Updated: Feb 4
Jesus prayed for his disciples, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
This is the Gospel reading selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B 2018. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, May 13, 2018. This is important as it is a prayer submitted to the Father, by the Son, for his children to be accepted as his fruit of the vine. This not only applied to the disciples close to Jesus of Nazareth, who would become Saints as Apostles, but to all who would be born of the true vine afterwards.
Let me first state that this reading led me to write a companion piece that details the last hours of Jesus’ ministry, prior to his arrest. This prayer that sometimes has the title applied, “Jesus Prayed for His Disciples,” is not stated by John as to where it occurred, although it was after Jesus led his followers out from the upper room, after the Passover Seder meal and ritual was completed. This prayer took place on a hill that had olive trees on it, just outside the Essenes Gate of Jerusalem.
The above graphic has been modified (by me) to show how the known general area of the Upper Room and the easiest exit point from the city of Jerusalem. The graphic is part of an article on Jerusalem’s Essenes Gate, written by Bargil Pixner and published by Century One Foundation. With little question about the Upper Room being in the Essenes Quarter, and with the Essenes known to be a sect of devout Jews (along with the Pharisees and Sadducees), it is easy to see how some believe that Jesus was a member of that sect. The only point I wish to make here, relative to the place where Jesus prayed for his disciples, is Luke, Matthew, and Mark all agree that Jesus left the upstairs room and went to the Mount of Olives (more literally a “hill of Olives”).
This prayer for his disciples was amid prayers for his glorification and for all believers (all of John 17). Following this, John wrote that Jesus took his disciples to the garden across the Sidron Valley, which was Gethsemane. This would indicate that John’s account of Jesus praying preceded the prayers of pain and agony that Jesus was witnessed to have prayed in the garden at Gethsemane (by the other three Gospel writers). To get an in-depth perspective of the flow of movement, after the disciples were led away from the Upper Room, please read my account of The last four or five hours that preceded the betrayal and arrest of Jesus of Nazareth if you want to know more about this topic.
Let me also add that John wrote of conversations Jesus had with his disciples, prior to John recording the prayers of Jesus. From the perspective of the map above, get a mind’s eye view of Jesus and his male followers (including John) leaving the Upper Room and meandering their way through the Essenes Quarter, before exiting at the Essenes Gate. Because it is not clearly stated, it becomes natural to see the disciples carrying a jug of wine with them (the Seder tradition to drink until you pass out) and drinking as Jesus talked to them (drinking being why they did not recall to write about those lessons). As the Seder ritual would have been celebrated in the same way, throughout all of Jerusalem, it would seem logical that Jesus and his followers met and shared wine with other Essene Jews who were likewise outside on a spring evening. After an hour or so milling about, Jesus and John excused themselves to go among the olive trees on the hill that overlooked the Hinnom Valley, so Jesus could offer the prayers John of which John wrote.
It is important to realize that the entirety of chapter 17 in John’s Gospel tells of Jesus praying. Verses six through nineteen are of Jesus praying for his disciples. The verses prior are for Jesus to be glorified by God, and the verses following are of Jesus praying for all believers. The fact that John dedicated an entire chapter to the prayers of Jesus, whereas the other Gospel writers make mention of Jesus praying on a lesser degree, sets John apart from the other Gospel writers … in more ways than one. I address that in the other article.
In the same way, John wrote chapter 14, which told of lessons given to the disciples that no other Gospel writer wrote of. It was in that chapter that Jesus said there were many rooms in the Father’s house, and he was going there to reserve one for them. Philip said (basically), “You never told us where your father lived.” That was a sign of drunkenness. At the end of chapter 14, John indicated Jesus said to the disciples, “Come now, let us leave,” (John 14:31d) which meant they either left the Upper Room then, or they left the Essenes Quarter, going outside the Wall of Jerusalem.
Once outside, John wrote chapters 15 and 16 that was Jesus telling his disciples that their future was bright, with nothing to worry about. Still, because none of the others recorded those pep talks in the other Gospels, the disciples were struggling to think clearly, plus the later it got the sleepier they became. Outside the Essenes Gate, Jesus could have broken away from the group with ease, leaving them to talk amongst themselves and also relieve themselves of their wine at the sewage channel just off the path.
Here, in chapter 17, John recalled prayers said by Jesus, with none here duplicated in another Gospel. This omission should not be seen as if John was making things up or remembering things out of sequence. Rather, John has to be seen as the one follower that was not drunk. He was not drunk because he was not an adult. He followed Jesus as a close family relation, who carefully listened to everything Jesus said. John was excited to be walking with the adults, as part of the Seder late evening experience, while the disciples were falling asleep from drunkenness (or still drinking Seder wine).
