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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

John 17

Verses 1-2

The Glorification of the Son

This chapter is unparalleled in depth and range of vision. It breathes perfect holiness, devotion and love. We may listen to the Son opening His heart to the Father at the moment He is about to die and leave His own to go to Heaven.

Because we hear the Son speaking to the Father, we cannot speak of a ‘high priestly prayer’, because then we would hear Him speaking as Man to God. If we can speak of a prayer, it is in the sense of a confidential asking of the Son to the Father and not to beg the Father for anything.

We hear the Son asking the Father to glorify Him, then to care for His disciples when He will no longer be with them and finally to give the disciples a place with Him in glory. These are questions that are not really a request, but a sharing with the Father of things that live in the heart of the Father in exactly the same way. The Lord knows all that, but He wants us to know that He intercedes for us with the Father. This prayer shows us how He is Helper.

In His prayer, which forms a beautiful unity, we can roughly distinguish two parts:
1. In the first part, John 17:1-Ruth :, the Lord speaks to the Father in view of His glorification and His connection with His disciples.
2. In the second part, John 17:9-Ezekiel :, the disciples are the subject, in which He clearly distinguishes them from the world.

We can also make a somewhat finer division into seven parts:
1. In John 17:1-Deuteronomy : the Lord Jesus asks the Father for His glorification as Man on the basis of the work accomplished by Him.
2. In John 17:6-Ruth : He speaks to the Father about what the disciples mean to Him.
3. In John 17:9-2 Kings : He asks His Father to keep His disciples in unity.
4. In John 17:13-Psalms : He entrusts His disciples to His Father in order to keep them in the world.
5. In John 17:20-Ecclesiastes : He extends His prayer and asks the Father for the unity of all the believers on earth.
6. In John 17:22-Isaiah : He deals with a unity that still lies in the future and that will become visible at His revelation.
7. In John 17:24-Ezekiel : it is about being with the Son in the Father’s house.

After these introductory words we now want to focus on the prayer. I will express myself as limited as possible because speaking about this prayer makes you feel as if you want to illuminate the sun with a flashlight. When reading this chapter it is especially important that the Holy Spirit is able to work the feelings of every reader that are appropriate for this chapter. I hope that this is the case for me and that I can pass something of it in this explanation. I myself have also been helped by what others have discovered of beauty in this prayer.

When the Lord addresses Himself to the Father in His prayer, He does so while lifting up His eyes to heaven. Similarly, He raised His eyes at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:41). There He asked the Father for the resurrection of Lazarus. Here He does not ask for the resurrection, here He asks for the glorification of Himself. Yet the question of His glorification is not about Himself. He immediately adds that with His question He is aiming at the glorification of the Father.

With this question the Lord places Himself behind the work as accomplished by Him. That is why He says that “the hour has come”. By this He means the hour that He will go back to the Father. When He asks for His glorification by the Father, it means that He asks this question as a result of the work He has accomplished. And when He asks for His own glorification with a view to the glorification of the Father, it means that He continues to glorify the Father after He is glorified in heaven. He has glorified the Father both on earth and on the cross and He does the same in heaven.

He does this glorification of the Father in connection with the power over all flesh that He has received from the Father based on His work. He always remains faithful to the place He has taken and does not exercise power according to His own right. He will exercise the power over all flesh when He returns to judge Israel and the world. In the present time He uses this power to give eternal life to all He has received from the Father. Now that the Son is in heaven, He glorifies His Father by giving eternal life to those He receives from the Father. He still glorifies the Father every day in every sinner who comes to faith.

Verse 3

This Is Eternal Life

The eternal life that every sinner who comes to faith in the Lord Jesus receives is a new life within him. It is a new birth, a new nature. It is life within the believer, life given to him (John 10:28; 1 John 5:11), it is life that he has (John 3:16; John 5:24John 6:47; John 6:54; 1 John 5:13). He has that life because the Son is his life (1 John 5:11; Colossians 3:3-Numbers :). But here the Lord Jesus speaks about eternal life in a different sense. He is not talking about eternal life within the believer, but about eternal life as the sphere of life into which the believer enters. We hear the Son talking about eternal life as an environment, a sphere of life, a life in which is lived.

So there is a difference between the life that is within someone and the life in which someone lives. On the one hand we talk about plant life, animal life, human life. By this we mean that something or someone lives as a plant or an animal or a human being. But we also speak, for example, of city life, outdoor life, a difficult life. By this we mean the state of life, a way of life, an environment in which people live. It is the same with eternal life. It is both a principle of life within us, a life through which we live, and a way of life in which we have entered, a life in which we live. This second is what the Lord Jesus indicates when He says here: “This is eternal life.”

