Jesus Prays for the Father to Glorify Him, 1-5
17:1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you—17:2 just as you have given him authority over all humanity, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. 17:3 Now this is eternal life—that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. 17:4 I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world was created.
What a night it was! What a gathering! What a discourse had just been given! What a prayer is now offered!
‘John does not portray Jesus as a man of prayer in the way the Synoptic Gospels do. There is no reference to him withdrawing to pray, no Lord’s Prayer, no prayer in Gethsemane. In John 11 Jesus prays outside the tomb of Lazarus not because he needs to pray but for the benefit of his hearers, Jn 11:42. The prayer of Jn 12:27-28 also appears to be for the benefit of the hearers rather than for Jesus, as is the answering voice from heaven, Jn 12:30. This is not to suggest there is no communication between Jesus and the Father. The emphasis falls instead on the unique relationship of Jesus to the Father, Jn 5:19-20,30; 8:26-28,38; 10:18; 12:49-50; 14:10; 15:15. Jesus hardly needs to petition the Father because both Father and Son are already intent on the same purpose.’ (Tim Chester, The Message of Prayer, 173)
What does this prayer have to do with our own praying? ‘John portrays Jesus’ prayers as part of his unique relationship with the Father, and the prayer of John 17 is no exception. While Jesus offers the Lord’s Prayers as a prayer for us to make his own, we cannot repeat John 17 as our own prayer. What we do find, however, is a summary of God’s purposes in sending Jesus into the world. We discover what it means to pray in the name of Jesus with the priorities of Jesus. Indeed there are some significant similarities with the Lord’s Prayer: both are addressed to the Father, both are concerned for the glory of his name, both as for the keeping of disciples and their protection from the evil one, and both show a concern for the extension of God’s kingdom albeit with different terminology.’ (Chester, 174)
Jesus’ habit of praying is often mentioned in the Gospels, although few details are generally given. Longer prayers were usually offered when he was alone. Here is an exception: Jesus prays at length in the presence of his disciples, and the substance of it is recorded for posterity by John.
After Jesus said this – John here pinpoints the timing and context of this prayer, which was:-
a prayer after a sacrament (ch 13); ‘that God would preserve the good impressions of the ordinance upon them.’
a prayer before a crisis (ch 18-20). Prayer is a great means for carrying us through anticipated trials.
a parting prayer; for it is good to pray when we and our friends are parting, Acts 20:36.
a prelude to a sacrifice; this prayer specifies the blessings and benefits which were to be purchased by his death for those who were his own.
an example of his continuing heavenly intercession; Heb 7:25.
But the context is particularly, after Jesus had said this ie, after the Farewell Discourse (ch 14-16). It is good to turn from speaking about God to speaking to God. These were the two things that the apostles devoted themselves to: ‘prayer and the ministry of the word’, Acts 6:4. Just as Jesus’ sermon was full of victory, so is this prayer. The prayer takes a long-range view, and looks beyond the immediate crisis to a triumph which is assured. Therefore, despite the turmoil of the present situation, this prayer is full of certainty: there is nothing conditional in it at all. It shows us that in the midst of the most extreme circumstances, there is a heavenly throne which continues to rule all, and which is accessed by believing prayer.
He looked towards heaven – Scripture speaks of a variety of postures being employed in prayer. Shortly afterwards, Jesus would prostrate himself in prayer, Mt 26:39.
The most important thing is that the physical posture should faithfully reflect the inner attitude. The posture of the heart is more important than that of the body. Lk 18:9ff. ‘The posture of the spirit and of the heart are more important than the posture of the body and of the limbs.’ (Carson)
Jesus’ posture here suggests:-
A laying aside of all worldly interests and desires, Col 3:1 – ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.’
A lifting of the heart to God, Ps 25:1 – ‘To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.’
An attitude of reverence, for heaven is God’s throne, Ps 103:19 – ‘The Lord has established his throne in heaven’.
A confidence in God alone, Ps 121:1 – ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?’
A looking towards the place he would shortly be going to. Indeed, Jesus saw himself ‘as good as’ in heaven already, v11.
A relationship asserted
The ‘Father’ indicates the divine relationship between Father and Son. This term ‘Father’ occurs six times in this chapter. It reflects the whole tone of the prayer – one of filial love and confidence. But Christ’s sonship is unique: he stands in a special relationship to the Father, and can all the more expect to be heard because of this. For he address God as “Father” not ‘our Father’, which would put himself on the same level as his disciples. His Sonship is an eternal and co-equal relationship, ours is by regenerating and adopting grace. Cf Mt 6:32 Jn 20:17.
Christ was about to suffer at the hand of God; and yet he calls him ‘Father’. So we, when in trouble, do well to remember our adoption as children of God, and to conduct ourselves as his children. We can do this by demonstrating patience and hopefulness. Rom 8:15.
A time appointed
The appointed hour. Cf Jn 2:4; 7:6,30; 8:20; 12:23; 13:1. This hour was not determined by fate, or chance, but by divine decree.
The hour of fulfilment. The prophets had foretold this hour.
The hour of transition. The old economy was passing away; the new was being ushered in (see, esp. Mt 27:51 – the tearing of the curtain of the temple). Also Rom 3:21; Gal 4:4; Heb 1:2.
The hour of triumph, Jn 12:23; 13:31.
‘What hour? The hour of hours; the hour with a view to which all the purposes of grace from everlasting were fixed; the hour with a view to which all the scaffolding of the ancient economy was erected; the hour with a view to which he had come into the world, and been set apart by circumcision and baptism and the descent of the Spirit; the hour with a view to which he had lived and wrought and taught and prayed; the hour for which heaven, for the ends of grace, and earth and hell, to defeat those ends, were waiting alike with eager hope; that hour was now “come”.’ (David Brown)
‘The hour on which were suspended the glory of his Father and the eternal destiny of myriads – that hour had now at last struck.’ (Ross)
See here the absolute centrality of the cross of Christ and its associated events and achievements. The whole universe revolves around this one point. Everything else has either led up to it or flowed from it.
See here the sovereignty of God in the unfolding of all events in time. Cf Ps 31:15.
Jesus prays that the Father would glorify the Son
“Glorify” – to display or proclaim a person’s excellence. Jesus is here praying that his Father would display the Son’s excellence; that he would vindicate him. Cf. Jn 1:14.
‘What Jesus is here asking is that through his death now just at hand, and as the reward of his finished work, he might be exalted to the right hand of God that there – in this new position – he also might glorify the Father, by applying the redemption which he had wrought out upon the earth.’ (Alexander Ross)
“Father…Son” – Jesus pleads his unique relationship with his Father. Cf Jn 8:54.
Well might Jesus pray with confidence, for God had already made many promises to glorify his Son, Ps 2:7ff; Ps 72:15ff; Ps 110:1ff; Ps 118:22-23; 2 Sam 7:12-14; Isa 53:12.
The glorification of the Son, therefore, was already assured. Yet Jesus prays for it. Hence note, it is right to pray for things, even though God knows what we need, and even when it is certain that they will come to pass. Such praying confirms us in our own thoughts and desires, protects us against presumption, and demonstrates our reliance on God.
And so the Father did glorify his Son:-
Before his sufferings, at his baptism, Mt 3:17; and transfiguration, Mt 17:5.
During his sufferings, by great miracles, Mt 27:45 ff darkness, tearing of the temple curtain, raising to life of many holy people.
By his sufferings, 13:31; 1 Cor 1:18. ‘To men the cross appeared an instrument of shame. To Christ it was the means of true glory.’ (Morris)
After his sufferings, Phil 2:9ff.
But this prayer is especially that the Father would restore to the Son the glory which was his before the world began, v5.
