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Field Story Latin America

The Hope of an Empty Tomb

"Knowing the frailty of His disciples, Jesus still expresses confidence as He anticipates their future because they belonged to God and He would protect them."

Like you, I have read Jesus’ prayer in John 17 countless times and recently I read it again and pondered His prayer longer than I had the previous time I read it and I found that Jesus’ High Priestly prayer truly is a beautiful prayer where Jesus’ expresses His desire for the Father to be glorified and the disciples’ welfare. God is glorified through the obedience of His Son and through those who relationally come to know God the Father and Jesus Christ. The only way this could ever happen was for Jesus to endure the Cross. So, His petition to be glorified is quite unselfish - it is a request for a reversal of the conditions that resulted in the Incarnation. To the Pharisees and to the Romans, the crucifixion of Jesus could hardly be glorious, but Jesus has the last word; God would be glorified, and Jesus’ death would magnify His wisdom, power, and love.

In turn, the Father gives glory to His Son by giving Jesus the authority to give eternal life to those the Father had given Him. This authority was His before creation and it is the basis of Jesus’ request. Eternal life is bound up in knowing God and Jesus Christ experientially through faith in Jesus - He is the only way God can be known.

Jesus, in praying for His disciples, also demonstrates the heart of the true Shepherd who cares deeply for His sheep especially since He knows His being physically present with them is ending. Knowing the frailty of His disciples, Jesus still expresses confidence as He anticipates their future because they belonged to God and He would protect them.

Although there is much, they (and we) do not yet understand, they know and believe enough that Jesus had come from God and what He taught came from the heart of God. What they did understand, they had believed and because they believed, Jesus prayed that God would keep them by the power of His Name.

Jesus was not asking the Father to remove His disciples from the same hostile world He was leaving, He was asking His Father to protect them and us as they continued to live it. Jesus went on to ask the Father to set His disciples apart, making them holy. The means by which they would be made holy was through the truth of God’s Word which was revealed through the Living Word, Jesus the Son of God.

The purpose of setting them apart was for the sake of continuing the Father’s mission first given to the Son. However, Jesus did not just pray for them exclusively, He prayed for us! All future believers become the object of His prayer in verse 20. His prayer of unity for all believers is to reflect the unity existing from eternity past to eternity future between the Father and the Son and it is the same unity Jesus desires us to have. The purpose of this unity is serving as a testimony to the world that Jesus is God’s Son. The demonstration of mutual love among fellow believers shows that we are followers of Jesus and possessors of His life. Jesus really is who He said He was, and His teaching not only vindicates Him but glorifies Him as well.  

The unity among believers is to be so clear and obvious that others would come to believe the good news of Jesus. This unity is not produced by human effort, but Jesus implies in verse 23 that He would indwell believers just as the Father indwelt Him. It is through God’s indwelling presence that unites Christians in the Body of Christ thereby bringing Him glory.

Jesus ends His prayer in the same way He begins - by addressing His Father by name and affirming His belief that God would be glorified in the Son and through bringing believers into eternal life where He is to experience His glory.

Pondering this prayer, I am struck by the fact that the fulfillment of Jesus prayer was contingent upon His dying for sin and that by doing so, would satisfy God’s just demands. The fulfillment of His prayer was also contingent upon His rising again as He said He would do. Without His resurrection, not only would His followers be the laughingstock of Israel and this new movement, if you can call it that, would die an early death. Not to mention that without His resurrection, we would not be given power from on high to be His witnesses. Without His Spirit in us, all attempts at following a dead leader would fall on our efforts alone, leaving the world with another dead religion. Jesus has died BUT He has risen!

The empty tomb testifies of this fact! And thankfully we have not been left to our own devices, we have His Spirit in us. And it is by His Spirit that compels us and propels us to tell others who don’t yet know Him. May the Lord continue to empower you for the purpose of making Heaven more crowded to the praise of His glory!

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