In Tell It Slant, Eugene Peterson advised reading Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17 with a calm and attentive heart: “Jesus is no longer talking to us. Jesus is talking to the Father. Jesus is praying. He prays a long time. This is holy ground. We find ourselves embraced in a holy listening. We are in a place of prayer, a praying presence. Our mouths are stopped. We are quiet: be still my soul.”
This chapter reveals Christ at work as our Great High Priest. His roles as high priest, advocate, and mediator overlap to some extent in that they each show part of what He does for us in salvation (see also Heb. 4:14–16).
First, Christ prayed for Himself, asking that He would be glorified by finishing His mission of redemption and bringing people to the Father (vv. 1–5). Next, He prayed for His disciples to be protected, unified, sanctified, and sustained against the evil one and the hatred of the world (vv. 6–19). He also prayed for them as messengers of the gospel (v. 18). As we know, these requests were powerfully granted!
Finally, Jesus prayed for future believers, including you and me (v. 20). He asked that we would be unified in the same way He and the Father are (vv. 21–23). Why? “So that the world may believe.” He also asked that we would be in heaven with Him one day (v. 24). He closed by affirming that He has indeed revealed the Father to all who trust in Him (vv. 25–26).
Jesus is our Great High Priest, but as believers we are “priests” as well (see, for example, Rev. 1:6). Part of what this means is that we have the tremendous privilege of interceding for one another in prayer, just as our Lord did.
Today’s reading is the longest recorded prayer of Christ and definitely worth deeper study. We encourage you to consult study Bibles, commentaries, and other resources. Consider what this passage tells you about Christ. Finally, no study is complete without asking, “What difference should this make in my life?”