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In the middle of his sufferings and grief, Job felt alienated from God. He raged, he complained, he lamented. He even wished that he had never been born. He said that he wanted someone to be his advocate before God, to speak for him to God.
He cried, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more” (Job 9:33-34).
Is there such an arbiter who is qualified to represent us before God? The New Testament answers with an emphatic “Yes!” That one is Jesus. Jesus is praying for his people. It is said that the Bible records over 650 prayers, none more important than the prayers of Jesus. The gospels describe Jesus praying on 21 different occasions.
One of those occasions is when Jesus prayed in John 17 before his death on the cross. In that prayer, our Lord prayed for himself, for his disciples who were with him at that time, and for all who would subsequently believe on him. Are you one of those believers? If so, Jesus is praying for you!
This is called Jesus’ “high priestly ministry” on behalf of his people and John 17 has been called his “high priestly prayer.” That is because it represents Jesus’ prayer requests before the Father in heaven. Can you imagine the Father ignoring or denying a request from his holy Son?
So Jesus prays for his believing people in all times and places. “My prayer is not for them alone (the disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).
Believers in Jesus are a spiritual community of faith called the Body of Christ. Jesus prays for unity within the Body that will reflect the unity of the Trinity. The people of God have been given the power to display that unity through the Spirit of God. This is “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). He says that this will be a convincing witness to the world.
Jesus goes on to express his desire that believers will “be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you have loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). This is an amazing prayer that all of us who believe in him might share his glory in heaven. What could be better than that?
Until then, we live in this world, a world that does not know God (John 17:25). So our Lord prays that his people will be sustained by God’s love. His prayer is “that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26).
Some of God’s people are, like Job, going through very hard times. I am personally aware of some who are enduring physical suffering, bereavement, personal failure, or intense loneliness. Maybe you are going through a difficult time right now. It is encouraging to know that we have an advocate in heaven “who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2).
He is our great high priest. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Maybe Job was given a glimpse of this truth when, through his anguish, he admitted, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. my intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” (Job 16:19-21).
Pastor Randy Faulkner