Friday, January 9, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 11, 2015

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JESUS PRAYS FOR HIMSELF, HIS DISCIPLES, AND ALL BELIEVERS
(HE prays for GOD’s protection, holiness, and unity)
(John 17)

After JESUS had ended HIS private teachings to HIS disciples in the Upper Room, HE left them with the profound statement, that, “HE had overcome the world”. HE then looked up toward Heaven and began to pray, perhaps, the greatest prayer that has ever been prayed here on earth. It is the prayer of an over-comer, and JESUS is certainly the greatest over-comer of all times.
Here in John 17, verses 1-5, JESUS begins this prayer by praying for HIMSELF, but in doing so, HE is also praying for us. As GOD’s greatest servant, JESUS has every right to pray for the help HE needed in order to glorify HIS name. HIS request for glorification includes sustaining HIMSELF in HIS upcoming suffering, acceptance of HIS vicarious sacrifice, and raising HIM up again, and then, restoring HIM to HIS pre-incarnate glory. HE had finished all of HIS other divine work, and now, HE was ready to take on HIS final assignment so that HE could return back home to HIS FATHER in Heaven, WHO sent HIM.
We, as Christians, now know and understand that, for JESUS, the only way back to glory was through the cross, and so it must be for those of us, who follow HIM. With open eyes, JESUS accepted the circumstances of the cross, so that whosoever believes in HIM, from that day forward, would not perish, but rather, would have everlasting life with our FATHER in Heaven.
When JESUS speaks of HIS actions bringing glory to GOD, HE is referring to the majesty and loveliness of GOD the FATHER that has been manifested through what HE HIMSELF has done, and will do, in obedience to the FATHER. And after the FATHER has resurrected HIM from the dead, that act will also reflect the true majesty of HE HIMSELF, as the GOD-appointed SAVIOR of all of mankind. This also lets man know that, when we obediently perform GOD’s will, GOD will joyfully express HIMSELF through us also. And so we see here, that, even we, can display the same beauty and majesty that CHRIST JESUS displayed for the FATHER, when we pray for the strength to be able to perform our appointed duties for the LORD.
JESUS’ disciples obeyed the word of GOD and HE praises them for it here in HIS prayer to the FATHER. JESUS loved them all the more, for their avid, positive response to GOD’s Word. HE had prayed for them, even before HE chose them, and now, this final prayer of intercession clearly reveals HIS loving concern for their continued well-being after HIS departure. They were HIS original flock, given to HIM by GOD the FATHER, and HE had taken good care of them during their three years together. HE had also been successful in taking them out of the world, and into a spiritual place, where HE HIMSELF had always dwelled. And while they were not perfect, they were all committed, (except Judas Iscariot) and passionately devoted to JESUS. They now, all believed in JESUS’ oneness with the FATHER, and their faith was clearly manifested in their obedience to HIS teachings.
This section (verses 6-19) of the prayer focuses not only on the safety of the disciples, but also on the safety of all believers, who have chosen to come out of the world and into the realm where JESUS lives. Our safety has always, and, will forever depend on the nature of GOD, and not on our own conduct, or character. When JESUS was with HIS disciples physically, HE always kept them safe, and, they could always depend on HIS presence in their time of need. HE guided them then, the way the HOLY SPIRIT now guides us, and we, in addition, can still rest assure that JESUS is, even now, still praying for us from HIS Heavenly vantage point.
We don’t ever need to walk around feeling sad and beaten down by the rigors of this world. We can, instead, be filled with joy, because our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST has overcome the world, and HE is taking everyone with HIM, in victory, who chooses to come and share in HIS Kingdom.
This final segment of JESUS’ prayer, verses 20-26, is for future believers who will choose to come to HIM through the teaching of HIS Word. In this, the “Church Age”, every converted Christian came to be that way, either directly, or indirectly, because of the work and witness of JESUS’ original disciples.
We see, all through this prayer, JESUS going out to the ends of the earth. First HE started with HIMSELF (Vs.1-5). Then HE moved on with HIS petition for HIS disciple’s safety (Vs.6-19). And now in the final section of this great petition, we see JESUS praying for the unity of all Christians, for all times, regardless of their chosen Christian denomination. And just as each high priest of Israel bore the names of the twelve tribes in GOD’s presence in the tabernacle, so now does JESUS, in the Church Age, as the GREAT HIGH PRIEST, carry the names of all present and future believers into the glorious presence of the ALMIGHTY GOD in Heaven.
JESUS’ request is a request for a “Christian unity” that will transcend all the differences that can be found among the Christian Church, as a whole. For, no Christian denomination obeys GOD completely because each of their teachings about GOD is based on their particular chosen lifestyle. And even though we may never organize our Christian Churches in the same way, and we may never worship GOD in the same way, JESUS prays here that “Christian Unity” would forever transcend all these differences, and bring men together in fellowship and love, just simply in the name of “Christianity”, the only doctrine that is “a product of GOD’s mind”.
That’s the kind of unity that JESUS is praying for here in John 17, and it is also the kind of unity that the Apostle Paul would later write about to the Churches, in all of his doctrinal letters. It is a unity, not born of bricks and mortar, but rather, it is a unity of “personal relationships”, not unlike the one that we’ve already seen, between the FATHER and the SON, as an example to us to follow, for all time.
All believers belong to one body in CHRIST, and our spiritual unity is to be clearly shown through our behavior, or the way we live. The spiritual unity of the FATHER and the SON is to be patterned in the Church, regardless of our chosen Christian denomination. Without union with CHRIST JESUS, the Christian Church can do nothing in itself. “Christianity” is the only true religion, because, “Christianity” is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. All denominations, Christian, or otherwise, are only “products of men’s minds”.
Through GOD’s “permissive will”, HE allows us to organize Christian denominations differently, as long as we all have CHRIST in common. The disciples’ union with CHRIST resulted in the whole Christian community’s belief in GOD the FATHER. The glory of the Church was born at the cross, but the unity in the Church was born before that, and it is personified in the spirit of JESUS and HIS original disciples.
In all, we see four petitions for believers included in this magnificent prayer; we see “Preservation” (John 17:11), “Sanctification” (John 17:17), “Unity” (John 17:11, 21-22), and “Participation” (John 17:24). After JESUS prayed this prayer, HE would speak no more to HIS disciple, until after HIS “Passion” and “Resurrection”. And so we see HIS last words to HIS faithful, were not words of HIS despair, but rather, they were words of HIS “Glory”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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