29. Jesus' Prayer for His Disciples (John 17:1-26)


Audio (38:44)
Ian McKillop, “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer,” Gethsemane series. Permission requested.
Ian McKillop, "Jesus' High Priestly Prayer," Gethsemane series. Permission requested.

Ever since the fifth century, Jesus' prayer in chapter 17 has been referred to as Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, praying for others as a mediator, in a priestly way (Hebrews 8:34; Hebrews 4:14-15; 7:25; 1 John 2:1).[698] Carson notes that "prayers of one sort or another were frequently associated with 'farewell discourses' in the ancient world, both in Jewish and Hellenistic literature"[699] such as Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 32-33.

Though we call it a prayer, it is obvious that the content of this prayer has the disciples who heard it in mind,[700] and so it is at the same time a petition, a proclamation, and a revelation.

The outline of the prayer is straightforward:

  1. Prayer for himself (17:1-5),
  2. Prayer for his disciples (17:6-19), and
  3. Prayer for future believers (17:20-26).

However, the prayer is not simple to analyze, since themes weave in and out, themes drawn from the entire Gospel that now find their fulfillment in Jesus' glorification that is imminent. Themes include: obedience, glorification of the Father, revelation of God, choosing the disciples out of the world, unity modeled on the Father and Son, and their final destiny in the presence of Father and Son.

Remarkably, the prayer not gloomy, but breathes a kind of "triumphant expectation" of what will occur when Jesus' mission is completed and his disciples begin their mission.

Glorify Your Son (17:1-2)

Jesus begins the prayer talking with the Father about his "glorification" -- crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. (For more on "glorify," see Appendix 6. "Glory" and "Glorify" in John's Gospel)

"1  After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time[701] has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.'" (17:1-2)

This High Priestly Prayer has glory woven throughout it (verses 1, 4, 5, 10, 22, and 24).

The reference to Jesus being given authority[702] over all people recalls the familiar Son of Man passage:

"And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him....[703]" (Daniel 7:14)

Jesus has spoken previously of his authority to grant eternal life:

"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.... For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." (5:21, 26-27)

Eternal Life -- to Know You (17:3)

Verse 3 is somewhat of a definition of eternal life.

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ[704], whom you have sent." (17:3)

We might think of eternal life as life with no end, but it's clear that just existence isn't the point. The "life" comes from a never-ending relationship with God and his Son -- "knowing" them. The prophets foresaw this:

"No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest." (Jeremiah 31:34)

"The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9; also Habakkuk 2:14)

Jesus and the prophets are not just saying that everyone will know about him, but that they will know him intimately. Paul is willing to count every other thing as dung, garbage, "that I may know him" (Philippians 3:10). If this personal relationship between God's people and him is our destiny, now is the time to explore and deepen this relationship.

Q1. (John 17:3) If the average person were to define the words "eternal life," what would they say? Does Jesus define eternal life in terms of duration of time? What is the key element of his definition? How are you doing at present in Jesus' definition of eternal life.
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1523-q1-knowing-god/

Completing the Father's Mission (17:4)

"I have brought you glory on earth by completing (teleioō[705]) the work you gave me to do." (17:4)

Jesus is now in the "home stretch." During the years of his earthly ministry, he has been doing the Father's work. Now it is coming to its culmination and completion with the cross and resurrection -- and the redemption the cross will bring. Completion of the Father's mission has been foremost on his mind -- to glorify the Father on earth by making sure that the Father's plan for salvation is accomplished, finished, completed.

"My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish (teleioō) his work." (4:34)

"The very work that the Father has given me to finish (teleioō)...." (5:36)

Finally, at the cross, Jesus' last words concern the completion of this mission:

"Jesus said, 'It is finished (teleō[706]).' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (19:30)

Q2. (John 17:4) What was the "work" the Father gave Jesus to do? How did it bring glory to the Father? What is the "work" the Father has given you to do? In what ways are you bringing glory to the Father in this?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1524-q2-completing-the-work/

Pre-existent Glory (17:4-5)

"4  I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (17:4-5)

We look at the cross and see anguish, pain, and Jesus being crushed under the weight of the sins of multiplied billions of men and women. But Jesus sees the cross as bringing glory to the Father on earth. It is the glory of the Son's obedience and the Father's divine love that brings redemption to humanity, but at a staggering cost.

