Comprehensive Intercession
John 17:20, 21
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;…

Human selfishness, narrowness, and hopelessness may well be rebuked by the breadth and brightness of this prayer. The High Priest pleads for his people, and in so doing sweeps the horizon of time, sounds the depths of human need, and grasps the invisible aim of the universe, the yet unrealized purpose of God himself.

I. THE EXTENSIVE RANGE OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. At the very time when those nearest to him were about to be exposed to great danger, the Lord Jesus, without forgetting these, directed the gaze of his mind over a wide field of vision, and included in his comprehensive intercession all who in coming ages should believe on him through his apostles' witness. This marvelous sweep of high-priestly regard and interest is testimony to:

1. Christ's Divine foresight. He beheld in prophetic vision the martyrs and confessors, the missionaries and bishops, the scholars and preachers, the pure and lowly in private life, who should attach themselves to his doctrine and to his Church. As in an instant and at a glance, Christ summoned before his eyes and his heart the vast multitude who should constitute the Church militant through long millenniums to come; and he prayed for all.

2. Christ's Divine claim. In realizing the objects of his intercession, the High Priest regarded all as personally related to himself. Those for whom he pleaded were those who should believe on him. This fact is implicit witness to his high claims. Who but he could so rank mankind?

3. Christ's wide sympathy and benevolence. That such a Leader and Master should plead for his adherents, his friends, and the promulgators of his faith seems natural; common affection seems to account for this. But how vast was the love apparent in this prayer, which included within its scope the myriads who were yet to come into existence! But his whole Church was dear to his Divine and tender heart.

II. THE CONCENTRATED PURPORT OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. Doubtless the same prayer which was offered for the twelve was offered for all subsequent disciples, that all might be kept in the Name of the Father, and that all might be sanctified by the truth. But the expressed request here presented on their behalf should receive attention. It was for their unity. Not for their uniformity, in outward organization, in rite and ceremony, in uttered creed and liturgy; but for their spiritual unity, as is apparent from the petition that it might resemble that of the Father and the Son. A unity of life is here intended, like that of the branches in a vine rather than that of a bundle of staves. The Master desired for his disciples that they might have the same faith in himself, the same brotherly love one towards another, the same benevolent disposition towards the world. The value which Christ thus set upon true unity is a standard to which we are called to conform. That which Jesus made the object of his desire and prayer must be beautiful in God's view, and is worthy of our appreciation, our best endeavors for its promotion.

III. THE GLORIOUS AND ULTIMATE AIM OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. HOW magnificent the end which our Lord sought, not only by his prayer, but also by his toils, his sacrifice, his death! Nothing short of the world's belief in his mission, and adhesion to himself! We cannot understand by our Lord's words merely that he looked forward to the world's assent to a great fact, or to the world's forced acknowledgment upon the judgment-day. He desired that the world should come to believe both in the sending and in the sent One. However appearances may be against such an expectation being realized, faith apprehends the prevalence of the Redeemer's kingdom in the world. The influence and ministry of the Church, under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, is intended to promote the world's salvation. When it appears to us difficult to cherish hopes such as those which are justified by the declarations of Scripture, it will be well for us to check our despondency by remembering the prayer of the High Priest. That for which the beloved Son of God has pleaded, and ever pleads, will surely come to pass. And thus faith shall be rewarded, and Divine love shall have full and eternal gratification. - T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

WEB: Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word,

Church Unity
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