John 17:1-26- The Prayer of the Great High Priest

Explanation- Volumes could be written on the section that we have before us, and so they have. This High Priestly prayer of Christ is one of the greatest treasures that we as believer’s possess. As Matthew Henry commented, this was, ‘a prayer after sermon, a prayer after sacrament, a family prayer, parting prayer, a prayer before a sacrifice, a prayer which was a specimen of Christ’s intercession.’[1] This is a prayer that we could spend all of eternity musing over and still not reach the foothills of its glory. To dissect this prayer in its entirety would require more space than we have to spare in this brief outline, but there are several points I would like to comment on.

First, Christ prays in the full revelation of His eternal place as the second member of the Trinity. He prays as God speaking to God. Obviously this is always the case when we read of our Lord praying, but here it seems to be on full display. Christ speaks in explicit detail of the glory that He shared with the Father in eternity past and will soon share with Him again.

Secondly, Christ also prays as the great High Priest. During this prayer He is intentionally praying on behalf of His disciples and making their needs known to the Father. What is beautiful about this is that the way in which Christ prays for His disciples is more than likely not the way that they would pray for themselves at this time. He intercedes according to what they truly need and for what is going to be most beneficial for them. This is similar to how Paul describes the intercession of the Spirit on the believer’s behalf; the Spirit intercedes for us when we are without words to pray for ourselves. In like manner, Christ’s prayer highlights the needs for His disciples that, at this time, they don’t necessarily see they have. Their understanding is weak and feeble at best, but His is perfect and infinite.

Third, Christ prays not only for the disciples who are with Him, but also for all of those who will believe because of the disciples teaching. His prayer extends all the way through the end of time and includes every saint who will ever come to believing faith in His person and work. The reality is that Christ left no stone unturned and no problem unanswered. He covered all the bases when He completed His work and He is continuing to see to their fulfillment as He sits at the right hand of the Father. Nothing that He has set out to accomplish can be thwarted and all of those who are His will continue to persevere and bear fruit.

Application- Christ’s high priestly prayer was not a ‘one time and done’ sort of thing. We have recorded here an example of how He continually intercedes on our behalf and how He is continually seeking His glory and our good. Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said that, ‘If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.’[2] This idea of Christ praying for our deepest needs should be of greatest encouragement to the believer. He is our great High Priest and as such He knows what we need before we even ask. He is pleased to provide that is required to equip us for a life of godliness and service. His prayers for us are perfect and precise and although we may not audibly hear them, as M’Cheyne stated, He is still praying.

[1] Ryle, J. C. Expository Thoughts on John (volume 3). Place of Publication Not Identified: Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, 129.

[2] Beaty, David P. 2014. An All-Surpassing Fellowship: Learning from Robert Murray M’Cheynes Communion with God. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 179.