 Now Jesus looks forward to glory in the Father's presence, the glory he left when he "emptied himself" and became a man (Philippians 2:7). What is this glory that preceded Jesus' earthly mission, that he alludes to again in verse 24? John's Gospel begins:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (1:1-3)

Paul speaks of this pre-existent glory in superlative terms -- glory that Jesus again receives when he leaves this earth to ascend to the Father.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
17  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." (Colossians 1:15-18)

The writer of Hebrews says,

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Hebrews 1:3)

Later, John the Apostle has a vision of Christ in heaven as a Lamb before the throne, receiving the praise due his name.

"... The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy....'

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:

     'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
     to receive power and wealth and wisdom
     and strength and honor and glory and praise!'

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

     'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
     be praise and honor and glory and power,
     for ever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:8-9a, 11-13)

On earth, people saw the carpenter-turned-preacher. They saw a man who walked the dusty roads of Palestine, speaking in its villages, healing its sick and casting out demons. They saw their leaders pour abuse on him, and finally have him executed in great shame and disgrace. But near the end of this prayer, Jesus asks the Father, that his disciples might glimpse him in his true glory:

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." (17:24)

Father, lift our eyes above this earth to see our Lord's present glory, "glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth" (1:14). I think of that Messianic Psalm that was put to music in Handel's Messiah:

"Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty -- he is the King of glory." (Psalm 24:7-10)

Q3. (John 17:4-5) What was Jesus' preexistent glory like? What was his glory like during his earthly ministry? How did his glory peek through? What is his glory like now in the presence of his Father? Why do you think Jesus wants his disciples to see him in this glory (verse 24)?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1525-q3-preexistent-glory/

I Have Revealed You to the Ones You Gave Me (17:6-8)

Jesus has prayed that he might glorify the Father by his own mission. Now he turns to the second part of this prayer and talks to his Father about his disciples.

"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word." (17:6)

Notice how Jesus speaks of his disciples: They were the Father's, given to Jesus out of the world. They weren't the fruit of Jesus' recruiting prowess, but the Father's chosen gifts to his Son.

"7  Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me." (17:7-8)

Prior to his redemptive work on the cross, Jesus labored to reveal the Father to his disciples in word and deed. Jesus accurately communicates the Father's message to them (12:49; 14:10; 15:15), and they receive it for what it is -- the Father's own words. They believe that the Father is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Father, that Jesus is The Word, the Logos (1:1-2).

Sometimes I wonder about the arrogance of us preachers who feel free to bring our own message and "slant" to our congregations. My brothers and sisters, our charge is not to bring our opinions, but to communicate Jesus' message with accuracy, just as Jesus spoke his Father's words with accuracy. We are not independent pundits, but on-message spokesman for the Messiah!

I Am Praying for Them (17:9-10)

Jesus prays for his disciples in a number of places in the Gospels: 14:16; 16:26-27; Luke 22:32; Hebrews 7:25; etc. "Pray" in verse 9 is erōtaō, "to ask," here, "to ask for something, ask, request."[707]

"9  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10  All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them." (17:9-10)

God loves the whole world (3:16). Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1:19; 4:42; 1 John 2:2). He came as a light to the world (3:19; 9:5; 12:46; 17:21), to give life to the world (6:33, 51), and to save the world (12:47). But here he prays for his tiny band, those whom the Father has given him, the first recruits in what will become a mighty army of the Redeemed.

Jesus is not selfish or possessive of those the Father has given him. Jesus realizes that he shares everything with the Father; they co-possess everything. And there is a sense in which we are co-heirs in this way, as well, as we are one with Christ and the Father.

