Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Church

Lord Jesus’ High-Priestly Prayer

by Very Rev. K. Mathai Cor-Episcopa

Devotional Thoughts for Sunday Before Pentecost

Gospel Reading: St. John 17:13-26

The St. John’s 17th chapter is well-known for our Lord Jesus’ high-priestly prayer. The whole chapter is devoted to Christ’s prayer
(a) for Himself at the face of the Cross,
(b) for His twelve Disciples for joy, divine protection, and sanctification,
(c) for all believers who have already believed and those in all generations and all nations yet to believe in Him.

The Evangelion for Holy Qurbana comprises of the Lord’s prayers for His twelve Disciples and the universal church. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible was used for reference purpose. This was prepared in two sections:
(a) Christ’s prayers for His Disciples and
(b) His prayers for the believers.

I. THE PRAYER FOR THE TWELVE DISCIPLES

Finally, the last day of Jesus’ life on earth had come. He knew that He was going to be arrested and crucified soon. His time with His twelve beloved Disciples was only a matter of few hours. Then, He prayed for them on the eve of His departure from this world. He prayed for them for three reasons:
(a) They were God’s gift to Christ, and now the gift was to be returned to the Father by the Son, v 9-10,
(b) Jesus was glorified in them by bringing them to the knowledge of God; by reflecting the power of Christ’s character in their faith then and all through their lifelong service, v10;
(c) He was concerned that they would soon be left without any guidance and protection as scattered sheep without a shepherd. Therefore, the Lord prayed entrusting them to the Father and asking Him to give them three-fold divine gifts to strengthen them and fulfill successfully the ministry given to them.

1. The prayer for their joy

Jesus prayed for the Disciples, “… now I am coming to you (Father), 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” (vv13-14). The world hated them not because they were wrong or criminal but because of their loyalty to Christ, and their refusal to accept the values and standards of the world; they were not of the world; they were different in their vision and values of life. Jesus knew that they had numerous challenges to face ahead in their mission; they had to ‘battle against the storm and struggle against the tide’ and face even death. So, Jesus prayed for them that the Joy of Christ in bearing the cross be filled in their hearts to rejoice in suffering.

In practical life we may face troubles when we honestly adhere to true Christian principles in life. But Jesus asks us to be joyful in taking up the cross of trouble for the truth. We are asked to rejoice for we are not left alone at the time, and He is with us supporting the one end of the cross we carry. Besides, He always prays to His Father for us, when we go through the way of cross. The Pain and suffering for His sake will be compensated by the joy and victory of the Easter.

2. The prayer for their protection

Jesus prayed not only for their joy, but for their safety from the evil one who would tempt them to derail their intended mission of life. The prayer says, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” (v 15). He said, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” It is a prayer for their protection in the world where the power of evil reigns. The Bible gives us the descriptions of the existence of evil and all the troubles it brings into human life, especially the believers in this world. The evil force always works against the power of God. The power of evil tries to lure men and women out of the right way into the wrong way, as it did in the lives of Adam and Eve, Job and Jesus. There, Jesus Christ stands as the sentinel watching over our lives with His prayers to protect and guard us from the assaults of the evil one. Also, He taught us to pray daily to “..rescue us from the evil one” (Mt. 6:13).

Then, a question may be asked as to why we fall in spite of Christ’s prayer and protection? Jesus always prays for us and offers us His grace to keep us safe. Yet we fall so often because we try to live in our own terms and strength without seeking His divine grace, and ignoring His ever-abiding divine presence in life. Conforming to the worldly standards and values to please all, ignoring cardinal Christian principles is like Pilate’s washing of his hands to satisfy the crowd. Such a policy or action will end up in the crucifixion of Christ – Christian principles, resulting ultimately in disappointment and failure. God said to St. Paul “My grace is sufficient for you” when he prayed God to remove a thorn and a torment by a messenger of Satan in his flesh (2 Cor 12.9). God’s grace is all-sufficient.

