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God Speaks with God (John 17:1-26) – Mark Ottaway

God Speaks with God

John 17

 Turn to John 17. This chapter is one of the most outstanding passages in all of the Bible. Tony Reinke said that in this passage God is talking to God. God the Son, as both a human and deity, both Man and God, speaks with the Heavenly Father. I started an introduction to this passage last Sunday, but these 26 verses could be preached for weeks and weeks, as there is almost no end to the depth of what Jesus is saying here to His Father. One of the main skills in teaching is to be able to select a passage and find the theme of that passage and as best you can, to stay with it. This is why I try to not deviate from the passage and go elsewhere. Yes, sometimes another verse will help clarify a truth, but it is always best practice to stay with the passage. In this passage, Jesus is speaking with the Father, and therefore, to best understand what He is saying, it is best to stay right here and find out. Another thing when teaching is to find the theme, and sometimes this is harder than others. We have said all along that the main theme of the entire book of John is simple as he gives to us his overarching theme of why he wrote his gospel. John 20:31 says, “these [things] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” So, there is not much guesswork here of John’s intention in writing, therefore, everything in this gospel is related to this purpose, that by believing we would have life.


Now within that overarching theme as we teach week to week, it is good to always ask yourself when reading a specific passage in John. what is the main idea in these verses? And then to make sure everything you say ties into that. And again, John is always quite clear in his writing, as we have said before that John has this way of writing very simply, but within that simplicity, he brings out such a depth of information. And in this prayer of Jesus, He is preparing His disciples before His departure. So, let’s think about that this morning. What is so important to Christ, for His followers, after He leaves? And before we get to that question, we really need to ask another question. Who is this prayer being prayed for? In other words, on whose behalf is Christ praying? Well, we see immediately (vs 6) that Jesus is praying on behalf of His disciples.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”

John 17:6 (LSB)


These are the men whom the Lord has been ministering with for these past 3-1/2 years. And Christ will be very specific here as He says (vs 9), and I ask on their behalf. In fact, He says He is not asking this on behalf of the world, but specifically those whom the Father has given to Christ. So, he is not praying this for the world, but for His disciples. And Christ actually praises them by saying (vs 8) that they understood that He has been sent by the Father. And He highly praises them (vs 6), saying that they have kept God’s Word. Now we might immediately read this and start to think well if this is the Twelve, what about Judas, as he certainly could not be included in all this? Well, Jesus will help clarify this for us as well.

“While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”

John 17:12 (LSB)


So, Jesus makes it very clear here that Judas is not included in this prayer, for He already knows the heart of Judas, and that he is not a true disciple. Now we also need to see that this prayer goes beyond His disciples, that it goes beyond the Twelve less Judas.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 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.”

John 17:20-21 (LSB)


In other words, those who come to faith in Christ through the Twelve. This is such a blessing as this also includes us, as we have come to faith from the continued preaching and teaching of the Scriptures. So, who is Jesus praying for? The Twelve, plus those who (vs 20) come to faith through the extended ministry of the Twelve, less Judas (vs 12) where Jesus says all have been guarded except the son of perdition, and there is another group that is not being prayed for (vs 9). I ask on their behalf; [but] “I do not ask on behalf of the world.” but for those who have been given by the Father to the Son.


Now if we all sat down this afternoon and thought deeply about life, and we concluded that there was a list of things that I needed to get done during my lifetime that would be of great importance to me, things that I might pray for or from a secular perspective, what might someone hope for? Now that list would vary depending upon the character of the person and the spiritual conviction or maturity of the person. Some might ask for financial freedom, or maybe a trip that they always wanted to go on, or that I need to get healthy, or that the Leafs need to win the Stanley Cup once in my lifetime. That would be a lofty prayer by the way. Others might be a little more selfless and think of things such as providing for my family. Lord help me to have a good relationship with my children. Allow me to be a friend to those who are part of my life. Might I be involved in ministry somehow? While others might go even further. Lord, whatever You desire for me, whether I am rich or poor, in sickness or in health, that I would always honour You, that my children would love and serve Christ, that through good and bad my life would bring You glory, that I would be faithful.


But the point is this, that we would learn much of the character of the individual if they were being honest of what they might hope for or pray for, wouldn’t we? So, we are about to learn much of Christ as He gives His requests to the heavenly Father, and as He shares His heart even with us as John writes out His prayer for us to read. So, let’s read this and then we will talk about it, and if you are a highlighter, this is the time, as I have found 8 things that Jesus prays for specifically.

1 “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,

2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.

3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

4 I glorified You on the earth, having finished the work which You have given Me to do.

5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You;

8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;

10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.

11 And I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.

12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.

18 As You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world.

19 For their sake I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.


20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

21 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.

22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

23 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.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, 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.


25 “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.”

John 17:1-26 (LSB)


So, we are going to take a look at these eight requests made by the Son to the Father. And we are not going to get to all of them this morning, as going down a list quickly does not do anyone any favours. But we will look at them over the next few weeks.