"All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future -- all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." (1 Corinthians 3:21b-23)

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:17)

Q4. (John 17:6-10) In what sense do the Son and the Father "co-possess" everything? What does that say about their relationship with each other? In what sense do we "co-possess" everything with the Father and Son? How should that affect our values? The way we live?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1526-q4-co-possessing/

The Father Protects His Children Forever (17:11-15)

Jesus is leaving the dangerous world that has marked him as an enemy, but his disciples remain and need protection.

"11  I will remain[708] in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect (tēreō) them by the power of your name -- the name you gave me -- so that they may be one as we are one. 12  While I was with them, I protected (tēreō) them and kept them safe (phylassō) by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13  I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect (tēreō) them from the evil one." (17:11-15)

Three Greek words describe this keeping and protecting power of the Father.

1. "Protect" (NIV, NRSV) in verses 11 and 12, "keep" (ESV, KJV) is the verb tēreō, "guard, keep," here, "to cause a state, condition, or activity to continue, keep, hold, reserve, preserve someone or something," specifically,  "keep someone (unharmed) by or through something."[709] This is close in meaning to a second word used here: phylassō.

2. "Kept them safe" (NIV), "guarded" (NRSV, ESV), "kept" (KJV) is phylassō, "to carry out sentinel functions, watch, guard," here, "to protect by taking careful measures, guard, protect."[710] We see these two words used in New Testament passages which teach us about the Father's protection for his children, especially from Satan's attacks.

"... The One who was born of God keeps him safe (tēreō), and the evil one cannot harm him." (1 John 5:18)

"May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept (tēreō) blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

"To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept (tēreō) by Jesus Christ...." (Jude 1)

"... Who by God's power are being guarded (phroureō[711]) through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:5)

"To him who is able to keep (phylassō) you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy...." (Jude 24)

"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect (phylassō) you from the evil one." (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

3. Not "lost," the third word shows the result of God's guarding. The verb is apollymi, "to cause or experience destruction," here, "perish, be ruined, die," especially of eternal death.[712] We've seen this word twice before as part of powerful promises of salvation.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish (apollymi) but have eternal life." (3:16)

"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish (apollymi); no one can snatch them out of my hand." (10:28)

Everyone is on the road to hell, to "perishing" (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24). But those who put their faith in Jesus are saved from this destruction. For those who have heard about Jesus' salvation, hell is clearly their own fault.

"They perish (apollymi) because they refused to love the truth and so be saved."
(2 Thessalonians 2:10b)

The idea of hell is difficult for us. We don't like it. But it is clear in Scripture, and if we try to remove it from Christian doctrine or hush it up because it is unpopular, we aren't declaring the whole gospel of salvation.

John has some of the strongest promises of protection in the Bible -- but notice that the promises are made toward believers -- not to those who once believed but no longer do so -- but to those who continue to believe, those who abide (15:1-8). You'll find further discussion of the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints in 10:28 (Lesson 19) and 15:4-5 (Lesson 26).

None Was Lost Except Judas (17:12b)

Now let's go back to verse 12b, where Jesus qualifies his protection of those the Father gave him.

"None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled." (17:12b)

In John's Gospel, Jesus is very clear that he lost none that the Father gave him (6:49; 18:9). He provides complete protection. Absolutely no one can snatch one of his sheep (10:28-29). So it is important for John to explain that Judas is the exception.

Judas betrayal had been prophesied long before (13:18). John makes it clear that Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray him (6:64, 70-71; 13:11). It's not entirely clear that Judas was ever a true believer, even though Jesus chose him to be an apostle. In John's Gospel we see a differentiation between disciples who believe primarily because of the miracles, but don't go further (2:23-25; 6:26; 12:42), disciples who leave because they are offended by Jesus' teaching (6:60-62, 66), and those who follow Jesus out of a deeper trust, in spite of persecution (6:68-69; 8:30-31). Perhaps Judas was a disciple who possessed an initial belief, but, like many, didn't go deeper (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). For more on Judas' betrayal, see 13:18-30 (Lesson 23) and 18:2-5 (Lesson 30).

In the World but Not of the World (17:13-16)

In our passage we see a clear distinction between "in the world" and "of the world."