In this scope of John’s chapter 17, looking only at his prayer for his disciples, the character that was John is totally removed. The reader has become the one overhearing this prayer, as if one has become John. We are allowed to be close to Jesus at an intimate time of prayer with God. The reader of this prayer should consider him or herself one of “his disciples,” for whom Jesus prayed, while also seeing oneself as a child of Jesus that thirsts for the knowledge of God that comes from Jesus.
With that in mind, it is important to grasp the first verse. When Jesus said, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world,” this does not mean Jesus told a group of heathens who the One God is. When Jesus then stated, “They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word,” he clarified that his disciples were ALL Jews (Israelites in good standing), who sought to serve the LORD faithfully, and they had adhered to the laws set forth by Moses.
The disciples were ALL looking for the promised Messiah to serve the LORD through, as the followers of God’s Christ. God had led Jesus to find those men of devotion. Therefore, the “name” that was God’s “name known” IS the Messiah of God – the Christ. As the Messiah, Jesus proclaimed the title Son of Man and that was made known to his disciples. Jesus was the Son of the Father, thus the Son of God, a name made known. All that Jesus made known to his disciples was through words and deeds – lessons and miracles – assignments given and real encounters witnessed.
At that point in time, as Jesus knew his time of ministry was concluded and he would soon be taken from his disciples, Jesus told God, “Now they know that everything you have given me is from you.” Jesus had repeatedly said that he did not speak for Jesus of Nazareth, but for the Father. The ego of Jesus had been subjected to the Will of God. Jesus had explained that the Father was in him, just as his human body was the seat of the LORD. The disciples had been told that everything from the Son comes from the Father. This was confirmed by Jesus praying, “For the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
When Jesus next said, “I am asking on their behalf,” this is the true power of prayer – for specific others. Jesus said he was not praying for the whole world to find benefit from God’s Son sending forth a prayer on such a broad scope. Jesus clearly stated that his prayer was for the disciples “whom God gave Jesus,” because they too were God’s, as the children of Jesus. For Christians today, a prayer of this nature is the cement that bonds the parts of the Church of Christ to that one cornerstone that is Jesus Christ. A child of Jesus Christ’s – as a Son or Daughter of the One God – should pray specifically for others who are also in the name of Jesus Christ.
Selfishness prays for those the ego deems politically correct, just as the Pharisee proudly prayed aloud in the Temple – “Thank you God for making me me and not that loser over there!” Think about how that applies to priest who pray for the equal rights of everyone in the world – those other than Christians, Christians who need someone praying for them, whose “equal rights” are ignored. When in the name of Jesus Christ one’s prayers are specifically directed, for specific purposes that fit the Will of God, not the philosophical brains of mankind.
To be able to see the future implications of this prayer (where we today are the focus), Jesus then told God, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.” That statement goes far beyond eleven drunken disciples who were most probably sitting on the ground or leaning against the Wall of Jerusalem, arguing about who was more important to Jesus or dozing off from being tired. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon those who were to be of Jesus, as he was of God. Still, those buds of fruit on the most holy vine (what John remembered Jesus saying in John 15:1-8) would become the glorification of Jesus Christ … as him born again, again and again, to this day onward.
Jesus had told his disciples about the seed (a kernel of wheat) that must die so that its fruit could come forth (John 12:24). Now he confessed to his Father, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.” That was an admission that the words given to Jesus, by the Father, were soon to be fulfilled. There was no further ministry on earth for Jesus to command, in the human form that was his body. The disciples would fill that need in the future.
Rather than the world missing one Jesus of Nazareth, there would soon be many Christs following him. This is as Jesus said, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” That protection would be their duplication – the Resurrection – of Apostles in the name Christ. Just as Jesus of Nazareth had been in the name of Christ, the name given to him by God, so too would God give the Saints of Jesus Christ the same oneness. Their souls would be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and their brains with the Mind of Christ, and true Christians would spread across the face of the world.
Jesus then prayed, “While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.” That says that Jesus in the flesh, as the Son of God incarnate among men, was the protection of the Christ for the disciples and followers of Jesus of Nazareth. That presence guarded the children of Christ, as would wild beasts protect her young from external threats. Protection comes from love.
Jesus had just earlier said (after they had left the Upper Room) that there was no greater love than could be shown for a friend, such that he would lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). That was his commitment to protecting his followers. Jesus would then continue to provide his protection through the love of God and the transformation of disciples into Apostles, all surrounded by the Spirit of Christ.
The one he had lost was Judas, who was necessary to lose; and the betrayal by Judas was prophesied (Psalm 41:9). Jesus would repeat this statement made in prayer – that the prophets might be fulfilled – upon his arrest that would come. Recorded by Matthew and Mark … Jesus said, “This has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” (Matthew 26:56a)
Jesus then said, “Now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” This conforms that Jesus is asking the Father to enter the hearts of those who wanted so hard to please God, but had never had someone to show them the way to God’s love. The words “my joy made complete in themselves” means Jesus Christ will be the reborn as a result of the disciples’ marriage to God.
