That part of the
gospel by John which we have now reached has come to be
known under two titles: "The High Priestly
Prayer" and "The Holy of Holies." We might
well combine them and speak of John 17 as "The High
Priest in the Holy of Holies." This chapter stands
with the most sacred, beautiful, heart-searching,
profound and awe-inspiring chapters of the whole Bible.
There is no fathoming its depths or exhausting its
fullness. Marcus Rainsford has written a book of 454
pages on this chapter alone, and yet we feel that he has
only touched the surface. Certainly we can do no more
here than seek to underline the main message and
emphasize the essential challenge.
When we speak of this
prayer as that of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies
we are not altogether right. What we mean is that we are
allowed to hear the innermost converse between the Son
and His Father; the most sacred and intimate breathings
of His heart in the most solemn communion of the nearest
place to God. But as to the actual position occupied at
that moment, He had not yet reached the Holy of Holies,
for the sacrifice had not yet been offered, nor the blood
shed. We should therefore be more correct to refer to
Prayer Beside the Altar
Christ had already
taken the place of the Jewish Feasts, the Temple, the
Vine, etc. Now here He takes the place of the High
Priest. He is about to offer the Whole Burnt Offering,
wholly and utterly set apart to God
("consecrated," vs. 19). He will seal His
intercession with His own Blood.
The predominating words
in any given part of the Bible always notify and indicate
the immediate subject or message. It is not difficult,
indeed it is very easy, to recognize such words here.
They distinctly denote three things.
(1) The glory of the
Father and the Son, and that glory imparted to the
disciples: verses 1, 5, 10, 22, 24.
(2) The oneness of the
Father and the Son; of the disciples and the Son and the
Father; and of the disciples themselves: verses 21, 22,
(3) The world. While it
is true that the Lord says that He prays not for the
world, there is much that indicates a real concern that
the world should be convinced to the point of believing.
"That the world may believe...": verses 21, 23.
The more we meditate
upon these three things above mentioned, in the light of
other things said by Jesus, the more convinced we shall
be that they are not three things at all, but one.
The glorifying of
the Father and the Son, and the effectual testimony of
the Church to the world, will be by the reality of unity
or oneness in that Body.
But it is imperative
and essential that we understand the meaning and nature
of both glory and union. These two go together and are
Because the matter is
not mentioned specifically by name in this prayer, it
might be thought to be either irrelevant or importing
something not inherent when we say that, both through our
Lord's own words recorded in this Gospel and in much of
the New Testament -
Glorifying of the Father and the Son Is in Resurrection
If this is truly so, as
we shall show it to be, then it would not be irrelevant
if our Lord, with His Cross and death immediately before
Him, in beginning His prayer with "Father, the hour
is come; glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify
thee," had resurrection definitely in mind. This
surely is borne out by such further thoughts as:
"Glorify thou me... with the glory which I had with
thee before the world was" (vs. 5), and: "I am
no more in the world... I come to thee" (vs. 11),
and: "Father, that which thou has given me, I will
that, where I am, they also may be with me; that they may
behold my glory..." (vs. 24).
If we look elsewhere in
this Gospel we shall find two very explicit instances of
the uniting of glory with resurrection. In chapter 11 the
raising of Lazarus is definitely and positively said to
be "for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be
glorified...." In chapter 12 the enquiry of certain
Greeks to see Jesus draws from Him firstly the statement:
"The hour is come" (note these words again in
the prayer of chapter 17) "that the Son of man
should be glorified"; then the simile of the grain
of wheat dying and rising in much fruitfulness. All that
immediately follows in the context is instructive in this
If glory is the
expression of the satisfaction of Divine nature with
Divine work - as it truly is - then resurrection is the
Divine attestation that God's nature is wholly satisfied,
and glory follows.
Then we have to take
the second step.
Ground of Resurrection Is the Ground of Oneness
If oneness is the basis
of the glorifying of the Father and the Son, then this
oneness is projected beyond the Cross to the ground of
resurrection. Those who are to bear testimony, by their
oneness, to the glory of God, are those who stand firstly
on the ground of the full satisfaction of the Divine
nature in what the Son did at the Cross, and then in the
oneness of a new life in resurrection. There is no glory
without the perfect sacrifice and work of the Cross.
There is no glory until that has been attested by God's
unique act of resurrection. There is no oneness, no unity
(of the kind for which Christ prayed), until those
concerned have entered experimentally and actually into
the meaning of the Cross substitutionally and
representatively and into the power and life of the Risen
How true this was in
the case of the disciples themselves!
That leads to the third
Is Organic, as Being a Matter of Another Life
The unity envisaged in
Christ's prayer can never be organized, arranged, agreed
upon, or in any way brought about, by men. On the other
hand, it is nonsense to talk about "that they all
may be one" and be committed to any manmade
association which insists that there is an essential and
basic distinction between itself and all others. Vested
interests in Christian activities are one of the main
causes of disunity.
The unity of John 17 is
the unity of one life. That life is not the life
of the natural man, however religious and devout. It is
the life with its nature and energy of One who, taking
the place of the natural ("soulical") man, put that
man away as having no acceptance with God, and,
having done so, lives as another order of man in God's
pleasure. Hence, oneness is only "in
Christ," and by His resurrection life
overcoming the rejected man that was.
The history of all
divisions is the demonstration of one fact: that,
somewhere, somehow, the life and power of "the
Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" has been thwarted by
the asserting of the life which was condemned and
executed representatively at the Cross of Christ.
But - Jesus prayed, and
a vast multitude has come into - at least the beginning
of - the answer.
His new and other life
has been received by that multitude all down the
centuries, and when we meet on the ground of Christ
alone, closing our eyes to the extras or deficiencies -
the more or less than the fullness and aloneness of
Christ - there is that in each which makes a spontaneous
response to the other. Christ is ours and we are
What a joy it is to
meet a Christ-indwelt person in this Christless world!
And what blessing flows, what glory warms the heart -
until - until we bring up that which never had its origin
or source in His resurrection, but came in later through
man's unspirituality. Then the shadow creeps over and the
What is the upshot of
Let Christ be our only
and utter interest. Be prepared to put our
"Christian" things aside if they should
in the slightest degree threaten the glory.
Thus, then, and only
thus, will the Church register a convincing impact upon
the world, and be "terrible as an army with
glorify thy Son...."
"O Father, glorify thou me...."
"Holy Father, keep them...."
"I pray... that thou shouldest keep them...."
"I pray... that they may all be one that the world
"that they may be one...; that they may be
perfected into one, that the world may know...."
"that they may behold my glory...."
"O righteous Father... that the love wherewith thou
lovedst me may be in them, and I in them."