Faithlife Sermons

HG151pt3 John 17:20-26

Harmony of the Gospels  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:45
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John 17:20–26 NIV
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Today, we come to the final part of what is really the true Lord’s Prayer. But to differentiate it from the one Jesus taught His disciples this one is called the High Priestly Prayer. So far, we have seen the first two parts of this prayer, prayer for Himself, and then prayer for the Eleven disciples. Eleven as Judas is no longer present as he has gone off to betray Jesus. This third part of the prayer is specifically for all the non-apostles but believers in Christ. We saw that in the prayer for the eleven it was also a prayer for us, but now, Jesus clearly prays for us and that makes our ears prick up and we want to really hear what He wants to pray.
And we really ought to hear what Jesus prays for this is really all that is left before His betrayal, the trials, the cross and then His amazing resurrection. This prayer is the fullest recorded prayer of Jesus.
This third part is also in three parts:
His earthly prayer for His church
His heavenly prayer for them
and His vow to them
We are the continuity of the church from those heady days when Jesus was upon the earth with His disciples. We are included among those who have believed in Jesus through the apostles’ message. The culture, the setting, the language, the era may be different but the gospel is the same, and remains the same wherever, whenever, and to whomever it is preached. The message shared in the 1st Century is the same as the 3rd and 4th Century, and 15th and 20th Century, and to the present day because it is the teaching of the apostles.
This prayer for those who would believe also reveals that Jesus knew His mission would succeed. He would die, rise, ascend, send the Spirit, and the Word would be preached and people would come to faith in Him and that the Church would remain to this day.
Of course, there have also been false gospels, false prophets, false messages and there is no unity in these things. And despite the prayer of Jesus that we would be one the Church has split apart, at times about these falsehoods, and at others over egos or perceived slights against one another. Ask non-Christians about the Christian faith and they point out the glaring divisions that exist. Many times these have happened in the public eye and damaged the name of Christianity and the name of Jesus. Jesus knew that this would happen and He prayed that His followers would be one. Do we think that His prayer was not answered? Do we think that we have to do something to answer it? Do you think that it is possible that the prayer that Jesus prayed could ever be given a ‘no’ for an answer?
Of course not! When we look around at the worldwide church and see all the different denominations we certainly can think that Jesus’ prayers was not answered but that is incredibly presumptuous. Could there may be a possibility that we have not understood what Jesus was praying for?
Do we think that Jesus prayed for organisational or structural unity? That we can accomplish unity together by making resolutions such as ‘Evangelicals and Catholics Together’?
Surely, this is not the case. The prayer of Jesus had to be answered in the affirmative. Jesus always prayed according to the Father’s will. And His answer to Jesus is always ‘yes’ and ‘amen’. This unity has to be other-worldly for the unity that is prayed for is spiritual in nature. Our unity in Christ and together is one of mind, will and purpose in our joint love for God in that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour and that, therefore, we are all called His children.
It is an organic unity for we have become family which is as close knit and intimate as that unity that exists in the Godhead, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And it is the Godhead that ensures our unity for we are united in the very core of our beings.
It is the Gospel message that makes for genuine unity. Our faith rests upon the objective truth of the Scriptures. We know, of course, that it is the Gospel that has the power to save, and we should rest and trust in that power in sharing it with others, and when they receive it they also become one with us.
We can have different points of view about baptism, the role of the Holy Spirit, how the return of Jesus will happen, about communion, if these were the basis for our unity in Christ then we would all fail. If we could put different Christians down through the ages together such as Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Col. Sanders, DL Moody, Franklin Graham in the same room there would hardly be an agreement between them such would be the range of opinions yet all were great Christians who have had an impact in their time and generation but our unity is spiritually there created by Jesus in each one who has put their trust fully in Him and acknowledged the truths of the Gospel.
Have you ever had the experience of meeting another Christian that you had never met before and knowing without words that they were a Christian. I once had this experience when I was at London Euston train station going to Birmingham for a conference. There was another young lad like me waiting for the train and I spoke to him because I knew that I knew that he was a Christian. As it turned out he was going to the same conference as me. There is a unity among us without trying to contrive a union. Unity is already there among Christians - of course, how we love each other then is the attraction for whether people will know we are the disciples of Jesus. Nevertheless, we share in the divine nature.
If we are to look at today’s church we are not the same. We do not read the same books or have the same styles or have the same education or the same likes and dislikes. We are not supposed to be clones but there is a move to bring union to the church but this is unity not on a spiritual level. The push for unity is more worldly than Godly. In fact, it could be reasoned the more you try to make it happen the more disunifying it is!
But differences are good, right? It says in:
1 Corinthians 12:4–6 NKJV
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
There is unity but differences but the underlying Gospel message is the same. Jesus said:
John 10:16 NKJV
16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
The unifying factor is Jesus, we are already one flock with one shepherd. The proof of this unity in the outward show is in our love for God and for one another and it is this we need to look to maintain.
