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Bible Commentaries
John 17

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4037. A.D. 33.

In this chapter our Lord, having finished his ministry, and given his disciples all the instructions he judged necessary, closes the whole with a solemn prayer to God, asking,

(1,) For himself, that he might be reinstated in his original glory with God, John 17:1-5 .

(2,) For the apostles, that they might be kept from evil through his name, and preserved in unity, John 17:6-16 ; and that they might be sanctified through the truth, John 17:17-19 .

(3,) For all believers, that they might be united to the Father, to him, and to one another; that by this love and unity, apparent among them, the world might be brought to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, John 17:20-23 .

(4,) He prays for all believers, that they might be with him for ever in heaven, and so enjoy the happy effects of such love of the Father as he bore to Christ himself, John 17:24-26 .

Verses 1-3

John 17:1-3. These words spake Jesus Namely, the words recorded in the three preceding chapters; and lifted up his eyes to heaven Put himself in the posture of prayer. The following has been called Our Lord’s Intercessory Prayer, because it is considered as a pattern of the intercession he is now making in heaven for his people. In it he comprises all he had said from chap. John 13:31, and seals, as it were, all he had hitherto done, beholding things past, present, and to come. It contains the easiest words, and the deepest sense, of any chapter in all the Scriptures; yet is there no incoherent rhapsody, but the whole is closely and exactly connected. Father This simplicity of appellation highly became the only-begotten Son of God; to which a believer then makes the nearest approach, when he is most full of love and humble confidence. The hour is come The time of my sufferings is come; glorify thy Son Let me have such succours from thee as will enable me to bear them; let the circumstances of my trial, both in the Jewish and Gentile courts of judicature, be such as will plainly prove my innocence; and let my death be accompanied with such interpositions of thy power as will remove the scandal of the cross, and demonstrate the relation I stand in to thee; particularly let me be raised from the dead, and taken up to heaven; finally, shed down upon my apostles such miraculous gifts as will qualify them for bearing witness to my miracles, my death, my resurrection, and my ascension. Thus glorifying thy Son, he also will glorify thee By converting to the belief and practice of true religion, many who will celebrate thy praises eternally. As thou hast given him power over all flesh Thou hast sent thy Son into the world, and given him power over all men, in this respect, that he can bestow eternal life upon as many as thou hast given him, namely, upon all believers. This is a clear proof that Christ designed his sacrifice should avail for all mankind; yea, that all flesh, every man, should partake of everlasting life. For, as the Father had given him power over all, so he gave himself a ransom for all. And this is life eternal Is the way to, a preparation for, and a pledge and earnest of life eternal; that they might know Or, to know, by loving, obedient faith, thee; the only true God The only cause and end of all things; not excluding the Word that was in the beginning with God, and was God, (John 1:1,) nor the Holy Ghost, any more than the Father is excluded from being Lord, (1 Corinthians 8:6,) but the false gods of the heathen; and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent To be their prophet, priest, and king. The meaning of our Lord here is, either, “1st, I teach that men should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent, as the means of obtaining that eternal life which thou hast given me power to bestow: Or, 2d, Now this eternal life is bestowed by me on men, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; importing that the happiness of eternity will consist in the knowledge of God and Christ. It is justly observed by Grotius, that the Father is here styled, the only true God, in exclusion of those deities which the ignorance and folly of the heathens had introduced. For, as in the latter clause our Lord undoubtedly spake of the Jews, when he mentioned it as the means of eternal life, that they should know Jesus Christ; so, it is probable, that in the former he had the Gentiles in his eye, when he represented the knowledge of the true God as the road to felicity. If so, we cannot from this passage infer that Jesus is not truly, or really God. For, had this been the meaning of the words, would the evangelist have begun his gospel with so solemn a declaration of our Lord’s divinity? Besides, in other passages of Scripture, the word μονος denotes a partial exclusion. For instance, (Genesis 42:38,) Jacob, speaking of Benjamin, says, His brother is dead, και αυτος μονος καταλελειπται , and he only is left: he did not mean that he was his only son absolutely, but his only son by Rachel. In like manner, (Luke 9:18,) And it came to pass as he was alone, praying, his disciples were with him; where καταμονας is to be understood in exclusion of the multitude, and not of the disciples, who were now with him. So also, (Luke 9:36,) Jesus is said to be left ( μονος ) alone, notwithstanding the three disciples were with him. The meaning is, he was alone in respect of Moses and Elias, who were now departed from him. And to give no more instances, Judges 1:4, uses μονος in this partial sense, where, speaking of some wicked men in his time, he says, they denied, τον μονον δεσποτην Θεον , και Κυριον ημων Ιησουν Χριστον , our only Master, God and Lord, Jesus Christ. For, whether the first clause is understood of Christ, it cannot mean that he is our only Lord and God, in exclusion of the Father; or, whether it is understood of the Father, it cannot be said that he is our only Lord, in exclusion of Christ, who is expressly styled Δεσποτης , Master.”