3. The prayer for their Sanctification.

Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth” (v 17). Also He prayed that, “… for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth” (v 19). The Greek verb for ‘sanctify’ is hagiazein meaning to ‘consecrate.’ To consecrate means to set apart, make holy, separate, bring into God’s use. Hagiazein essentially indicates dual senses,
(a) set apart a person or place for a special task, and
(b) equip the person or place set apart, with the necessary materials and ornaments, qualities of mind and heart and character to make the person or place fit for the special task called for. For example, a church is consecrated for the special task of worship and spiritual activities. It has to be furnished or equipped with necessary things before its consecration. It has to maintain a cordial atmosphere for spiritual growth. God called Jeremiah and consecrated and appointed him as a prophet to the nations. (Jer. 1:5). God asked Moses to “Consecrate the sons of Aaron and sanctify them that they might serve in the office of the priests (Ex. 28:41). Jesus selected the twelve men, separated them from the world (sanctified) and sent them as Apostles (v 14). To be the president of a country, the person who has certain qualities and character should be elected by vote. Election itself is not enough. Elected person should be equipped with abilities for effective functioning of the office.

Since God is holy, the person who serves Him also must be holy. At this time I remember what Barnabas Thirumeni said in a sermon, ‘you cannot be as perfect as God is; but you can be Godly.’ The person must have divine wisdom and spiritual qualities- the sense of call of duty and commitment and Godly character of love and righteousness. He has to be set apart from the worlds’ values and standards of life and lead a life of Christian principles and morality.

II. CHRIST’S PRAYER FOR ALL BELIEVERS

Jesus also prayed to God - “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one” (V 20). Actually this prayer is for the Disciples and the believers hearing the Lord’s sermons, but also for those in all generations and all nations yet to believe in Christ through the Disciples’ word. Certainly, this is a prayer for every one of us. There are certain lessons to learn from this prayer

1. This prayer reveals Christ’s real character of His unshaken confidence in God and in His disciples. The Lord knew that the twelve were only a few to carry out the mountainous task of supernatural nature. They were given the authority to “Go…and make disciples of all nations; baptize them…, and teach them…” (Matt 28:19. He knew that they did not fully understand Him well who He was at the time; He knew that in a short while they would abandon Him when He needed them the most. Yet Jesus had a great confidence in the same feeble-minded men that they would work for the Kingdom of God on earth even at the expense of their lives. That is what He said in the prayer “… on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word” (v20. His prayer for them never went unanswered.

Applying this to individual life, God puts His trust on us and has given us His divine plan of life and His grace to fulfill what God intended us to fulfill by witnessing through love, peace, patience, longsuffering, joy and self control. Christian life is a life of discipleship conditioned by the love to one another, bearing the cross and steadfastness in faith. No body is excluded from God’s trust, and each one is given according to the measure of his or her ability. We are the medium for God to work out His will and plan in this world. God depends on us, as He depended on the twelve disciples to promote His Kingdom on earth.

2. This is a prayer for unity, as it says, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (v 22-23). As the prayer indicates, the unity is based on the personal relationship with God through Christ. Unity is made possible by those who believe and maintain personal relationship with Christ. When the persons believe and accept Christ as the Lord and savior, they become ones with God through Christ as ‘He and His Father are one.’ Thus they become children of God and all are spiritually related each other as brothers and sisters. As the Son’s (Christ’s) relationship with His Father was based on His love and obedience, the basis of the unity among people is our love and obedience to God. Those who love God sincerely will or should definitely love others, because to love one another is the Lord’s commandment. Love brings us responsibility, as it was given to Peter who said to the Risen Christ, “Yes, Lord, I love you” (Jn 21:15-17).

The purpose of love and unity among men is to witness that God loves and cares for all people in the world through Jesus Christ. But, now it looks as if causing divisions and disunity in society is more natural than making peace and unity. Also, it looks like it is more human for men to hate rather than to love. However, it is the divine will to make peace because “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9). The hatred and disunity within the church and between the churches will only result in presenting an unreal Christ and a distorted Christian faith to the world. It is our individual duty to demonstrate divine character of love and peace with others for the Glory of God. Then, the Christ’s prayer, “they may all be one” will be meaningful to us.

Here is an example of air refresher made by the company known as Glade to kill foul smell in the houses or offices. On one of the air refresher containers made of Lilac plants and flowers, the company wrote the slogan “Provided by the nature, captured by Glade.” Similarly, God has prepared and provided every thing for our salvation, joy, protection, sanctification and unity, but we need to seize the God-given opportunity and provision to live a victorious Christian life and be useful to others as well.

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