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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

John 17

Verse 1

Lifting up (επαρας). First aorist active participle of επαιρω, old and common verb with οφθαλμους (eyes) as in John 4:35; John 6:5; John 11:41.

Father (Πατερ). Vocative form as in verses John 17:5; John 17:11; John 11:41, Christ's usual way of beginning his prayers. It is inconceivable that this real Lord's Prayer is the free composition of a disciple put into the mouth of Jesus. It is rather "the tenacious memory of an old man recalling the greatest days of his life" (Bernard), aided by the Holy Spirit promised for this very purpose (John 14:26; John 16:13). Jesus had the habit of prayer (Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46; Matthew 11:25; Luke 3:21; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:18; Luke 9:28; Luke 11:22; Luke 11:42; Luke 23:34; Luke 23:46; John 11:41; John 12:27). He prayed here for himself (John 17:1-5), for the disciples (John 17:6-19), for all believers (John 17:20-26). The prayer is similar in spirit to the Model Prayer for us in Matthew 6:9-13. The hour for his glorification has come as he had already told the disciples (John 13:31; John 12:23).

Glorify thy Son (δοξασον σου τον υιον). First aorist active imperative of δοξαζω, the only personal petition in this prayer. Jesus had already used this word δοξαζω for his death (John 13:31). Here it carries us into the very depths of Christ's own consciousness. It is not merely for strength to meet the Cross, but for the power to glorify the Father by his death and resurrection and ascension, "that the Son may glorify thee" (ινα ο υιος δοξαση σε). Purpose clause with ινα and the first aorist active subjunctive.

Verse 2

Authority over all flesh (εξουσιαν πασης σαρκος). Σαρκος is objective genitive. Stupendous claim impossible for a mere man to make. Made already in Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22 (Q, the Logia of Jesus, our earliest known document about Jesus) and repeated in Matthew 28:18 after his resurrection.

That (ινα). Secondary purpose with ινα δωσε (future active indicative) carrying on the idea of ινα δοξαση. See John 13:34; John 17:21 for ινα, καθωσ, ινα.

Whatsoever (παν ο). A peculiar classical Greek idiom, the collective use of the singular παν ο as in John 6:37; John 6:39 and ο in John 17:24 and the nominative absolute (nom. pendens) with αυτοις (to them), the dative plural explaining the construction. See Robertson, Grammar, p. 653.

Verse 3

Should know (γινωσκωσιν). Present active subjunctive with ινα (subject clause), "should keep on knowing."

Even Jesus Christ (Ιησουν Χριστον). See John 1:17 for the only other place in John's Gospel where the words occur together. Coming here in the Lord's own prayer about himself they create difficulty, unless, as Westcott suggests, Χριστον be regarded as a predicate accusative, "Jesus as the Christ" (Messiah). Otherwise the words would seem to be John's parenthetical interpretation of the idea of Jesus. Lucke thinks that the solemnity of this occasion explains Jesus referring to himself in the third person. The knowledge of "the only true God" is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6-9).

Verse 4

I glorified thee on the earth (εγω σε εδοξασα επ της γης). Verse John 17:3 is parenthetical and so verse John 17:4 goes on after verse John 17:2. He had prayed for further glorification.

Having accomplished (τελειωσας). First aorist active participle of τελειοω, old verb from τελειος (perfect). Used in John 4:34 by Jesus with το εργον as here. That was Christ's "food" (βρωμα) and joy. Now as he faces death he has no sense of failure as some modern critics say, but rather fulness of attainment as in John 19:30 (τετελεστα). Christ does not die as a disappointed man, but as the successful messenger, apostle (απεστειλας, verse John 17:3) of the Father to men.

Thou hast given (δεδωκας). Perfect active indicative of διδωμ, regarded as a permanent task.