"13  I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." (17:13-16)

The "world" (kosmos) here refers to "the system of human existence in its many aspects" that is hostile to God -- lost in sin, wholly at odds with anything divine, ruined and depraved.[713] In his First Epistle, John defines what he means by "the world":

"For everything in the world -- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -- comes not from the Father but from the world."
(1 John 2:16)

Various prepositions in our passage serve to define a person's relationship to the world.

  • "In the world" (17:13)[714] -- physically located in the world and surrounded by its people.
  • "Of the world" (17:14)[715] -- belonging to, arising from, originating from the world (8:23; 5:19).
  • "Out of the world" (17:5)[716] -- removing disciples from being physically located in the sphere of the world.

Though we disciples are in the world, surrounded by an environment that is often hostile to Jesus and his disciples, we aren't part of the world system. In reality, we are no longer citizens of the world, but citizens of Jesus' Kingdom. We are resident aliens. As a 1950s gospel song puts it:

"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through...."[717]

We are in the world -- Jesus wants us here to represent him and his Kingdom -- but we are not to adopt its value system and lifestyle. Paul writes,

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)

The Holy Spirit allows us to continue here without caving into the pressure to conform.

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

Q5. (John 17:15-16) Is God's desire to immediately extract us from the earth, or to leave us here? How is it possible to be "in" the world, but not "of" it, or contaminated by it? How do we achieve this?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1527-q5-not-of-the-world/

Sanctify Them by the Truth (17:17-19)

"17  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." (17:17-19)

"To sanctify" is an Old Testament concept from the Hebrew verb qādash, "be hallowed, holy, sanctified." The root idea seems to be "set apart, separated" from a common use to a sacred use, to become the exclusive property of the King, the Holy God.[718]

How are people sanctified or made holy? Several times in the New Testament we see the power of God's Word to cleanse and empower Christ's disciples:

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (8:31-32)

 "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you." (15:3)

"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word...." (Ephesians 5:25b-26)

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth...." (1 Peter 1:22)

Jesus, the Word, the Logos, the Message of God has come and Jesus' disciples have received him and his message as from God. This in itself has set them apart from the world, sanctified, set apart, with the mission of taking Jesus' message to the world. In the same way Jesus is set apart to complete his own mission, to redeem mankind for God.

When we read the Word, our thoughts begin to conform to God's thoughts. This Word is one of the most important means of changing our minds and hearts, of sanctifying us -- both making us like Jesus, and helping us adopt his mission to the world.

That All of Them May Be One (17:20-23)

Now Jesus' prayer focus shifts from his disciples, to those whom his disciples will bring to faith in him.

"20  My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23  I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (17:20-23)

Jesus' burden is the perfect unity of his people. "Brought to complete unity" (NIV), "become completely/perfectly one" (NRSV, ESV), "be made perfect in one" (KJV), is literally, "become perfected into one." Jesus prays that the unity will be perfected.[719]

God knows that we see a lot of imperfect unity. Often various Christian denominations feel superior to others. There is misunderstanding and resentment and pride and hurt. Within a city, smaller congregations sometimes act as if they're in competition with the larger churches. Within congregations there are sometimes factions, resentments that can have gone unresolved and unforgiven for decades. Oneness. Unity. That is what Jesus prays for.

I don't think that Jesus' burden is organizational unity -- one single large denomination of Christian churches. But love between the churches and groups that exist. Love that covers a multitude of sins. Love that bridges divisions. Love that overlooks differences due to centuries-old traditions. Love that unites in Christ.

Jesus gives his relationship with the Father as our example of unity.

"... That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (17:21)

As we are "in" the Father and Son, we will naturally be unified with brothers and sisters who also love the Father and Son.

Twice in this passage Jesus ties Christian unity with evangelism:

"...so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (17:21b)

"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (17:23)

This is similar to what Jesus said earlier:

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (13:35)

Unity, of course, is dependent upon mutual love for each other. And that love more than anything is to be the mark of Jesus' disciples.

