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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
John 17

 

 

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Verses 1-8

The Lord's prayer - 1

John 17:1-8

John 17:1. ‘These words spake Jesus' refers to all the preceding words of comfort, instruction and direction that he had spoken to his disciples in the three preceding chapters. Our Lord lifted his eyes to heaven, which indicates the soul and heart being lifted towards the Father. While God is everywhere and fills heaven and earth, yet in heaven he manifests his glory. Though such a gesture is not necessary, our Lord fell on his face and prayed (Matthew 26:39). The publican did not lift his eyes towards heaven, yet he was heard.

'The hour is come' – to suffer and die, to depart out of this world, to redeem the people given to him by the Father, in the manner determined by the Father, that he might be both just and justifier (Romans 3:25-26; Galatians 4:4-5).

'Glorify thy son.' As God, he needed no added glory; but as man and Mediator, he prays that the Father will support, sustain and uphold him through all that he must endure for our sanctification and redemption, that the Son may glorify the Father's virtues of love, righteousness, mercy and truth (Psalms 85:10). The obedience and death of Christ effectually redeem all believers (Isaiah 53:4-6), glorify the love and grace of the Son (Revelation 5:9-10), and magnify the riches of the Father's grace (Ephesians 2:4-7).

John 17:2. Our Lord Jesus, as King of kings and Lord of lords, had all power, authority and government over everybody and everything (Matt. 28:28; Colossians 1:16-18). The Father has given him an elect people out of all nations; and in order to gather those people, Christ must have absolute authority over everybody, without exception. Eternal life is a free gift that the Son gives to such as the Father has given him in the eternal covenant (John 6:37-39; John 10:26-29; Acts 13:48). In order to save some, the one who saves must have authority over all (Philippians 2:9-11).

John 17:3. Eternal life is not a profession of religion, nor a reformation of manners, nor a knowledge of facts about God; but it is an experience of regeneration and revelation of God in the heart (Galatians 1:15-16; Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:27). Eternal life is spiritual life, divine life and the life of God in us (1 John 5:20). To know the only true God is not merely abstract knowledge (James 2:19); but it is to believe him, receive him and love him as he reveals himself in Christ. The Father cannot be known savingly except in and by the Son (Matthew 11:27; John 14:6).

John 17:4. To glorify God is to love him perfectly, to obey him perfectly, and to live in absolute submission to his perfect will. 'I have glorified thee on the earth.' This only Christ could say! (John 4:34; John 8:29; Hebrews 10:7). The work the Father gave him to do was to fulfill all righteousness (Romans 3:21-22; Romans 5:19; Romans 10:4), to defeat and destroy all enemies such as sin, Satan and death (John 12:31), and to redeem and save the elect (1 Peter 1:18-19). He could say, 'I have finished the work,' because it was so near and so certain that he would finish it (John 19:30).

John 17:5.We have here two important things:

1. Christ Jesus is God and was with God and was God from eternity (John 1:14; Proverbs 8:23-30). To return to the glory of the Father's presence is his delight.

2. Christ returns to the presence of the Father as 'the man Christ Jesus' (1 Timothy 2:5), the Mediator and Forerunner of all whom he redeems.

He prays to be returned in this office and to this glory even as he was before. He is received, exalted and seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and we are received with and in him (John 17:21-22; Ephesians 2:6; Hebrews 2:11-13).

John 17:6. 'I have manifested thy name,' or 'revealed thyself, the perfections of thy nature, thy redemptive will, thy gospel of mercy and grace and thy wisdom, power and glory' (1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:6). This he manifested to those whom the Father gave him out of the world. They were chosen by the Father and given to the Son, whom he appointed as their Surety, Head and Mediator. The Lord is thinking of all the elect, but here particularly of these disciples who were with him. By the grace of God they received Christ and his word (John 1:10-13).

John 17:7. This is something our Lord emphasized strongly – that the words he spoke were the Father's words, that the works he did were the Father's works, that he came to do the Father's will. He did not take it upon himself to be our high priest (Hebrews 5:5). When the Father raised him from the dead and exalted him, he gave assurance to all that Jesus Christ is his anointed, ordained and designated Redeemer (Acts 17:30-31). Let all know that all things such as all power, all spiritual gifts and all things pertaining to the kingdom are of the Father and are by his appointment, his decree and according to his will (Hebrews 10:5-14).

John 17:8. Christ gave to us the words of the Father called in scripture the doctrine of God, the word of truth, the testimony of God, the ministry of reconciliation and the gospel of God; and, with these disciples, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we gladly receive his words. We receive them gladly, with reverence and meekness, with love and gratitude, and know certainly that Jesus of Nazareth came from the Father as Mediator to seek and to save the lost, to redeem the chosen ones and to perform all that is necessary to their salvation. He is the true Messiah and no impostor.


