From the Upper Room

Christ’s prayer for His followers, offered long ago in Jerusalem, is still His prayer for us today.

Last words carry great significance because they reveal what’s important to a person. That’s why we gather around a loved one’s bed as the end draws near, hoping to hear final thoughts, instructions, or wisdom. And of all the recorded last words, the most valuable are those of the Lord Jesus. Before He went to the cross, He spent an extended evening with His disciples, celebrating the Passover. His final words in John 13-17 show us His heart for those who belong to Him.

 

Consider the roller coaster of emotions the disciples experienced in those last days and hours with their Messiah: They’d watched the crowds welcome Him into Jerusalem as “the King of Israel” just a few days before (John 12:13). But now they were gradually being awakened to the fact that things were not going to turn out as they hoped. They’d left everything to follow Him, and now Jesus was telling them He was going to die.

To see this from the disciples’ perspective, we need to better understand their expectations. According to the Old Testament prophecies, the Messiah was going to come as a conqueror to subdue Israel’s enemies, exalt the nation to global prominence, and rule over the entire world (Isa. 2:1-4). As His followers, they were anticipating places of prominence, authority, and greatness in the kingdom. They didn’t realize that they needed a Savior more than a King. The Messiah had to first offer Himself as a sacrifice in order to save His people from their sins.

 

The Lord’s Plan

When Jesus first began to speak of His upcoming death and resurrection, Peter actually rebuked Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22). Despite Jesus’ repeated assertions, they could not fit a dying Messiah into their belief system. But on this last night, the reality was finally sinking in, and they were filled with grief and sorrow at the thought of life without Him.

Despite Jesus’ repeated assertions, they could not fit a dying Messiah into their belief system.

Christ’s response to their trauma is best described in John’s gospel: “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Everything He said was for the purpose of strengthening their faith. Before their world began to turn upside down, Christ said, “I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He” (John 13:19). Then He revealed what was going to happen:

  • One of them would betray Him (John 13:21).

  • He was about to leave and go back to His Father, and they couldn’t follow Him (John 13:33), but He would return and take them to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3).

  • He promised that He would send them another Helper (John 14:16-18; John 16:7).

  • He would still provide whatever they asked for in His name (John 14:13-14).

  • They would have a new kind of relationship with Him (John 15:1-5).

  • They would be hated and persecuted by the world but could have His peace (John 15:18-19; John 16:33).

These confused and fearful men in the upper room became the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). Jesus was entrusting them with the task of taking His message of salvation to the world. From an earthly perspective, this looked risky. They were not an impressive group. In fact, they lacked spiritual insight and the courage to stand with Christ when their lives were in danger. Yet Jesus knew their future success didn’t depend on their own abilities but on His power, provision, and intercession. Therefore, as the evening drew to an end, the Lord lifted His eyes to heaven, and this is how He prayed:

 

These confused and fearful men in the upper room became the foundation of the church. Jesus was entrusting them with the task of taking His message of salvation to the world.

For Himself (John 17:1-5)

First, Christ prayed that both He and the Father would be glorified in His death, which would bring eternal life to all whom the Father had given Him (John 17:1-2). The cross was not a defeat, and Jesus was not a victim. By completing the work He’d been given, including His redemptive death on the cross, the Son glorified His Father.

 

For His Disciples (John 17:6-19)

Next, Jesus prayed—not for the world but for those who believed that God sent Him. They were precious gifts to Christ, and He had been glorified in them through their faith in Him. Now He was going to send them into the world with His message. Therefore, Jesus asked His Father to protect them from the evil one and sanctify them in the truth of His Word.

 

For Those Who Believe Through Their Word (John 17:20-26)

In conclusion, Jesus broadened His intercession to include all future believers who would make up the body of Christ—His church. Just imagine, on that night almost 2,000 years ago Jesus prayed for you. And what did He request? “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 17:21).

He wasn’t merely asking that believers get along with each other, although we should. Jesus was speaking of the spiritual unity of all Christians with the Trinity and each other. Every true believer is baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit and becomes a part of His body. Together, we are sent to proclaim the gospel so that the world may believe.

 

The Answer to the Lord’s Prayer

God answered Christ’s prayer for that little band of men gathered with Him for the Passover observance. They faithfully took the gospel to the world, and we now have their testimony recorded in the Bible. What’s more, the heavenly Father continues to answer Jesus’ prayer as new Christians enter into the spiritual unity of Christ’s body. In fact, believers around the world gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which Christ established that last night.

For His final request, Jesus said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory” (John 17:24). A day is coming when everyone Jesus prayed for will meet together in heaven with Him and with each other in perfect unity. And we can know with certainty that this will come about because the Father always answers His Son’s prayers. In the meantime, the church is called to strive toward unity here and now—loving one another just as He loves us, and testifying to an onlooking world about His transforming power.

 

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Related Topics:  Christian Fellowship

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13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel."

1 The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.

3 And many peoples will come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4 And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.

22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.

21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me."

33 Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.'

1 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

2 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.

3 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.

16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

1 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

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.

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 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 accomplished 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 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 in the truth; Your word is truth.

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

19 For their sakes 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."

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.

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.

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