Verse 22 talks about Christ's glory upon his disciples:

"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one." (17:22)

In what sense did Jesus give his disciples his glory? This is difficult. Morris sees this  as teaching them "to follow the path of lowly service, culminating in the cross."[720] Certainly Jesus taught them to walk sensitive to the Father's voice, obeying the Father in everything, and so completing his work. Carson sees this transmission of glory in the sense of Jesus completing his task of revealing the Father to them.[721] The source of Jesus' glory is knowing and fellowship with the Father. He has shared that with his disciples to the extent that he can say, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father." The glory of the knowledge of God will be complete when we are in his presence face-to-face.

Q6. (John 17:11b, 20-21) Why is unity between Christians so important? What is the model Jesus gives of this unity in verse 21a? What effect does true Christian unity have on our witness to the world?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1528-q6-unity/

May They See the Glory You Have Given Me (17:24)

Now Jesus comes around again to the recurring theme of glory.

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation[722] of the world." (17:24)

Jesus mentioned this at the beginning of this prayer in verse 5 above, where we discussed Jesus' pre-existent glory.

"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (17:5)

How much Jesus must have missed the glory of his former fellowship with the Father! Yes, being able to talk on the telephone and Skype are good when you're separated from loved ones geographically, but there's something special about being in the same room and sharing your thoughts in person.

It's very difficult for us to understand what it cost Jesus to leave heaven and enter our fallen world.

"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:6-7)

Missionaries often experience severe "culture shock" when they leave their own culture to live in another land. To what do we compare the glorious Son, waited on hand and foot by angels, leaving the Father's presence to enter our world filled with struggle and sorrow, hate and pain? Love sent him. But now, longing for the Father is calling him home. He can hardly wait!

That Your Love and I May Be in Them (17:25-26)

Now Jesus concludes his prayer.

"25  Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (17:25-26)

In verse 11 he calls on his "holy Father," emphasizing the Father's holiness. Here, he calls on his "righteous Father," the one whose very character is the standard of righteousness. He is the righteous and holy Father whom the world does not know. The world has created their own gods or version of God, but they don't know the "true God" (verse 3) nor the Christ whom he has sent.

But his disciples now know the Father, because Jesus, the Word, the Logos, the very expression of God has made him known to them. And Jesus will continue this mission of revelation.

Making the Father known through Jesus his Son, that is our mission too. Why? So that those who don't know the Father can experience this love that sent Jesus to earth and back -- love that is the central reality of the Kingdom of God, the mark of Jesus' disciples, and the essential element of the unity we have with other believers.

Lessons for Disciples

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

Jesus' prayer has much to teach us disciples:

  1. The essence of eternal life is not in its duration, but in its "life" -- knowing the Father and the Son (17:3).
  2. We need to understand Jesus, not just as the earthly Man, but the glorified Son of God in the presence of the Father in heaven. Only then will we grasp his true nature (17:4-5).
  3. Just as the Son and the Father "co-possess" all things, so we "co-possess" all things with them (17:6-10).
  4. God's desire is not to extract us from earth, but to leave us here -- protected by the power of Jesus' name -- so that we might carry out his work here, but remain uncontaminated by the world's value system and lifestyle (17:15-16).
  5. We are set apart and cleansed by exposure to and obedience to Jesus' words and truth (17:17).
  6. Jesus' desire is unity between all who believe in him -- a unity patterned after the unity between the Father and Son. This unity serves as a proof to the world of Jesus' divinity (17:11b, 20-21).
  7. Jesus desires us to see him in the glory the Father has given him from before time (17:24).

Prayer

Father, sometimes we feel so earth-bound, so worldly! I pray that you would cut the fetters that bind us to the world system that is at enmity with you. Help us to long for the glory of your presence. Give us more longing to be with you than to live a long life here. Transform our minds and value systems. But while we're here, I pray that you help us to share your love and glory with others, and especially that we may be at one with our brothers and sisters! In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3, NIV)

"I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:4-5, NIV)

"Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name -- the name you gave me -- so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:11b, NIV)

"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." (John 17:15-16, NIV)

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17, NIV)

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21, NIV)

"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:22-23, NIV)

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." (John 17:24, NIV)

End Notes

[698] Brown (John 2:747) cites a reference in Cyril of Alexandria (Commentary on John 9.8), and later by Lutheran theologian David Chytraus (1531-1600).

