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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
John 17

 

 

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Verse 1

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

For the general character of this portion of the Fourth Gospel, see the opening remarks on John 14:1-31. As for this Prayer, had it not been recorded, what reverential reader would not have exclaimed. O to have been within hearing of such a prayer as that must have been, which wound up the whole of His past ministry and formed the point of transition to the dark scenes which immediately followed! But here it is, and with such signature of the Lips that uttered it that we seem rather to hear it from Himself than read it from the pen of His faithful reporter. Were it not almost profane even to advert to it, we might ask the reader to listen to the character given of this Prayer by the first critic, bearing a Christian name, who in modern times has questioned, though he afterward admitted, the genuineness and authenticity of the Fourth Gospel (Bretschneider-with whom, as might be expected, Strauss agree): he calls it 'frigid, dogmatic, metaphysical.' What a commentary on those apostolic words, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14). Happily, the universal instinct of Christendom recoils from such language, and feels itself, while standing within the precincts of this chapter, to be on holy ground, yea, in the very holy of holies. We may add, with Bengel, that this chapter is, in the words of it, the most simple, but in sense the most profound in all the Bible; or, as Luther said long before, that plan and simple as it sounds, it is so deep, rich, and broad, that no man can fathom it.

The Prayer naturally divides itself into thee parts: First, What relates to the Son Himself, who offered the prayer (John 17:1-5); secondly, what had reference more immediately to those Eleven disciples in whose hearing the prayer was uttered (John 17:6-19); thirdly, what belongs to all who should believe on Him through their word, to the end of the world (John 17:20-24); with two concluding verses, simply breathing out His soul in a survey, at once dark and bright, of the whole past results of His mission. We address ourselves to the exposition of this Prayer, with the warning to Moses sounding in our ears-and let it sound in thine, O reader! - "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5); yet encouraged by the assurance of Him that uttered it, that the Comforter "shall glory Him-receiving of His, and showing it unto us."

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven. 'John,' says Alford, 'very seldom depicts the gestures or looks of our Lord, as here. But this was an occasion of which the impression was indelible, and the upward look could not be passed over.'

And said, Father. Never does Jesus say in prayer, 'Our Father,' though He directs His disciples to do it; but always "Father," and once, during His Agony, "My Father:" thus severing Himself as Man from all other men, as the "Separate from sinners," though "Bone of our bone, and Flesh of our flesh."

The hour is come. But did not the Father, you will say, know that? O yes, and Jesus knew that He knew it. But He had not that narrow and distant and cold view of prayer which some even true Christians have, as if it was designed for nothing else but to express petitions for benefits needed, promised, expected. Prayer is the creature yearning after Him that gave it being, looking up into its Father's face, opening its bosom to the brightness and warmth of His felt presence, drinking in fresh assurances of safety under His wing, fresh inspirations of His love, fresh nobility from the consciousness of its nearness to Him. In prayer believers draw near to God, not merely when necessity drives them, but under the promptings of filial love, and just because "it is good for them to draw near to God." We like to breathe the air of His presence; we love to come to Him, though it were for nothing but to cry, in the spirit of adoption, "Abba, Father." "Walking in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship One with the other-He with us and we with Him" - uplifting, invigorating, transfiguring fellowship. How much more, then, must Christ's prayers, and this one above all, have been of that character! Hear Him telling His Father here, with sublime simplicity and familiarity, that "the hour was come." What hour? The hour of hours; the hour with a view to which all the purposes of grace from everlasting were fixed; the hour with a view to which all the scaffolding of the ancient economy was erected; the hour with a view to which He had come into the world, and been set apart by circumcision and baptism and the descent of the Spirit; the hour with a view to which He had lived and worked and taught and prayed; the hour for which Heaven, for the ends of Grace, and Earth and Hell, to defeat those ends, were waiting alike with eager hope: that hour was now "come" - virtually come, all but come-`All things,' Father, 'are now ready.'

Glorify thy Son - `Put honour upon Thy Son, by openly countenancing Him, when all others desert Him; by sustaining Him, when the waters come in unto His soul and He sinks in deep mire where there is no standing; by carrying Him through the horrors of that hour, when it shall please the Lord to bruise Him, and make His soul an offering for sin.'