“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

John 17:3 (LSB)


Jesus prayed that we would …

  1. Know the Father and the Son (vs 3)


There are two significant things about this request from Christ towards you and me. This is His heartfelt prayer. One, that you would know Him and the Father. What a motivation here to know God, for the result of knowing God is eternal life, for this is what eternal life is, knowing God. Understand that if you do not know God, you do not have eternal life. This is likely something that we do not use a lot in our evangelism. That if someone asks us about salvation, to say to that person as a starter, well, do you know God? Now this does not mean that we do not fear God. For of course, we fear God, reverence God. For He is totally other from us. He is holy and we are not holy. So yes, we fear Him but we could also say, that we are not afraid of Him. Yes, we are awestruck by His being, a reverent fear; but we do not fear that He will harm us. For He desires that we would know Him, which ought to become the lifelong pursuit of every one of us here this morning.


This is a terminology that we do not always use. But if we were asked about our greatest pursuit in life, we would not always respond that it is to know God. And knowing God includes both a knowledge of God, but it also involves an intimate relationship with God. So that yes, we might study His attributes, His sovereignty, that He is omnipresent, that He is from eternity past, that He is just and loving, He is all truth. But also, that those attributes about God become the very fiber of our life, that they move us both intellectually in our minds, but also emotionally in our hearts. Therefore, there is a great need for us to know God intellectually. To study His Word, so that we are cannot be fooled about God, so that our thinking is right about God, so that we are able to give an answer about God. And true, we will not be able to know everything about God, for our understanding of the knowledge of God comes from the finite trying to understand the infinite. Listen to the Psalmist as he is awestruck by God:

“I shall remember the deeds of Yah; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds. O God, Your way is holy; What god is great like God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.”

Ps 77:11-14 (LSB)


But God has given us much information about Himself, and He has given all of us minds to read and to think and to meditate on. Therefore, all of us are responsible to pursue a knowledge of God. Admitting yes, that there are some whom the Lord has uniquely gifted to understand better. I think of the many Bible teachers that I am indebted to who have taught so wonderfully about God over the years. But then not just so intellectually, but also that our hearts are moved by this knowledge. Where we could say that true, we do not know everything about God, but He is what I think about and who moves my entire being. It was Mrs. Einstein who said she did not know everything about her husband’s theories. In fact, she said, “No, I don’t understand my husband’s theory of relativity, but I know my husband.” C. H. Spurgeon wrote:

“The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.”

  1. H. Spurgeon

To think in our world, the importance as its truth strays further and further from God’s truth, for us to make any sense or to contribute any wisdom in our situation at home, at church, and in the world, we must know God. The other significant truth here is that knowing God means eternal life. And this is where we learn that knowing God goes beyond just a head-knowledge. Think of Jesus saying, I know My sheep and they hear My voice, and My sheep follow Me. There is no substitute for this, as this is the authenticating mark of every true believer, that others would look at them and say, wow! they know the Shepherd! And how are we ever going to navigate in our world today and in the days to come without knowing the voice of the Shepherd? In fact, it is so tied in with this that we must know the Shepherd or we do not live. For it is the Shepherd who has laid down His life for the sheep, and the sheep are those who know Him. If you do not know the Son and you do not know the Father, you are eternally lost, both in this life and in the life to come. And I do not know all the ramifications of hell other than the warnings of eternal punishment and regret and how that all is manifested in eternity, but it would also seem to be an eternity of forever wondering around aimlessly like a lost sheep without a Shepherd to guide and care for us and love us. Jesus prayed that they would know the Father and the Son. Secondly, Jesus prayed that we would …


  1. Be Kept in His Name (vs 11-12)


“And I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.”

John 17:11 (LSB)


Notice Jesus says that He is no longer in the world. In other words, He knew that His time on earth was about to be over. But those He loved and had done ministry with for 3-1/2 years would be staying. It may be hard for us to understand the significance of this. It may be the most pronounced in our lives when someone we greatly love is passing away, where they say good-bye and pray that you would be strong in your faith. Now maybe Christians have never had a strong presence in their life who has passed away. True, it might be a parent or maybe an aunt or uncle who was greatly missed. And you have fond memories of, but maybe not a strong spiritual person. But I want you to imagine for a moment of having a giant spiritual presence in your life, which some of you have had, and they go on to be with the Lord. And just imagine the impact of them saying something like this to you prior to their death, I am praying that the Holy Father would keep you in His name. That would stay with you, wouldn’t it? And so we need to understand that though Jesus was praying for His disciples. He extends this prayer to all those who would come to Christ. And so, when Jesus left this world, He knew that you and I would be here, and He says to us, may My Holy Father keep You in His name.


