John chapters 17–19 contain John’s account of the events of the Atonement. The Savior’s prayer recorded in John 17 is often called the Intercessory Prayer because in His prayer, the Savior interceded on our behalf, praying to His Father for His Apostles and all who would believe in Him—including us. Following the Intercessory Prayer, chapters 18–19 recount the arrest, trials, Crucifixion, and burial of Jesus Christ. John 17 provides valuable insight into the purposes of Jesus’s suffering. He prayed that those who believed in Him would be protected, have joy, be sanctified, be filled with the Father’s love, and truly know His Father and have eternal life. He prayed that His followers might be “one” with the Father, the Son, and one another. The word Atonement (at-one-ment) literally means “to make one,” or to reconcile. It was to bring about all these possibilities that Jesus Christ suffered, as described in John 18–19.
Note: While you have already taught about the suffering and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the teaching suggestions below focus on material that is unique to or emphasized in John.
Write this question on the board: How does it affect you to know that Jesus Christ prayed to the Father for you? Give students a few moments to ponder this, and then ask for a few responses. Explain that the Savior’s prayer recorded in John 17 is often called the great Intercessory Prayer. An intercessor is someone who intercedes, mediates, advocates, or pleads in behalf of another. The prayer found in John 17 is one of the many instances in the scriptures when we see the Savior acting in His role as our intercessor with Heavenly Father.
Begin writing a list on the board with the title: Jesus Christ prayed that we would …
Ask students to read John 17:1–3, looking for what Jesus Christ had power to give people.
What does Jesus Christ have power to give us? (Eternal life.)
How did the Savior describe “life eternal”? (Eternal life is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ.)
Then add to the list: Know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (John 17:3). The board should look something like this:
Help students to explain these doctrines by asking:
What do you think is the difference between knowing about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and actually knowing Them?
How do you get to know a person? (Spend time with them, share experiences, talk together.) How do these answers apply to coming to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? (We must share experiences with Them and talk with Them.)
What are things we can do in mortality that help us to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? (Possible answers: Pray, read and ponder the scriptures, serve others, keep the commandments, worthily partake of the sacrament each week, and ponder what They would have us do.)
After a few students have responded to these questions, read and discuss the student manual commentary for John 17:3. You might ask the following questions:
In your life, how have you grown in coming to know the Father and the Son, rather than just knowing about Them? What could you do to come to know Them even better?
Ask students to read John 17:11–26 silently, marking in their scriptures or making note of items they could add to the list on the board. After students have had time to read, ask them to report what they found, and write their responses on the board. Your completed list might look something like this:
Invite students to share their thoughts about these truths and testify of them by asking:
How have you experienced any of the blessings the Savior prayed would come into our lives?
To help students understand the Intercessory Prayer in the context of the Atonement, point out that the Savior gave this prayer just before the events of the Atonement—His suffering in the garden and later on the cross. Erase the title of the list on the board, “Jesus Christ prayed that we would …” and write a new title:
Ask students to reconsider the items listed beneath this title, and ask:
Why is the Atonement necessary in making each of these blessings possible?
To help students think about applying the teachings in John 17 to their own lives, point out that before Jesus said, “I pray for them” (John 17:9), He reported to His Father in Heaven about how receptive His disciples had been to His teachings. Ask a student to read John 17:6–9 aloud, while the rest of the class listens for what Jesus said His disciples had done. (His disciples had received and kept God’s word, they knew that Jesus’s teachings came from Heavenly Father, and they believed that Heavenly Father had sent Jesus Christ.) Ask:
If you want the blessings of the Atonement in your life, what can you learn from the example of His disciples?
After students have responded, close this part of the lesson by bearing testimony that by our faithful acceptance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive all the blessings the Savior prayed for in the Intercessory Prayer.
Explain that John 18–19 is an account of the Savior’s arrest, trials before Jewish and Roman authorities, Crucifixion, and burial. Though students have studied these events already in their study of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John recorded some important details about these events that are not found in the other accounts.
You will need to select which of the following details to focus on during the lesson. Decide which to emphasize and which to summarize based on the needs and abilities of your students, the promptings of the Spirit, and the time available.
Ask students to read John 18:4–6, looking for the reaction of Jesus’s captors when He told them who He was. (They “went backward, and fell to the ground.”)
What do you think this dramatic reaction tells us about the power Jesus Christ possessed? (You might refer students to the student manual commentary for John 18:1–6.)
Help students understand this principle: The Savior had the ability to overpower His captors, but He voluntarily submitted to arrest and crucifixion.