That thy Son [also] may glorify thee - by a willing and absolute obedience unto death, even the death of the Cross, thus becoming a glorious Channel for the extension to a perishing world of Thine everlasting love. [The kai (Greek #2532) of the Received Text has insufficient authority, and is excluded by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles.]


Verse 2

As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

As thou hast given him , [ kathoos (Greek #2531) edookas (Greek #1325)] - 'According as thou gavest Him'

Power over all flesh. Compare John 3:35, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand;" Matthew 11:27, "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father;" Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth."

That he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. The phraseology here is very special: 'That all that which Thou hast given Him, He should give to them eternal life.' On the import of this language and of the whole sentiment expressed by it, see the notes at John 6:37-40, with the corresponding remarks at the close of that section.


Verse 3

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

And this is life eternal [ hee (G3588) aioonios (G166) zoon (G2198)], that they might know thee the only true God - the sole Personal, Living God, in glorious contrast with all forms of pagan polytheism, mystic pantheism, and philosophic naturalism.

And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. This is the only place where our Lord gives Himself the compound name "JESUS CHRIST," afterward so current in apostolic preaching and writing. (See the note at Matthew 1:1.) Here all the words are employed in their strict signification: First, "JESUS," because He "saves His people from their sins;" Second, "CHRIST," as anointed with the measureless fullness of the Holy Spirit for the exercise of His saving offices (see the note at Matthew 1:16); Third, "WHOM THOU HAST SENT," in the plenitude of Divine Authority and Power, to save. 'The very juxtaposition here,' as Alford properly observes, 'of Jesus Christ with the Father is a proof, by implication, of our Lord's Godhead. The knowledge of God and a creature could not be eternal life, and such an association of the one with the other would be inconceivable.' Thus, then, "the life eternal" of which Jesus here speaks, and which He says it is His proper office to confer, is no merely conscious, unending existence, but a life whose most distinguishing characteristic is acquaintance with the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with Jesus Himself as the Way to the Father, and the Truth and the Life (Job 22:21; Matthew 11:27, etc.)


Verse 4

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do - or, keeping to the strict sense of the tenses here employed, 'I glorified Thee on the earth: I finished the work which Thou hast given Me to do' [ edoxasa (Greek #1392) ... teleioosas (Greek #5048) dedookas (Greek #1325)]. Observe here, first, the light in which Jesus presents Himself and His work before His Father's view. His whole life here below was, He says, a glorification of the Father; but in this He only did, He says, a prescribed work-a work "given Him to do." But observe, next, the retrospective light in which He speaks of this. He refers to the time when He was "on the earth," as a past time: His glorification of the Father was now completed; the "work given Him to do" was a "finished" work. Manifestly the work meant was not so much of His work merely as was over at the moment when He now spake; for the great consummating surrender of His life was yet to come. It is His entire work in the flesh of which He speaks as now finished. And in the sublime and erect consciousness that He was presenting before the Father's eye a glorification of Him in which He would see no flaw, a finished work in which would be found nothing lacking, He now asks the fitting return.


Verse 5

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

And now - `the whole purpose I am here for being accomplished,'

O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self , [ para (Greek #3844) seautoo (Greek #4572)] - or 'beside Thine own Self (apud Teipsum, or Temetipsum, as the Vulgate, Calvin, and Beza render it). The nearest, strictest, Personal conjunction is beyond doubt meant, as in John 1:1, "The Word was with God" [ pros (Greek #4314) ton (Greek #3588) Theon (Greek #2316)], and John 17:18, The Only begotten Son who is in" - `on' or 'into' - "the bosom of the Father" [ eis (Greek #1519) ton (Greek #3588) kolpon (Greek #2859) tou (Greek #3588) Patros (Greek #3962)]. Compare Zechariah 13:7, "The Man that is My Fellow," or 'My Associate' [ `


Verse 6

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

I have manifested, [ Efaneroosa (G5319), 'I manifested'] thy name - `Thy whole revealed character toward mankind,'

Unto the men which thou gavest, [ dedookas (G1325), 'hast given'] me out of the world. He had said to them in the foregoing discourse, "I have chosen you out of the world." (John 15:19). Here He says the Father had first given them to Him out of the world; and it was in pursuance of that gift from everlasting that He in time made that choice of them.