If the Father glorified the Son, so should we, Gal 6:14. We glorify God not only by our words and songs of praise, but also (and especially) by our Christian character and life, 1 Cor 10:31. ‘The soul that lives as God intended it to live manifests his glory’ (David Thomas). It is just so in in the natural universe, where creation glorifies God not only by their very existence but by conforming to his eternal laws, Ps 19:1.
Note the relationship between, “Father, the time has come,” and, “Glorify your Son.” First the suffering, then the glory. Lk 24:26 Heb 2:10 Heb 12:2. Let us not think to be given a route to glory other than that trod by our Saviour, 2 Tim 2:12 Rom 8:17.
‘The true remedy of tribulation is to look to the succeeding glory, and to counterbalance future dangers with present hopes.’ (Manton) 2 Cor 4:17-18.
Jesus prays that the Son may glorify the Father
“That your Son may glorify you” – cf Jn 13:31, above – here is the ultimate aim: even Jesus did not ask to be glorified for his own sake, but that the Father might be glorified.
How did the Son glorify the Father?
By his death and resurrection, for hereby his Father’s virtues and attributes were vindicated and made to shine forth while provision for the salvation of the unrighteous was made, Rom 3:26.
By bestowing eternal life on all those the Father had given him. ‘Blessed combination – the glory of the Father and the eternal life of his people! Let us rejoice to know that in the Cross of Christ, these two are gloriously harmonised.’ (Charles Ross) Cf Eph 1:12.
If the Son glorified the Father, so should we, Gal 6:14. We should not focus on any member of the divine trinity, to the exclusion of the others. One of the earliest controversies to afflict the Pentecostal movement occurred when a number of pastors declared that baptism should be ‘in the name of Jesus’ only. Such ‘Jesus-only’ groups persist to this day, for example in Indonesia. But listen to Jesus himself, Jn 5:23 “…that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father.” Eternal life consists in knowing both Father and Son, v3.
The answer to this pray was already assured, as predicted in Isa 53:12. But note, it is right to pray for things, even though God knows what we need, and even when it is certain that they will come to pass. Such praying confirms us in our own thoughts and desires, and demonstrates our reliance on God.
“For you granted him authority over all people…”
“All those you have given him” – For Hendriksen, this implies both a doctrine of ‘limited atonement’ and of election to eternal life. See also Jn 6:37, 39, 44; 10:29.
Note the flow of thought here: in the granting of eternal life, the Father glorifies the Son, and the Son glorifies the Father.
Believers are a gift from the Father to the Son, v2. See Isa 8:18 “Here I am, and the children God has given me;” cf. Heb 2:13.
The acquisition of knowledge is a leading characteristic of human nature. But there is no science so noble, so enriching, so vital, as that of knowing God. Pr 9:10, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.’
Eternal life consists, not merely in unending existence, but in the knowledge of the eternal God, Father and Son. And this is not speculative knowledge, but personal knowledge. It is not just knowing about, but knowing. It is not based on opinion, but on faith. Those who know God know him as their reconciled Father, and put their trust in him. Our hearts are stirred towards him, as we appreciate him as our highest good and only happiness. Ps 9:10, ‘Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.’ Conformity to the commands of God is also implied, 1 Jn 2:3, ‘We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands’. Knowing God, then, is a comprehensive thing. Those who know God accept what he has revealed concerning himself, choose him as their highest good, love him with deep affection, respect and honour him, and follow the path of holy living.
‘The final Goal of the blessed life rests in the knowledge of God.’ (Calvin, Institutes, 1.V1)
‘The final felicity of man consists only in the contemplation of God.’ (Aquinas)
Let us not spurn or neglect such an offer. ‘For a small living, men run a great way; for eternal life, many will scarce move a single foot from the ground.’ (Thomas a Kempis) This knowledge of God is crucial in Scripture:-
Ho 4:6ff “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”
Hab 2:14 – ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’
Jer 31:34 – ‘”No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of the to the greatest,” declares the Lord.’ cf Heb 8:11
Many are the so-called gods which vie for our attention. And many are the supposed ways to truth, or enlightenment, or fulfilment. But in reality, there is only one true God, and only one way of salvation. It is not sufficient to believe in ‘someone, somewhere’. Our faith must be vested in the God who is real, the God who is there.
We know God through Jesus Christ, cf Jn 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
Interestingly, this is the only place in the gospels where our Lord refers to himself as ‘Jesus Christ’. To his hearers at large, he usually referred to himself as ‘the Son of Man’. But now he lets his inner circle hear him apply this name to himself, a name that has become so precious to his followers since. See Jn 1:17n.
Note here also the way in which he places himself side by side with the Father as the object of believing faith. This is a powerful argument in favour of his eternal godhead.
‘Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord. The world today is full of sufferers from the wasting disease which Albert Camus focused as absurdism (“life is a bad joke”), and from the complaint which we may call Marie Antoinette’s fever, since she found the phrase that describes it (“nothing tastes”). These disorders blight the whole of life: everything becomes at once a problem and a bore, because nothing seems worthwhile. But absurdist tapeworms and Antoinette’s fever are ills from which, in the nature of the case, Christians are immune, except for occasional spells of derangement when the power of temptation presses their minds out of shape—and these, by God’s mercy, do not last.’ (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)
Kruse summarises: ‘He came into the world to carry out the work God gave him to do (cf. 4:34; 5:36; 9:3–4) and the Father was glorified when this work was completed. This work, which involved revealing the Father through his life and ministry, and culminated in giving himself on the cross, glorified the Father by revealing his character to the world.’
Manton remarks that there is in this verse ‘another argument to inforce the main request of his being glorified’, for ‘when our work is ended, then we look to receive our wages.’
I have brought you glory on earth – Jesus counted it his main aim on earth to glorify the Father, by his:-
willing obedience, Jn 4:34 “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”.
fearless teaching, even though ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him’, Jn 6:66.
completing his work. He was ‘immortal till his work was done.’ We can take great comfort that the work of redemption is completed: all that remains is for it to be applied to us.
Manton expands this by saying that Christ glorified the Father by his person, Heb 1:3; by his life and perfect obedience, Jn 8:46; by revealing his mercy, Jn 1:14; and by his miracles, Mt 9:8; Mk 2:12; 15:31. So also by his passion, he ‘exceedingly glorified God’s justice’.
God (says Manton) was greatly glorified in the creation of the world, Psa 19:1, and in his providences. But he was chiefly glorified in Christ, and in the work of redemption. There was no obstacle to his work of creation, for it was out of nothing; but redemption had to overcome the great obstacle of sin. In creation, we were undeserving; in redemption, ill-deserving. Thus, in addition to all his other attributes, God’s mercy is revealed in his work of redemption. There is more wisdom in redemption, for it must resolve the quarrel between justice and mercy. There is more power, for in creation man is taken out of the earth; in redemption, out of hell. In creation, man was made like God; in redemption, God was made like man. When God delivered his people from Babylon, he did it with created things; when he delivers from hell, he does it with himself. Adam had paradise; we have heaven. Heaven is not given to God’s friends, but to those who were once his enemies.
‘Christ, by his preaching, miracles, sufferings, and obedience to death, and his whole conversation, and frequent ascribing of the great things he did to his Father, did glorify him, and demonstrate his power, truth, wisdom, justice, mercy, and other attributes.’ (Hutcheson)
Christ glorified his Father on earth. We had forgotten, neglected, abused, God. Christ came to restore the knowledge of God’s glory among us.
