The Intercessory Work of Jesus
6 I have manifested Your name unto the men that You gave me out of the world: Yours they were, and You gave them to Me; and they have kept Your word.John 17:6-9, 20
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever You have given Me are of You.
8 For I have given unto them the words which You gave Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from You, and they have believed that You did send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them that You have given me; for they are Yours.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word.
This prayer in John 17, the real Lord’s prayer, is Christ’s intercessory prayer for us. We could not pray this prayer, even as Jesus could not pray the prayer we typically call “The Lord’s Prayer,” because included in that prayer is a plea for God to forgive us of our sins, and Jesus never sinned. A better title for that prayer would be “The Model Prayer,” or perhaps “The Disciples’ Prayer.” This prayer in John 17 is the real Lord’s Prayer. Jesus pauses in His earthly ministry, just hours before the climax at the cross, and prays to the Father, aloud for the disciples to hear, and for us to read in ages to come, the evidence that He is praying for us even now, while seated beside the Father in heaven.
A Much-More Work
The intercessory work of Jesus is a much-more work—much more than the cross, much more than the resurrection. It is not more important than either of these works, but much more because it is a continual work, whereas the others were accomplished in a moment.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.Romans 5:10
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.Hebrews 8:6
Under the Law, the high priest would make an annual sacrifice in the Holy of Holies for the sins of the people. When he was done, he would immediately come out, for there was no place for him to sit down. But Jesus, as both our Great High Priest and the spotless Lamb, offered His own blood before the Father. Thus He atoned once for all for our sins—and then sat down. His offering was the final offering, for it was the perfect one for which all the animal sacrifices had merely been a picture. Now Jesus intercedes for us, praying us into heaven, He ever lives to make intercession for us. And He will not stop praying for us until all who will be redeemed have been brought into the kingdom.
The Subjects of His Prayer
This is an intercessory prayer, a prayer on behalf of others—on behalf of whom? For whom does Jesus pray? The answer is found right here in Jesus’ prayer. Look particularly at verses 9 and 20 above.
Jesus prays specifically for His disciples, as they stand there silently in His audience. They are going to need this encouragement. After all, for the past three years, their entire lives have been wrapped up in His. They have left all to follow Him and serve Him, and He has sustained them. Now He is preparing to go away. Soon He will return to the Father, for His work on earth is finished. They hear Him speaking, but the import of His words have not quite sunk in just yet. Jesus has told them what is going to happen—the good and the bad—so that when it happens, they will know that it was all in God’s plan. He also promises to send the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and strengthen them. And now He steps out of His humanity and into His glory, to show them a glimpse of the next phase of His ministry—His intercessory prayer, as He prays for them.
But He doesn’t stop there, for He includes everyone who will believe on Him through the disciples’ word. When Jesus is taken away from them, the Holy Spirit will come in His place and fill them with power to serve God more mightily and more boldly than they could ever have imagined. Thousands will hear from the disciples the good news that Jesus came to save them. Jesus is even now praying for the salvation of these future listeners.
But that’s not all. The disciples, soon to be called apostles, will not only preach, but they will also write: gospels, treatises, and letters. These writings will be read, copied, and spread abroad for others to read. Thousands more will read the good news of salvation who may never come into personal contact with the disciples. That includes you and me. Jesus is even now praying for the salvation of these future readers.
Do you remember the first time you read this passage and realized that Jesus prayed specifically for you? I do. Wow! How special that made me feel. I already knew that Jesus died for me, and that He lives for me—but to know that He intercedes for me! Ah, there are no words! No wonder it’s called the “much-more” work of Christ! He didn’t use my name in this prayer, but I have no doubt that He has spoken my name to the Father up in heaven. The Lord knows each one of us by name. Did you know that?
But now thus says the LORD who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine.”Isaiah 43:1
God knows me now, but what about before I knew Him? What about before I asked Him to save me, when I was still dead in my sins and rebellious toward Him? Yes, He knew me by name even then, for He chose me to be a part of His love gift for His Son long before I chose Him.
For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name: I have surnamed you, though you have not known Me.Isaiah 45:4
Is Jesus praying for you? Has there been a time when you have asked God to apply the blood of His dear Son to your sins? Do you wear His robe of righteousness?
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.Isaiah 61:10
Look at what Jesus says:
All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and he who comes to me I will in no wise cast out.John 6:37
Beginning next week, we will look at the specific ways in which Jesus prays for us.
My Dear Readers
The first weekend of March I will be at my very first juried art show! That said, the next couple weeks will be dedicated to the studio, with less time given to my blogs. Some posts are scheduled, and I will check in from time to time to respond to comments, but please excuse me if it takes a little while. Thank you so much for reading! I’ll be back!