Invitation to Intimacy

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Jesus Draws Us into His Relationship with the Father

By Ross Parsley

Recently, I took part in “The Thorn,” which is a modern musical passion play that the church at which I serve as worship pastor puts on every year. With a cast of over 600, it is an extraordinary production that portrays Christ’s final week on earth. My part was to sing in three different scenes in each of the nine shows.

That meant I had time to go back to my office and get a little work done between songs during each performance. One particular night, I went back to my office after the opening song and ended up on the phone with a person who was working through some heavy issues. We were about to wrap up our conversation when I noticed that it was almost time for my next scene. As I hung up the phone, I realized with horror that the phone intercom system was already playing the song from the auditorium that I was supposed to be singing! I sat in stunned silence, not knowing whether to run to the auditorium or hide. Thankfully, the guy who sings with me was carrying it himself and doing a great job.

But then . . . I realized I hadn’t taken off my headset microphone from the last scene—and all the headsets are programmed into the soundboard for the entire show. Was it possible that I had been broadcasting my discussion about an incredibly sensitive subject to 6,000 people?

It’s amazing the amount of adrenaline that runs through your body in a moment like that. When I finally ventured out of my office, I was assured that no one had been “listening in.” I also was assured that, except for the director and a few others, no one noticed that I did not show up for my song. So much for my search for significance!

 

Listening in on Jesus

It’s a very vulnerable feeling to realize that someone may be listening in on a personal conversation. The same is true with prayer. Imagine how it would feel, for instance, if someone overheard one of your conversations with the Lord about what’s really going on with you!

Yet in John 17, we get the opportunity to do just that with Jesus. We get to listen in on one of His personal conversations with God. This is not Jesus teaching us how to pray, as in Luke 11. This is Jesus allowing us to listen in on how He prays to the Father! We get to peer into Jesus’ psyche. We hear His desires, priorities, and concerns. We witness His love, joy, and directives as He shares an intimate moment with the Father just hours before He goes to the cross. In this passage, Jesus shares more than just a prayer. He shares Himself.

When a person is going away and knows that this is the last opportunity he will have to pray with those he loves, he prays with conviction. His words have finality. They will be chosen carefully for greatest impact. The prayer will be memorable.

This is the context for Jesus’ words in John 17. He’s not giving hurried, last-minute instructions to a rag-tag group of dysfunctional followers. He is speaking as one who wants desperately to see His friends again, who doesn’t want to leave them helpless, who desires to stay connected with them as

He embarks on the final leg of His mission. Jesus wants His friends to know that they are not alone. He has provided for them, and He is trying to include them in the most intimate relationship He has.

 

Conversation in Progress

John 17 opens with these words: “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.’” The unique feature of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is that we, and the disciples, are stepping into a conversation in progress. It’s as if the conversation  between Jesus and the Father has been going on for a while, and now Jesus just picks up where He left off. Many times, Jesus slipped away to a solitary place to pray (Mt. 14:13; Mk. 1:35; Lk. 4:42). But now, Jesus wants the disciples to be a part of the conversation. He loves them so deeply that He wants to include them in the communion with His Father. He wants them to experience that same intimacy that He so enjoys.

If you’ve ever heard WWII veterans talk with each other, you realize that there’s a lot between them that just doesn’t have to be said. They’ve experienced so much in common that they just know. The bonds of brotherhood have been created by their commitment to each other through thick and thin. I wonder if this is how the disciples felt listening to Jesus and the Father.

Jesus had had many conversations with the Father before this one. In His 33 years on earth, He’d depended on God in ways He’d never had to depend on Him when They were together in heaven from time eternal. No doubt, Jesus had talked to God about His friends many times before—discussing their strengths and weaknesses, their joys and fears. He’d lived with them, worked with them, eaten with them, and laughed and cried with them for three years. So when He prayed for them, He didn’t have to give a lot of detail. He knew what He meant, the Father knew what He meant, and that’s all that mattered. So as you read the follow- ing verses, imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus prayed these incredibly powerful petitions for them. Don’t read too quickly—although the phrases are short, they are all packed with extravagant love, generosity, and meaning.

