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Bible Commentaries
John 17

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The closing prayer of Jesus [“ precatio summi saccrdotis ,” Chytraeus ]. John 17:1-5 , with reference to Himself ; John 17:6-19 , for His disciples ; John 17:20-26 , for all who should afterwards believe on Him .

Verse 1

John 17:1 . Ταῦτα ἐλάλησεν … καὶ ἐπῆρε . The connection of ἐλάλησεν with ἐπῆρε by καί shows that the prayer followed immediately upon the discourse, and was, therefore, uttered in the hearing of the disciples. ἐπῆρε … οὐρανόν , so 1 Chronicles 21:16 . ἧρα τ . ὀφθ ., Psalms 121:1 ; Psalms 123:1 . From οὐρανόν it cannot be argued that they were in the open air. “Für das Auge des Geistes is der freie Himmel überall.” Lücke. “The eye of one who prays is on all occasions raised toward heaven.” Meyer. Πάτερ , ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα , “Father,” the simplest and most intimate form of address, cf. John 11:41 , John 12:27 . “The hour is come,” i.e. , the hour appointed for the glorification of the Son; cf. John 2:4 ; John 12:23 . That this hour is meant is shown by the petition which follows: δόξασόν σου τὸν υἱόν , “glorify Thy Son”. σου , in position of emphasis. This glorification embraced His death, resurrection, and session at God’s right hand, as accredited Mediator, cf. John 7:39 , John 12:16 ; John 12:23 . But this glorification itself had an object, ἵνα ὁ υἱὸς δοξάσῃ σε , “that the Son may glorify Thee”. The Father is glorified by being known in His love and holiness.

Verse 2

John 17:2 . This is the object of Christ’s manifestation and reign. This glorification of the Son, which is now imminent, is in accordance with the purpose of the Father in giving the Son power over men: καθὼς ἔδωκας αὐτῷ ἐξουσίαν … αἰώνιον . Only by His being glorified could the Son give this eternal life, and so fulfil the commission with which He was entrusted ἐξουσίαν ἔδωκας is explained in John 12:27 and the verses preceding: Matthew 11:27 ; Hebrews 1:2 . πάσης σαρκὸς represents כָּל־בָשָׂר , Genesis 6:12 , Isaiah 40:6 , etc., and denotes the human race as possessed of a frail, terrestrial existence, lacking ζωὴν αἰώνιον . ἵνα πᾶν ὃ δέδωκας αὐτῷ , the neuter, as in John 6:39 , resolved into the individuals in αὐτοῖς ; and on the nominative absolute, see Buttmann’s N.T. Gram. , 379; and Kypke in loc .

Verse 3

John 17:3 . αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα … On ἵνα in this construction, see Burton, 213, and cf. John 15:8 ; ὅτι in John 3:19 is not quite equivalent. In Isaiah 37:20 God is designated ὁ Θεὸς μόνος , and in Exodus 34:6 ἀληθινός ; cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 . He is the only true God in contrast to many that are “called gods,” 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 . But cf. especially 1 John 5:20 . It was by making known to them this God, and thus glorifying the Father, that Christ “gave men eternal life”. The life He gave consisted in and was maintained by this knowledge. But to the knowledge of the Father, the knowledge of “Him whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ,” was necessary, John 1:18 , John 14:6 . As in John 1:17 , so here, Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν is the double name which became common in Apostolic times, and not (as Meyer and others) “an appellative predicate,” “Jesus as the Messiah”. Whether Jesus’ naming of Himself as a third person can be accounted for by the solemnity of the occasion (“der feierliche Gebetstyl,” Lücke), or is to be ascribed to John, is much debated. Westcott seems justified in saying that “the use of the name ‘Jesus Christ’ by the Lord Himself at this time is in the highest degree unlikely.… It is no derogation from the truthfulness of the record that St. John has thus given parenthetically, and in conventional language (so to speak), the substance of what the Lord said at greater length.”