Verse 5

With thine own self (παρα σεαυτω). "By the side of thyself." Jesus prays for full restoration to the pre-incarnate glory and fellowship (cf. John 1:1) enjoyed before the Incarnation (John 1:14). This is not just ideal pre-existence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father's side (παρα σο, with thee) "which I had" (η ειχον, imperfect active of εχω, I used to have, with attraction of case of ην to η because of δοξη), "before the world was" (προ του τον κοσμον εινα), "before the being as to the world" (cf. verse John 17:24). It is small wonder that those who deny or reject the deity of Jesus Christ have trouble with the Johannine authorship of this book and with the genuineness of these words. But even Harnack admits that the words here and in verse John 17:24 are "undoubtedly the reflection of the certainty with which Jesus himself spoke" (What Is Christianity, Engl. Tr., p. 132). But Paul, as clearly as John, believes in the actual pre-existence and deity of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).

Verse 6

I manifested (εφανερωσα). First aorist active indicative of φανεροω (from φανερος, manifest). Another word for claiming successful accomplishment of his task as in verse John 17:4 with εδοξασα and in verse John 17:26 with εγνωρισα.

Whom (ους). Accusative case after εδωκας, not attracted to case of antecedent (ανθρωποις). Jesus regards the apostles as the Father's gift to him. Recall the night of prayer before he chose them.

They have kept (τετηρηκαν). Perfect active indicative, late Koine form for the third plural instead of the usual τετηρηκασιν. Jesus claims loyalty and fidelity in these men with the one exception of Judas (verse John 17:12). He does not claim perfection for them, but they have at least held on to the message of the Father in spite of doubt and wavering (John 6:67-71; Matthew 16:15-20).

Verse 7

Now they know (νυν εγνωκαν). Perfect active indicative third plural like τετηρηκαν above. They have come to know, not as fully as they felt (John 16:30), and yet in a real sense.

Verse 8

The words (τα ρηματα). Plural, each word of God, as in John 3:34, and of Christ (John 5:47; John 6:63; John 6:68), while the singular (τον λογον σου) in verses John 17:6; John 17:14 views God's message as a whole.

Knew (εγνωσαν). Second aorist active indicative of γινωσκω like ελαβον in contrast with εγνωκαν (perfect) in verse John 17:7. They definitely "received and recognized truly" (αληθως). There was comfort to Christ in this fact.

They believed (επιστευσαν). Another aorist parallel with ελαβον and εγνωσαν. The disciples believed in Christ's mission from the Father (John 6:69; Matthew 16:16). Note απεστειλας here as in verse John 17:3. Christ is God's

Apostle to man (Hebrews 3:1). This statement, like a solemn refrain (Θου διδστ σενδ με), occurs five times in this prayer (verses John 17:8; John 17:18; John 17:21; John 17:23; John 17:25).

Verse 9

I pray (εγω ερωτω). Request, not question, as in John 16:23.

Not for the world (ου περ του κοσμου). Now at this point in the prayer Christ means. In verse John 17:19 Jesus does pray for the world (for future believers) that it may believe (verse John 17:21). God loves the whole world (John 3:16). Christ died for sinners (Romans 5:8) and prayed for sinners (Luke 23:34) and intercedes for sinners (1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

For those whom (περ ων). A condensed and common Greek idiom for περ τουτων ους with τουτων (the demonstrative antecedent) omitted and the relative ους attracted from the accusative ους (object of δεδωκας) to the case (genitive) of the omitted antecedent.

Verse 10

Are (εστιν). Singular number in the Greek (is), not the plural εισιν (are), emphasizing the unity of the whole as in John 16:15. "This no creature can say in reference to God" (Luther).

I am glorified in them (δεδοξασμα εν αυτοις). "I stand glorified (perfect passive indicative of δοξαζω) in the disciples" (εν αυτοις), in spite of all their shortcomings and failings. There is comfort for us in this.

Verse 11

And these (κα ουτο or αυτο, they). Note adversative use of κα (= but these).

I come (ερεομα). Futuristic present, "I am coming." Cf. John 13:3; John 14:12; John 17:13. Christ will no longer be visibly present to the world, but he will be with the believers through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20).

