“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:9-10)
One of Jesus’ ministries while He was on earth, and which by the way continues today while He is in heaven, is the ministry of intercession. To intercede is to intervene or to mediate on someone’s behalf. In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus stated that He was specifically praying for His disciples: the eleven in this particular context and by extension all those who would follow Him.
I John 2:1 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The word “advocate” (παράκλητον; parakleton) means intercessor and helper.
Hebrews 7:22-25 says, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Jesus said, “I am praying for them.” The word praying (ἐρωτῶ; erotao) is a present, active verb meaning to continually ask or to request on behalf of someone. The personal pronoun “them” refers in the text specifically to the eleven.
However, Jesus then said, “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” By His next statement, Jesus indicated that He was not only praying for the eleven in the upper room but also for all those who God the Father had given Him unto salvation. This includes believers today.
Jesus also said that He was not praying for the world. The word world (κόσμου; ksomou) means those who belong to the fallen, rebellious and evil system of thought and behavior which is in opposition to God and His followers.
Jesus again announced that God the Father gave to Jesus those who follow Him. Prior to belonging to Jesus, believers, or the elect, belonged to God the Father (John 17:2, 6). Believers in Christ presently belong to both the Father and the Son.
The result of belonging to Jesus is so that He would be glorified, honored and praised. To glorify (δοξάζω; doxazo) means to praise and honor Jesus because of His glorious greatness. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, this is the believer’s ultimate goal and purpose. “Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
John Calvin writes, “He (Jesus) openly declares that He does not pray for the world, because He has no solicitude but about His own flock, which He received from the hand of the Father. This is a most excellent testimony for confirming our faith: that Christ never will cease to care for our salvation since He is glorified in us.”
As another commentator explains, “Jesus makes it very clear in His High Priestly Prayer that He is praying not for the world but for those the Father has given Him out of the world (John 17:9). The primary focus in verse 9 is on His first disciples, but Jesus later extends the prayer to cover all who believe through the witness of the disciples (v. 20). Jesus, in other words, has a special work of intercession only for Christians—both those who already believe and for those who have been chosen by God and have not yet come to saving faith (but will surely come to believe).”
Do you realize that Jesus is interceding for you right at this moment? He does so for all true believers in union with Him. Take the time today to thank Jesus for His faithful ministry of intercession. As musician Carolyn Gillman wrote:
And He’s ever interceding, to the Father for His children;
Yes, He’s ever interceding, to the Father for His own;
Through Him you can reach the Father, So, bring Him all your heavy burdens;
Yes, for you He’s interceding, So, come boldly to the throne.
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!