Verses 4-5

John 17:4-5. I have glorified thee on earth My doctrine, example, and miracles have manifested thy glory here on earth. I have finished the work thou gavest me to do I have almost finished the work which I undertook for man’s redemption. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thyself Or, in thine own presence, as Dr. Campbell translates παρα σεαυτω , observing, that the force of the Greek preposition, παρα , is not rightly expressed by the English with, which, as applied here, is exceedingly vague and indeterminate. With the glory which I had with thee He does not say received. He always had it till he emptied himself of it in the days of his flesh; before the world was “The Socinians, who deny, not only our Lord’s divinity, but his existence before he appeared in the world, are at a loss how to explain this passage, in consistency with their opinion. They imagine, that as in the prophetical writings, things to come are spoken of as already existing, to denote the divine decree concerning them, and the certainty of their happening; so, Jesus is here said to possess glory with the Father before the foundation of the world, not because he then existed, but because that glory was appointed him in the divine decree from eternity, and was certainly to be bestowed upon him in the fulness of time. Withal, in confirmation of this observation, they cite Revelation 13:8, where Christ is called a lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and 2 Timothy 1:9, where the apostle, speaking of the favours conferred on Christians, says, Hath saved us, and called us according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. But here, without laying the whole stress of the matter on the answer given by Whitby, namely, that these passages are mistranslated, I observe, that though, for the reasons mentioned, the sacred writers, when warmed with the grandeur of their subject, might, in their discourses, represent the great events which were to befall the church under the gospel dispensation, as existing from eternity; yet, no fire of imagination could authorize the figure in the present instance. For it were absurd to fancy that Jesus, in this his last solemn prayer with his disciples, gravely spake of himself as existing from eternity, and as enjoying with God blessings which were to be bestowed upon him only in time. Such figures, how ever proper they may be in prophecy, are not of the style of prayer, far less of our Lord’s prayers, which are remarkable for their simplicity. Besides, it should be remembered that this is not the only passage which speaks of Christ’s pre-existence, for the Evangelist John ( Joh 1:1 ) represents him as existing from eternity, and making all things. And ( Joh 8:58 ) Jesus himself tells us that he existed before Abraham. And Paul affirms, (Philippians 2:6,) that before Jesus took the form of a servant, he was in the form of God.” Macknight.

Verses 6-8

John 17:6-8. I have manifested thy name All thy attributes; and in particular thy paternal relation to believers; to the men which thou gavest me out of the world The apostles; and so John 17:12. Thine they were By creation, by preservation, by descent from Abraham, and by being members of thy church, under the Mosaic dispensation; and thou gavest them me By giving them faith in what I have spoken; and they have kept thy word Have readily embraced, and hitherto have resolutely adhered to and obeyed thy gospel. Now they have known that all things Which I have done and spoken, are of thee, and consequently are right and true. They are fully persuaded, “that the commission whereby I act, the doctrine of salvation which I teach, the miracles which I perform, and the authority with which I am clothed, are all really derived from thee.” In this, indeed, they have acted upon the surest evidence; for I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me I have taught them no other doctrine but that which thou gavest me to teach. And they have received them Being fully sensible that my doctrine is in all points agreeable to thy blessed nature and perfections, they have received it as such; and have known surely that I came out from thee That I am no impostor, but a prophet, truly commissioned by thee to reveal thy will to mankind. And While I have been rejected by an ungrateful world, they have regarded me as the true Messiah; and have believed that thou didst send me On the great errand of man’s salvation.