[699] Carson, John, pp. 550-551.

[700] We see this in Jesus' prayer at Lazarus' tomb also: "... I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me" (11:42).

[701] "Time" (NIV), "hour" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is hōra, "a point of time as an occasion for an event, time" (BDAG 1103, 3). Except for 7:6, 8, John seems to use hōra instead of kairos to refer to the time of his crucifixion.

[702] "Authority" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "power" (KJV) is exousia, here, "the right to control or command, authority, absolute power, warrant" (BDAG 353, 3).

[703] The Greek words in John differ from those in the Septuagint translation of Daniel 7:14, however. John has to grant "authority" (exousia), instead of "dominion" (archē). John has sarx, "all people/flesh" vs. laos.

[704] The title "Jesus Christ" appears only twice in John, here and "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (1:17).

[705] "Completing" (NIV), "finishing/finished" (NRSV, KJV), "having accomplished" (ESV) is teleioō, "to complete an activity, complete, bring to an end, finish, accomplish" (BDAG 996, 1). Robertson calls it an "old verb from teleios (perfect)" (Word Studies).

[706] Teleō, "to complete an activity or process, bring to an end, finish, complete something" (BDAG 997, 1). Delling says, "The verbs teleō and teleioō coincide in the NT especially in the sense 'to carry through, to complete.' Whereas that is the chief meaning of teleō, the thought of totality is stronger in the case of teleioō. The findings suggest for teleō the meanings of telos, 'goal, issue, end,' and for teleioō those of teleios, 'whole, complete, perfect'" (Gerhard Delling, telos, ktl., TDNT 8:84).

[707] Erōtaō, BDAG 395, 2. It is used in common speech, but also in prayer at in verse 20, as well as 16:26; Luke 3:48; 1 John 5:16.

[708] "Remain" (NIV) is not in the Greek text of verse 11. A more literal translation would be, "I am no longer in the world" (ESV).

[709] Tēreō, BDAG 1002, 2b.

[710] Phylassō, BDAG 1068, 2b.

[711] Phroureō, "to provide security, guard, protect, keep" (BDAG 1067, 3).

[712] Apollymi, BDAG 116, 1bα.

[713] Kosmos, BDAG 562, 7b.

[714] The preposition is en, "marker of a position defined as being in a location, "in, among" (BDAG 326, 1a).

[715] The preposition is ek, here marker denoting origin, cause, motive, reason, "from, of" (BDAG 296, 3b).

[716] The same preposition ek is used, but with the verb airō, "take." It is clear the preposition is used as marker denoting separation, "from, out of, away from" (BDAG 295, 1a).

[717] "This World Is Not My Home," words and music by Albert E. Brumley, © 1952, Acclaim Music.

[718] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (eds.), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907) Qādash, p. 872. "Sanctify" is hagiazō, "consecrate, sanctify" by contact with what is holy. To include a person in the inner circle of what is holy, in both cultic and moral associations of the word, "consecrate, dedicate, sanctify." BDAG 10, 2.

[719] The verb is the perfect passive participle of teleioō, "to overcome or supplant an imperfect state of things by one that is free from objection, bring to an end, bring to its goal/accomplishment," here, "make perfect" (BDAG 996, 2cα). The noun is the number "one," heis, that is used several times in this passage.

[720] Morris, John, pp. 734-735.

[721] Carson, John, p. 568-569.

[722] "Creation" (NIV), "foundation" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is katabolē, "the act of laying something down, with implication of providing a base for something, foundation" (BDAG 515, 1). We see this phrase "from the foundation of the world" a number of times in the New Testament indicating that God has long had a loving relationship with Jesus, and planned, through him, to save the world through his death on the cross: Matthew 13:35; 25:34; Luke 11:50; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8.


Copyright © 1985-2017, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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