was going, as He shares with Thomas and the other disciples back in chapter 14. But, He wants to be certain that we know where we are going, and He offers some significant encouragement along the way. This prayer has been an inspiration to untold millions of people. If we want to be successful in reaching our destination, we need to make what is closest to His heart close to our hearts.
This is the greatest prayer ever prayed on earth and the greatest prayer ever recorded in the Word of God. This chapter is what one has described as “the holy of holies” of the gospel record, and we much approach it with a spirit of humility and reverence. This is all especially fascinating in that we are all privileged to listen to the Son’s conversation with His Father just before He is about to give His life up for (all) sinners. Jesus has just encouraged His disciples by telling them that He has overcome the world. (16:33) And now He prays for their security, their joy, their unity and their future glory. Jesus’ final session of equipping is to ask the Father to be present in a very real and personal way for all of them. As mentioned, He is also praying for us. This is not a cultural thought, but a message with universal and eternal ramifications. He knows that we, likewise, need encouragement.
R.A. Torrey shares, “A prayer for self is not by any means a selfish prayer.” Jesus’ burden was the glory of God, and this glory is going to be fully realized in His finished work on the cross. And the servant of God has every right to ask His Father for the help needed to glorify His name. “The hour has come” reminds us of the divine timetable that Jesus was living according to while He was on the earth. Jesus has known this from the beginning of time as we know it, and He knows that He has been in the will of the Father.
The important word glory is used eight times in this prayer, so we know that this is an important theme. Jesus glorified His Father through the various miracles He performed…but, His greatest glory was thorough His sufferings and death. From our perspective, this is difficult to understand, because Calvary was a terrible display of man’s sin. But, from a divine point of view, the cross revealed and magnified the grace of God. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV) Jesus anticipates His return to heaven when He says, “I have finished the work that You have given me to do.” (17:4) The word give is also an important word, as it is used in one form or another, seventeen times in this section. A number of these uses are related to the fact that Jesus says that believers are the Father’s gift to the Son. We are accustomed to thinking that Jesus’ is the Father’s love gift to us, but the Lord affirms that we are the Father’s love gift to His Son…which is pretty amazing. He is the bridegroom and we, as the church, are His bride.
Yet another important theme is eternal life. It is also mentioned seventeen times. This is God’s free gift to those who believe on His Son. The Father gave His Son the authority to grant eternal life to those whom the Father gave to the Son. From a human perspective, we receive this gift when believe in Jesus Christ and obey the gospel. Eternal life is not something we earn by character of conduct...it is a gift we receive by admitting that we are sinners, who repent and believe on Jesus Christ. Going back to the end of chapter 16 once again, and coming full circle – because we share His life, we are overcomers, for we also share in Jesus’ victory! As John also shares in his first letter, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4 NIV) This is Good News indeed!
“Some men become proud and insolent because they ride a fine horse, wear a feather in their hat or are dressed in a fine suit of clothes. Who does not see the folly of this? If there be any glory in such things, the glory belongs to the horse, the bird and the tailor.” St. Francis de Sales. It is good for us to remember such things. It is not our place to glory in ourselves, but to accept and live for Jesus’ glory and to magnify Him. It is on the basis of Jesus’ finished work, that we believers have the gift of eternal life. And we are called to the life that our Savior lived. He shares with the disciples back in chapter 13 that a student is not greater than His Master…if He was going to be persecuted and suffer, that we will as well. The matter of suffering and glory must be kept in proper perspective. The Christian experience is not one of grim determination which causes one to face a life of suffering and sorrow with glory to follow later. The Christian life is the abundant life (John 10:10b). It is one of joy and peace...right now! In times of difficulty, our faith is deepened, our fellowship with God is enriched, and we experience deep joy in the midst of difficulties (John 17:13; 1 Peter 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:10). It is through suffering and adversity that we come to appreciate God as our great reward, as well as our Rewarder. When all of our human resources have been spent, we find our sufficiency in Christ alone (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
As one person has shared, "We have a good measure of life’s pleasures and fulfillments. These the Lord sweetens with His presence and peace, blending the bitter and the sweet in such a way as to bring about His glory and our good." We can rest in these things.