Verses 9-15

The Lord's prayer - 2

John 17:9-15

John 17:9. Our Lord prays to the Father as man and mediator on earth. His intercession in heaven is not called prayer but intercession. His prayers are always heard, for he never prayed contrary to the will of the Father nor contrary to the glory of the Father. He prays here for his apostles and for all who believe on Him, which shows his care, concern, and love for them. ‘I pray NOT for the world’ of unbelievers, who live in sin and will die in sin. As he prayed not for those who would never believe, so he died not for them. For whom Christ is the propitiation, he is the advocate and mediator; and for whom he died, he makes intercession. He prayed for those that the Father had given him in the covenant of grace (John 6:37-45) to be saved, kept, and received up to eternal glory. ‘For they are thine,’ not merely by creation but by eternal election and special grace (2 Thessalonians 2:13 : Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 2:19).

John 17:10. ‘All mine are thine and thine are mine.’ This is understood only when we understand that the Father and the Son are ONE in essence, in ownership, and in purpose (John 10:30; John 5:17-23). I am glorified or made glorious IN their redemption (Ephesians 2:7; Revelation 5:9-13) and BY them who worship me, love me, and attribute the whole of their salvation to me. He will be glorified now and throughout eternity. Paul speaks in Ephesians 1 of the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the redemption of the elect; and after each division he adds, ‘to the praise of his glory’ (Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14). Whom the Father chose, the Son redeemed and the Holy Spirit calls. ‘All my people are thy people, and thy people are my people.’

John 17:11. The Saviour would soon die and depart out of this world in which he had walked for over thirty years. It is an unfriendly, hostile, difficult world of sin and unbelief (Isaiah 53:1-3; John 15:18-19; 1 John 5:19). While the Lord Jesus would go to the Father, enter within the veil as our forerunner (Hebrews 6:19-20), and sit down on the right hand of the Majesty on High (Hebrews 1:3), his disciples would remain in the world to preach the gospel and be exposed to evil, temptation, and hardships. His prayer is that the Father would protect and guard them, hedge them about, keep them faithful to the gospel, and in unity with him and one another, that these believers may be one in love, in purpose, in message, and someday ONE in a greater way than we can now imagine (John 17:23-24).

John 17:12. The Lord Jesus is the surety of his people (Hebrews 7:22) and the good shepherd of all the sheep (John 10:14-16), and not one of those apostles nor one of those given him by the Father can ever be lost (John 6:37-39). He kept and will keep them from the evil one and eternal ruin (1 Peter 1:3-5). But Judas, son of perdition, by his own choice and willful apostasy is lost, and fulfilled all that was written of him. Judas was never one of the elect of God nor one given to Christ but was a reprobate from the beginning (John 6:64; John 6:70-71; Psalms 109:7-8). Wicked men do what their evil hearts devise, but in all things they fulfill the purpose of our sovereign Lord (Acts 4:27-28; Luke 22:22; Psalms 76:10).

John 17:13. About six weeks from this time the Saviour would leave the apostles and ascend to the Father, and the disciples would be without his bodily presence. He has spoken these things (all that he imparted to them in Chapters 13-16) and put forth this prayer that the joy of his people might not be diminished by his going from them, but that they might rejoice in his redemptive work, his exaltation, his intercession, and his return (John 15:11).

John 17:14. The sense here is more than just preaching the word to these disciples, for he had given the word to many in this fashion. But he had opened their hearts to understand, receive, and embrace the word of God in faith and love, so that the word dwelt in them, was engrafted in them, and changed them into the likeness of the word. The word in their hearts made them to be of another spirit from the carnal worldling and religionist; therefore, they were hated by these people. Believers are born, live, and die in this world as all other men; but in spirit, attitude, conduct, conversation, and walk they are not of and like the world, even as their Lord (Romans 8:4-10).

John 17:15. Although they were not of the world and would be hated, persecuted, and killed by his enemies in the world, the Saviour does not ask the Father to take them out of the world; for they had a work to do–a gospel to preach (John 20:21; Matthew 28:18-20). It is for his glory, the salvation of his elect (2 Timothy 2:9-10), and the comfort and edification of his church that we remain in this world. They will be taken to glory in his own time. However, he prays that they might all be kept from ‘the evil one.’ The believer does not pray for death, nor for deliverance from the common ills of mankind, nor even from persecution for the sake of the gospel, but to be delivered from sin, from the power and testing of Satan, and certainly from apostasy (1 John 5:18). Back of all evil influence stands Satan, so that it is especially against him that we need protection (Luke 22:31-32).