Thine they were - as the sovereign Lord and Proprietor of all flesh (John 17:2),

And thou gavest them me - as the Incarnate Son and Saviour, to be themselves separated from the world and saved, in the first instance (according to the principles of John 6:37-40), and then to be separated to the high office of gathering in others.

And they have kept thy word - retained it (Luke 8:15); not taking it up superficially, as multitudes did, only to abandon it when they saw where it would lead them, but forsaking all for it.


Verse 7

Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.


Verse 8

For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest ('hast given') me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me , [ elabon (Greek #2983) ... egnoosan (Greek #1097) ... episteusan (Greek #4100)] - 'they received them, and knew surely that I came out from Thee; and believed that Thou didst send Me;' referring doubtless to their own explicit declaration, but a little before, "Now are we sure" - `Now know we' - "that Thou knowest all things: by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God" (John 16:30). How benignant is this acknowledgment of the feeble faith of those infantile believers! Yet unless it had been genuine, and He had seen in it the germ of noblest faith afterward to be displayed, He had not so spoken of it.


Verse 9

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

I pray for them - not here as apostles, but as the following words show, as the representatives of those "chosen out of the world."

I pray not for the world - for the things sought for them were totally inapplicable to the world. Not that the individuals composing the world were shut out from Christ's compassions (see the last clause of John 17:21), or ought to be shut out from ours; but they come within the sphere of this prayer only by "being chosen out of the world."

But for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. He had just said that the Father "gave them to Him;" but here He says they were the Father's still, for the Father did not give them out of His own hands in committing them to the Son's. See the notes at John 10:28-30. Accordingly He adds,


Verse 10

And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

And all mine are thine, and thine are mine , [ ta (Greek #3588) ema (Greek #1691) sa (Greek #4674) estin (Greek #1510), kai (Greek #2532) ta (Greek #3588) sa (Greek #4674) ema (Greek #1691)] - 'And all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thy things are Mine.' ABSOLUTE COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY BETWEEN THE FATHER AND THE SON is here expressed as nakedly as words could do it.

And I am glorified in them.


Verse 11

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

And [now] I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. 'Though My struggles are at an end, theirs are not: though I have gotten beyond the scene of strife, I cannot sever Myself in spirit from them, left behind, and only just entering on their great conflict.'

Holy Father - an expression He nowhere else uses. "Father" is His wonted appellation, but "holy" is here prefixed, because His appeal was to that perfection of the Father's nature, to "keep" or preserve them from being tainted by the unholy atmosphere of "the world" they were still in.

Keep through thine own name , [ en (Greek #1722) too (Greek #3588) onomati (Greek #3686) sou (Greek #4675)] - rather, in 'Thy name;' in the exercise of that gracious and holy character which, as revealed, is the "name" by which God is known to men.

Those whom thou hast given me. The true reading clearly is 'what thou hast given me' [ hoo (Greek #3739), instead of hous (Greek #3739)]. So Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles, with whom the best critics concur.

That they may be one, as we are. See the note at John 17:21.


Verse 12

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name - `I preserved them from defection through the revelation to their souls of that "grace and truth" of Thine which, whenever they were staggered and ready to give way, held them fast.'

Those that thou gavest me I have kept - `Those whom Thou hast given Me I kept,' or 'guarded' [ dedookas (Greek #1325) ... efulaxa (Greek #5442)], And none ('not one') of them is lost, but the son of perdition. If we take the expressions, "children of this world," "child of the devil," "the man of sin," "children of light," "children of Zion," to mean men who have in them the nature of the things mentioned as their proper character, then, "the son of perdition" must mean 'he who not only is doomed to, but has the materials of perdition already in his character.' So we are to understand the expression "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3).