‘It will be a great comfort in a dying hour, to think we have glorified God in our lives. It was Christ’s comfort before his death: Jn 17:4. ‘I have glorified thee on the earth.’ At the hour of death, all your earthly comforts will vanish:if you think how rich you have been, what pleasures you have had on earth; this will be so far from comforting you, that it will torment you the more. What is one the better for an estate that is spent? But to have conscience telling you, that you have glorified God on the earth, what sweet comfort and peace will this let into your soul! how will it make you long for death! The servant that has been all day working in the vineyard longs till evening comes, when he shall receive his pay. How can they who have lived, and brought no glory to God, think of dying with comfort? They cannot expect a harvest where they sowed no seed. How can they expect glory from God, who never brought any glory to him? Oh in what horror will they be at death! The worm of conscience will gnaw their souls, before the worms can gnaw their bodies.’ (Watson, A Body of Divinity)
Completing the work – As Hutcheson remarks, Christ’s work is completed as regards the purchasing of redemption; even though it continues in the application of redemption.
Newton says that the work which the Lord Jesus did was the work which his Father had designed, ordained, and ordered for him to do. See Jn 6:38; 9:4; 10:37. His work of satisfaction consistent of two parts: his active and passive obedience. In his active obedience he perfectly fulfilled God’s law, Gal 4:4; Jn 4:34. In his passive obedience he subjected himself to suffering and death, Mt 26:39; Phil 2:8. Because of his perfect obedience he can return to the Father, leaving the Holy Spirit to convince the world of the righteousness he wrought for all his people, Jn 16:10.
Our Lord also (says Newton) completed his work of application. These are the means by which his work of satisfaction becomes effectual. They consist of (a) his outward promulgation of the word, encompassing to whom he should preach, Mt 15:24; on whose behalf he should speak, Jn 7:16; Heb 1:2; and what he should preach, Lk 4:18. And (b) of the inward operation of the Spirit.
Most commentators agree that, despite our Lord’s use of the past tense, he includes in this statement his death and resurrection.
‘Comp. Jn 19:30. When he says “I have finished,” he probably means to include also his death. All the preparations for that death were made. He had preached to the Jews; he had given them full proof that he was the Messiah; he had collected his disciples; he had taught them the nature of his religion; he had given them his parting counsel, and there was nothing remaining to be done but to return to God. We see here that Jesus was careful that his great and important work should be done before his dying hour. He did not postpone it to be performed just as he was leaving the world. So completely had he done his work, that even before his death he could say, “I have finished the work.” How happy would it be if men would imitate his example, and not leave their great work of life to be done on a dying bed! Christians should have their work accomplished, and when that hour approaches, have nothing to do but to die, and return to their Father in heaven.’ (Barnes)
Ryle: ‘The meaning of these words I take to be this: “I have completed the work of redemption which Thou didst send Me into the world to accomplish,—My death and resurrection being so near that to all intents and purposes it is finished.”‘
Ryle quotes Augustine:- ‘Christ saith He has finished that which He most surely knows He will finish.’
Ryle, summarising Musculus: ‘true godly obedience is to be seen not merely in doing such work as we arbitrarily take up, but in doing such work as God appoints us to do.’
Carson: ‘It makes best sense if v. 4 includes all the work by which Jesus brings glory to his Father, and that includes his own death, resurrection and exaltation (cf. Jn 4:34; 5:36; 19:30). So he is speaking proleptically (as in v. 12, ‘While I was with them …’), oscillating with a more prosaic description of his place at this moment in the flow of redemptive history (e.g. v. 11, ‘I am coming to you …’).’
But we should not neglect the work that Christ had already accomplished, before reaching this final phase of his earthly life. He has led a human life of absolute purity or heart and mind, and of complete obedience to his Father’s will. We are perhaps, too prone to rush, in our view of Christ’s work of redemption, from his incarnation to his death and resurrection. Let us not forget his ‘active obedience’.
‘He does not complain of the poverty and disgrace he had lived in, what a weary life he had upon earth, as ever any man of sorrows had. He overlooks this, and pleases himself in reviewing the service he had done his Father, and the progress he had made in his understanding.’ (MHC)
Matthew Henry remarks that (a) ‘our Lord Jesus had work given him to do by him that sent him’; (b) ‘The work that was given him to do he finished’ (he was so near being perfected by sufferings that it was as good as finished – note the cry from the cross, Jn 19:30); and (c) ‘herein he glorified his Father.’
Jn 13:1 – our Lord loved his own to the end. Phil 2:7 – he was obedient to the uttermost, to death. ‘When he had most cause to loathe sinners, then he loved them ; in his bitter agonies, and the horrors of his cross, Christ did not repent of his part…Christ was not weary of suffering for sinners, and God will not be weary of pardoning them. ‘ And, just as Christ completed his work for us on earth, so he will complete his work in us in heaven, 1 Thess 5:24. (Manton)
The work of redemption, then, is completed. The price has not been half paid, with ourselves to supply what is lacking. It has been paid in full, Heb 10:14. If there was anything left to do, Christ would die again. He has not purchased a possible salvation, but a certain one. Nor a temporary, but an eternal one.
Let us rest satisfied with the merit of Christ, who has done all. ‘Christ hath no more to do but to sit at the right hand of God, and to rejoice in the welfare of the saints; there remaining nothing for us but to make our claim, and to live in joy and thankfulness.’ There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, Rom 8:1. Not the law, nor God’s wrath, nor your own conscience, nor Satan, can make any claim against you. ‘The prison is broken up, the book cancelled, the bill nailed to Christ’s cross, that it may never be put in suit again.’
‘Oh ! that we had a faith suitable to the height of these mysteries, that we could behold the salvation of God in our serious thoughts, and echo to Christ s cry, It is finished, it is finished!’
Hutcheson: ‘There was nothing committed to Christ by the Father, to be done on earth, for the purchasing of redemption, but he did finish it; so that the debt is paid, justice satisfied, and sin, Satan, and death spoiled, so that nothing remains now but the application of his purchase, and communication of that to his people which they already have in him their Head; for the doing of whereof he is now exalted and glorified.’
You gave me to do – Given, suggests Manton (following Augustine), not commanded. ‘It pleased the Father’, Col 1:19. But not only a gift, but rather a charge. Christ’s work was appointed by God, and he delighted to do his will, Psa 90:7f. Though he was a prince, Christ came in the form of a servant, Phil 2:7.
We might reflect on all the things Jesus did not do while he was on earth: he did not heal everyone; he did not preach everywhere; and so on. And yet, ‘when Jesus went back to heaven his desk was clear.’ (John Blanchard)
Glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began – This implies that by his incarnation Jesus had forfeited his primeval glory.
He prays that, having completed his earthly work, he might resume that glory which he had with the Father from all eternity. Note (a) the prerogative of God to be essentially and eternally glorious; (b) the timeless communion enjoyed between the Father and the Son, cf Jn 1:1,18; (c) the eternal glory of Christ, Jn 16:15 “All that belongs to the Father is mine;” 2 Cor 8:9 – ‘though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor’.
‘The glory which the Son had with the Father, in the time before the creation of the world, is a matter passing our comprehension. But the pre-existence of Christ, the doctrine that Father and Son are two distinct persons, and the equal glory of the Father and the Son, are at any rate taught here very clearly.’ (Ryle)
Those who have done God’s work here on earth, can be confident in praying for glory in heaven.
‘Christ had a glory with the Father before the world was, even from all eternity; that glory was veiled or eclipsed, when he tabernacled upon earth; with this glory he now seeks to be reinvested – not, however, simply as before, but now in our nature. And this prayer has been answered; what Jesus here asks, Jesus has obtained. Christ is now glorified in our nature at God’s right hand.’ (Alexander Ross)
Jesus Prays for the Disciples, 6-19
17:6 “I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. 17:7 Now they understand that everything you have given me comes from you, 17:8 because I have given them the words you have given me. They accepted them and really understand that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.