Verses 16-26

The Lord's prayer - 3

John 17:16-26

John 17:16. Our Lord repeats the words he said in John 17:14, where they are given as a reason for the world's hatred and here as a reason for divine protection from the evil one. Who they are and what they are incite his wrath against them.

John 17:17. Though our sanctification in Christ is perfect (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:9-10), yet there is a need for spiritual growth and development in love, faith, humility, knowledge, and all Christian graces. Believers are first new-born babes, then young men, and later fathers in Christ. This sanctifying work is done by the Holy Spirit through the word of God (1 Peter 2:1-3). His word is infallible truth; and our spiritual growth depends not upon feelings, visions, and resolutions, but upon an ever-increasing love for, understanding of, and embracing of his word (Psalms 119:9-16; Psalms 119:33-34; Psalms 119:65-72). As the word of God is the seed in regeneration (1 Peter 1:23), so it is the source of true holiness of life and conversation.

John 17:18. Our Redeemer was sent into the world by the Father to accomplish the full redemption of his people, to fulfill the gospel, and to proclaim it (Isaiah 61:1-3). He took not that office or honor unto himself, but the Father ordained and sent him (Hebrews 5:4-6). Even so, these apostles were appointed, ordained, and sent by Christ as his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:19-21 : John 20:21-23).

John 17:19. This is not to be understood to mean Christ's making himself holy, for he did no sin: but he is saying, ‘I set myself apart as a sacrifice for sin, well-pleasing and acceptable to the Father, that my people might be sanctified’ (Ephesians 1:3-7; Ephesians 5:25-26). The Father sanctified us in his divine election (Jude 1:1), the Son sanctified us by his sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10-14), and the Holy Spirit sanctified us in regeneration, in calling, and in belief of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

John 17:20. He prays not only for these apostles and present disciples, but for all who will receive and believe the gospel.

1. He prayed not for people who would die in unbelief (John 17:9).

2. He prayed for those who were not then believers but who would believe (John 10:16).

3. Faith comes by hearing the word, for Christ prays for those who would believe ‘through their word’ (Romans 10:17).

John 17:21. There is a union and oneness between the Father and the Son in nature, essence, power, affection, and purpose which infinitely transcends any kind of union among men; yet the oneness of all believers resembles that which exists between the Father and the Son.

They have a common faith, which all experience and agree in the main point of the gospel–salvation alone by the Lord Jesus Christ.

They have a common affection, being knit together in love to each other (1 John 4:7-11).

They have a common goal–the glory of God.

And they are all one in Christ and in God by his grace. Not only will God's grace in Christ be manifested to future believers, but to the whole universe (Ephesians 2:7; Philippians 2:9-11).

John 17:22. This glory is eternal life, which the Father vested in the Son, which the Son purchased and perfected by the work which he did, and which the Son gives to every believer. This is indicated by John 17:1-4 of this chapter (2 Peter 1:2-4). Moses asked, ‘Show me thy glory’ (Exodus 33:18-19). Because he has bestowed upon us this glory of grace and mercy in Christ, we are one with Christ in God.

John 17:23. Hendriksen said, ‘When God dwells in the Son and he (through the Spirit) dwells in believers, then, naturally, these believers become partakers of all the riches that are in Christ––pardon, righteousness, love, joy, knowledge, wisdom, etc.–and when all the members of the church universal become partakers of these blessings, the church, of course, will be one, just as the Father and the Son are one.’ Then all the world shall know that Christ is the only Saviour and that the Father loves the elect as he loves the only begotten Son (John 3:16). Christ came BECAUSE God loved us.

John 17:24. What a prospect! what a future! to be with him where he is! (John 14:2-3) and actually to behold his glory! Someone said, ‘To see life is to live, and to see his glory is to be glorified with Him’ (1 John 3:1-3; Psalms 17:15). The glory, praise, and adoration of Christ will be our eternal vocation (Revelation 5:9-14).

John 17:25-26. The world religions and the world in general do not know God (John 1:10-11). But the Son knows the Father and has manifested the Father to every believer, and they all know him to be the Messiah sent by the Father. He has declared the name of the Lord Jehovah-jireh (Genesis 22:13-14), Jehovah-rapha (Exodus 15:26), Jehovah-nissi (Exodus 17:8-15), Jehovah-shalom (Judges 6:24). Jehovah-raah (Psalms 23:1), Jehovah-tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6), and Jehovah-Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35)–and will continue to declare it, for his name is Wonderful (Isaiah 9:6). The love of God revealed to the heart begets love in the heart (1 John 4:19).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 17:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/john-17.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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