Verses 9-10

John 17:9-10 . I pray for them Who have attended me as my apostles. These only he prays for here, as appears from John 17:12, where he says, he had kept all the persons he was praying for in the faith and practice of true religion, except the son of perdition; and from John 17:18, where he says, he had commissioned them to go forth into the world for the same purpose that the Father had sent him; and from John 17:20, where he expressly distinguishes them from all other believers whatever. I pray not for the world Not in these petitions, which are adapted to the state of believers only. But this no more proves that our Lord did not pray for the world, both before and afterward, than his praying for the apostles only in these verses proves that he did not pray for them also who should believe in him through their word, John 17:20. But for them which thou hast given me, &c. See on verse; for they are thine The reason thus assigned for making them the subject of his prayers at this time is remarkable. It is as if he had said, “I employ the last moments of my life in praying particularly for my apostles, because their are more especially thy servants, destined for that work which is the great object of thy attention, the instruction and salvation of the world.” All mine are thine All my servants are thy servants; that is, whosoever assists me in my work, serves thee in thy great designs of love and mercy to men. And thine are mine Thy servants are my servants; every one who really serves thee must join issue with me, and assist me in my work. And I am glorified in them By the zeal, faithfulness, and success of my servants in converting the world, I am greatly honoured. This, however, is not our Lord’s only meaning in this clause; the original words being τα εμα παντα σα εστι , και τα σα εμα , not, all my servants are thy servants, &c., but, all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine; expressions too grand for any mere creature to use; as implying, that all things whatsoever, inclusive of the divine nature, perfections, and operations, are the common property of the Father and the Son. And this is the original ground of that peculiar property which both the Father and the Son have, in the persons who were given to Christ as Mediator, according to what is said in the close of the verse of his being glorified by them; namely, by their believing in him, and so acknowledging his glory.

Verses 11-12

John 17:11-12. And now I am no more in the world Having finished the work thou gavest me to do in it; but these My apostles; are in the world Exposed to various hardships and dangers; and I come to thee Whom I have chosen and served, and whom my soul thirsteth after; to thee, the Fountain of light and life, the Crown and Centre of bliss and joy; now my longing shall be satisfied, my hopes accomplished, my happiness completed. Holy Father, keep through thine own name Thy mercy, wisdom, and power; those whom thou hast given me To be my messengers to mankind; that they may be one One with us, and with each other; one body, separate from the world; as we are By resemblance to us, though not equality. While I was with them, &c., I kept them in thy name In the firm faith and steadfast practice of my religion, so far as I revealed it unto them. Or, as the clause may be read, through thy name, as in the preceding verse, through thy power and grace; those that thou gavest me I say, the twelve persons whom thou gavest me for apostles: I have thus kept, and none of them is lost None of them has apostatized; but the son of perdition That wicked person who deserves perdition; that the Scriptures might be fulfilled That is, whereby the Scripture is fulfilled. See note on John 12:40. As if he had said, His apostacy, has happened, not through any defect in my care, but in consequence of its being permitted, for the wisest reasons; and therefore long ago predicted in the Scriptures, particularly Psalms 109:8. The son of perdition, signifies one that deservedly perishes: as, a son of death, 2 Samuel 12:5; children of hell, Matthew 23:15; and children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3; signify persons justly obnoxious to death, hell, wrath.

Verses 13-19

John 17:13-19. These things I speak in the world That is, before I leave the world; that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves I offer this prayer in behalf of my apostles, with this intention; that being heard for them, they may receive all the endowments necessary to qualify them for converting the world, and be filled with my joy, the great joy I have in being the means of saving mankind. I have given them thy word, &c. I have omitted nothing that on my part was necessary to fit them for converting the world, and partaking of my joy. And Though they are indeed the greatest friends and benefactors of the human race, yet the world hath hated them And will be sure to persecute them with the utmost violence; because they are not of the world Are neither influenced by the principles, nor conformed to the spirit or conduct, of carnal men; even as I am not of the world In which respects they resemble me. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world As if he had said, Although these persecutions, which shall befall them, are another great reason why I offer up this prayer for them; nevertheless, my meaning is not that, on account of these difficulties, thou shouldest immediately remove them out of the world by death; but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil which is in the world, or rather, from the evil one, as απο του πονηρου properly signifies, that is, from the influence of his subtlety and power; from being taken in the snares he will lay for them, deceived by his wiles, or led into sin by his temptations. They are not of the world, &c. This sentiment he repeats, as reflecting with great pleasure on their being separated from the world, both in their dispositions and actions; and on their resembling himself in this respect; and hence he was the more solicitous that, after his departure, they might be preserved blameless, and therefore prays as in the following words, Sanctify them through thy truth Consecrate them to their office, and perfect them in holiness, by the instrumentality of thy truth, accompanied by thy grace. Thy word is truth Thy gospel, which they are to preach, is the great system of sanctifying truth, whereby real holiness is ever to be promoted: and may these my apostles experience more and more of its vital energy on their own souls, to qualify them more fully for the office of dispensing it to others. As thou hast sent me into the world To be the messenger of this grace; even so have I sent them Namely, on the same errand, to publish and proclaim what they have learned of me. And for their sakes As well as for the salvation of all that do or shall believe in me; I sanctify myself I set myself apart, as an offering holy to thee. Or, I devote myself as a victim to be sacrificed; that they also might be sanctified through the truth That, taught by my example, and animated by my dying love, they may be fully fitted for, and wholly devoted to, their important work. To sanctify, signifies, in general, to set apart to some appropriate use; and is used with peculiar propriety with reference to a sacrifice, which seems to be the sense in which our Lord applies it to himself in this verse.