That the Scripture might be fulfilled (Psalms 69:25; Psalms 109:8; Acts 1:16; Acts 1:20). The phrase 'not one but (or 'but only') the son of perdition' [ ei (Greek #1487) mee (Greek #3361)] is used in the same sense as in Luke 4:26-27 (on which see). 'It is not implied,' as Webster and Wilkinson correctly observe, 'that Judas was one of those whom the Father had given to the Son, but rather the contrary. See John 13:18.'


Verse 13

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

And now, [ nun (G3568) de (G1161), 'But now'] come I to thee. He had just said this before; but He loves to say it again, the yearning of His whole soul after the Father thus finding natural relief.

And these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves - `Such a strain befits rather the upper sanctuary than the scene of conflict; but I speak so "in the world" that My joy, the joy I experience in knowing that such intercessions are to be made for them by their absent Lord, may be tasted by those who now hear them, and by all who shall hereafter read the record of them.' See the note at John 15:11; only here the ground of that joy seems more comprehensive than there.


Verse 14

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, [ emiseesen (G3404), 'the world hated them,'] because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. See the notes at John 15:18-21.


Verse 15

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world - for that, though it would secure their own safety, would leave the world unblessed by their testimony;

But that thou keep them from the evil , [ ek (Greek #1537) tou (Greek #3588) poneerou (Greek #4190)] - or 'from evil;' all evil in and of the world. The translation 'from the evil one' is to be rejected here, as not suiting the comprehensiveness of these petitions. See also, in the Lord's Prayer, at Matthew 6:13.


Verse 16

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. See the notes at John 17:6-9; and at John 15:18-19. This is reiterated here to pave the way for the prayer which follows:


Verse 17

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Sanctify them through, [ en (G1722), or 'in'] thy truth: thy word is truth. Principles of vast importance are here expressed. Observe, first, the connection between this petition and that of John 17:15. As that was negative - "Keep them" - asking protection for them from the poisonous element which surrounded and pressed upon their renewed nature; so this prayer - "Sanctify them" - is positive, asking the advancement and completion of their begun sanctification. Observe, next, the medium or element of sanctification. All sanctification is represented as the fruit of truth; not truth in general, but what is called distinctively "God's truth," or 'Christ's Father's truth:' in other words, not only religious truth-as distinguished from all other truth, physical or metaphysical-but His revealed truth. Accordingly, as if to make this more clear-for the sake of those who listened to this prayer, and as many as should have it brought within their reach throughout all time-He defines what He means by "Thy truth," adding that important clause, "Thy word is truth." But what, it may be asked, is specifically meant by "Thy word?" This he had already explained in John 17:14, "I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." And in a previous verse (John 17:8), "I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them," etc.

The whole of His own teaching, then, as an express communication from the Father, through the Faithful and True Witness, was that "word of truth" through which He prays that they might be sanctified. It had fetched them in already (John 15:3). But they had not done with it when it ceased to drop upon their ear from those Lips into which grace was poured. Nay, it was only when He "went unto His Father, and they saw Him no more," that it was, through the promised teaching of the Spirit, to take its full "sanctifying" effect upon them. For then only was it seen and felt to be but the fullness of all the Old Testament revelations, the perfection of all gracious communications from God to men, "spoken unto us in these last days by His own Son," and the substance of all that was to be unfolded in detail by His apostles in their preaching and by their writings for all time. (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5.) Accordingly, just before His ascension, He commissioned these same faithful Eleven, as the representatives of His ministering servants in every succeeding age, to teach the baptized disciples to "observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them" - not to the exclusion of all divine truth except that contained in the Gospels, but as comprehensive of all revealed, saving truth. (See the notes at Matthew 28:16-20, Remark 3 at the close of that section.) But one other thing here must not be passed over. While our Lord holds prominently forth the ordained medium or element of sanctification-God's word of truth-He ascribes the sanctification which is thereby done entirely to God Himself, saying to His Father, "Sanctify Thou them." Great principles these in the divine economy of salvation, which cannot be too constantly and vividly present to the minds of believers, and especially of ministers.