Eternal life is knowing Him Who is addressed by the Son as Father (John 17:1) and knowing the Son as sent by the Father. He is the only true God. In that way He was also known in the Old Testament. What is new now – and this is also eternal life – is to know that one true God through a living connection with Him as personal Father and to know Jesus Christ as sent by Him, through which the Father can be known.

The Son speaks of Himself as “Jesus Christ”. ‘Jesus’ is the name of His humiliation. ‘Christ’ is the name of His election by God and of His glorification. This goes far beyond knowing Him as the Messiah. It is to know Him like the Father knows Him through a personal relationship with Him. Knowing eternal life is about a living relationship with Divine Persons. This knowledge brings us into the atmosphere of eternal life, the atmosphere in which eternal life is enjoyed.

In short, perhaps we can say that eternal life is this: fellowship with the Father and the Son, i.e. enjoying the same part as the Father and the Son, together with Them.

Verses 4-5

The Request to Be Glorified

The Lord Jesus glorified the Father on earth, this little planet in the immeasurable universe, where He was and still is dishonored by the sin of man and his generation. The Son can say this from the absolute knowledge that He has done the will of the Father in everything and thus glorified Him. An ordinary person could never say that because what man does is never perfect. The Son can say this even in advance, for He is the eternal Son, even though He has accomplished the work as Man. The work of which He speaks here is the entire work of the Father’s revelation.

Before we could enter into a life connection with the Father, the Father first had to be revealed. The climax of that revelation is the cross. Here it is not the cross as the solution to the need of our sins, but as the complete revelation of the Father’s heart for His own. Based on that glorious work, the Son, as the resurrected Man, asks for the glory that He, as God, possesses eternally. He asks for a glory He never lost. He has become Man, but has not ceased to be God and thus His glory has not vanished.

His question is to receive that glory in a new way, that is as Man. As Man He never possessed that glory because He was not always Man. He became Man and will remain this forever. Now He asks for the same glory as Man that He as Son possesses eternally. That is because He wants to share that glory with us, men. If He had not become Man, He would never have been able to share His glory with us, because we cannot become God.

Verses 6-8

Given by the Father to the Son

The Lord Jesus now explains how mortal people could be brought into such close relationship with the Father. First He mentions the manifestation of the Name of the Father. This manifestation can only be given to people who no longer belong to the world. Therefore they have been taken out of the world by the Father and thus given to the Son. Those who now belong to the Son are thereby clearly distinguished from the world.

The world has become completely revealed in its hatred of the Father and His Son. On the other hand, the greatest possible contrast is the manifestation of the Name of the Father to those who are the object of the Father’s love. To them the Son has revealed the Name of the Father in order to make them know the Father.

This manifestation of the Name of the Father was done through His life, His words and His works. The people the Father gave to the Son belonged to the Father. This indicates the Father’s eternal intention and election to give them to the Son. This is completely separate from any connection with Israel and with Him as Yahweh. They have been given to Him by the Father.

That they belonged to the Father and now belong to the Son is evident from their keeping of the word of the Father. The word of the Father is everything the Father has spoken about the Son. The Lord Jesus sees His own as a precious treasure that the Father has given Him. He ignores all the incomprehension that they had and revealed. They have kept the word of the Father – and in fact, that is the Son Himself.

However, they have not only kept the word of the Father about the Son. They have also acknowledged that the Father is the source of all that has been given to the Son. The fact that the Father has given everything to the Son does not mean that the Father has lost it. The Lord Jesus does not say ‘was Yours’, but “is Yours”. The Son has received what is and remains of the Father.

He speaks to His Father as a recommendation that His own not only kept the word of the Father concerning the Son, but that they also received and accepted the words of the Father through the Son. The words of the Son were no other words than those of the Father. By accepting the words of the Son, they have truly acknowledged that the Son came forth from the Father and they have believed that the Father sent Him.

However little they have understood of all that He has said about this, He sees their heart in it. They have received His words and with them everything that was expressed in those words, however much that exceeded their thoughts. By receiving His words, which are the words of the Father, they have accepted the whole relationship in which the Son stands to the Father.

That He came forth from the Father means that He, as the eternal Son, revealed the Father. The fact that the Father has sent Him means that as a dependent Man He has done everything the Father commanded Him to do.