Now begins the second part of this prayer, that which concerns the disciples. They had enjoyed Jesus’ visible presence, but now this was to be taken from them. They had been promised the Holy Spirit, and yet the coming hours would be a great trial to them. Jesus commits them with exquisite tenderness to his Father’s care. A dominant thought in these verses is the preciousness of the souls for whom Jesus is praying, and of the care which has been taken of them by the Father and the Son.
What Jesus has done
“I have revealed you” – lit. “I revealed your name.” The ‘name’ stands for the whole person, his essential nature, his revealed character. Jesus came to make God known. Cf vv 11,12,26: Mt 11:27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 1 Jn 5:20 – ‘We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.’ This fulfils Deut 18:15; cf Acts 3:22. If we ask, how did the Son reveal the Father, we must answer, ‘by revealing himself to them’ – cf Jn 14:9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” ‘From the manger at Bethlehem to the grave of Joseph of Arimathea, from Jordan to the brook Cedron, from the mount of transfiguration to the hill of Golgotha, the who of Christ’s life, his sufferings and death, ay, and afterwards his resurrection – is nothing but the most lucid and blessed revelation of the name of God, by which he would be known of us.’ (Charles Ross)
We learn from this, (a) that we are blind and ignorant in the things of God until Christ reveals them to us. 1 Cor 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ (b) the authority of Christ as teacher. He is, Jn 14:6,’the truth.’ His qualification as a teacher of the things of God is that he has come directly from the Father’s side, No-one has ever seen God, but God the one and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known,’ Jn 1:18. (c) Christ’s ministers derive their teaching and their authority from Christ. Christ is the sun, he has a brilliance all of his own; his followers are planets, shining with a reflected light. 1 Cor 11:23, For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you’.
Christ revealed the Father, (a) plainly. He adapted his teaching to the needs and abilities of his audience. He taught eternal mysteries and profound doctrines using ordinary words and homely illustrations. He was never crude, or merely amusing, but always vivid and instructive. He revealed the Father, (b) powerfully. ‘He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law’, Mt 7:29. There was heat as well as light in his teaching. ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,’ Heb 4:12. He revealed the Father, (c) persuasively. He didn’t shout and bellow, but knew how to communicate his message across great gulfs of ignorance, misunderstanding, and prejudice. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Lk 24:32. He revealed the Father, (d) purely. The best of human teaching has a mixture of truth and error. He, on the other hand, is the faithful witness’, Rev 1:5. He revealed the Father, (e) perfectly. He held nothing back; he was never economical with the truth’; he spoke ‘the whole truth’. Jn 15:15 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
From this we learn, (a) how to test teaching. We should not ask, Do we like this? but, Is this consistent with the teaching of Christ? We learn, (b) how to appraise teachers. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jn 20:21. He was faithful, tender-hearted, self-denying. He delighted in doing good to others. His life was one with his teaching. He maintained sweet and close communion with his Father. We learn, (c) the way to the Father. Would you know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Would you understand the Christian message? Listen to Jesus? Would you come to the Father? Come through Jesus.
What the Father has done
“To those whom you gave me out of the world” – given to Christ, according to the ancient decree of election and according to the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. Jn 6:37ff “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” 10:29 – “My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Cf Acts 13:48 – ‘And all who were appointed for eternal life believed.’ 2 Thess 2:13f, ‘We ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
‘Who those are who are given to Christ by the Father, we can only certainly know by outward evidences. But that all believers are so given by the Father, predestined, elect, chosen, called by an everlasting covenant, and their names and exact number known from all eternity, is truth which we must reverently believe, and never hesitate to receive. So long as we are on earth we have to do with invitations, promises, commands, evidences, and faith; and God’s election never destroys our responsibility. But all true believers, who really repent and believe and have the Spirit, may faitly take comfort in the thought, that they were known and cared for and given to Christ by an eternal covenant, long before they knew Christ or cared for him. It is an unspeakable comfort to remember that Christ cares for that which the Father has given him.’ (Ryle)
“They were yours” – as objects of everlasting love. Cf Rom 8:28-30, ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to him purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified.’
“You gave them to me” – ‘The apostleship and ministry, which are Christ’s gift to the church, were first the Father’s gift to Jesus Christ. As under the law the Levites were given to Aaron, (Nu 3:9) to him (the great high priest of our profession) the Father gave the apostles first, and ministers in every age, to keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation, and to do the service of the tabernacle. See Eph 4:8,11; Ps 68:18. Christ received this gift for men, that he might give it to men. As this puts a great honour upon the ministry of the gospel, and magnifies that office, which is so much vilified; so it lays a mighty obligation upon the ministers of the gospel to devote themselves entirely to Christ’s service, as being given to him.’ (MHC)
What the apostles have done
“They have obeyed your word” – lit. “They have kept your word.” There is no hesitation or embarrassment in the leap from divine predestination to human responsibility. We should resist the temptation to force these twin ideas to limit or cancel out each other. Cf Phil 2:12f. The idea of perseverance is prominent here. Practical obedience is the first great test of discipleship. Ps 119:11, ‘I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.’ Pr 23:23, ‘Buy the truth, and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.’ Jn 8:31 “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” 15:10 – “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.” Rev 3:8 (Philadelphia) “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
This seems to be an unreasonably optimistic view of the disciples’ faith, which was still so shallow and immature at this stage. But it was real. And Jesus will not break a bruised reed, nor snuff out a smouldering wick, Mt 12:20.
These, then, are the people for whom Jesus is about to plead. This is what he has done for them; this is what the Father has done for them; and this is what they themselves have done.
Now – ‘at long last’ – cf Jn 16:30-31. They now know that Jesus’ mission is divine; that he is the Lord’s Messiah, Lk 2:26; that he has been commissioned to speak and act with divine authority, Lk 4:18. So long as our eyes focus only on Jesus the man, we miss the point. We must see him in his relationship with the eternal God.
This verse continues the preface to our Lord’s prayer for the disciples, which begins in v9. Having stated what he and the Father have done for them, he now continues (from v7) to refer to what the disciples themselves have done.
“I gave them the words you gave me” –
17:9 I am praying on behalf of them. I am not praying on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those you have given me, because they belong to you. 17:10 Everything I have belongs to you, and everything you have belongs to me, and I have been glorified by them.
Who Jesus is praying for – “I pray for them” – What an encouragement it must have been to the disciples, to hear their Master say, “I pray for them!” He prays with knowledge, having insight into all their needs. He prays with power, for he has divine resources at his disposal. Jesus is the great High Priest, who not only offered himself up once for all as a sacrifice for sin, but continually applies his work of atonement by his prayer and intercession. On Christ’s continuing prayer for believers, see Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25; 9:24; 1 Jn 2:1.
Who Jesus is not praying for – “I am not praying for the world” – not in this particular request, for, in contrast to this little band of disciples, the world has not believed, and therefore cannot be the object of a prayer for sanctification and glorification. What the world needs is converting grace; believers are already in a state of grace, and need safeguarding, v11, and sanctification, v17, and glorification. So, Jesus prays differently for the world, as in vv 21, 23, cf Lk 23:34; Mt 5:44.
Ryle discusses two main interpretations of this expression: (a) that of Bengel and Alford, who think that our Lord means that he is not praying at this time for the world, but only for his disciples; (b) and that of Hutcheson and Lampe, who think that our Lord only ever intercedes on behalf of his disciples, because his intercession is never in vain. Ryle agrees that the difference is a delicate one, and one that ‘will probably never be settled’. Nevertheless, he inclines to the second view:-
‘I will give place to no one in maintaining that Jesus loves all mankind, came into the world for all, died for all, provided redemption sufficient for all, calls on all, invites all, commands all to repent and believe; and ought to be offered to all—freely, fully, unreservedly, directly, unconditionally—without money and without price. If I did not hold this, I dare not get into a pulpit, and I should not understand how to preach the Gospel.