Let me be clear: Jesus is not praying for a huge, single, worldwide, ecumenical church where true and false doctrine love harmoniously side by side. We are not that. If this is what we are aiming for this is more in line with the end-time religion in much the same way as in Nebuchadnezzar's time when a statue was created for everyone to fall and worship it. Remember that Daniel’s friends did not capitulate. I have warned for decades now of a Church rising to incorporate not only all the world’s churches but also all the world’s religions, and this is happening at an extremely fast rate, and it is based in Rome just as Revelation chapter 17 tells us. There are enormous differences between uniformity, union and unity. Let us not confuse them. We are already one in Christ for Jesus’ prayer was answered fully and completely for we are the one body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
We have the same unity that the Son has with the Father. They are One but in Three Persons.
Our unity is one that depends upon Jesus who is the manifestation of the Divine Nature in man. We are united in God’s purposes and plan of salvation as we accept and think about what Jesus did at Calvary at the cross and in His resurrection. Knowing Christ and Him crucified needs to be at our core.
The world is desperate for unity for the sake of peace but it always comes at a price. We see this, of course, politically. The European Union. Those who voted to leave saw it as a futile project that would cost national sovereignty. A price too high for them. But all such worldly projects are doomed to fail. We saw at the Tower of Babel that when there is unity among humans they use it for evil, to rebel against God, and Babel was the first of the many failed union projects. There will rise one in the future who will unify people, but against God which will also ultimately fail. People are always trying to make a unity but it can only be found in Jesus Christ.
The unity that we have in Christ in God is so that the world would know that Jesus was sent by God and so that the world would know the love that God has for them, that He loves them with a love that is equally as deep and lasting as His love for His Son.
John 3:16 NKJV
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This still blows my mind that God can possibly love me as much as He loves Jesus. Jesus has loved us the same way and to the same degree that the Father has loved Him (.23) We are fully loved. We have been called into unity like that of the unity of the Godhead. And in so doing people will know that Jesus really did come from God. Real unity though is a spiritual, supernatural work because of Jesus in us. The way this was made possible was though the cross and its glory. We demonstrate the unity that is already in us when we love as He loved us:
Philippians 2:3–5 NKJV
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
Here in verse 24 it changed from an earthly prayer to a heavenly one. Jesus is looking forward to the day when we are with Him in Heaven. It will be like those banners we see put up when someone in the armed forces comes back from a tour and it will say: Welcome Home! And when we arrive we will wonder why we put so much into our earthly life for worldly things for our heavenly life will be one of complete joy and complete satisfaction. We will not want anything else. And Jesus’ prayer is that we will see His glory and indeed we will. That’s another prayer that will be answered completely and without fail. We will see Him as He is like the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, like John in Revelation chapter 1, like Isaiah in chapter 6. We will behold His face and something will happen to us. We will become like Him. Oh, that this is something that starts now, to be like Him now. Surely there could be no better accolade than to say: he or she was like Jesus.
1 John 3:2 NKJV
2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Indeed, it is a process at work in us even now:
2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
But one day we truly will, with unveiled faces, behold His glory. One by one each of us will go before Him or perhaps, we will be gathered together and meet Him in the air.
Our communion, our unity will become visible when in glory, we go to be with Jesus.
Righteous Father, Jesus declares in verse 25. You are right and the world is in the wrong for they do not know You. The world does not recognise Jesus for who He is but there is a group of people who do and they have no doubt that He was sent by God; that Jesus was on a divine mission. The world will continue to disbelieve though opportunities exist for them to see the unity that exists between us and know that it is other-worldly. But most will ignore the signs for they love to remain in darkness until one day death and judgement will take them away.
Here then is the third part of this prayer which is a vow made to His Father that in the same way as He has declared the name of the Father to those who then believed in Him He would continue to do so into the future. This means we have One aiding us in the mission to the world to declare the love that He has for each one. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Freedom to enjoy our relationship with Jesus and the Father, to revel in the love that they have for us. We should increase in our head knowledge and heart knowledge of our Father in Heaven with an increasing awareness of His love for us.
The whole of this prayer has been about Jesus and the Father being One and living is us so we would know the certainty of His love wherewith He has loved us. John continues in his letters about God’s love
1 John 4:7 NKJV
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:16 NKJV
16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
1 John 4:13 NKJV
13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
His love and His presence is all that we need. The greater our experience of this the greater our love is.
So now, let us demonstrate this unity that we have in each other for each other in humble service to God and each other.


Ephesians 3:17–21 CSB
17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Bernard, J. H. (1929). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to St. John. (A. H. McNeile, Ed.). New York: C. Scribner’ Sons.
Elwell, W. A. (1995). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Hughes, R. K. (1999). John: that you may believe. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Paterson, A. (2010). Opening Up John’s Gospel. Leominster: Day One Publications.
Redford, D. (2007). The life and ministry of Jesus: the Gospels (Vol. 1). Cincinnati, OH: Standard Pub.
Walvoord, J. F., & Zuck, R. B., Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 13:25 21 February 2020.
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