Verses 9-12

The Request to Be Kept and Unity

The Lord Jesus, to the hearing of His disciples, once again pronounces that He is asking for them. He has no more connection with the world or with Israel. The distinction is no longer between Jews and Gentiles, but between His disciples and the world.

He does not ask on behalf of the world. For the world He has no more prayer; the world is under judgment. The time when He will ask for the world to claim it as His rightful possession, as His inheritance, will come when the Father tells Him to so (Psalms 2:8). He is, so to speak, concerned here with the heirs and not with the inheritance.

Until the time comes when He will ask for the inheritance, He asks the Father for those whom He still brings before the Father as “Yours”. As stated above, the Father has not lost what He has given to the Son. It remains His. At the same time, they are also the Son’s. For everything that is of the Son, applies that it is of the Father. The reverse is also true, that everything that is of the Father is His. The first could be said by a man to God, the second cannot. Only the Son can say that all that is the Father’s is also His, for He is one with the Father. The disciples belong to both the Father and the Son. At the same time, whatever the Father gives to the Son is for the glorification of the Son.

Without any restraint or limitation He speaks of it to the Father that He is glorified in His own. We see here again that the Son sees His own in their perfect relation to Him and not in their weak practice. He is glorified in them because they believe in Him and acknowledge Him in Who He is, even though they have so often shown that they did not understand the depth of it.

When the Lord Jesus says that He is no longer in the world, it means that He already places Himself behind the cross as already being glorified. He also knows perfectly well that His own are still in the world and that that world is very hostile to them. Therefore He comes to the Father for them in their defenselessness with the request to keep them in His Name, the Father’s Name.

He addresses the Father as “Holy Father.” This emphasizes the complete separation between the Father and the world. The Father stands completely apart from the world; He has no connection with it at all. Nothing of it clings to Him or is able to have any influence on Him at all. On this basis, a few verses later, the Lord Jesus will also ask for them to be sanctified. Here He asks for them as those whom the Father Himself has given to Him. He reminds the Father, as it were, of that great gift as a special motive to keep them, that is, to safeguard them from the influences of the world.

He asks that they be kept and not whether the Father will intervene in power for their benefit by exterminating their enemies. That time is yet to come and will come for His own from Israel. Their keeping does not only relate to the aspect of safety in the face of an evil world. In asking for their keeping, He also has their unity among themselves in mind.

This unity is realized through the gift of the Holy Spirit as the fruit of His redemptive work. This being one concerns the twelve apostles in their testimony concerning the Son. It is important that in spite of their differences, they will give a unified testimony concerning the Son. No difference of opinion should spoil that testimony. That unity in their testimony has been maintained is evident when we read about their service in the book of Acts and the letters we have from them in the Bible.

The Lord Jesus asks for His Father’s safekeeping because He Himself will no longer be with them and cannot safekeep them in that way in the Name of the Father. In the three and a half years during which His own walked with Him, He cared for them in unfailing faithfulness. In that care He was always focused on the Name of the Father. He has that in mind also when He will no longer be with them.

His safekeeping did not include Judas because he had closed his heart to the work of God’s Spirit. He was not a child of God, but “the son of perdition”. He loved money and therefore made himself available to Satan. That things turned out this way with Judas was not due to the Lord’s failing care. He did not slip out of His hand. The doom of such a course of action is foretold by Scripture. It is not the name of Judas that is foretold, but the result of one who would act in such a way.

Verses 13-16

The Disciples in the World

The Son is now going to speak to the Father in particular about the disciples in their relation to the world. He comes to the Father and turns to Him to speak to Him about His own, to entrust the continued care of the disciples to Him. He does this in the world in which He too still finds Himself, so that they can hear it. They are also in the world and will remain there when He has gone away from them to the Father. They are no longer of the world, they no longer belong to the world, but they still have to go through it.

Now they hear the Son speaking about them with full knowledge of the situation in which they find themselves. How it must have delighted their hearts to hear Him speak of them in this way to the Father. This awareness of the Father’s attention and love going out to Him always filled the Lord Jesus Himself with joy in His life on earth. He always finds His joy in fellowship with His Father.

Through His prayer the disciples may know that they too may always have fellowship with the Father, that the Father always pays perfect attention to them and desires fellowship with them. The Son has been here in the Name of the Father and has found His joy in serving the interests of the Father. Thus, from now on they will be here in His Name and have the same joy in them as those who serve the Father by presenting the Son.