But while I hold all this, I maintain firmly that Jesus does special work for those who believe, which He does not do for others. He quickens them by His Spirit, calls them by His grace, washes them in His blood—justifies them, sanctifies them, keeps them, leads them, and continually intercedes for them—that they may not fall. If I did not believe all this, I should be a very miserable, unhappy Christian.’
The meaning, then, is, ‘I pray for them, as my peculiar people, that they may be kept, sanctified, united, and glorified.’
Packer, on the other hand, understands this verse as supporting a doctrine of definite atonement: ‘Facing his passion, he prayed only for those the Father had given him, not for the “world” (i.e., the rest of mankind, John 17:9, 20). Is it conceivable that he would decline to pray for any whom he intended to die for?’ (Concise Theology)
Why Jesus is praying for them. They are “those you have given me” – Honour is put on a gift on account of who it is given by. These have been given by the Father. Given for a purpose – that they might be his pupils, witnesses, and disciples; that they might be his ministers, his apostles. See the dignity of the Christian ministry, which is so little esteemed. Moreover, see the great responsibility of it, for those who have thus been given by the Father to the Son ought to dedicate themselves to Christ’s service. And yet, there is honour and responsibility not only for the Christian ministry, but for all believers, for elsewhere all the elect are said to be given to Christ, 6:37,39.
‘Whom does Christ intercede for? Not for all promiscuously, but for the elect. Jn 17:9. The efficacy of Christ’s prayer reaches no further than the efficacy of his blood; but his blood was shed only for the elect, therefore his prayers reach them only. The high priest went into the sanctuary with the names of the twelve tribes only upon his breast: so Christ goes into heaven with the names of the elect only upon his breast.’ (Thomas Watson)
He says, moreover, v10, “Glory has come to me through them” – we might have expected him to say, “Glory will come to me through them” – after they have received the Pentecostal power. But no: even though they were unremarkable from the world’s point of view, Christ has already been glorified through them – not only by their love, their praise, and their obedience, but by their very existence as believers. The weakest faith, if real, brings glory to Christ. ‘What a marvellous incentive to living for Christ this is, that he who has need of nothing may yet be glorified through our obedience and service.’ (Milne) And Christ will now pray that he may continue to be be glorified by their perseverance in him who is the way, and the truth and the life. ‘It is just as if he had said: ‘Father, my declarative glory in the world is connected with these. What is to become of my glory in the world, if any of these should perish?’ Therefore he prays that they should be protected and preserved.
Why Jesus is praying for them with such confidence. – “For they are yours” – This is a powerful argument to support his prayer: although the disciples have been given by the Father to the Son, they continue to belong to the Father just as much as they belong to the Son. They have been given, but not given away. And mutual ownership argues mutual interest and concern. The Father, in entrusting them to his Son, has retained his own loving concern. This ownership which arises from their eternal election becomes the basis of Christ’s prayer for their present and future well-being. This is yet another reminder of the unbreakable chain of Rom 8:29-30. If it is asked why Jesus prays for those whom he knew already to be eternally predestinated, we answer that predestination includes all necessary means, including prayer.
All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. – In this verse we have a reassertion of the unity and community of Father and Son. “All I have is yours” – this could, conceivably, have been claimed by a created person. But “All you have is mine” points to a unique relationship. It only makes sense if the Father and the Son are one in essence. ‘This,’ says Luther, ‘no creature can say with reference to God.’ And so, once again, we are brought face to face with the centrality, the uniqueness, the divinity, of Jesus Christ. And once again, we are challenged by the purpose for which these things were recorded for us, Jn 20:31.
‘This bespeaks the Father and Son to be, [1.] One in essence. Every creature must say to God, All mine are thine; but none can say to him, All thine are mine, but he that is the same in substance with him and equal in power and glory. [2.] One in interest; no separate or divided interests between them. First, What the Father has as Creator is delivered over to the Son, to be used and disposed of in subserviency to his great undertaking. All things are delivered to him (Mt. 11:27); the grant is so general that nothing is excepted but he that did put all things under him. Secondly, What the Son has as Redeemer is designed for the Father, and his kingdom shall shortly be delivered up to him. All the benefits of redemption, purchased by the Son, are intended for the Father’s praise, and in his glory all the lines of his undertaking centre: All mine are thine.’ (MHC)
Glory has come to me through them – Despite all their weaknesses and failures. ‘On no other occasion did Jesus speak of his disciples bringing glory to him. He did speak of the disciples bringing glory to God by bearing ‘much fruit’ (Jn 15:8), and in Peter’s case by the kind of death he would die (Jn 21:19). It was primarily by believing in him, accepting and obeying his words, and carrying out his commission that the disciples brought glory to Jesus.’ (Kruse)
‘There can be few more encouraging statements in the New Testament. If we recall the disciples’ level of achievement to this point, it is a remarkable claim. Its full truth would be realized only after Pentecost and in the years beyond. Even then, however, the disciples were always less than perfect. Bringing glory to Christ as his disciples is rooted in our trust in him as Saviour, which vindicates his work and in that sense honours him. There is no suggestion here, however, that our glorifying him is confined to our trust. What a marvellous incentive to living for Christ this is, that he who has need of nothing may yet be glorified through our obedience and service.’ (Milne)
17:11 I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. 17:12 When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. Not one of them was lost except the one destined for destruction, so that the scripture could be fulfilled.
The urgent necessity of this prayer. It was this crisis that prompted the prayer, and caused it to be uttered in the disciples’ hearing. “My struggles in this wicked world are nearing an end; but theirs must continue.” He had been with them in physical presence; now he is leaving. “I am coming to you” – there is something deeply moving about this repeated reference to his own home-coming, that lay beyond the horror of the cross. See Heb 12:2, ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ He contemplates the joy which will soon be his, and his heart overflows with prayer for those who will be left behind.
The substance of this prayer.
(a) “Protect them” from whatever might cause them spiritual harm. Stand guard over them, keep them under constant surveillance. They need to be protected from the hatred of the world, Jn 15:18-25.
But is their protection and preservation not assured within God’s eternal purposes? See Jn 10:28-29 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Php 1:6 ‘…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ 2 Thess 3:3 ‘But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.’ To be sure, but of course this by no means excludes the use of means to achieve this end. So, firm as our belief may be in the ‘perseverance of the saints’, we should pray for our own and each other’s spiritual protection and never allow ourselves to become presumptuous or complacent about our own spiritual safety and eternal destiny. But, because out weak prayers are linked to the almighty prayers of the Son of God, they will certainly prevail.
One guarantee of the disciples’ future safety is that they have been protected up until this moment, v12a. See Lk 22:31-32.
‘The Christian, when fullest of divine communications, is but a glass without a foot, he cannot stand, or hold what he hath received, any longer than God holds him in his strong hand. Therefore, Christ, when bound for heaven, and ready to take his leave of his children, bespeaks his Father’s care of them in his absence. ‘Father, keep them,’ Jn 17:11; as if he had said, they must not be left alone, they are poor shiftless children, that can neither stand nor go without help; they will lose the grace I have given them, and fall into those temptations which I kept them from while I was with them, if they be out of thy eye or arms but one moment; and therefore, ‘Father, keep them.” (Gurnall)
“By the power of your name” – that is, ‘in the exercise of that gracious and holy character which, as revealed, is the “name” by which God is known to men.’ (JFB) Note the unique appellation which has just been used – “Holy Father.” This name stands in opposition to the evil world from which the disciples need to be protected. Cf Jas 1:27, ‘…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ Further, it combines a distinctive OT emphasis on God’s holiness with a NT focus on his Fatherhood. It is thus a comprehensive term. How wrong it is to apply such a name to any human person (e.g. the Pope)!