Verse 4

John 17:4 . ἐγώ σε … ποιήσω . This is a fresh ground for the petition of John 17:1 renewed in John 17:5 : “glorify Thou me”. The ground is “I have glorified Thee on the earth; having finished perfectly accomplished, cf. τετέλεσται of the cross] the work which Thou gavest me to do”. But it is not the idea of reward that is prominent here, although that idea is found in Philippians 2:6-11 ; Hebrews 2:9-11 ; Hebrews 5:4-10 ; the immediate thought here is of the necessary progress which the hour demanded. There remained no longer any reason for His continuance on earth. He did not desire, and did not need, any prolongation of life below. Beyschlag’s objection ( N.T. Theol. , i. 254) is therefore baseless, as also is Grotius’ “ostendit, non iniquum se petere”.

Verse 5

John 17:5 . καὶ νῦν δόξασον … σοί . The precise character of the glorification He looks for is here presented. It is παρὰ σεαυτῷ , and it is a restoration to the glory He had enjoyed πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι . By παρὰ σεαυτῷ it is rendered impossible to understand παρὰ σοί of an “ideal” pre-existence; because these two expressions are here equivalents, and Christ cannot be supposed to have prayed for an “ideal” glory when He asked that God would glorify Him παρὰ σεαυτῷ . “There is, consequently, here, as in John 6:62 , John 8:58 , a continuity of the consciousness of the historical Christ with the Logos.” Tholuck. On this verse Beyschlag remarks (i. 254): “The possibility of such a position was first won by Jesus through His life and death on earth, so that, in point of fact, it forms the divine reward of that life and death; how then could He have possessed it realiter before the world was?” But the representation given by Paul in Philippians 2:0 is open to the same objection. Christ is represented as leaving a glory He originally enjoyed and returning to it when His work on earth was done and as the result of that work. The humanity was now to share in and to be in some way the organ of that divine glory; and this it could not be until it had been perfected by the experience of a human life. Wendt ( Teaching of Jesus , ii. 169) says: “According to the mode of speech and conception prevalent in the N.T., a heavenly good, and so also a heavenly glory, can be conceived and spoken of as existing with God, and belonging to a person, not because this person already exists, and is invested with glory, but because the glory of God is in some way deposited and preserved for this person in heaven”. The passages, however, on which he depends for this principle do not sustain it. Such expressions as John 1:14 , John 2:11 , which indicate that already while on earth a divine glory was manifest in Christ, in no degree contradict but rather confirm such statements as the present.

Verse 6

John 17:6 . Ἑφανέρωσὰ σου … κόσμου . John 17:4 is resumed and explained. “I have glorified Thee and finished my work by manifesting ,” etc. To manifest the name here means to make God known as the holy and loving Father. This had been accomplished by Christ not in the case of all, but of those whom the Father had given Him; cf. John 6:37-44 . Out of the world some were separated by the Father and allotted to Christ as His disciples. σοὶ ἦσαν , “Thine they were,” before they attached themselves to Jesus they already belonged to God in a special sense; as, e.g. , Nath. i. 48. Holtzmann. καὶ τὸν λόγον σου τετηρήκασι , “and they have kept Thy word,” the revelation of God which has come to them through various channels; in contrast to those mentioned in John 5:38 .

Verses 6-19

John 17:6-19 . Prayer for the disciples .

Verse 7

John 17:7 . As the result of this keeping of God’s truth, νῦν ἔγνωκαν … ἐστιν , “they have now” in presence of this final revelation “known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given me are from Thee”. The object of the manifestation in Christ has been attained: the Father has been seen in and through Him. All the wisdom and power of Christ have been recognised as from God.

Verse 8

John 17:8 . ὅτι τὰ ῥήματα … ἀπέστειλας . The result achieved, John 17:7 , was due to the fidelity of the messenger, τὰ ῥήματα … δέδωκα αὐτοῖς , and to the receptiveness of those prepared by God, αὐτοὶ ἔλαβον , etc. cf. John 16:30 . ἐγὼ περὶ αὐτῶν ἐρωτῶ . He desires solemnly to commit to the Father’s keeping those who have believed. He prays for them in distinction from the world, and for the present sets the world aside, οὐ περὶ τοῦ κόσμου . The petitions now presented are only applicable to disciples, not to the world. Melanchthon says: “vide horrendum judicium Christi de mundo, cum negat se orare pro mundo, damnatque quicquid est mundi, quantumvis speciosum”. But Luther more justly says: “To pray for the world, and not to pray for the world, must both be right and good. For soon after He says Himself: ‘Neither pray I for those alone, but for them also who shall believe on me’.” He prayed too for His crucifiers, Luke 23:34 . His reason for praying for those who have received Him is ὅτι σοί εἰσι , “because they are Thine”. God’s interest in them and work upon them have already been manifested, and are the promise of His further operation.

