Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we continue our study as we move along to part sixteen of this series and discuss John Chapter Seventeen!
We now move to Chapter seventeen and will start in verse one of course, and in this chapter we see what’s called the “High Priestly Prayer.” This section was referred to as the High Priestly Prayer by 16th Century Lutheran Scholar David Chytraeus (Ki-Tray -Us) and he called it that because in this prayer, Jesus exercises His high priestly office in taking on the sins of the people and offering up the sins. He shifts from being the leader of the Apostles to the High Priest role talked about in Hebrews. Unlike other high priests (Jewish priests) Jesus did not first have to offer up a sacrifice for His own sins because He was sinless. He didn’t offer up an animal as sacrifice either; rather, He was both the Priest AND the sacrifice, in offering Himself up as the atonement for sin. All the other priests are really just a shadow or preview of Him. Jesus could also relate to the other priests as He bore a human body. The whole idea of a priest was that they can relate to man because they were man and Jesus was wholly man and wholly God. However, as the Son of God, His prayer was perfect and heard in the throne room of grace because of His perfect righteousness.
If the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, then imagine what the prayer of a perfectly righteous God/Man can do?
For study purposes, this prayer can be divided into three sections:
Prayer for Self and Father – (17:1-5)
In this way, Jesus prays for Himself and all of mankind in the first few verses.
This prayer is one of supplication (asking)
Prayer for Apostles – (17:6-19)
Prayer for future believers – (17:20-26)
John 17:1: "After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you."
Having finished teaching the Apostles and giving them comfort, the Lord ends their time in the Upper Room and the Passover meal with a prayer, as was custom. We start our meals with a prayer, the Passover meal ends with one. We note that Jesus has told them the time of His departure was near, and He repeats this as He opens His prayer. He says “the hour.” The Hour is not just the time for His death but also for all the things He has come to do to be fulfilled (in His death, Resurrection, and Ascension). He asks God to glorify the Son so the Son can do the same for the Father. Jesus will be glorified at this time because it is the hour of His death but especially because it is the hour of His resurrection. That's how He will be glorified. In John 20:31, His resurrection will confirm all of His teaching as true. In Colossians 1:16, Paul says the resurrection confirms Jesus’ position over all men and all angels. that’s how the resurrection glorifies Jesus. It also glorifies the father because it demonstrates the power of the Father (Romans 1:4). In Romans 3, Resurrection reveals the righteousness of God. Look how perfect God’s ways are, that He devised this plan. In Romans 5 Paul says the resurrection also reveals the mercy and love of the Father. So Jesus asks God to go ahead with His plan because this will bring glory to both the Father and the Son.
John 17:2-3: "For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth."
So, He is saying this moment of glory is not a self serving action of God. What will take place will be done to serve mankind. It’s not just about the Father and the Son being glorified, as a result of the death and resurrection forgiveness will be available and along with that forgiveness will come the righteousness that produces eternal life for human beings. That serves US too! So Jesus received the authority of power to offer this through His death and resurrection, and He received the authority to do it from the Father. He now asks the Father to complete the plan for the goodness of man. Jesus also summarizes the idea of eternal life as not only human life without end, but a new kind of life experience. An experience where a person will have an ongoing knowledge or intimacy with the true God and His true Son. The way we often see eternal life is like “the best golf course in heaven” or with your favorite knitting club. We see it as the best of humanly earth frozen in time for eternity. But Jesus says that is not what it is, it is the ongoing relationship with God without any barriers. Here we have barriers (the barrier is sinfulness), in Heaven the sinful body is removed, we are glorified to have a relationship with God with no boundaries, we get to know Him in depth, the way He knows us.
John 17:4-5: "I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began."
Jesus once again repeats His request and this time He makes a specific reference to His divine nature. He specifies that His glory was hooked to His divine nature, before He took on human flesh. His glory will be seen without the barrier and limiting handicap of human nature. In other words, “People have seen Me in this human body, limited. Now I ask You that they be able to see Me without the limitations of this human body.” His resurrected and glorified self before ascension to Heaven. So that is the first section, the next section is Jesus’ prayer for the Apostles.
His prayer for the Apostles is in two sections, the first part is how He feels about them, the next part is what He wants FOR them.
John 17:6-10: "I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me. “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. "
Jesus kind of reviews what He knows to be true concerning His Apostles. They were chosen by the Father (they could have refused His choice of them like Judas did, but they did not); They were given the words of the Father through Christ; They have received and believed the Father’s words concerning Jesus; AND in doing so, they have glorified and honored Jesus in themselves through their faith. We honor Christ through our faith. So because of this Jesus prays and asks for specific things for them. He doesn’t ask for these things for the worlds, but because the Apostles believe in Him and have His word, He asks for THEM. This prayer and request is born from Jesus’ deep love for His Apostles. SO, in the beginning He says His Disciples are special and He wants certain things for them.