(b) “Unite them.” “That they may be one” – better, “that they may continually be one.” ‘The disciples are to be kept by God not as units but as a unity.’ This is not a unity of organisation, or appearance, or even of behaviour; it is a unity of essence: “As we are one.” ‘Enthusiasts for the ecumenical movement sometimes speak as though the reunion of Christendom would mean the answer to Christ’s prayer. While it is true that unity of organisation can be an impressive witness to unity of spirit, yet as such it is merely outward. It is not this that is in mind here. It is something much more difficult. It is unity of heart and mind and will. It is well that we work to bring the sundered denominations together. But it is better to look for a grander unity than that, and it is this grander unity for which Christ prays.’ (Morris). More will be said on this on v21.
“As we are one” – ‘The saints are the walking pictures of God. If God be our Father, we shall love to see his pictures of holiness in believers; shall pity them for their infirmities, but love them for their graces…It may justly be suspected that God is not Father of those who love not his children. Though they retain the communion of saints in their creed, they banish the communion of saints out of their company.’ (Thomas Watson)
“While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe” – Here is a brief retrospect. One argument in favour of the future protection is that they have been protected up till now.
“…by that name you gave me” – it had been given to Jesus to reveal the character of God. And it is as God as thus revealed is known, believed, and trusted, that believers are kept safe. Pr 18:10, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.’
“The one doomed to destruction” – lit. ‘the son of destruction’. This may carry the idea of destiny (NIV), or simply of character (Morris, ‘characterised by lostness’). In any case, there is a combination of the divine and the human here, for Judas handed Christ over by means of his own evil choice, and yet it was to fulfil the redemptive purposes of God. However, let us never think that either God nor Scripture can be blamed for the sin of Judas.
Beasley-Murray: ‘“Son of perdition (ὑιὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας) is a Hebraism in which the genitive is ambiguous. It can denote the person’s character, as in Ps 57:4, where “children of unrighteousness” is rendered in the LXX τέκνα ἀπωλείας; or the person’s destiny, as in Isa 34:5, where “the people I have doomed” appears in the LXX as τὸν λαὸν τῆς ἀπωλείας (in 2 Sam 12:5 “a son of death,” i.e., one doomed to be put to death, is rendered lit. as υἱὸς θανάτου). The same expression, “the son of perdition,” ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας, is applied to the Antichrist in 2 Thess 2:3 in parallelism with “the man of lawlessness,” presumably to denote his evil nature, but it may also include the thought of his sure destruction, which is mentioned in 2 Thess 2:8. A similar duality of meaning could attach to the expression in our passage.’
Whatever is foretold in Scripture shall be accomplished. “So that Scripture would be fulfilled” – probably Ps 41:9.
‘”Christ never undertakes to heal any but he makes a certain cure, ‘Those whom thou givest me I have kept, and none of them is lost’. (Jn 17:12) Other physicians can only cure them that are sick, but Christ cures them that are dead, ‘And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins’.”‘ (Eph 2:1) (Thomas Brooks)
17:13 But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves. 17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17:15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. 17:16 They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. 17:17 Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. 17:18 Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. 17:19 And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.
“I say these things while I am still in the world” – It is wonderfully reassuring to know that Christ is praying for us. The implication here is that Jesus spoke this prayer aloud. He was speaking to his Father, but also had in mind the reassurance of those around him. And we may be similarly reassured, when we consider that similar prayers are offered on our behalf by Jesus in heaven.
“So that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” – Christ wanted his disciples to be full of his joy. He experienced inexpressible joy in the face of appalling suffering: joy in the fellowship which he had with the Father, and joy in the assurance which he had of being heard. He desired that they should share fully in the joy of that fellowship, and of that assurance.
“The world has hated them, for they are not of the world” – The world will always be at enmity with Christ’s disciples. The world has hated them for the same reason the world hated Christ: they are not of the world, they do not hold the world’s beliefs nor do they walk in the ways of the world. True believers are living testimonies against the world; the world feels condemned by them. The more bold, the more strong, the more decided we are in our faith, the less we can expect the world’s approval. The good opinion of the world is a perilous thing to seek. We are not to court the world’s disapproval by a narrow, judgemental, exclusive spirit; and yet we should not be surprised when holiness is met with enmity. The most holy one of all was hated by the world.
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world” – we should not ask to be taken out of the world. Perhaps Jesus perceived that the disciples were impatient to leave the world, now that their Master was about to leave it. ‘Few in number and weak in strength, surrounded on every side by enemies and persecutors, they might well long to be released from the scene of conflict, and to go home’ (Ryle). But to leave the world prematurely would be to leave it without a Christian witness, and without due training in righteousness. ‘Nothing, we may be sure, glorifies grace so much as to live like Daniel in Babylon, and the saints in Nero’s household, – in the world and yet not of the world,-tempted on every side and yet conquerors of temptation, not taken out of the reach of evil and yet kept and preserved from its power’ (Ryle)
This verse weighs against those who would seek escape from the world by a monastic existence.
“…but that you protect them from the evil one” – or, simply ‘evil’ in the abstract. God can and will protect all who are Christ’s from evil. ‘The spiritual dimensions of this prayer of Jesus are consistent and overwhelming. By contrast we spend much more time today praying about our health, our projects, our decisions, our finances, our family, and even our games than we do praying about the danger of the evil one.’ (Carson)
‘Christ’s presence and employment in heaven lays a strong engagement on God to bring his whole force and power into the field, upon all occasions, for his saints’ defence; one special end of his journey to heaven, and abode there, is, that he might, as the saints’ solicitor, be ever interceding for such supplies and succours of his Father, as their exigencies call for; and the more to assure us of the same before he went, he did, as it were, tell us, what heads he meant to go upon in his intercession when he should come there; one of which was this, that his Father should keep his children, while they were to stay in the world, from the evil thereof, John 17:15.’ (Gurnall)
This verse is a repetition of what has been stated in the previous two verses.
Here is the second thing which Jesus asks for on behalf of his disciples (the first was preservation).
(a) The meaning of sanctification. ‘Sanctify’ = ‘to set apart; to make holy’. Cf. Rom 1:1, ‘Set apart for the gospel of God.’ Acts 13:1,2 ‘In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”‘
The apostles are to be separate from the world, v16, so that they can fulfil their mission to the world.
(b) The importance of sanctification. Jesus asks specially for it. Their doctrine, our profession, will be worthless if unconsecrated. Hence we too must take it seriously. Let us not suppose that because we are justified we can afford to neglect practical consecration.
(c) The progressive nature of sanctification. If it were something already achieved and completed, then Christ would not have prayed, “Sanctify them.” Consecration admits of degrees. Hence it must be worked at.
(d) The means of sanctification. Just as the word of God is the means of their protection, so it is the means of their consecration. Jesus himself is that Word incarnate. He has conveyed the word to them. He will send his Spirit to bring forth yet more light from the word. We grow holy when the Word is brought to bear on our mind, will and affections, when it controls our behaviour and moulds our character. Hence the importance of reading, hearing, understanding, and obeying the Word. There is a false sanctification which consists of ostentatious austerity. But true sanctification takes place by the inward operation of the truth of God and leads to the development of Christian character. Acts 20:32.