To enable them to do so, the Son has given them the word of the Father. Again, the word here is the full revelation of the Father that He has brought. The Lord does not say ‘words’, remata, which means ‘utterances’, but ‘word’, logos, which means the expression of His thoughts. Furthermore, He asks if the Father will keep them because of taking His place in the world’s presence. He connects Himself with them in the presence of the Father which is a great blessing. He connects Himself with them no less in their presence in the world, and that too is a great blessing. In both cases it is His place. Where He is, there are His own, and where His own are, there He is.

The Lord Jesus says that they are not of the world. By this He does not mean that they should not be part of it. What He means is that fundamentally they do not belong to the world because they are joined to Him. That must have the effect of making them behave that way. It is terrible if they, and also we, would even give the impression of being of the world after all. That would be a denial of the true relationship to the Father.

The Lord does not ask the Father to take them out of the world. The taking out of the world of His own happens when the believers are caught up (1 Thessalonians 4:16-Esther :). Until that time they must remain in the world where darkness, hatred and death reign. With that in mind, He asks for their keeping.

There is no question that they should keep themselves by leaving the world, for example by retreating behind the thick walls of a monastery. Monasticism and monastery life is contrary to what the Lord Jesus is saying here. The separation from the world sought by God is not realized by isolating oneself. Evil is within us. The Son asks the Father that the evil one who is behind the evil system of the world will have no hold over them (cf. Matthew 6:13).

He emphatically repeats their identification with Him in their separation from the world (John 17:14). This repetition is necessary because we easily forget this separation. Only if our focus remains on Christ we will continue to see our being separated from the world. Christ Himself is the absolute example of separation from the world. He did come into the world, but never for a moment was He part of it. His place and attitude toward the world are determining for those of the disciples and also for ours.

Verses 17-19

Sanctification

Then the Son asks the Father to sanctify them. Through sanctification we are brought into conformity with the Holy Father. Sanctification is being set apart for Him. They have been brought into contact with the truth of the word of the Father that has come to them in the Son. They have acknowledged and accepted that word. As a result, they have entered into another world, the world of the Father and the Son. The Son has given the word of the Father that introduces us into His love, into His thoughts, into His counsels, into His glory. By being in it, we are truly set apart (sanctified). That is what the truth produces.

Again, this is far beyond the law, which also sets apart, but nationally and only for Israel from the nations around them. That we are set apart from the world does not mean that we have nothing to do with the world anymore. We are not in the world because we happen to be there, but we are in the world for a purpose. We are sent into the world as the Son was sent into the world by the Father. That means we have a word for that world, as He had. Sanctification does not lead to isolation, but to usefulness in bringing the truth to a world that lives in the lie.

Our sanctification occurs not only through the Father’s word, but also through the Son’s sanctification for us. This sanctification consists in His literally leaving the world to take up a sanctified place with the Father. He is there for us. He is there our model of sanctification. His place with the Father is our place. There is sanctifying power in the truth (John 17:17) and there is sanctifying power in seeing Christ in glory (John 17:19).

So there are two wonderful truths that sanctify the believer in the present tense. The first truth is the revelation of the Father in His word that has come to us through and in the Son. The second truth is the knowledge of the glory of the Son as the risen and glorified Man in heaven. When these two truths are before our attention through the Holy Spirit, we will live a sanctified life.

Verses 20-21

Unity of All Believers

Here all believers are given a place in the Son’s prayer. He is speaking to the Father about those who believe in Him through “their word,” that is, the word of the apostles. We have never literally heard the apostles preach, but we believe in the Lord Jesus through what they have left us in God’s Word. What the Lord Jesus asks for us is that we will be one in the same way that the Father and the Son are one. That involves a unity of life, the possession of the Divine nature. Thus, it is absolutely not a unity with a characteristic that the members are imprisoned in the same system. It is not even directly about the unity of the body of Christ, although that unity is also based on a unity of life.

The unity of which Christ speaks here is a unity brought about by each child of God having the Son as his life. It is the unity of the family of God. We are not called to establish that unity, but to understand that all who have received the Son are one. The dividing line that runs through the world is between those who do have that life from the Son and those who do not. It is not a dividing line between denominations, but exclusively between believers and unbelievers.

The prayer of the Lord Jesus for that unity has been answered. When believers who have never seen each other before meet and detect the same life in each other, there is an immediate feeling and experience of unity. Of course, on the basis of this unity, believers are also meant to act in unity in practical terms. As far as this unity is concerned, unfortunately little is shown by the Christians. It is a unity of which the fellowship is experienced as the Father and the Son have fellowship and experience it with each other.