John 17:11: "Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are."
As in other places, Jesus summarizes in this verse what He desires for His Apostles and then He explains it in the following verses. Jesus is leaving them to return to the Father so He asks the Father to protect them. But not protect them in case someone hurts them or that they are not sick or that they don’t have any problems; He says “I want you to protect them BY THE WORD.” So when He uses the term “name” the term name comes from a word that means authority. So gods authority and character are synonymous with His word and these ideas are all rolled into a single word, the word “name”. So in other words, “name” and “word” are interchangeable; refers to God’s Authority. So how does this protection work? Well, through the knowing and understanding and keeping of God’s word is the basis of unity between the Father and the Son. Jesus prays that the Apostles will be kept from spiritual harm and enjoy the same unity that He does with the Father as they know and understand the Word. If they continue in the Word, they will enjoy the same relation He enjoys with God. We see here how important the work of the Holy Spirit will be to them. He is the key here.
John 17:12: "During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold."
So while Jesus was physically present, He spoke and taught them the Word and the only one lost was the one that the scripture said would be lost. Its not as if the Word didn’t work; that's the point He’s making. It’s not that God forced Judas out, its that God knew in advance how Judas would react and wrote about it long before as a means of confirming the scripture’s divine authorship.
John 17:13-16: "Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do."
Whatever interactions concerning their salvation and their safety that the Father and Son may have had, to which the Apostles could not know, this information now will be made public through the Apostles. Such as how God would save mankind through His Son. No one had known the Plan, so now the Apostles will teach that plan publicly. Jesus bears witness before the Father in Heaven that these men are Believers; are NOT of the World; they are worthy of His protection and love; and that they share in His rejection from an unbelieving world. Its almost as if He is giving them a letter of recommendation. He doesn’t ask that they go with Him now in some kind of glorious resurrection and ascension in a few days, He says they must stay in the world to do a great work. So, He asks for their protection against the wicked ways of the Devil who will certainly try to destroy the church. Someone has to stay behind to do the work.
John 17:17-19: "Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth."
To sanctify means to set apart for God’s exclusive use. Thus, the priests in the old testament were sanctified or set apart for exclusive service to God. In verse 17, Jesus summarizes a request He has made and explained before. He asks the Father to set apart the Apostles for the exclusive ministry that they are to undertake. He asks that this setting apart be done through the truth, which is God’s word. He’s always talking about the Holy Spirit here and what the He will do when He comes. He has explained all of HOW this will be accomplished earlier in His promises of the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is a very long and meaty prayer so it can get overwhelming, but its important to remember who He is talking about, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying the same word that sent and empowered Him will empower the Apostles through the work of the Holy Spirit. Now we go on to the prayer for future disciples (us).
John 17:20-21: "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me."
He prays that creation and growth of the church will provide an ongoing witness to an unbelieving world. He doesn’t mention it, but the opposite is certainly true. Going away from the word leads us away from God and each other and makes us ineffective in reaching lost souls.
John 17:22-23: "I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me."
What “glory” did the Father give to the Son? It can’t be divine glory because the Son is already God and He can’t be added to in any way. So the glory is the divine presence in a human body and a divine mission for His body. He gives the Son the opportunity to manifest divinity to human beings. In John 1:14, John says “and we beheld His glory!” in referring to Jesus’ bodily presence. So Jesus shared His presence and bodily form; in order to become one with His Apostles, He became one of them while maintaining His divine nature. That’s the glory Jesus is talking about here. Through their witness of all of this and His miracles, the Apostles will be able to share Jesus’ glory and God’s divine love.
John 17:24-26: " Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
He builds on the idea that disciples share the experience of Him by asking the Father to bring all believers to Heaven so that they can experience FIRST HAND the divine presence of Jesus Christ. So, now we know Him through the writings of the Apostles BUT then we are going to know Him from personal experience. He’s talking about the future and the us and He is praying that we have the same experience with Him in Heaven as the Apostles had in the three years with Him. He finishes up His prayer with the promise that they will not be able to behold in His glory soon BUT through faith He will be with them to love and comfort them and not only them but everyone else who believes. The Holy Spirit comes to us too, just as to the Apostles.
Jesus prays that:
God’s plan be fulfilled in Him
God will protect the Apostles’ faith
God will exalt His church