David Guzik's Commentary on the Bible
John 17 - JESUS’ GREAT PRAYER
A. Jesus prays concerning Himself.
1. (John 17:1 a) Introduction.
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said:
a. The Bible is filled with great prayers. We are impressed with Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 8), Abraham’s prayer (Genesis 18), and Moses’ prayer (Exodus 32), but this prayer is by far the greatest recorded in the Bible.
b. “There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than this prayer offered up by the Son of God himself.” (Melancthon)
c. A person’s innermost being is revealed by genuine prayer; this is an unique opportunity to see the nature and heart of Jesus. In this prayer, Jesus will touch on many of themes developed in this gospel: glory, glorify, sent, believe, world, love.
d. Jesus lifted up His eyes when He prayed. This is a posture that we don’t usually associate with deep prayer. We tend to bow our head and close our eyes. This shows us that we should never confuse the non-essential customs of prayer with the essential aspects of prayer.
2. (John 17:1 b) Jesus asks to be glorified.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,”
a. Father, the hour has come: Before, His hour of glorification (beginning with His death) had not yet come (John 2:4; Joh_7:8; Joh_7:30; Joh_8:20). Now, the hour has come.
b. Glorify Your Son: Jesus prays first for Himself, but His petition is anything but selfish. His concern for Himself is actually a concern for the glory of the Father.
i. “It will bring no glory to the Father is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is not acceptable, or if the Son is not restored to his rightful place in the presence of the Father’s unshielded glory. That would mean the divine mission had failed, the purposes of grace forever defeated.” (Carson)
c. The hour has come . . . Glorify Your Son: It is the cross (see John 12:27-33; Joh_13:30-33; Joh_21:18-19) that will glorify the Son. The cross is utter humiliation to the world, but an instrument of glorification in God’s eyes.
i. Are we willing to embrace the glory of God, even if the world sees it as humiliation?
d. That Your Son also may glorify You: How does the cross glorify the Father? “The Son glorified the Father by revealing in the act the sovereignty of God over evil, the compassion of God for men, and the finality of redemption for believers.” (Tenney)
3. (John 17:2-3) Jesus speaks of the source and nature of eternal life.
“As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
a. You have given Him authority over all flesh: Jesus claims awesome authority, “authority to determine the ultimate destiny of men.” (Takser)
b. That He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him: Jesus Himself is the great and exclusive channel of eternal life.
c. And this is eternal life, that they may know You: Eternal life is found in an experiential knowledge (ginosko) of God, and revealed in Jesus Christ.
i. Life is active involvement in an environment; death is the absence of that active involvement. Eternal life means that we are alive and active to God’s environment. If our lives are not dominated by God and the spiritual environment, we have the same life as animals, and are dead to God and His environment.
4. (John 17:4-5) The request is again stated, full of faith: Glorify Me.
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
a. I have finished the work: Jesus, with divine confidence and assurance, sees the work on the cross as already finished.
i. Even so, God sees the work of transformation and perfection as already completed in us, before the fact.
b. The glory which I had with You before the world was: This prayer could not come from Jesus if He were not Yahweh Himself, equal with the Father. In Isaiah 42:8; Isa_48:11, Yahweh proclaims that He shares His glory with no one. If the Father and Son share their glory, they must both be Yahweh.
B. Jesus prays concerning the disciples.
1. (John 17:6-8) Jesus speaks of His mission among the disciples and their reception of it.
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”
a. Having taught and encouraged the disciples as much as He could on the eve of their despair, Jesus now does the great thing: He commits them to the Father in prayer.
b. I have manifested Your name to the men: Jesus did not simply teach about the name (character) of God, He manifested (displayed) that character.
i. “God is love” or “God is holy” must be lived as well as believed. Jesus did both for His disciples, and led them into both believing and living what was right before God.
c. They have kept Your word: When we think of all the failures and disappointments from the disciples, this is a kind assessment of Jesus. He generously judges His disciples.
d. They have known surely that I came forth from You: They may not understand everything, but they believe in the Divine origin of Jesus and His teaching.
2. (John 17:9-10) Jesus directs His prayer.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”
a. When Jesus says I do not pray for the world it is not out of unconcern for the world’s plight. It was because of a focus on His own disciples. “He was praying for the instrument He was creating, through which He would reach the world.” (Morgan)
b. All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine: Anyone can say to God the Father all mine are Yours but only Jesus could say and Yours are Mine.
c. I am glorified in them: No one should be glorified in the believer other than Jesus. Leaders have a tendency to glorify themselves in their followers, but it should only be Jesus.
3. (John 17:11-12) Jesus’ first request for the disciples: Father, keep them.