Verse 10

John 17:10 . καὶ τὰ ἐμὰ πὰντα σὰ ἐστι , καὶ τὰ σὰ ἐμά , the community of property and therefore of interest is unlimited, absolute; extending not only to the persons of the disciples, but to all that Christ has spoken and done on earth. καὶ δεδόξασμαι ἐν αὐτοῖς , “and I have been glorified in them,” i.e. , in the disciples. In them it had been manifested that Christ was the messenger of God and had the words of eternal life.

Verse 11

John 17:11 . καὶ οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ . The circumstances necessitating the prayer are now stated. Jesus is no longer in the world, already He has bid farewell to it, but the disciples remain in it, exposed without His accustomed counsel and defence, πάτερ ἅγιε , “Holy Father”; this unique designation is suggested by the Divine attribute which would naturally assert itself in defending from the world’s corruptions those who were exposed to them. τήρησον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σον ῷ δέδωκάς μοι , “preserve them in [the knowledge of] Thy name, which Thou gavest me”. ᾧ is attracted into dative by ὀνόματι . This was the fundamental petition. The retention of the knowledge which Christ had imparted to them of the Father would effect ἵνα ὦσιν ἕν καθὼς ἡμεῖς . Without harmony among themselves, so that they should exist as a manifest unity differentiated from the world, their witness would fail; John 15:8 ; John 15:12 . καθὼς ἡμεῖς is explained by John 15:9-10 .

Verse 12

John 17:12 . The protection now asked had been afforded by Christ so long as He was with the disciples. ὅτε ἤμην μετʼ αὐτῶν , ἐγὼ ἐτήρουν … “when I was with them, I kept them in Thy name which Thou hast given me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled”. On the detail of educative care spent on the disciples, and covered by ἐτὴρουν , see Bernard, Central Teaching , p. 370. ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας , cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 , in accordance with the usual Hebrew usage, the person identified with perdition, closely associated with it. Cf. Isaiah 57:4 ; Isaiah 33:2 ; Matthew 23:15 . Raphel quotes from Herodotus, viii., ὕβριος υἱόν , with the remark, “nee Graecis plane ignotus est hic loquendi modus”. The Scripture referred to is Psalms 41:10 , as in John 18:18 .

Verse 13

John 17:13 . As He Himself goes to the Father, He utters this petition aloud, and while yet with the disciples ταῦτα λαλῶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ that they might recognise that the power of God was engaged for their protection, and might thus have repeated and perfected in themselves the same joy with which Christ had overcome all the trials and fears of life. Cf. John 15:11 , John 16:24 .

Verse 14

John 17:14 . ἐγὼ δέδωκα … κὸσμου . Additional reason for soliciting in behalf of the disciples the protection of the Father consists in this, that the world hates them because they have received the revelation of God in Christ, and are thereby separated from the world as their Teacher was not of the world. Cf. John 17:6 .

Verse 15

John 17:15 . The simplest escape from the anger of the world was removal from it, but for this He would not ask: οὐκ ἐρωτῶ ἵνα ἄρῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου . They had a work to do which involved that they should be in the world. It also involved the fulfilment of the petition, ἵνα τηρήσῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ . Luther, Calvin, etc., take πονηροῦ as neuter; recent interpreters in general consider it to be masculine, “from the evil one,” as in 1 John 2:13 ; 1 John 4:4 ; 1 John 5:18 ; cf. Matthew 6:13 . “The evil one” as the prince of this world and “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44 ) was the instigator of persecution.

Verse 16

John 17:16 . For τηρεῖν ἐκ see Revelation 3:10 . The reason of the world’s hatred and persecution is given here, as in John 15:19 , ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου … “They do not belong to the world, as I am out of the world.”