Ask students to read John 18:7–9. You might suggest that they mark the phrase “Let these go” in their scriptures. Ask them to explain what Jesus meant when He said these words in the garden. (The Savior offered Himself to be arrested on the condition that His captors would let the disciples go free.) Then ask students to explain how the phrase “Let these go” might symbolically relate to all of us. (As students respond, you might refer them to what the Savior said earlier about His mission to set people free from spiritual captivity [see Luke 4:18–19] or to the student manual commentary for John 18:8–9.)
Explain that John 18:33–37 relates part of the conversation between Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate. Have students read these verses, looking for indications that Jesus knew the purpose of His mortal life. Students might point to these statements: “My kingdom is not of this world” (verse 36) and “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world” (verse 37). You might suggest that students mark the statement “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world” in their scriptures and take a moment to ponder its meaning. Ask two students to read the statements by Elder Alexander B. Morrison and Elder Neal A. Maxwell in the student manual commentary for John 18:37.
How do you think knowing the purpose of His life on earth helped the Savior make the right decisions and endure to the end?
How can understanding the purposes of our life give us confidence and courage to endure difficulties?
Bear testimony of this principle: Understanding who we are and the purposes of this life can give us confidence and courage to endure difficulties. Invite students to share their ideas and testify about this truth by asking:
When has the knowledge of who you are and your life’s purpose helped you face challenges?
Ask students to read John 19:14–18, noting the day and time when these events took place. (“It was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour.”) Explain that this was the very hour when sacrificial lambs for Passover would have been slaughtered at the temple in Jerusalem. Ask students to turn to John 1:29, 36 and notice the testimony John recorded about Jesus Christ. (Jesus Christ is “the Lamb of God.”)
What is the effect of reading these details from the beginning and the end of the Gospel of John? (They serve as two witnesses, at the beginning and end of the Savior’s ministry, of this important doctrine: Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God.)
Ask students to name a few occasions when Jesus Christ showed compassion or was thoughtful toward others. Ask what students think about the effect that compassionate or thoughtful acts have upon someone who is suffering. Have students read the account in John 19:25–27, looking for the Savior’s thoughtfulness while He was suffering on the cross. (He thought of His widowed mother and made provision for her well-being by placing her in the care of the Apostle John.) Help students understand this doctrine: The Savior exemplified selfless concern for others. Ask:
When have you seen someone show selfless concern for another person?
Encourage students to think about ways they can be more selfless by sharing the following statement from President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency:
“The Savior Himself said, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ [John 15:13.] Most of us don’t demonstrate our unselfishness in such a dramatic way, but for each of us unselfishness can mean being the right person at the right time in the right place to render service. Almost every day brings opportunities to perform unselfish acts for others. Such acts are unlimited and can be as simple as a kind word, a helping hand, or a gracious smile” (“What’s in It for Me?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 21–22).
Conclude this part of the lesson by giving students a moment to ponder what they could do to become more aware of the needs of others and unselfishly strive to meet those needs.
Ask a student to read John 19:28, and suggest that students mark “I thirst” in their scriptures. Ask students if they recall Jesus’s teachings, found earlier in the Gospel of John, about what He offers to all people to quench their spiritual thirst. (Students may recall these accounts: The Savior taught the Samaritan woman at the well that He provides “living water” that forever quenches spiritual thirst [see John 4:10–14]. The Savior stood in the temple and announced that He would give the “living water” of the Holy Ghost to those who believe in Him [see John 7:37–39].) Ask students to read John 19:29, looking for how the Roman soldiers responded to the Savior’s statement, “I thirst.” (They gave Him vinegar to drink.) You might have students cross-reference this verse with Psalm 69:21.
Consider having students examine the chart found in the student manual commentary for John 19:26–30. Lead a discussion on what students learn about Jesus Christ from His final earthly statements, made while He was on the cross.
Ask students to read John 19:31–37, looking for fulfillments of scriptural prophecy that John recorded. (Jesus’s bones were not broken, and His side was pierced.) You might suggest that students write the cross-reference “Psalm 34:20” beside John 19:36, and “Zechariah 12:10” beside John 19:37. Ask students why it was significant that the Savior’s legs were not broken. (The Psalmist had prophesied that His legs would not be broken. Also, the Passover lamb, which symbolized the Savior, was not to have any broken bones. If the students need help answering this question, refer them to the student manual commentary for John 19:31–37.) Ask students:
According to John 19:35, why did John include these details?
How can knowing the fulfillment of these prophecies deepen our understanding of the Savior’s proclamation in 3 Nephi 9:15–16?
As a result of this discussion, make sure that students understand this truth: Jesus Christ fulfilled scriptural prophecies concerning His mortal ministry.