Holy Father (πατερ αγιε). Only here in the N.T., but see 1 John 2:20; Luke 1:49 for the holiness of God, a thoroughly Jewish conception. See John 6:69 where Peter calls Jesus ο αγιος του θεου. For the word applied to saints see Acts 9:13. See verse John 17:25 for πατηρ δικαιε (Righteous Father).

Keep them (τηρησον αυτους). First aorist (constative) active imperative of τηρεω, as now specially needing the Father's care with Jesus gone (urgency of the aorist tense in prayer).

Which (ω). Locative case of the neuter relative singular, attracted from the accusative ο to the case of the antecedent ονοματ (name).

That they may be one (ινα ωσιν εν). Purpose clause with ινα and the present active subjunctive of ειμ (that they may keep on being). Oneness of will and spirit (εν, neuter singular), not one person (εις, masculine singular) for which Christ does not pray. Each time Jesus uses εν (verses John 17:11; John 17:21; John 17:22) and once, εις εν, "into one" (verse John 17:23). This is Christ's prayer for all believers, for unity, not for organic union of which we hear so much. The disciples had union, but lacked unity or oneness of spirit as was shown this very evening at the supper (Luke 22:24; John 13:4-15). Jesus offers the unity in the Trinity (three persons, but one God) as the model for believers. The witness of the disciples will fail without harmony (John 17:21).

Verse 12

I kept (ετηρουν). Imperfect active of τηρεω, "I continued to keep."

I guarded (εφυλαξα). First aorist (constative) active of φυλασσω. Christ was the sentinel (φυλαξ, Acts 5:23) for them. Is he our sentinel now?

But the son of perdition (ε μη ο υιος της απωλειας). The very phrase for antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Note play on απωλετο, perished (second aorist middle indicative of απολλυμ). It means the son marked by final loss, not annihilation, but meeting one's destiny (Acts 2:25). A sad and terrible exception (Mark 14:21).

The scripture (η γραφη). It is not clear whether this is John's own comment or the word of Jesus. Not in John 18:9. The Scripture referred to is probably Psalms 41:9 quoted in John 13:18 with the same formula ινα πληρωθη which see there.

Verse 13

That they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves (ινα εχωσιν την χαραν την εμην πεπληρωμενην εν εαυτοις). Purpose clause with present active subjunctive of εχω, "that they may keep on having Christ's joy in their faithfulness realized in themselves." Πεπληρωμενην is the perfect passive participle of πληροω in the predicate position. For the use of πληροω with χαρα (joy) see John 15:11; John 16:24; Philippians 2:2.

Verse 14

Not of the world (ουκ εκ του κοσμου). They are "in the world" (εν τω κοσμω, verse John 17:13) still and Christ sends them "into the world" (εις τον κοσμον, verse John 17:18), but they must not be like the world nor get their spirit, standards, and message "out of the world," else they can do the world no good. These verses (John 17:14-19) picture the Master's ideal for believers and go far towards explaining the failure of Christians in winning the world to Christ. Too often the world fails to see the difference or the gain by the change.

Verse 15

Shouldest take (αρηις). First aorist active subjunctive of αιρω (liquid verb).

From the evil one (εκ του πονηρου). Ablative case with εκ, but can mean the evil man, Satan, or the evil deed. See same ambiguity in Matthew 6:13. But in 1 John 5:18 ο πονηρος is masculine (the evil one). Cf. Revelation 3:10.

Verse 16

Repetition of verse John 17:14 for emphasis.

Verse 17

Sanctify (αγιασον). First aorist active imperative of αγιαζω. To consecrate or set apart persons or things to God. See Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:1; Exodus 29:36; Exodus 40:13. See Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This is done in the sphere (εν) of truth (God's truth), God's Word (not human speculation, but God's message to us).

Verse 18

Sent I them (απεστειλα αυτους). The very verb (αποστελλω) used of the original commission of these men (Mark 3:14) and the special commission (Luke 9:2) and the renewal of the commission after the resurrection (John 20:21, both αποστελλω and πεμπω here).