Verse 18

As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

As thou hast sent ('sentest') me into the world, even so have I also sent ('sent I also') them into the world. As their mission was designed for no other end than to carry into effect the purpose of His own mission into the world, so He speaks of the authority by which He was sending them into the world as but an extension of the same authority by which Himself was sent of the Father. As He was the Father's Ambassador and Agent, so were they to be His. Nay, He represents them as already sent, just as He represents His own personal work on earth as already at an end; and what His soul is now filled with and looking forward to is the coming fruit of that work, the travail of His soul, and His satisfaction therein.


Verse 19

And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might (or 'may') be sanctified through the truth , [ en (Greek #1722) aleetheia (Greek #225)] - 'in the truth,' or 'in truth.' Since the article is wanting in the original, we may translate, as in the margin, 'that they also may be truly sanctified,' in contrast with those ritual sanctifications with which as Jews they were so familiar. So Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Meyer. But since in 2 John 1:3, and 3 John 1:3-4, the beloved disciple speaks of "walking in [the] truth," without the article-meaning certainly not 'walking truly,' but 'walking in the truth of the Gospel'-it is much better to understand our Lord to refer here to that same truth of which he had spoken in John 17:17 as the element or medium of all sanctification. So Erasmus, Lucke, Tholuck, Alford, Lange. 'The only difference,' says Olshausen excellently, 'between the application of the same term (sanctify) to Christ and the disciples is that, as applied to Christ, it means only to consecrate; whereas in application to the disciples, it means to consecrate with the additional idea of previous sanctification, since nothing but what is holy can be presented as an offering.

The whole self-sacrificing work of the disciples appears here as a mere result of the offering of Christ.' But it should be added, in further illustration of the vast difference between the sanctification of the Master and that of the servants, that He does not say, 'I sanctify Myself through the truth,' but simply, "I sanctify Myself," that is, 'set Myself apart by Self-consecration;' and while He says of His own sanctification that it was "for their sakes," He does not say that they were to be sanctified for others' sakes-though that, in a certain inferior and not unimportant sense, is true enough-but simply, "that they also might be sanctified through the truth." Thus, in language which brings His people into the nearest and most blessed conjunction with Himself-in a common sanctification-does Jesus, by sharpest lines of demarcation, distinguish between Himself and them in that sanctification.


Verse 20

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

Neither pray I for these alone , [ Ou (Greek #3756) peri (Greek #4012) toutoon (Greek #5130) de (Greek #1161) erootoo (Greek #2065) monon (Greek #3440).] - 'Yet not for these alone do I pray,'

But for them also which shall believe on me. The true reading here is one we should not have expected-`for them which believe on me' [ pisteuontoon (Greek #4100) - not pisteusontoon (Greek #4100)]. But the evidence in its favour is decisive, while the received reading has but feeble support. Of course, the sense is the same; but this reading exhibits the whole company of believers as already before the eye of Jesus in that character-a present multitude already brought in and filling His mighty soul with a Redeemer's "satisfaction." How striking is it, that while all future time is here viewed as present, the present is viewed as past and gone!

Through their word. The Eleven are now regarded as the carriers of the glad tidings of His salvation "to every creature;" but of course, only as the first of a race of preachers, whose sound was to go into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world; whose beautiful feet upon the mountains, as they carried the news of salvation from land to land, were hailed even by the evangelical prophet (Isaiah 52:7).


Verse 21

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

That they all may be one, [ hen (G1520), 'one thing;'] as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one [ hen (G1520), 'one thing'] in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent ('sentest') me. No language which we at present have can adequately express the full import of these wonderful words, nor can any heart here below completely conceive it. But the three great unities here brought before us may be pointed out. First in order is the Unity of the Father and the Son - "as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee:" next, the assumption of all believers into that Unity, thus constituting a new Unity - "that they also may be one in Us:" Finally, and as the consequence of this, the Unity of all believers among themselves - "that they all may be one," that is, among themselves. Had our Lord been here speaking of the absolute or essential unity of the Father and the Son in the Godhead, He could not have prayed that believers absolute or essential unity of the Father and the Son in the Godhead, He could not have prayed that believers might be taken into that Unity.