The unity is as that of the Father and the Son, but also a unity in the Father and the Son. It is according to the example of the unity of the Father and the Son and it is in fellowship with the Father and the Son. Our unity is founded in the unity of the Father and the Son. It is the same fellowship of life. If the Divine nature would characterize all believers of whatever nationality or background, the world could believe that He is the Sent One of the Father. If all believers propagated that unity, it would bring people in the world to faith. It is a testimony to the whole world.

Verses 22-23

Unity in Glory

Now the Son is going to speak about the period after the disciples’ stay in the world. He is thinking of the time when they will be with Him. Then they will have the glory that He has received. In His prayer He says that He has already given to them the glory that He has received from the Father. That is the glory that He received from the Father as Man as a reward for His work. In His great mercy, He shares that glory with those whom the Father has given Him (John 17:6) and to whom He has also already given eternal life (John 17:2). Precisely because He as Man has received that glory from the Father, He can share it with men.

As a result, all who share this glory are one in the same way that the Father and He are one. It also involves a glory that comes from the Father, which He has given to the Son, and which the Son then grants to the believers. This allows the Lord Jesus to say that it is a unity whereby He is also in them and whereby the Father is in Him. “I in them and You in Me” means that the Son reveals Himself in the believers when He returns, a revelation in which the Father will also be revealed in Him. When that situation has arrived, believers have become perfectly one. This is a third unity, after the unity of the apostles in John 17:11 and that of all believers now on earth in John 17:21.

In this futural, perfect unity, no failure is possible. When Christ returns with His own in glory, they will have the same glory as He (Philippians 3:20-Ecclesiastes :) and the unity will be seen by the world. The world will see the Father in the Son and they will see the Son in the saints. Then the world will know that the Father sent the Son and that the Father loved the believers as He loved the Son, for this cannot be denied when the world will see Christ and His own in glory (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

The world will also know that the Father has loved us, for the fact that the believers will possess the same glory as Christ will be proof of it. What the world will then recognize is true now. What the world will then see points back to what He and also they were on earth as objects of the Father’s love.

Verse 24

The Will of the Lord Jesus for His Own

In the concluding words of His prayer, the Son, while we hear this, emphatically addresses the Father once more with “Father”. What He says to the Father is not a plea, it is not even a question, but the expression of His desire or will. Here He lets His Divine will be heard, “I will,” just as He once said to a leper, “I am willing, be cleansed!” (Matthew 8:3). He does this not because His will would not be the same as the Father’s, but to make it clear to us that His will is perfectly that of the Father.

What He announces here as His desire or will is that He wants us to be with Him in the place where He is, in the Father’s house (John 14:3). He wants us to be there to display His glory to us. This is not His glory as the eternal Son, for that only the Father knows perfectly and cannot be seen by us (Matthew 11:27). For us, who are and remain creatures, there remains a glory in the Lord Jesus that can absolutely only be known by the two other Divine Persons.

Nor is it the glory that will be seen at His revelation to the world, for we will share that glory with Him. Here it is the glory that the Father has given Him by virtue of His glorification by Him on earth. He receives that glory by virtue of His personal relationship of love that the Father had for Him from eternity as the eternal Son. We may see how He as Man enjoys that eternally.

We will not be sharing that glory, but we will see it in the Father’s House. It is the glory of John 17:5, the given glory, but in an aspect of glory that is His alone. We will also grant Him that wholeheartedly and admire Him in it. There are aspects in His glory that at all times exceed the glory we may share with Him. He remains as the Most Glorious of all far above us.

Verses 25-26

The Continuing Work of the Lord Jesus

In John 17:11 the Lord Jesus addressed the “holy Father,” for His holiness must determine the disciples’ separation from the world. Here He contemplates the world in its sin and blindness and speaks to the “righteous Father.” Nor does He speak of the world as the system that hated Him, but as the system that did not know the Father when the Father came to the world in the Son. In contrast, the Son states that He did know Him and that His disciples have known that the Father sent Him. He knows the Father and His own know the Father through Him. They also belong to Him now.

He has expressed the Name of the Father in His whole Being, as only He could. He has done that on earth. He will do the same from heaven, and that is, that He may give the disciples and also us the consciousness of the same love of the Father that He had when He was on earth.

To remove any hesitation from the disciples, He adds that He Himself will be in them as their life. Not only is the Father’s love for the Son in them, but the Son Himself is in them. As a result, they are able to live His life. That life means everything to the Father. The Father will then also love them as He loved the Son when He was on earth. In a sense Christ will then be all in all in those who have Him as their life (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op John 17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/john-17.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.