(090) The Gospel of John 34_Commissioning Prayer

Notes & Transcripts

The Gospel of John XXXIV:

 Commissioning Prayer

John 17:1-26

October 4, 2009



·         079 (Glory), 086 (Persecution), 065 (Engage)

·         Leftovers: Sprg “why left here”, “Apprnc,” Driscoll

·         Phil 2:1-11

Scripture reading: JOhn 17:15-21


It is ironic that last week I got on a soapbox about preaching directly from Scripture rather than using it as a springboard, because this week I was really tempted to do so.

·         There are times for topical preaching, when need to follow a theme through Scripture.

But this time it was because this passage was long and repeats a lot points that we have recently studied, so it would have been easier just to use it as a springboard.

·         Sheer embarrassment made we dig deeper, and I am glad I did.

In this passage, we hear Jesus’ heart for both the disciples and us, his summary of our mission as he leaves this world. He prays for himself and prays for us, with five specific requests.

·         This is where we find “in this world but not in it.”


Speak to us about our mission on earth. You could pull us out of this world, but keep us here that we may be a light. Help us understand how to shine brightly.

Jesus prays for himself

This prayer occurs perhaps an hour before Jesus is arrested. Jesus is preparing himself and his disciples for what is ahead.

·         This is a commissioning prayer.

Not surprisingly, this prayer sums ups much of Jesus’ teaching over the past several chapters. For that reason, I will be very brief on some points and refer you to past sermons

NIV John 17:1-2 ¶ After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

Jesus entire mission was to bring glory to God. How does Jesus glorify God? By giving eternal life. And what does that mean?

John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

This is interesting: Eternal life is not defined as living forever or going to heaven, but knowing God. And this loops right back to the glory of God.

The glory of God is the full brilliance of his character – loving, just, holy, kind and good. It is the sum and source of all that is good and pleasing and the closer we get to him and the more we know him the more we know real, eternal life.

·         God is then glorified when his character is most fully known.

Jesus is praying “Demonstrate to the world with clarity my character, that I might demonstrate your character to the world by bringing them into your glory.”

Upside-down glory (7/12/09)

This is what Jesus has been doing the whole time:

NIV John 17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.

In his entire ministry he has been pointing people to God, but not so much through his miracles (which were to validate his message), but by clearly demonstrating the nature of God.

·         The Pharisees had distorted God by legalism.

·         The Sadducees and Romans by seeking the world’s glory.

The thing that is so striking about how Jesus glorified God is it was through thing the world viewed as inglorious. In “Upside-Down Glory” I talked about how Jesus was glorified not just by the resurrection, but by the cross itself as an act of serving.

Jesus prays for the disciples

In v. 6 Jesus begins praying for the disciples. In v. 20 he says that this prayer is not just for them, but also for us. He makes five specific requests:

REQUEST 1: Protect them as I am leaving them (v. 11-14)

John 17:11-14   11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.  12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.  13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

In other words, I have been taking care of them up until now – and I have done a pretty good job. Now it is your turn.

Hated by the world (9/06/09)

Jesus knew that he is leaving us on enemy territory. Chapter 15 and that sermon deal a lot with persecution. We are not part of the world and we stand in opposition to its idea of glory and that makes us a threat.

But Jesus is not asking God to protect us physically (he assumes we’ll be persecuted), but that we will be victorious, bringing God glory and not falling away, as next request shows.

REQUEST 2: Don’t take from world but protect from evil one (v. 15-16)

NIV John 17:15-16  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

·         This is where we get the expression “In the world not of it.”

“Don’t take out of the world” doesn’t just mean don’t take them to heaven (that might hamper evangelism), but not to remove themselves like the Essenes.

In light of a world that either hates or is indifferent to Jesus, and that threatens corrupt us, the appeal of isolation is huge. But (as he says in v. 18) he is passing the baton to us, giving his mission to us, that we might glorify God.

Q   How can we demonstrate God’s glorious greatness to the world if we are not in it?

We are the light and salt of the world. It is now our job draw people to the Father. The trick is to do this without being corrupted by the world, which leads to the next request.

REQUEST 3: Sanctify them by truth (17-19)

NIV John 17:17-19 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus next prayer is that we be made and kept holy and pure as we are in this world. The danger of corruption is immense: We grow up in this world and naturally adopt it’s ways, values, and perspective without knowing it.

·         We are like children growing up in a dysfunctional home that don’t realize it’s dysfunctional.

There are all of the obvious things, but sometimes it the subtle stuff is the most dangerous. How do we rise about corruption and be made holy? By means of the Word of Truth, through Scripture.

·         This is why the careful study of the Word is such an emphasis at The Gathering, and will be more in 2010.