But we have already seen (on John 10:30, where the very same remarkable expression is used), what He meant by the Father and Himself being "one thing" [ hen (Greek #1520)]. They have all in common, They have one interest-in the Kingdom of Grace, the salvation of sinners, the recovery of Adam's family. Oneness of essence is the manifest basis of this community of interest, as only on that principle would the language be endurable from Human Lips. But the oneness here meant is 'oneness in thought, feeling, purpose, action, interest, property-in the things of salvation.' And it is into this Unity that Jesus prays that all believers may be taken up; so as to become one with the Father and the Son spiritually, yet really for all the purposes of salvation and glory. This explanation makes it easy to see what is meant by the first petition, that "all believers may be one." It is not mere unity-whether in a vast common external organization, or even in internal judgment and feeling about religious matters. It is oneness in the Unity of the Father and the Son - "that they also may be one IN US" - in the matters of Grace and Salvation.

Thus, it is a union in spiritual life; a union in faith on a common Saviour, in love to His blessed name, in hope of His glorious appearing: a union brought about by the teaching, quickening, and indwelling of the one Spirit of the Father and the Son in all alike; in virtue of which they have all one common character and interest-in freedom from the bondage of sin and Satan, in separation from this present evil world, in consecration to the service of Christ and the glory of God, in witnessing for truth and righteousness on the earth, in participation of all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. But one other thing remains to be noticed in this great prayer - "that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me." This shows clearly that the Unity of believers among themselves was meant to be such as would have an outstanding, visible manifestation-such as the vast outlying world might be able to recognize, and should be constrained to own as the work of God. Thus, the grand impression upon the world at large, that the mission of Christ is divine, is to be produced by the manifested, undeniable Unity of His disciples in spiritual life, love, and holiness. It is not a merely formal, mechanical unity of ecclesiastical machinery. For as that may, and to a large extent does, exist in both the Western and Eastern Churches, with little of the Spirit of Christ, yea much, much with which the Spirit of Christ cannot dwell, so, instead of convincing the world beyond its own pale of the divinity of the Gospel, it generates infidelity to a large extent within its own bosom. But the Spirit of Christ, illuminating, transforming, and reigning in the hearts of the genuine disciples of Christ, drawing them to each other as members of one family, and prompting them to loving cooperation for the good of the world-this is what, when sufficiently glowing and extended, shall force conviction upon the world that Christianity is divine.

Doubtless, the more that differences among Christians disappear-the more they can agree even in minor matters-the impression upon the world may be expected to be greater. But it is not altogether dependent upon this; for living and loving oneness in Christ is sometimes more touchingly seen even amidst and in spite of minor differences, than where no such differences exist to try the strength of their deeper unity. Yet until this living brotherhood in Christ shall show itself strong enough to destroy the sectarianism, selfishness, carnality, and apathy that eat out the heart of Christianity in all the visible sections of it, in vain shall we expect the world to be overawed by it. It is when "the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high," as a Spirit of truth and love, and upon all parts of the Christian territory alike, melting down differences and heart-burnings, kindling astonishment and shame at past unfruitfulness, drawing forth longings of catholic affection, and yearnings over a world lying in wickedness, embodying themselves in palpable forms and active measures-it is then that we may expect the effect here announced to be produced, and then it will be irresistible.


Verse 22

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

And the glory which thou gavest ('hast given') me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. This verse is to be viewed as the proper complement of the former one. Our Lord had prayed that those who believed on Him might be one, and one in the Unity of the Father and the Son. But what grounds were there for expecting such a thing, or rather, what materials existed for bringing it about? The answer to that question is what we have in the present verse. "In order," says Jesus, "that they may be one, even as We are one, I have given unto them the glory which Thou hast given unto Me." The glory, then, here meant is all that which Jesus received from the Father as the incarnate Redeemer and Head of His people-the glory of a perfect acceptance as the spotless Lamb-the glory of free access to the Father and the right to be heard always-the glory of the Spirit's indwelling and sanctification-the glory of divine support and victory over sin, death, and hell-the glory of finally inheriting all things. This glory, Jesus says not, 'I will give,' but "I have given them;" thus teaching us that this glory is the present heritage of all that believe, and the divine provision-the heaven-provided furniture-for their attaining even here to that exalted Unity among themselves which would stamp the mission of their Lord as divine even in the eyes of the world.