Now that is a powerful statement, and a statement extended to all His sheep. But what does it really mean? This term Holy Father is the only time it is used in the Bible, and it really combines for us the awesomeness of God, the term holy, along with the intimacy of a Father. And the prayer is not only a prayer of protection of our souls being saved, as this is a clear understanding in the Bible. As Peter writes that our inheritance is incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, being kept in heaven for us, and we are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. But it would seem that this guarding (vs 12) and this being kept (vs 11) is connected with the name of God, which Jesus has stated as the Holy Father, and by the fact that Jesus will later pray about us being sanctified (vs 17). That I would suggest that this prayer is specifically in reference to our being separate within the world. Similar to what James wrote in James 1:27, “to keep oneself unstained by the world.”


We must remember that Jesus who is God, is equal with God. The Son of God and God the Father are one, but Jesus is also completely human. And Jesus prays that His followers would be kept by the name of the Father just as He was. We can never dismiss that Jesus was a Man. That somehow His obedience and purity and complete faithfulness to the Father was automatic for Him, that it did not require perfect dependence day after day, moment by moment upon the Father. For if we dismiss this, Jesus is not our human example. So what Jesus is praying here is that His followers would lean on the Father as He has leaned on the Father, and they would live a life of holiness as He lived a life of holiness. And though we have a sin nature within us, and we do sin, yet we can never lower the goal of Christlikeness. For this is what Christ desires of us and what He prays for us, Holy Father, keep them in Your holy name. And we are going to find out when we get to the unity that Christ desires for His people, that this holiness is key in being united.


Folks, I would think that of all the challenges of life for the Christian, this could be our greatest struggle today, in being holy. Our struggle to be unstained by the world. Because it is so easy to be connected with the sin of the world. And to fail to remember what Jesus has prayed, and the value that Jesus has placed upon our holiness as His followers, really is part of His glory. D. A. Carson writes that the followers of Christ can never enjoy the kind of unity that He desired for them without striving to live a life that is in accordance with the holy name of God. Do we remember something like that? That this would be such a desire of Christ for His sheep, a carefulness to live holy lives. And without this, we miss the mark on the next prayer of Christ that we would …


  1. Have Christ’s Joy Made Full in Us (vs 13)


“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.”

John 17:13 (SB)


We have talked about this before of the love relationship between the Father and the Son, and the indescribable joy that they have in each other. So, to grasp the magnitude of this prayer is really something, that Jesus wants us to experience that same joy. I was thinking, that if God was an impatient God, or if God was a frustrated God, He would have given up on us a long time ago. That when God offers us this kind of joy, and we try to find some kind of substitute in painted metal or nice furniture or shiny gold, or in recognition or anything to do with self. That if God was a frustrated God, He would probably be frustrated with us. See, Jesus does not offer us some of the joy. In other words, He didn’t say, this joy was overwhelming for Me and I hope you can enjoy just a glimpse of it. No, His pray is, so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. See, what Christ wants for us in His humanness is everything He rejoices in with the Father. Not just part of it, not just some, but all of it. See, the Christian life is much more than doing. The Christian life is also a state of mind, as it captivates us so much that we exude with joy, full joy!


And this joy is not based upon circumstances. How could it be? For Jesus is speaking about a joy that He has just before he goes on holidays. No, it is just prior to going to the cross. Therefore, this joy must transcend all that the disciples would have to face. All the heartaches and hurts and disappointments and the agonizing way in which most of them would die. His joy would transcend all of that. See, what we have for the follower of Christ, what we have for the Christian, is a setting our minds on that which is eternal, that as John MacArthur has written, that the Father would guarantee their eternal joy and glory.


So, what would happen if someone you knew was dying? Someone who did live with such a sincere, right heart before God. Who you would describe as a spiritual giant in your life. And before they passed away, they called you into the hospital room and said, I have something I want to say to you. And so, you go to the hospital and the doctor says that this person will only have days to live, and you arrive and pull your chair up to the bedside, and there is no one else in the room. And you are left alone with this person who has had the most positive Christian influence on you. And as you sit beside them, he or she says, I want to share something with you. I have been serving the Lord for many years, and He is my joy. I owe everything to Him. And I have been thinking of you. And I have been praying for you. And I have been asking the Lord to do this specifically for you. The first thing is that I have been praying that you would know God in a deeper way than you ever have before. That He would become everything to you. That you would do whatever you need to do to learn more about Him. To study about Him and that church-life is so central.


The second thing is that I have been praying that you would embrace a holy lifestyle. That you would take some great spiritual steps to be careful in how you live in how you make choices, what you think about, and understand that you are a child of a Holy Father. And the third thing is that I have been praying that your life through the struggles and persecution and all that lies before you, is that you will experience the same joy in Christ that I have experienced. That even in your hardest moments, you will be able to say God is good. How would you respond to such a visit? Would you stand up and say, great, thanks. Or would that grip your heart? And you would respond in great determination to live out that prayer in your own life. This is what Jesus has prayed for you: to know God more in everything, to strive to be holy in everything, and to be filled with joy in everything. Let’s pray. Father, for what we know not, teach us. For what we have not, give us. And for what we are not, make us. And all God’s people said, amen.