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John 17:20-26 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:59 mins 55 secs

Christ's Intercessory Prayer for you; John 17:20-26

Down to verse 19 Jesus has emphasised specific prayer for the apostles. But this prayer has a broader range. While His personal primary application in this section of the prayer is for the disciples it has a broader impact. We know this because He says in verse 20 NASB "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word." So 6-19 is primarily the apostles; secondarily the entire church. Starting in verse 20 it is going to have primarily the church as a whole, all those who come to Christ on behalf of the witness of the apostles. In vv. 20-26 the focus is on the church as a whole, on everyone who comes to know Christ during the church age.

John 17:21 NASB "that they may all be one; even as You, Father, {are} in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." They key to understanding this is in the phrase "in me": "even as You, Father, {are} in Me and I in You." The phrase "in": Christ is in the Father, the Father is in Christ, a reference to their intimate fellowship, not an emphasis on their personal identity or union in terms of the oneness of the Trinity. We know this from other passages such as John 10:38 NASB "but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." That is, they have close personal intimacy and Jesus is fulfilling the plan of the Father because of their intimate fellowship. John 14:10 NASB "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. [11] Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves." Every time there is this phrase "in me" in relationship to Jesus and the Father it is not talking about something positional, it is talking about something relational, i.e. their intimate fellowship.

1 John 1:1 NASB "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—[2] and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— [3] what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." John is talking about "we" the apostles, who had been close to the Lord and spent three years with Him: what "we have seen and testify and proclaim to you." Isn't that what Jesus has just prayed in John 17, that their word would go forth, vv. 19, 20? [4] "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." John is emphasising that "you as believers can have fellowship with us." Just because you are a believer doesn't mean you can have fellowship with other believers. In verse 3 he is focusing on what is entailed in true fellowship among believers, and the result of this is joy brought to completion.

In John 17 Jesus is praying that we might be one. This is not some sort of experiential, ecumenical unity that we all just get together and hold hands. It is wonderful that we are all believers but that doesn't produce fellowship. It is not social interaction with other Christians. The priority for the believer is doctrine and fellowship with God. So the only way we can have true experiential unity is if it is based on doctrine and being in fellowship with the Lord. Jesus is praying that we might have fellowship but that is based on the truth. We can't have fellowship apart from the truth. It is on the basis of this true fellowship based upon the truth and sanctification from the Word of God that we present a unified testimony to the world around us: "that the world may believe that You sent Me."

John 17:22 NASB "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one…" This glory is not the Shekinah glory in the sense that it is displayed on the mount of transfiguration. He is talking about the character, the essence, of Jesus Christ which is manifested in the life of the believer as a result of his spiritual growth. As we grow to maturity we manifest the character of Jesus Christ and that is the glory He is talking about that shines forth to the world as a witness, and it only comes by being in fellowship with the Lord so that the Holy Spirit fills us with the Word of God, produces fruit, so that as a result of the fruit of the Spirit we manifest to everyone around us the character of Jesus Christ.

John 17:23 NASB "I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." "I in them and You in Me" tells us that we are not merely indwelt by the God Holy Spirit but by God the Son and God the Father. If God the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in you, then that means God the Father is also in you. So we are indwelt by all three members of the Trinity. It is God the Holy Spirit's indwelling that sets apart our physical body as a temple for the indwelling of the Shekinah glory of Jesus Christ so that we become a temple to God; that is its purpose, that we can manifest God. So there is no building that is important, it is the individual's body that is set apart. 

John 17:24 NASB "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me [every single believer], be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." Jesus is talking about the fact that in order to go forward and advanced we need to be focused on Jesus Christ. This is occupation with Christ, one of the great problem-solving devices that God has given us, explained for us in more detail in Hebrews chapter twelve, verse two: "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Just as Jesus handled the extreme testing and pain and suffering of the cross, based upon His inner happiness that He had because of His relationship with God, so we, too, can handle anything in life because of that joy that we can have. That is the result of doctrine in the soul. 

John 17:25 NASB "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; [26] and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

So He ends in v. 26 with the statement that His love that will be in us and manifest in us. That takes us back to John chapter 13:33, 34 where Jesus gives the new commandment to the believer in the church age. This is the summation: "Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Then in chapter fourteen He begins to explain how this is going to be possible. It is evidenced by our obedience, 14:15: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." It is further going to be enhanced and developed in us through the Holy Spirit, and he begins to introduce the Holy Spirit as the Helper, i.e. the assistant in the spiritual life. [16] "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever." He develops this further in v. 21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." So the Helper produces love, the Helper also helps us understand the character of God even more.

The emphasis of these chapters is what it means to love as Christ loved the church. The interesting thing is that this use of love in v. 26 is the last time that word is sued until the last chapter of John. Why is that? Because in John 13-17 Jesus is telling us that we are to love one another "as I have loved you." How does Jesus love us? That is what He portrays for us in chapters 18-20 when He goes to the cross.