Verse 19

I sanctify myself (εγω αγιαζω εμαυτον). To his holy ministry to which the Father "sanctified" (ηγιασεν) him (John 10:36).

That they themselves also may be sanctified in truth (ινα ωσιν κα αυτο ηγιασμενο εν αληθεια). Purpose clause with ινα and the periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive of αγιαζω (that they may remain sanctified). The act of Christ helps us, but by no means takes the place of personal consecration on the part of the believer. This high and holy prayer and act of Christ should shame any one who uses the livery of heaven to serve the devil in as does, alas, sometimes happen (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Verse 20

Through their word (δια του λογου αυτων). Through the agency of conversation and preaching, blessed privilege open to all believers thus to win men to Christ, but an agency sadly limited by the lives of those who speak in Christ's name.

Verse 21

That they also may be in us (ινα κα αυτο εν ημιν ωσιν). Another purpose clause with ινα and the present active subjunctive of ειμ. The only possible way to have unity among believers is for all of them to find unity first with God in Christ.

That the world may believe (ινα ο κοσμος πιστευη). Another purpose clause with ινα and the present active subjunctive of πιστευω, "may keep on believing." Beyond a doubt, strife, wrangling, division are a stumblingblock to the outside world.

Verse 22

And the glory (καγω την δοξαν). Literally, "And I the glory," with emphasis on "I." It is the glory of the Incarnate Word (Bernard), cf. John 1:14; John 2:11, not the glory of the Eternal Word mentioned in John 17:24. Bengel says: Quanta majestas Christianorum! Then verse John 17:22 repeats the unity prayed for in verse John 17:21.

Verse 23

That they may be perfected into one (ινα ωσιν τετελειωμενο εις εν). Purpose clause again with ινα (nineteen times in this prayer, this the fifteenth) with the periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive of τελειοω (verse John 17:4), permanent state, with εις εν (into one) as the goal and final result.

That the world may know (ινα γινωσκη). Present active subjunctive of γινωσκω with ινα like the present tense of πιστευω in verse John 17:21, "that the world may keep on knowing" with the same pregnant phrase "that thou me didst send" (οτ συ με απεστειλας) as in John 17:8; John 17:25.

And lovedst them (κα ηγαπησας αυτους). Timeless aorist, but love shown by sending Christ (John 3:16) and illustrated and proven by the way Christians love one another.

Verse 24

I will (θελω). Perfect identity of his will with that of the Father in "this moment of spiritual exaltation" (Bernard), though in Gethsemane Jesus distinguishes between his human will and that of the Father (Mark 14:36).

Where I am (οπου ειμ εγω). That is heaven, to be with Jesus (John 12:26; John 13:36; John 14:3; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11).

That they may behold (ινα θεωρωσιν). Another purpose clause with ινα and the present active subjunctive of θεωρεω, "that they may keep on beholding," the endless joy of seeing Jesus "as he is" (1 John 3:2) in heaven.

Before the foundation of the world (προ καταβολης κοσμου). This same phrase in Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20 and six other times we have καταβολη κοσμου (Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8). Here we find the same pre-incarnate consciousness of Christ seen in John 17:5.

Verse 25

O righteous Father (Πατηρ δικαιε). Nominative form with πατηρ used as vocative (cf. John 20:28), but vocative form δικαιε. Then the righteousness of God is appealed to like God's holiness in verse John 17:11.

The world (κα ο κοσμος). The translations usually slur over the κα as untranslatable in English. Westcott suggests "while" as a sort of correlative. It is quite possible that here κα is almost concessive like "though" and δε=yet: "though the world did not know thee, yet I knew thee, and these knew thee." See Robertson, Grammar, p. 1182 for και--δε--κα and various other uses of κα in John's Gospel.

Verse 26

And will make it known (κα γνωρισω). Future active of γνωριζω, the perpetual mission of Christ through the Spirit (John 16:12; John 16:25; Matthew 28:20) as he himself has done heretofore (John 17:6).

Wherewith (εν). Cognate accusative relative with ηγαπησας which has also the accusative of the person με (me).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 17". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/john-17.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.