What was Jesus praying in John 17? He was praying for the fulfillment of Ezekiel 36:24-27:
Ezek 36:24 We will see in John 17 that Jesus asks the Father to separate us from the nations (a type of the world) and bring us into full fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — that means being truly sanctified, filled with the Spirit — truly our Promised Land until heaven!
Ezek 36:25 There must be a cleansing, a washing away of all things we hold dearer than God (for these are our idols), replaced by total devotion to Him.
Ezek 36:26 Besides cleansing (“moreover”), the Father will also give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us; we will see at as we go to John 17. Hearts of stone are stubborn and go their own way. He will remove our stony hearts and replace them with hearts of flesh that respond to Him.
Ezek 36:27 So that we fully understand how this will happen, the Lord clarifies — God will put His Spirit literally within us and cause us to obey Him, not as robots but because His Spirit unites us, giving us His nature, so we want what He wants. Self-centered thinking and stubbornness are banished. The Father does all of this for His sake (v. 22), for the sake of His holy name which His stubborn people profane with their self-centeredness.
NOTE: In John 17, Jesus is praying not only for the disciples, but for ALL believers (look at v. 20)!
First, we must note the qualities Jesus ascribes to His disciples in the first few verses of John 17: They were the Father’s, given to the Son, and they have kept the Father’s word (v. 6), they have come to know that everything Jesus has came from the Father (v. 7), they received Jesus’ words and truly understood He came from the Father and was sent by Him (v. 8), the world has hated them because they are not of the world (v.v. 14 & 16). They are certainly Christians, by all of our standards of measurement.
But Jesus prays because something must happen in all believers SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW:
We as believers are sent out by Jesus (v. 21);
The Father sent Jesus (v. 23); and
The Father loved all believers with the very same love He has for Jesus (v. 23):
Here is what must happen, as I interpret the words of Jesus Christ:
John 17:13 Now Jesus is coming to the Father, but one essential element is missing, the element that will make it SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW. The result of Jesus’ request, made even while He’s still on the earth, will be that His joy will literally fill them up inside!! Jesus is praying, “Now, Father, now! Do what You promised in Ezekiel now!”
John 17:17 Jesus prays for the Father to sanctify all believers truly, to purify them. They are already set apart and have been following Him. We have seen the great qualities they already possess. But the disciples (and we) must be purified, and it will be by the Father’s word, given to Jesus. The Father’s word isn’t just true, it is truth. It is the reality behind all that we see.
John 17:18 Jesus prays for what will come next, even though it is not fulfilled until Pentecost (Acts 2:4). In the same way (with the same nature) that Jesus was sent by the Father, Jesus now sends all believers who have been truly sanctified, filled with His Spirit.
John 17:19 So that we don’t miss it, Jesus Christ repeats that He has set Himself apart, coming into the world and giving Himself, even to death on a cross, so that all believers may be truly sanctified. He explains what “truly sanctified” is, in verse 21.
John 17:20 This prayer is for all believers!
John 17:21 When all believers are truly sanctified, they will be of the same nature. “One” in this case refers not to a superficial unity, but to complete unity of nature and Spirit. How do I know this? Jesus goes on to describe the “oneness” — just the same as the Father is literally located within Christ and Christ is literally located in Him, Jesus prays for all believers to be literally located within the Father and the Son, asking in His name, having His nature (as we talked about in my teaching on John 14). The result? THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THE FATHER SENT JESUS CHRIST.
Extra bonus, not in the sermon: There’s no “may” in the original Greek. It is SO THAT THE WORLD BELIEVE THAT THE FATHER SENT JESUS CHRIST.
John 17:22 There is a glory that will come into all believers when this happens — it is the Holy Spirit. He comes to dwell in us, giving us an indwelling Father, Son and Spirit. Again, this is so that all believers will have the same nature as the Father and the Son, just as the Father and Son have the same nature.
John 17:23 Jesus explains again that He is to be literally located within us, just as the Father is literally located within the Son. This will cause us to be perfected in unity (Greek: completed “into one”, made alike) — truly sanctified, with the same nature as the Father and the Son. The result? THE WORLD WILL KNOW THAT THE FATHER SENT JESUS, AND LOVED ALL BELIEVERS WITH THE SAME LOVE HE HAS FOR JESUS. This is agape, the very love of God!
John 17:24 We know that Jesus is preparing a place for us, from John 14:2. Now He prays for all believers to be with Him. Why? So they may see Him in glory, lifted high and exalted, the glory Jesus had in the beginning and that the Father has given Him again. He is the Beloved of the Father!
John 17:26 Jesus made the Father’s name (His nature) known to all to His disciples. At Pentecost, He will make it known even more so, because God’s love, His actual love, and Jesus Himself, will be literally located within:
The disciples, when they are filled with the Spirit at Pentecost
All believers, when they experience their own Pentecost
JUST AS THE DISCIPLES IN ACTS 1 AND 2, WE MUST SIT BEFORE THE LORD AND PRAY TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT, CLOTHED WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH AS JESUS COMMANDED IN LUKE 24:49, FILLED WITH THE ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD.
WHY? JESUS PAID A PRICE GREATER THAN WE WILL EVER BE ABLE TO COMPREHEND, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THROUGH US!