Verses 20-23

John 17:20-23. Neither pray I for these alone I do not make my apostles the only subjects of this my last prayer; I pray likewise for all such as shall by their word, whether preached or written, be brought to believe on me, in whatever age or nation; that they also, being influenced by the same Spirit, and possessed of the same love; may be one Truly and intimately; (see on John 17:11;) as thou, Father, art in me Dwelling in me by thy Spirit; and I in thee By a constant, indissoluble union; that they also may be one in us Closely and vitally united to us, and deriving from us the richest supplies of divine wisdom and grace, power, purity, and consolation. This also is to be understood in a way of similitude, and not of sameness or equality. That the world may believe That, seeing their benevolence, charity, and holy joy, the people of the world, the carnal part of mankind, may believe that a religion productive of such amiable fruits is indeed of divine original. It is plainly intimated here by our Lord, that “dissensions among Christians would not only be uncomfortable to themselves, but would be a means of bringing the truth and excellence of Christianity into question: and he must be a stranger to what hath passed, and is daily passing, in the world, who does not see what fatal advantage these divisions have given to infidels, to misrepresent it as a calamity, rather than to regard it as a blessing to mankind.” Doddridge. Here we see Christ prays for the world, and may observe that the sum of his whole prayer Isaiah , 1 st, Receive me into thy own and my glory; 2d, Let my apostles share therein; 3d, And all other believers; 4th, And let all the world believe. And the glory which thou gavest me With respect to my human nature, namely, to be a habitation of thyself by the Spirit; I have given them Have bestowed on them the honour and happiness of having a measure of the same Spirit dwelling in them, enriching them with various gifts and graces, stamping them with thine image, and communicating unto them thy divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4. That they may be one, even as we are one May possess the closest union, and enjoy a most holy and happy fellowship with us and with each other here, and in consequence thereof may dwell together with us in eternal felicity hereafter. I in them Dwelling in their hearts by faith; (Ephesians 3:17;) and thou in me By thine indwelling presence; that they may be made perfect in one May possess the most perfect and uninterrupted union of love and purity, without any jarring affection or disposition, and through that union may grow up into me their living head in all things, till they arrive at the measure of the stature of my fulness, and are perfected in that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. That the world may know that thou hast sent me That the clearest demonstration may thus be given of the efficacy of thy grace in creating men anew, and constituting them saints indeed, visibly and justly the favourites of Heaven; and that it may be manifest to all that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me And hast conferred this grace upon them for my sake.

Verse 24

John 17:24. Father, I will He asks as one having a right to be heard; and prays, not as a servant, but as a Son; that they also whom thou hast given me Not only my apostles and first disciples, but all my believing, loving, and obedient people; may be with me where I am Namely, in that heavenly world to which I am now removing. As if he had said, Since no improvements, either in holiness or comfort, can completely answer the purposes of my love and the promises of my grace to them; therefore I request felicity for them in another and more perfect state of things; that they may behold May contemplate with everlasting and delightful admiration; my glory, which thou hast By thy sure appointment; given me And art just ready to bestow upon me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world And didst then decree for me that mediatorial kingdom with which thou art now about to invest me. Observe, reader, the happiness of heaven chiefly consists in beholding the glory of the Father and of the Son, Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:2.

Verses 25-26

John 17:25-26. O righteous Father Faithful and just, as well as merciful. When he prayed that believers might be sanctified, he called him holy Father: but now, praying that they might be glorified, he terms him righteous Father: for it is a crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge will give, and the admission of believers into the presence of God, through Christ, flows, not only from the mercy, but even from the justice of God. The world hath not known thee The world, being ignorant of thy nature and perfections, and of thy gracious counsels for the salvation of mankind, has rejected me; yet I have known thee Have been perfectly acquainted with thy counsels and designs, and have accordingly directed the whole of my ministrations to thy glory. And these have known that thou hast sent me And therefore have believed in me as the Messiah, a truth which they will courageously assert at the expense of their lives; which is the reason I am so solicitous that they should behold the glory thou hast given me. And I have declared to them thy name Have made them acquainted with thy nature, perfections, and counsels, and especially thy new best name of love; and I will declare it Still more fully, both by my word and by my Spirit; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them That their graces and services may be more eminent, as an evidence of thy unspeakable love to them; and that I also may take up my constant residence in them by my spiritual presence, when my bodily presence is removed, as it will quickly be.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on John 17". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/john-17.html. 1857.
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