Your word is truth – Grudem (Systematic Theology) points out that the use of the noun (‘truth’), rather than an adjective (‘true’) is significant, ‘for this statement encourages us to think of the Bible not simply as being “true” in the sense that it conforms to some higher standard of truth, but rather to think of the Bible as being itself the final standard of truth. The Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is the ultimate definition of what is true and what is not true: God’s Word is itself truth. Thus we are to think of the Bible as the ultimate standard of truth, the reference point by which every other claim to truthfulness is to be measured. Those assertions that conform with Scripture are “true” while those that do not conform with Scripture are not true.’
v18 Note the link with the previous verse. They need to be sanctified, because of their mission in the world. They are to be consecrated, truthful, and holy messengers, just like their Master.
Christ’s apostles were sent by him. Not only by him, but also by the Father and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, they are sent by the Church. They are not to take this honour upon themselves. The minister goes ‘in Christ’s name’ and not his own: with Christ’s authority, and with his glory in mind.
Christ’s apostles were sent into the world just as he himself has been sent into the world. They have the same authority, the same qualifications, the same message, the same object.
v19 Christ willingly consecrated himself, in order that they might be consecrated. Jesus offered himself on the cross, not only for their justification, but also for their sanctification, 2 Cor 5:15, ‘he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ Also, Tit 2:14; Eph 5:26; 1 Pet 2:24.
Jesus Prays for Believers Everywhere, 20-26
17:20 “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, 17:21 that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 17:22 The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one—17:23 I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.
Here begins the third main part of the prayer. “I pray also for those who will believe in me” – All believers, in every age, are the subjects of Christ’s intercession. ‘Like a mountaineer gazing out from an eminence across the expanding vista as range succeeds range into the distant horizon, so Jesus gazes out across the rolling centuries. He beholds and embraces the harvest of the ages, the church of the Redeemer, gathered from every nation, people, language and tribe. He is praying for us.’ (Milne)
‘Let us mark how wide was the scope of our Lord’s intercessory prayer. He prayed not only for present, but for future believers. So should it be with our prayers. We may look forward and pray for believers yet to be born, though we may not look back and pray for believers who are dead.’ (J.C. Ryle) Jesus foresaw clearly a time when the harrassed and frightened disciples would be the means of joyful and effective witness to the faith, Mt 24:14.
‘Here, indeed, is a remarkable basis for confidence. For if we believe in Christ through the teaching of the Gospel, we should not doubt at all that we are already gathered with the apostles into his faithful protection, so that not one of us shall perish. This prayer of Christ is a calm haven, and whoever retreats into it is safe from all danger of shipwreck. It is as if Christ had taken a solemn oath that our salvation will be his care and study.’ (Calvin)
‘We see here Jesus’ complete faith and his radiant certainty. At the moment his followers were few, but even with the Cross facing him, his confidence was unshaken, and he was praying for those who would believe in his name. This passage should be specially precious to us, for this passage is Jesus’ prayer for us.’ (William Barclay)
‘Jesus Christ intercedes not only for great and eminent believers, but for the meanest and weakest; not for those only that are to be employed in the highest posts of trust and honour in his kingdom but for all, even those that in the eye of the world are inconsiderable. As the divine providence extends itself to the meanest creature, so does the divine grace to the meanest Christian.’ (Matthew Henry)
Through their word – The great instrument of faith is the apostolic message. ‘Their “word” is the appointed means for the calling out of faith. (Rom 10:14f) This “word” is the word” they had received from Christ (v14), the interpretation as well as the assertion of the facts of Christ’s life.’ (Westcott)
‘In describing the Church of the future, Jesus assigns a most important place to the Apostolic word…He does not recognise here any other means capable of bringing men to saving faith in him, except that of the Divine word.’ (Charles Ross, The Inner Sanctuary)
In what manner does Christ intercede?
(I) Freely. He pleads our cause in heaven, and takes no fee. An ordinary lawyer will have his fee, and sometimes a bribe too; but Christ is not mercenary. How many causes does he plead every day in heaven, and will take nothing! As Christ laid down his life freely, so he intercedes freely. Jn 10:15,18.
(2.) Feelingly. He is as sensible of our condition as his own. ‘We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmity.’ Heb 4:15. As a tender-hearted mother would plead with a judge for a child ready to be condemned. Oh, how would her bowels work! how would her tears trickle down! what weeping rhetoric would she use to the judge for mercy! So the Lord Jesus is full of sympathy and tenderness, that he might be a merciful high priest. Heb 2:17. Though he has left his passion, yet not his compassion. An ordinary lawyer is not affected with the cause he pleads, nor does he care which way it goes; it is profit that makes him plead, not affection; but Christ intercedes feelingly; and that which makes him intercede with affection is, it is his own cause which he pleads. He has shed his blood to purchase life and salvation for the elect; and if they should not be saved, he would lose his purchase.
(3.) Efficaciously. It is a prevailing intercession. Christ never lost any cause he pleaded, he was never non-suited. Christ’s intercession must needs be effectual, if we consider,
(1:) The excellency of his person. If the prayer of a saint be so prevalent with God, as Moses’ prayer bound God’s hand, ‘Let me alone,’ Ex 32:10; and Jacob, as a prince, prevailed with God, Gen 32:28; and Elijah by prayer opened and shut heaven, Jas 5:17; then what is Christ’s prayer! He is the Son of God, the Son in whom he is well pleased. Mt 3:17. What will not a father grant a son! “I know that thou hearest me always.’ Jn 11:42. If God could forget that Christ were a Priest, he could not forget that he is a Son.
(2:) Christ prays for nothing but what his Father has a mind to grant. There is but one will between Christ and his Father. Christ prays, ‘Sanctify them through thy truth;’ and ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification.’ 1 Thess 4:3. So then, if Christ prays for nothing but what God the Father has a mind to grant, then he is like to succeed.
(3:) Christ prays for nothing but what he has power to give. What he prays for as he is man, that he has power to give as he is God. ‘Father, I will.’ Jn 17:24. Father, there he prays as a man; I will, there he gives as God. It is a great comfort to a believer, when his prayer is weak, and he can hardly pray for himself, that Christ’s prayer in heaven is mighty and powerful. Though God may refuse prayer as it comes from us, yet he will not as it comes from Christ.
(4:) Christ’s intercession is always ready at hand. The people of God have sins of daily occurrence; and, besides these, they sometimes lapse into great sins, and God is provoked, and his justice is ready to break forth upon them:but Christ’s intercession is ready at hand, he daily makes up the breaches between God and them; he presents the merits of his blood to his Father, to pacify him. When the wrath of God began to break out upon Israel, Aaron presently stepped in with his censer, and offered incense, and so the plague was stayed. Nu 16:47. So, no sooner does a child of God offend, and God begin to be angry, but immediately Christ steps in and intercedes. Father, he says, it is my child that has offended; though he has forgotten his duty, thou hast not lost thy bowels. Oh, pity him, and let thy anger be turned away from him. Christ’s intercession is ready at hand, and, upon the least failings of the godly, he stands up and makes request for them in heaven. (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)
“That all of them may be one” – Christ’s heartfelt desire was that all believers might be truly united. This reminds us how disunited we are by nature. ‘The ruin of the human race is that, alienated from God, it is also broken and scattered in itself. Conversely, therefore, its restoration lies in its proper coalescence in one body…Wherefore, whenever Christ speaks of unity, let us remember how foul and horrible is the world’s scattering apart from him.’ (Calvin)
“…that the world may believe” – ‘The unity of believers amongst themselves was meant to be such as would have an outstanding, visible manifestation – such as the vast outlying world might be able to recognise, and should be constrained to own as the work of God.’ (David Brown)
‘The Spirit of Christ, illuminating, transforming, and reigning in the hearts of the genuine disciples of Christ, drawing them to each other as members of one family, and prompting them to loving co-operation for the good of the world – this is what, when sufficiently glowing and extended, shall force conviction upon the world that Christianity is divine.’ (David Brown)
“I have given them the glory that you gave me” – this glory is mentioned again in v 24. The precise meaning of the present verse is difficult to determine. It could refer to the glory of the heavenly kingdom, into which Christ had all but entered already, the title to which he had given to the disciples. Yes, even now God has ‘seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,’ Eph 2:6; even now we are ‘heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ,’ Rom 8:17.