Verse 17

John 17:17 . But besides this negative qualification for representing Christ, they must possess also a positive equipment, ἁγίασον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ σου . “Consecrate them by thy truth.” ἁγιάζω is to render sacred, to set apart from profane uses; as in Exodus 13:1 , ἁγίασόν μοι πᾶν πρωτότοκον ; Exodus 20:8 , ἁγ . ἡμέραν ; Exodus 28:37 , ἁγιάσεις αὐτοῦς ἵνα ἱερατεύωσί μοι ; Matthew 23:17 ; Hebrews 9:13 . In John 10:36 it is used of the Father’s setting apart of Christ to His mission. Here it is similarly used of the setting apart or consecration of the disciples as Christ’s representatives. Meyer includes their “equipment with Divine illumination, power, courage, joyfulness, love, inspiration, etc., for their official activity”. Wetstein’s definition is good; “Sanctificare est aliquem eligere ad certum munus obeundum, eumque praeparare atque idoneum reddere”. “The truth,” as the element in which they now lived, was to be the efficient instrument of their consecration, cf. John 14:16 , John 16:7-13 ; the truth specifically which became theirs through the revelation of the Father, ὁ λόγος ὁ σὸς ἀλήθειὰ ἐστι , “the word which is Thine,” John 17:14 , but here emphatically distinguished as being the Word of the Father and no other. The article is absent before ἀλήθεια , as in John 4:24 , because ἀλήθ . is abstract. “Thy word is” not only “true” but “truth”.

Verse 18

John 17:18 . καθὼς ἐμὲ ἀπέστειλας … “As Thou didst send me into the world, I also sent them into the world.” καθὼς seems to imply “in prosecution of the same purpose and therefore with similar equipment”. εἰς τὸν κόσμον is not otiose, but suggests that as Christ’s presence in the world was necessary for the fulfilment of God’s purpose, so the sphere of the disciples’ work is also “the world,” cf. John 5:15 . ἀπέστειλα , aorist, because already they had served as apostles, see John 5:38 and Mark 3:14 .

Verse 19

John 17:19 . The crowning plea is that it was for this end, their consecration, Jesus consecrated Himself: καὶ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν , “and in their behalf, that they may be consecrated in truth, do I consecrate myself”. “ Ἁγιάζω in the present with ὑπέρ can only be understood of Christ’s self-consecration to His sacrificial death.” Tholuck. ἐγὼ ἑκουσίως θυσιάζω ἐμαυτόν , Euthymius; so Meyer, Reynolds and others. This however is needlessly to limit the reference and to introduce an idea somewhat alien to this context and to John 10:36 . Calvin is right: “Porro sanctificatio haec quamvis ad totam Christi vitam pertineat, in sacrificio tamen mortis ejus maxime illustris fuit”. ἵνα … The object of Christ’s consecration to His work was the severance of His disciples from the world and their inspiration with the same spirit of self-sacrifice and devotedness to sacred uses. ἐν ἀλήθειᾳ , understood by the Greek commentators as “real” in contrast to what is symbolic, cf. John 4:23 . Thus Euthymius, ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ ὦσι τεθυμένοι ἐν ἀληθινῇ θυσίᾳ , ἡ γὰρ νομικὴ θυσία τύπος ἦν , οὐκ ἀλήθεια . “Discernit a sanctificationibus legis.” Melanchthon Similarly Godet. Meyer renders “truly” and remarks: “As contrasted with every other ἁγιότης in human relations, that wrought through the Paraclete is the true consecration”. But is it possible to neglect the reference to ἀληθείᾳ , John 17:17 ? As Lücke points out, John (3 John 1:3-4 ) does not always distinguish between ἀλήθεια and ἡ ἀλήθεια . The object to Christ’s consecration was to bring the truth by and in which the disciples might be consecrated.

Verse 20

John 17:20 . Οὐ περὶ τούτων δὲ ἐρωτῶ μόνον … The consecration of the disciples and His sending them forth naturally suggests the enlargement of the Church and of His care.

Verses 20-26

John 17:20-26 . Prayer for future believers .