“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
a. Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me: The basis of Jesus’ request is rooted in the name (character) of God. God is glorified by completion of His work in us.
i. Our continuing on in Jesus is not left to our own efforts alone. The world, the flesh, and the devil are so mighty, so pervasive, and so seductive, we could never keep ourselves in our own efforts. If we stay with Jesus, it is because Jesus has prayed for us “Father, keep them.”
b. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name: Jesus kept the apostolic band together and safe during His earthly ministry. He prays that this “keeping” would continue.
c. None of them is lost except the son of perdition: There was one exception to Jesus’ work in keeping the disciples, Judas. This is because in fulfillment of the Scriptures, Judas was the son of perdition, the one destined to evil and destruction.
i. Tenney on the son of destruction: “the phrase denotes an abandoned character, one utterly lost and given over to evil.”
4. (John 17:13-16) Jesus elaborates on the first request: keep them in My joy and away from the evil one.
“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
a. That they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves: God’s purpose is to multiply joy in our lives, not to subtract it. The world, the flesh, and the devil would tell us something different, but God wants joy fulfilled in our lives.
i. The joy of Jesus is always just a faint flicker in the worldly believer; real joy comes from abiding in Him.
b. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world: This prayer of Jesus cautions us against seeking refuge in Christian isolation; in modern day monasteries. Our goal is to be in the world, but not of it, or of the evil one; even as a ship is to be in the ocean, but not allowing the ocean to be in the ship.
c. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world: Would we have said this about the disciples? Jesus is showing us that we don’t have to be perfect to be unworldly.
5. (John 17:17-19) Jesus’ second request for the disciples: sanctify them.
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
a. Sanctify them by Your truth: Sanctify means to be set apart for God’s special pleasure and use. It implies holiness, being set apart from the corruption of the world and for God’s use.
i. Jesus didn’t just leave the disciples to sanctify themselves. He prayed for their sanctification. This process, as the keeping process, is not left to us alone; it is a work of God in us and through us.
b. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth: The dynamic behind sanctification is truth. The word of God read, heard, understood and applied.
c. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world: The thought of service is sandwiched by sanctification. We are set apart for service, not for mutual admiration.
C. Jesus prays concerning all believers.
1. (John 17:20) Jesus broadens the scope of His prayer.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;”
a. I do not pray for these alone: Jesus prayed for His eleven disciples, but He also had the heart and the vision to pray beyond them. He prayed for those who would come to faith by the testimony of these disciples. He prayed for us.
b. Those who will believe in Me through their word: This shows that Jesus expects that the disciples’ eminent failure would only be temporary. Others would hear from them, and come to belief in Jesus through the testimony of the disciples.
i. Jesus went to the cross knowing His work would not be for nothing; He wasn’t “hoping” on the disciples.
2. (John 17:21) Jesus prays for a oneness among all believers, even as among the original disciples.
“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
a. That they all may be one: Jesus envisions that great multitude before the throne of God, of every race, tongue, class and social strata; and prays that they may overcome their different backgrounds and understand their unity.
b. That they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You: Jesus did not pray for uniformity, or institutional unity among believers, but a personal dynamic of unity, bringing together the Church’s rich diversity.
i. Uniformity seeks to unite wheat and tares; it can’t be done. Unity of institutions does not insure unity of the Spirit.
c. We must believe that this prayer was answered, and that they church is one. Our failure is in failing to recognize and walk in that divine fact.
d. That the world may believe: The stakes of the unity Jesus prayed for are high. The spiritual unity of Christians is linked to the way the church represents Jesus to the world.
e. That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You: The foundation of our unity is the same as the foundation of unity between the Father and the Son: equality of person. We are all on the same ground at the cross.
3. (John 17:22) Jesus prays that the church would be marked by glory.
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:”
a. The glory which You gave Me I have given them: There should be a shared glory among believers, the glory of the present Christ. A focus on Jesus in our presence will promote unity.
b. If we have the glory that the Father gave the Son, remember that it was a glory that often appeared humble, weak and suffering, and was ultimately displayed in sacrifice.
4. (John 17:23-24) Jesus prays for a unity founded in love.
“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
a. I in them, and You in Me: There is a unity of compromise, or of fear or coercion. Jesus wanted a unity of love, and common identity in Jesus.
b. I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am: Jesus asks for the consummation of the unity - a promise of togetherness with Him that we can be sure of.
c. Jesus’ strong desire and prayer for His followers was that they be kept, sanctified, and unified. Do we share the same desires? Or are our desires taken more from this world than from Jesus’ heart?
6. (John 17:25-26) The triumphant conclusion to Jesus’ prayer.
“O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
a. I have known You: As He is about to approach the cross, Jesus is full of faith and triumph. The battle is still ahead, but He goes forth as a conqueror.
i. Though the whole world said that He was wrong, He knew that He was right. Jesus’ mind is not clouded by confusion or fear.
b. That the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them: The prayer concludes with the great secret of Christian living - Jesus and His love indwelling the believer.
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