Romans 12:2   2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We believe it is only through the Word that the Spirit confront the deep roots of the evil one in us and transform us.

Engage our culture

So here is the challenge we face, to be in the world and not of it. As our mission statement says, to glorify God while (and by) being fully engaged in the world.

We live in a world that desperately needs God and is looking in all the wrong places and it is our job to be light in darkness.

·         “We have steams of living water, but if we don’t give it to them they drink out of the toilet because they are parched.”

We are missionaries to our own country; we need to be able to speak their language and understand their culture. Accordingly, it’s vital to remain in the world, physically, and mentally.

·         But even as we do this, we must be sanctified and not engage in the evil of the world.

People in tension

This is not a thing to be obtained but a constant tension to be held. Sometimes we will error on being too much in the world, other times it will be being too far out of the world.

Here are the two basic guidelines:

1. Are you in the world enough to be able to both speak the local language and befriend the natives?

Paul on Mars Hill, Daniel in Babylon, and Jesus with the prostitutes are all examples to us.

2. Are we being renewed in mind, thinking less like the world, becoming more sanctified, and avoiding evil?

But I did not say “avoiding the appearance of evil.” That verse does not exist. It is a poor KJV translation:

KJV 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

NIV 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Avoid every kind of evil.

While the word (eidos) can mean either, the context makes it clear that it means form/type, which is why every modern translation I saw says form.

·         More importantly, Jesus did not avoid the appearance of evil.

The “appearance” teaching is a form of legalism because it builds a “fence” around NT teachings and also now allows any Christian to veto anything they find objectionable.

·         Jesus did a lot of things the Pharisees found objectionable!  

If we are effectively engaging our culture, we will annoy other Christians. That’s not important (though don’t be proud in your liberty), but avoid sin at all costs.

·         How do we know the difference? Being students of the Word.

Prayer for us

Now Jesus prays for those who follow the disciples, which is us! This also demonstrates that this is wish for the entire church:

REQUEST 4: May they be one so the world will know you sent me (21-23)

John 17:20-21   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.

This unity is supernatural, and it is based in the glory of God: As we find our glory in his idea of glory (serving and giving), unity will increase. This is seen in Paul using Jesus’ “emptying” as the basis for unity (Phil. 2:1-11).

Are denominations demonic?

Does this mean that denominations and separate churches are evil? They are necessary evil because of our weakness and sin:

1. Weakness of ignorance

We cannotfully know” therefore, different groups represent different legitimate difference of understanding.

2. Sin of pride

·         In pride we value our theological difference (which are driven by our forgivable weakness of understanding) more than unity.

·         Also in pride, we value our distinctive (which may be driven by godly personality differences) more than unity.

In heaven, it will not be a question of which denomination wins. There will be more diversity and more differences, for already different church, by some necessity, push us into a mold.

·         In the diversity there will be complete unity as we are enjoy the unique way we each reflect him

So what are we waiting for? Focus on what we have in common, seek unity in diversity and humility in our mutual ignorance.

·         And as we do this, we will demonstrate to the world that Jesus really did come from God

REQUEST 5: Bring them safely to my glory (24)

John 17:24   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.

Jesus final request was that the Father bring us all home to heaven to see Jesus in all of his glory. When Jesus washed feet and died on the cross, we got a partial picture of his glory.

·         We get a fuller picture in the transfiguration and Revelation.

But I don’t want us to get the idea that he will exalted beyond having to serve, but rather that serving will be seen in its true light.

“The greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all.” Who is the greatest? Jesus. In heaven we’ll see the full manifest glory of love, his serving, and his holiness, righteousness, and wonder.

·         When John saw Jesus in Revelation, it was not that he was any less a servant, but that he saw the radiance of his serving.

Passing the baton

To sum all of this up, this is Jesus commissioning prayer, he is passing the baton on to us, that we may fulfill his mission, being in the world as light, yet not being of the world.

It feels like we fail so often, yet I am encouraged to know that Jesus is not disappointed:

NIV John 17:10 And glory has come to me through them.

The disciples failed plenty of times, yet he still said they brought him glory. May the same said of us.

Q & A

Call to worship

We now sing so we can have time both to reflect on the Word and how God would have you apply this message.

Ask God if you lean too much towards being in the world or not being of it. Ask for his help being the light of the world.

When you are ready, take communion, as a joyful remembrance of the sacrifice so that we can be children of God.


Main Point(s) of sermon:

·         This prayer summarizes many themes from the past several chapters.

·         We are to pick up where Jesus left off, glorifying God by demonstrating that Jesus came from him.

·         We live in the tension between being in the world without being corrupted by it.

Objectives of sermon:

·         To  impress upon us our mission to glorify the Father and Son in this world without being corrupted by it, driven by the hope of the full radiance of the glory of God.

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