At first glance, it may seem that John 17 is repetitious. It seems as if Jesus goes over the same territory in this intercessory prayer which causes us to wonder what He was about in praying like this.
As I study this chapter in John, I began to wonder if there was some meaning that I was missing here until I came across a reference in a fictional mystery novel that I was reading that had to do with the celebration of Yom Kipper. That led me to an opinion of why Jesus might have prayed in this manner.
People who are wise search for answers by beginning at the start of a lesson or a story. It is good to begin with the facts of the matter rather than the conclusion. That is one of the reasons why I believe Christians should spend more time learning about the Jewish faith…as Jesus Christ was a Jew. When God made His covenant with Abraham, He gave His children laws to follow and sacrifices to practice until the proper time when He would send His Son.
Studying these laws, practices, and celebrations, open us to an even greater understanding into the heart and mind of God. One of these is the greatest Holy day of the Jewish faith–Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is on this day, once every year, that the high priest enters the inner sanctum of the temple to offer the blood/sin sacrifice for his people so that God will not hold them accountable for their sins.
According to my research (please correct me if I am wrong) when the Jews recite the Al Khet (prayer at Yom Kippur) they gently knock their fists to their chests as each sin is spoken as listed below. These sins are given as plural because according to tradition each Jew feels they bear a measure of responsibility for the actions of their fellows in the Jewish faith.
“For the sin that we have committed under stress or through choice;
For the sin that we have committed in stubbornness or in error;
For the sin that we have committed in the evil meditations of the heart;
For the sin that we have committed by word of mouth;
For the sin that we have committed through abuse of power;
For the sin that we have committed by exploitation of neighbors;
For all these sins, O God of forgiveness, bear with us, pardon us, forgive us!”
You can see how this prayer reenforces the point of the burden sin is casting upon the ones asking for forgiveness and mercy.
John 17: 19-23- And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Jesus has claimed these truths earlier in His prayer, yet He is so bent on praying for His disciples and those who will place their faith and trust in Him, that He is agonizing over leaving us. Just as a Jew agonizes over the sins he/she has committed over the year and begs for mercy, Jesus wants to again entreat His Heavenly Father to remember that He is within us just as God is within Him.
His glory is our glory.
His perfection becomes ours through faith that He will offer His blood to be our sacrificial atonement.
The world has known Him and will, in turn, know us as His.
Christians would do well to copy the Yom Kippur prayer and meditate on it so that they can truly understand how Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father…and the miraculous sacrifice of love, forgiveness, and mercy that Jesus offers us….