Just as Jesus was married to God, with God’s love filling his heart, Jesus was assured eternal life. God’s gift of complete Salvation was the joy of Christ in the disciples’ souls. That was the promise made to the disciples of Jesus, where not long before he told them, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3) The promise made, in words in this world, was to be rewarded in Heaven.
When Jesus said, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world,” he was making reference to the training ministry the disciples had been sent out to experience. The “great commission” was an exercise of one’s commitment, to go and tell other Jews (Israelites), “The kingdom of God has come near.” (Matthew 10:7) That meant the disciples were bearing the presence of the Holy Spirit in a world of faithless doubt. Those who proclaimed to know the word and be close to God were hated by those who were stubbornly lost. That natural response was due to a Saint belonging in Heaven, not on earth. It was why Jesus was rejected and soon would be killed (with the Apostles all to face the same fate).
Jesus knew that his disciples would have similar futures. Therefore, he prayed, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” That meant there would be no Greek tragedy theatrics, where a angel of god would rush in and save a hero from a terrible end. Likewise, Jesus would not be swept away by his Father, to prevent the Son from crucifixion. That escape would mean no resurrection could be possible, with Heaven not a greater reward than life on earth. The only thing Jesus sought for his disciples (Judas excluded) was for none of them to fall to the temptations of Satan. That test would come in their futures, and God would answer this prayer by having the disciples all become graduates to Sainthood.
When Jesus said, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world,” the reason is their hearts and souls had been purified and glorified by God. They all belonged in Heaven, through eternal salvation. Their souls had been baptized by the Holy Spirit that was Jesus Christ. They were in the world to bring others to that same state of not belonging in the world. One stops belonging to Satan, when one starts belonging to God, as Christ reborn.
To belong in Heaven is to be pure of soul, with no tarnishing of sin remaining. Jesus prayed to God, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The truth is the Word of God, which is only partially spoken in the Holy Bible. The truth goes beyond the words that can be written, spoken, or thought by human brains. The truth comes from the Godhead, accessed by the Mind of Christ. To reach that state where the truth is available to one, one has to be completely pure. The only human being to have such perfection is Jesus of Nazareth, because he was the Messiah. Thus, all subsequent servants of the LORD must have their souls purified by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ within those souls. It means only souls in the name of Jesus Christ go to Heaven to be with God.
Jesus then ended his prayer for his disciples by saying, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” This states that the model of perfection will forevermore be that of Jesus Christ, whose life would be written of in a New Testament. All true Christians are to become just like Jesus of Nazareth, in the sense that they abide by the Will of God (His Law).
It is impossible to reach that level of perfection when one fails to sacrifice self and ego in a marriage to the LORD that calls for absolute subservience. Anything other than that would equate to “too many chiefs and not any Indians.” This prays that all subsequent disciples of Jesus Christ will understand the soul’s need to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, which brings about sanctification. Sanctification does not mean “a pretty good dude,” “a fine statesman,” or “a big benefactor to a religious organization.” It means obedience to God’s Will … totally and completely.
As one can see, this prayer is in no way spoken by a troubled spirit. There was no worry in Jesus when he prayed to the Father to bless those who would be reborn as Jesus Christ. John wrote this in a sequence of events that preceded Jesus leading the disciples to Gethsemane, the garden across the Kidron Valley. It fits the other Gospels that say Jesus took the disciples to the Mount of Olives, outside the Upper Room.
Jesus would not have made this prayer be overheard by his disciples, as some grandiose public gesture. John witnessed a private moment of prayer. Jesus’ prayer for his disciples was said in solitude, with only one young boy close enough to hear his words. Unlike this calm and serenity, the prayers coming from Jesus as Gethsemane were troubled and agonizing, for Jesus to be given the strength to withstand his mortal end. John did not record any troubling prayers from that garden, as he was not close enough to Jesus then to overhear any (unlike John of Zebedee).
As a Gospel reading in the Easter season, when the call is to have Jesus resurrected within oneself, one needs to see oneself as who Jesus was praying for. The call of his prayer asks for you to find God as your protector, such that your heart will open to His love, giving birth to the Christ Spirit within. Without being resurrected as Jesus Christ, one is not sanctified, thus one is still unworthy of Heaven. The call is to become righteous, so one no longer belongs in this world for selfish reasons. The call is to go forth and announce to the world that the kingdom of God has come near … in you.
As the final Sunday in the Easter season, the next step is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That personal event becomes one’s own Pentecost. Pentecost is the ordination of a priest that serves the One God as Jesus Christ. Pentecost signals when one’s ministry begins in earnest, just as Moses came down with the Laws that forevermore must be maintained. Jesus has prayed to God for you. May you be ready to heed the calls.