Concerning our experience of God’s glory, Thomas Watson points out that there is possession (v22) as well as inspection, (v24).
‘In this verse we find a threefold union, one betwixt the Father and Christ, a second betwixt Christ and believers, a third betwixt believers themselves. First, thou in me: This is a glorious ineffable union, and is fundamental to the other two. The Father is not only in Christ, in respect of dear affections, as one dear friend is in another, who is as his own soul; nor only essentially, in respect of the identity and sameness of nature and attributes, in which respect Christ is the express image of his person, Heb 1:8. But he is in Christ also as Mediator, by communicating the fulness of the Godhead, which dwells in him as God-man, in a transcendent and singular manner, so as it never dwelt, nor call dwell in any other, Col 2:9. Secondly, I in them. There is the mystical union betwixt Christ and the saints. Thou and I are one essentially, they and I are one mystically: and thou and I are one by communication at the Godhead, and singular fulness of the Spirit to me as Mediator; and they and I are one, by my communication of the Spirit to them in measure. Thirdly, From hence results a third union betwixt believers themselves; that they may be made perfect in one; the same Spirit dwelling in them all, and equally uniting them all to me, as living members to their Head of influence, there must needs be a dear and intimate union betwixt themselves, as fellow-members of the same body. (Flavel, The Method of Grace)
‘The reason Jesus brings together in John 17 the glory of the Father and the Son and the unity of the disciples in the church is that the motive deriving from the former is the only effective way of securing the latter. Unless our entire motivation is set on fire by an overwhelming desire for the glory of God—all wills bowing in the same direction, all hearts burning with the same flame, all minds united by the same obedience—we shall never know the unity for which Jesus prays.’ (Eric Alexander, Tabletalk, Feb 2010)
17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they can see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 17:25 Righteous Father, even if the world does not know you, I know you, and these men know that you sent me. 17:26 I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them, and I may be in them.”
Jesus has prayed for his disciples has ascended a ladder which began on earth, but which eventually loses itself in heaven. He has prayed with respect to the present world: for their protection, consecration and unity. Now, his prayer achieves its crowning point with a request concerning world to come. ‘Can anything equal the ineffable tenderness of this final request?’ (Hendriksen) Someone has remarked that he would not wish for all the world that this verse had been left out of the Bible.
The one to whom this prayer is addressed: “Father”. As Manton remarks, the divine titles are usually suited to the matter in hand. God is Christ’s father by eternal generation. He came forth from the great heavenly Father, to do the Father’s will. But we are God’s too, by gracious adoption. He made us, and he gave us new life by the word of truth. We were born again from above, and from our heavenly Father we derive our spiritual life.
The manner in which the request is made: “I want…” – this expresses more than a mere wish; but rather an intention. How unselfish and God-glorifying is Jesus’ praying, when he can pray so forthrightly for his disciples, yet when praying for himself he says, Mk 14:36 “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Traill remarks, ‘Christians, behold the amazing difference betwixt Christ’s way of praying against his own hell (if I may so call it) and his praying for our heaven!’ We cannot follow this royal tone in prayer except in a very muted way; and yet we do well to approach God not only as suppliant sinners, but with the confidence of adopted children, and with the promises of God in our hand.
Traill: ‘This is a way manner of praying, that we never read the like of it used by any saint in the word. Some of them have been very familiar with God, and the Lord hath encouraged them much by his condescendence to them; yet nothing of this I will is to be heard or read of in their prayers. I will is too high for a supplicant at God’s footstool.’
Those for whom Christ prays: “Those you have given me” – Jesus makes frequent reference to his ‘given ones’, Jn 6:39 17:2,9,11. They have been entrusted to him from eternity, so that they might be the reward for his atoning sacrifice. He therefore asks that those who have been given to him might dwell for ever in his presence, and behold forever his divine glory.
The substance of the prayer: (a) to be with Christ, “…to be with me where I am.” This prayer underpins the promise already given in Jn 14:3. Here is a prayer that his mission may be brought to its completion. As Milne points out, ‘with me’ is the language of love. Those who are in love with each other long for and cherish each other’s presence. As Jesus takes his leave of his earthly companions, he gazes ahead to the time when he will be united with all who belong to him; to the time when he will embrace his bride in the glory to come. But notice from the present tense that Jesus considers himself ‘as good as’ in heaven already, so exalted has his prayer become.
Traill remarks that this text is illuminated by the gracious words of Jesus to the penitent criminal: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43).
(b) to see Christ’s glory, “To see my glory” – to see him as he really as, and as he has been since before the creation of the world. We shall not, however, merely look on as spectators. This ‘seeing’ of Christ’s glory involves both enjoyment of it, Ps 16:11, ‘You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand’; and sharing in it, 1 Jn 3:2, ‘We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ 1 Thess 4:17.
There is a very real experience of this at death. See Lk 23:43 Php 1:23. And yet this being with Christ, and this vision of his glory, is begun even now. The disciples had already seen his glory, Jn 1:14, and the Holy Spirit has continued to glorify him, Jn 16:14 “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” Ps 27:4, ‘One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple’; 2 Cor 3:18, ‘And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ ‘As they gaze upon him, they, like perfect prisms, refract the light which beams forth from his glorious countenance, and show its exquisite beauty of colour in lives wholly dedicated to him.’ (Hendriksen)
We, then, can experience something of this heavenly communion with our Saviour when our hearts are lifted high above the noise and worry of earthly things, and we ‘rise into such fellowship with God, that we may think, and speak, and act, as if we were already in possession of our eternal joy!’ (Spurgeon)
But this experience of the presence of Christ which will one day be perfect, is as yet imperfect. ‘Heaven consists in the perfect immediate presence of Christ. Perfect presence is, when all on both sides is present: all of Christ and all of the Christian. But now all of Christ is not with us, and all of us is not with him. On his part we have Christ’s Spirit, word, and grace. On our part there is present with him our hearts, and the workings of our faith and love and desire towards him. But this presence is imperfect, and mixed with much distance and absence.’ (Traill)
But beyond these partially veiled revelations lies a glorious seeing face to face, and with open eyes, and with an adoration undiminished by mortal weakness and sinfulness. ‘We have enough; yet not too much to long for more.’
‘There are three things to be considered concerning the glory of Christ, three degrees of its manifestation, the shadow, the perfect image, and the substance itself. Those under the law had only the shadow of it and of the things that belong to it…Under the Gospel we have the perfect image, which they had not…But the enjoyment of these things in their substance is reserved for heaven; we must be “where he is, that we may behold his glory.”‘ (John Owen)
The reason for this prayer: “Because you loved me before the creation of the world” – ‘This saying of Jesus is that which leads us farthest into the divine depths. It shows Christian speculation on what path it must seek the solution of the relations of the Trinity; love is the key of this mystery.’ (Godet) ‘Like a sublime musical composition which, after having stirred the innermost depths of the soul, finally comes to rest in an unforgettable climax, so the final request of this touchingly beautiful prayer of the great High-priest reaches its zenith of infinite tenderness in these words.’ (Hendriksen)
In conclusion, remember:-
Rom 8:34, who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Heb 7:25, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.