This Prayer – Jesus Was And Is The Overcomer!
Most scholars who have sought to harmonize the accounts in the four Gospels have the Lord Jesus praying the prayer of John 17 in the Upper Room after He had finished His instructions to the disciples.
Then He and the disciples sang the traditional Passover psalms, left the Upper Room, and headed for the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus had been accustomed to meet with them and pray (see Matthew 26:30-46 and Mark 14:26-42).
Whether He prayed it in the Upper Room or en route to the Garden, this much is sure: it is the greatest prayer ever prayed on earth and the greatest prayer recorded anywhere in Scripture.
John 17 is certainly the “holy of holies” of the Gospel record, and we must approach this chapter in a spirit of humility and worship. To think that we are privileged to listen in as God the Son converses with His Father just as He is about to give His life as a ransom for sinners!
No matter what events occurred later that evening, this prayer makes it clear that Jesus was and is the Overcomer. He was not a “victim”; He was and is the Victor! “Be of good cheer,” He had encouraged His disciples; “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The word world is used nineteen times in this prayer, so it is easy to see the connection between the prayer and John 16:33.
If you and I will understand and apply the truths revealed in this profound prayer, it will enable us to be overcomers too. The progression of thought in this prayer is not difficult to discover.
Jesus first prayed for Himself and told the Father that His work on earth had been finished (John 17:1-5). Then He prayed for His disciples, that the Father would keep them and sanctify them (John 17:6-19). He closed His prayer by praying for you and me and the whole church that we might be unified in Him and one-day share His glory (John 17:20-26).
Why did Jesus pray this prayer?
Certainly He was preparing Himself for the sufferings that lay ahead. As He contemplated the glory that the Father promised Him, He would receive new strength for His sacrifice (Heb. 12:1-3).
But He also had His disciples in mind (John 17:13). What an encouragement this prayer should have been to them! He prayed about their security, their joy, their unity, and their future glory! He also prayed it for us today, so that we would know all that He has done for us and given to us, and all that He will do for us when we get to heaven.
In this prayer, our Lord declares four wonderful privileges we have as His children, privileges that help to make us overcomers.
The Prayer of Jesus
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.
John 17:1 (NLT)
This entire chapter is Jesus’ prayer. From it we learn that the world is a tremendous battleground where the forces under Satan’s power and those under God’s authority are at war. Satan and his forces are motivated by bitter hatred for Christ and his forces. He prayed that God would keep his chosen believers safe from Satan’s power, setting them apart and making them pure and holy, uniting them through his truth.
“Father, the hour is come,” reminds us of the many times in John’s Gospel when “the hour” is mentioned, beginning at John 2:4. Jesus had lived on a “divine timetable” while on earth and He knew He was in the will of the Father. “My future is in your hands” (Ps. 31:15).
The important word glory is used five times in these verses, and we must carefully distinguish the various “glories” that Jesus mentions. In John 17:5, He referred to His pre-incarnate glory with the Father, the glory that He laid aside when He came to earth to be born, to serve, to suffer, and to die.
In John 17:4, He reported to the Father that His life and ministry on earth had glorified Him, because He (Jesus) had finished the work the Father gave Him to do.
The word glory is used eight times in this prayer, so it is an important theme. He glorified the Father in His miracles (John 2:11; 11:40), to be sure; but He brought the greatest glory to the Father through His sufferings and death (see John 12:23-25; 13:31-32).
From the human point of view, Calvary was a revolting display of man’s sin; but from the divine point of view, the cross revealed and magnified the grace and glory of God.
Jesus anticipated His return to heaven when He said, “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). This “work” included His messages and miracles on earth (John 5:17-19), the training of the disciples for future service, and most of all, His sacrifice on the cross (Heb. 9:24-28; 10:11-18).
For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
John 17:2-3 (NLT)
It is on the basis of this “finished work” that we as believers have the gift of eternal life (John 17:2-3). The word give is used in one form or another in this prayer at least seventeen times. Seven times Jesus states that believers are the Father’s gift to His Son (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11-12, 24). We are accustomed to thinking of Jesus as the Father’s love gift to us (John 3:16), but the Lord affirms that believers are the Father’s “love gift” to His beloved Son!