He wants them to . . .

  • share in eternal life through knowing

God (vv. 2-3)

  • understand that everything God possesses is also available to them (v. 10)
  • be protected under the authority of His name (vv. 11-12)
  • share in His joy (v. 13)
  • share in His Word (vv. 6,14)
  • share in the love of the Father (v. 23)
  • be with Him where He is (v. 24)
  • be unified and connected in fellowship and love (vv. 11, 21-23).

Besides all that, there are things Jesus wants to do for them. He wants to:

  • sanctify Himself for them (v. 19)
  • share His glory with them (v. 24).

 

An  Invitation  to Friends

Jesus understands what His disciples will need in order to endure what’s ahead. So a high priority of His prayer is to inspire the disciples with His own intimacy with the Father. How could He—how could they—face the hours and days ahead without it?

This intimate relationship with the Father is the secret to all prayer. In His prayer Jesus invites His friends to enjoy the same relationship with the Father that He has. After revealing the depths of His union with the Father in His prayer, Jesus invites His friends into the same intimacy where together they will accomplish God’s plans and purposes. It is incredibly contagious stuff!

But note also what Jesus asks for Himself: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am” (Jn. 17:24). Do you see it? Jesus wants His best friends to be with Him. Not just for their sake, but

for His own. He wants to share His glory with them. He wants them to witness it and to be included in the most important event of His life. He wants them to take part in the plans the Father has for Him so His love will be in them, unifying them for the tasks with and love for each other provides the passion for our prayers. Our determination to see our friends experience God’s best creates the fervency for effective prayers (Jas. 5:16).

Jesus sent the same message to His disciples that He’s sending us today. We can hear Him praying it right now, as He intercedes at the right hand of the Father for you and me. John 17 is His invitation. It’s a glorious invitation into intimacy with Him and with others ahead (v. 26).

 

Hallmarks of Jesus’ Prayer

Jesus show the disciples—and us—many things about Himself and the nature of intercession through His prayer in John 17. Here are just three:

He was CONSUMED with God’s glory. Jesus prayed for Himself only twice, (vv. 1, 5). Both instances pertain to His desire to bring glory to the Father. This is the purpose of all prayer, no matter what the subject or circumstance. The best result in any situation is that God receives all glory. Bringing glory to the Father was Jesus’ purpose here on earth, and He wants us to share in that same goal.

He wanted COMMUNION with His Father. We’ve been invited into fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Relationship is what fuels prayer. Intimacy empowers intercession. Prayer can become deep, passionate, and meaningful when the relationships are secure. Jesus experienced a wonderful oneness with His Father, and He wants His friends to experience it as well.

He desired CONNECTION between believers. Jesus prayed that we would become one with each other, just as He was one with the Father. This oneness in us will help the world believe that God sent Jesus (v. 21). God’s glory is the agent of oneness, and unity confirms God’s love for the world. John 13:35 says that the world will know we are His disciples by our love for each other. Jesus wants His disciples to be as connected with each other as He is with the Father. These are the desires that can fuel our own prayers. Our intimacy with God through Christ energizes our prayers. Our connection with love for each other provides passion for our prayers. Our determination to see our friends experience God’s best creates the fervency for effective prayers (Jas. 5:16).

Jesus sent the same message to His disciples that He’s sending us today. We can hear Him praying it right now, as He intercedes at the right hand of the Father for you and me. John 17 is His invitation. It’s a glorious invitation into intimacy with Him and with others.

 

ROSS PARSLEY is worship pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He says that when he leads worship he feels a lot like Jesus might have felt as He prayed in front of His disciples. “I am being intimate with God in front of others and inviting them to participate every Sunday,” he says.

Used by permission of Pray! Copyright © 2003, Issue 35, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. www.navpress.com.

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