As the year winds to an end, and especially as the holidays close out and the busy bustle of the season fades, we may begin to think with nostalgia of “auld lang syne”. Looking back at the past year, we ask ourselves, What will I remember this year for? What is it that I want to bring away from it? There is something about endings that make us reevaluate where we are and what we hold dear. It is always at the end of the movie, the end of a book, the end of a season, that last words and actions become most important.
In John, we see a scene where Jesus is giving His followers His last words, the final message that He wants them to hold onto after all their experiences with Him. It takes place before his arrest and crucifixion, but after the Last Supper. Jesus has a lot to say to His disciples in these chapters in John. He does some last minute teaching, warning, and promising. You can almost feel the sense of urgency – like students who must cram for the world’s hardest exam, as He tries to ensure that they will know everything they need to know after He is gone.
In John 17 is what is sometimes called the high priestly prayer. I once heard a preacher say the way Jesus teaches His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 is not really the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer in John 17 is actually the Lord’s Prayer – the Lord’s prayer for Himself.
In verse 9, He begins praying for His disciples – Jesus’ prayer for us. His last requests on behalf of His disciples are also what He wishes for us, the church, today. In verses 11-26, there are eight things in particular that Jesus asks for His followers. It is in these eight things that we see what is especially close to Jesus’ heart, what He wishes to see in us, so much so that He made it His final request for His disciples.
Jesus prays for their unity. That they may be one as we are one…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us…I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be in complete unity (John 17:11, 21-23).
Jesus prays for their protection. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me…While I was with them I protected them and kept them safe by the name you gave me…My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (11-12, 15).
Jesus prays for their joy. That they may have the full measure of my joy within them (13).
Jesus prays for their sanctification to righteousness through knowing truth. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. …For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified (17, 19).
Jesus prays for their witness. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message...that the world may believe that you have sent me (20-21).
Jesus prays for them to reveal God’s love. Then the world will know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (23).
Jesus prays for their future. Father, I want those you have given to me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory (24).
Jesus prays for them to have awareness of His presence and knowledge of God. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them (25-26).
Then, “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.” We all know what that garden was and what happened next to Jesus – His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection.
Jesus is alive, but do we live out the lives He would have us lead as His disciples? Have we fulfilled the qualities He wants to see in us? Have we taken His last message and prayer for us to heart?