“Eternal [everlasting] life” is an important theme in John’s Gospel; it is mentioned at least seventeen times. Eternal life is God’s free gift to those who believe on His Son (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:47; 10:28). The Father gave His Son the authority to give eternal life to those whom the Father gave to the Son. From the human viewpoint, we receive the gift of eternal life when we believe on Jesus Christ. But from the divine viewpoint, we have already been given to the Son in divine election. This is a mystery that the human mind cannot fully understand or explain; we must accept it by faith.
What is “eternal life”?
Eternal life isn’t living forever in heaven. It is in knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ in an intimate way. Those who come to Jesus only for the forgiveness of sins and don’t go on to an intimate knowledge of God are missing the point of salvation.
In order to fully understand what eternal life is, it is helpful to understand what it is not. Eternal life is not living forever. Everyone lives forever in either heaven or hell. Also, eternal life is not living forever in the blessings of heaven as opposed to being tormented in hell. John 3:36 and 5:24 show that eternal life is a present-tense possession of the believer.
Jesus here defined eternal life as knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. As we have already discussed this word “know” is speaking of intimacy instead of mere intellectual knowledge. Therefore, eternal life is having an intimate, personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus the Son.
According to John 3:16, this intimacy with God is what salvation is all about. Forgiveness of our sins is not the point of salvation; this intimacy with the Father is. Of course, Jesus did die to purchase forgiveness for our sins because un-forgiven sins blocked us from intimacy with God. Sin was an obstacle that stood between God and us. It had to be dealt with, and it was. But anyone who views salvation as only forgiveness of sins and stops there is missing out on eternal life.
Salvation was presented and intended to be the way to come back into harmony with God. Instead, it has often been presented as the way to escape the problems of this life now and the judgment of hell later. It is possible to become born again with that kind of thinking, but more often than not, people who are saved through that type of ministry view the Lord as someone to help them in times of crisis but don’t come to know Him.
The church has been preaching forgiveness of sins instead of relationship with God. Forgiveness of sins is an essential step to relationship with God that cannot be bypassed, but it is not eternal life. Jesus didn’t die for us out of pity for our impending doom, but He died for us out of love for us (John 3:16)–a love that longed to have once again that intimate communion with mankind that He had originally created us for (Genesis 3:8 and Revelation 4:11).
The vibrant, first-century church lived a relationship with God and proclaimed Jesus as the only way for others to obtain this relationship (John 14:6). Without modern technology or huge sums of money, they turned the known world upside down with this Gospel (Acts 17:6).
Today, the twenty-first century church, with all its advantages, has made little impact on our world because we are preaching on sin and its effects instead of relationship with Almighty God. Most non-believers are so occupied with their “hell on earth” that they don’t really think or care about their eternal futures. They are fed up with religion. They are looking for something that will fill the emptiness inside. Only intimate relationship (eternal life) with our Father can do that.
I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
John 17:4 (NLT)
The Father answered His Son’s request and gave Him the glory. There is in heaven today a glorified Man, the God-Man: Jesus Christ! Because He has been glorified in heaven, sinners can be saved on earth. Anyone who trusts Jesus Christ will receive the gift of eternal life.
Because we share His life, we are overcomers: for we also share His victory! “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.” (1 John 5:4). When you were born the first time, you were born “in Adam” and were a loser. When you are born again through faith in Christ, you are born a winner!
Satan has tried to obscure the precious truth of the finished work of Jesus Christ, because he knows it is a basis for spiritual victory. “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:11). Don’t let Satan rob you of your overcoming power through Christ’s finished work.
Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
John 17:5 (NLT)
What a statement on the divinity of Jesus! Jesus existed before the world was created, and He existed with the Father in glory.
How could anyone not see that Jesus was God manifested in the flesh?
Unlike us, Jesus existed before the world was. We come into the world knowing nothing, because we were nothing before our birth. But He created everything that was made (Colossians 1:16), and as this verse states, He had glory with the Father before He became flesh. So, although He came into this world as a baby and had to grow in His natural mind and body, I suspect He had recollection of His previous existence.
It was fact. Surely this influenced Him.
This makes Jesus no less human, but it does make Him Almighty God.
To Be Continued…