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“Jesus Prayed for Us”: Alistair Begg on the High Priestly Prayer

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After finishing a 29-sermon series titled “Truly, Truly, I Say to You…”: Twenty-Five Divine Declarations from John’s Gospel, Alistair began another new series in the Gospel of John. In this new study at Parkside Church, he will be surveying and unpacking the rich truths found in John 17, which contains the longest recorded prayer we have from Jesus Christ.

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In the following excerpt from the first sermon, “The Prayer of Jesus,” Alistair sets the stage for what’s to come as he preaches and teaches from this famous prayer:

This morning, what I want to do is provide, if you like, a preview of John 17. We’re familiar, I think, all of us, with movie trailers. You can watch the trailer. It gives you a selection of shots that are there in order to encourage you or discourage you from going on to view what is there in the entire film. And I want us to approach John 17 in that way this morning.

There are about twenty-one prayers of Jesus that are recorded in the Gospels, and in each of them save one, He begins by addressing God as His Father. The prize will be given to someone who’s able to tell me the exception, and it’s not much of a prize. In fact, I’m not doing a prize, ’cause it could cost me. The exception is Matthew 27, from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That is a prayer of Jesus.

We have seen, actually, in our studies in John 11 one of those short prayers—John 11:41: “And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I [know] that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’” And then, in 12:27, you will perhaps recall Jesus prays, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” So, there are a number of prayers that we could consider, but John chapter 17 is the only long prayer, continuous prayer, that we have of Jesus.

Prayer obviously played a huge part in the life of Jesus. If, as John says at the end of his Gospel, all the things that we know of Jesus were to have been recorded, then the material would have been extensive, almost exhaustive. And for very clear purposes, the Holy Spirit has recorded for us this particular prayer.

And you will notice that the prayer comes after “Jesus had spoken these words”: “When Jesus had spoken these words…” What are “these words” that He has spoken to the disciples? Well, all of the words that He has spoken to the disciples, but particularly chapters 14, 15, and 16, where Jesus has been teaching His disciples, preparing them for the fact that He’s going away, promising them that the Holy Spirit will come and that although they are naturally fearful, they need not be, because of the ministry of the Spirit to them, among them, and through them. And having spoken these words, provided His instruction, it is now completed in anticipation of His crucifixion, which awaits Him. And, intriguingly, in His own awareness of the impending desertion on the part of His disciples, in that context, Jesus “lifted up his eyes to heaven.” …

The prayer, structurally, is straightforward. In the first five verses, Jesus is praying for Himself. Then, from verse 6 to verse 19, He is praying for His disciples. And then, as I hope you will have noticed as I read it, He goes on from verse 20 to the end to say, “I’m not just praying for the disciples that are here, but I’m also praying for all those who will believe in Me through their word.” In other words, He says, “I’m praying for the believers in all time.” Therefore, if you are a believer this morning, you should be aware of the fact—we should together be aware of the fact—that Jesus in this High Priestly Prayer prayed for us. Prayed for us.

Now, we will work our way through it in detail in the coming Sundays, but for now, just an overview. Let me give you five words that I wrote down to help me: mystery, security, sanctity, unity, glory.

Watch, read, or listen to “The Prayer of Jesus”


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