Verse 21

John 17:21 . For those who through their preaching believe on Him He prays that they may be one. Naturally the extension of the Church imperils its unity, the ἑνότης τοῦ πνεύματος , Ephesians 4:3 . “This unity is infinitely more than mere unanimity, since it rests upon unity of spirit and life.” Tholuck. This unity of all believers finds its ideal in the unity of the Father and the Son: καθὼς σὺ , πάτερ κ . τ . λ ., and not only its ideal but its unifying principle and element, ἐν ἡμῖν . This unity of all believers is to result in the universal belief in Christ’s mission, ἵνα ὁ κόσμος … ἀπέστειλας .

Verse 22

John 17:22 . That the unity of believers in the Father and the Son might be perfect, it was needful that even the glory which Christ possessed by the Father’s gift (John 17:5 ) should be given to His people. The perfect tense is used, because the gift had already been determined. The nature of the glory spoken of is interpreted both by John 17:5 and by John 17:24 . It could not be completely and actually bestowed until the point indicated in John 17:24 was reached.

Verse 23

John 17:23 . ἵνα ὦσιν ἕν of John 17:22 becomes in John 17:23 ἵνα ὦσι τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν , “that they may be perfected into one”. They are perfected by being wrought to a Divine unity. The work of Christ is accomplished when men are one by Christ dwelling in them. God is in Him, He is in each believer, and thus a true and final unity is formed. One result is the conviction wrought in the world, ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας … ἠγάπησας . The mission of Christ and its results prove not only the Father’s love of the Son but His love for men.

Verse 24

John 17:24 . Πάτερ , ὅ δέδωκάς μοι , “that which Thou hast given me,” i.e. , the community of believers; θέλω , “I will,” no longer, ἐρωτῶ , “that where I am, there they may be also”; ὅ resolved into individuals. To share in the destiny of Christ has already been promised to His followers, John 10:26 ; cf. John 14:3 . This is the consummation of Christian blessedness. They are not only in the same condition as their Lord, but enjoy it in fellowship with Him, μετʼ ἐμοῦ . ἵνα θεωρῶσι τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἐμήν . To see Christ honoured and supreme must ever be the Christian’s joy. But this glory of Christ resulting from the eternal love of the Father is not only seen but shared in by the disciples in the measure of their capacity, John 5:22 , 2 Timothy 2:12 , Revelation 3:21 .

Verse 25

John 17:25 . Πάτερ δίκαιε , “Righteous Father”. The appeal is now to God’s justice; “ut tua bonitas me miserat servandsn si qua fieri potuisset, omnibus; ita tui, justitia non patietur ob quorundam iacredulitatem frustrari vota credentium”. Erasmus. The Father’s justice is appealed to, that the believing may not share the fate of the unbelieving world καὶ ὁ κόσμος Elsner translates “quamvis,” and Lampe says all difficulty thus disappears. But Elsner’s examples are irrelevant. Meyer renders “Righteous Father (yea, such Thou art!) and (and yet) the world knew Thee not.” Simcox suggests that the first καί is correlative not to the immediately following δέ , but to the second καί , the effect being something like: “While the world knew Thee not, though I knew Thee, these on their part knew”.… Similarly Westcott; “it serves to coordinate the two main clauses.… The force of it is as if we were to say: Two facts are equally true; it is true that the world knew Thee not; it is true that these knew that Thou didst send me.” May the καί not be intended to connect this clause with the preceding ὅτι … κόσμου , and to mark the contrast between the love that was in God before the foundation of the world and the world’s ignorance of Him, and especially of His love? But “I knew Thee and these knew,” etc. They did not know God directly as Christ did, but they knew they could accept Him as the Revealer of God. And to them who were willing to receive my message, because they knew I was sent by Thee, I made known Thy name and will make it known by my death (Weiss) and by sending the Spirit of truth (Westcott). The end in view in this manifestation by Christ was that the love with which the Father had loved the Son might rest on the disciples. ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ἣν ἠγάπησάς με . The construction is found in Ephesians 2:4 , and is frequent in the classics; ἡ κρίσις ἣν ἐκρίθη , Lysias; τῇ νίκῃ ἣν ἐνίκησε , Arrian. See Kypke. κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς . This is the end and crown of all. That He should desire this intimate communion with men, and should seek above all else to live in and through His disciples, is surprising proof of His love.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 17". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/john-17.html. 1897-1910.
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