Verse 23

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one , [ eis (Greek #1519) hen (Greek #1520)] - 'into one [thing];'

And that the world may know that thou hast sent ('didst send') me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me , [ apesteilas (Greek #649) - eegapeesas (Greek #25)] - 'and lovedst them even as Thou lovedst Me.' Everything in this verse, except the last clause, had been substantially said before. But while the reiteration adds weight to the wonderful sentiment, the variation in the way of putting it throws additional light on a subject on which all the light afforded us is unspeakably precious. Before, the oneness of believers was said to be simply 'in the Father and the Son.' Here, a certain arrangement of the steps, if we may so speak, is indicated. First in order is the Father's indwelling in the Son, by His Spirit - "Thou in Me;" next, the Son's indwelling in believers by the same Spirit - "I in them:" only "God giveth not His Spirit by measure unto the Son" (John 3:34), but "anointeth Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows" (Psalms 45:7), because it is His of right, as the Son and the Righteous One in our nature.

Thus is provision made for "their being made perfect into one," or worked into a glorious Unity, only reflecting the Higher Divine Unity. We have said that the last clause of this verse is the only part of it which had not been expressed before; nor had such an astonishing word been ever uttered before by the Lord Jesus: "that the world may know that thou ... LOVEDST THEM EVEN AS THOU LOVEDST ME." In much that He had before said this was implied; but never until now was it actually expressed. Here, again, it is not the essential love of the Son by the Father, in their eternal Divine Personality, that Jesus here speaks of; for with that no creature may intermeddle. It is the Father's love of His Incarnate Son, as Head of His redeemed, that is meant-ravishing the Father's eye with the beauty of a divine character, a perfect righteousness, a glorious satisfaction for sin in our nature. This complacency of the Father in the Son passes over to and rests upon all that believe in the Son; or rather it descends from and penetrates through the Head to all the members of that living Unity which is made up of Him and them - "like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore" (Psalms 133:2-3). But though we should suppose that of all things this was the most invisible to the world, yet it seems that even the conviction of this was in some sense to be impressed upon the world: "that the world may know that Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." Of course this could only be by its effects: nor can even these be expected to convince the world that the Father's love to believers is the same as His love to His own Son, in any but a very general sense, so long as it remains "the world." But it would have a double effect: it would inspire the world, even as such, with a conviction, which they would be unable to resist and could ill conceal, that Christ and Christians are alike of God and owned of God; and that conviction, going deeper down into the hearts of some, would ripen into a surrender of themselves, as willing captives, to that love divine which sent through the Son salvation to a lost world.


Verse 24

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

Father, I will, [ theloo (G2309)] that they also whom thou hast given me. [The reading ho (Greek #3588) here, instead of hous (Greek #3739) of the received text-`that that also which Thou hast given Me'-which Tischendorf and Tregelles have adopted, but not Lachmann-is insufficiently supported, as we judge, and to be rejected.]

Be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me , [ edookas (Greek #1325)] - 'gavest Me;' but the true reading clearly is, 'which Thou hast given Me;' [ dedookas (Greek #1325)]:

For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. Here our Lord, having exhausted all His desires for His people which could be fulfilled here below, stretches them, in this His last petition, onwards to the eternal state. Let us attend, first, to the style of petition here only employed by our Lord: "I will." The majesty of this style of speaking is the first thing that strikes the reverential reader. Some good expositors, indeed (as Beza, who, instead of the Volo of the Vulgate, renders it Velim), conceive that nothing more is meant by this word than a simple wish, desire, request; and they refer us in proof of this to such passages as Mark 10:35; John 12:21, (Gr.) But such a word from the mouth of a creature cannot determine its sense, when taken up into the lips of the Son of God. Thus, when He said to the leper (Matthew 8:3), "I will [ theloo (Greek #2309)], be thou clean!" something more, surely, was meant than a mere wish for his recovery.

And such a will, we cannot doubt, was meant in this prayer of the Son to the Father, which breathes throughout the spirit of loftiest unity with the glorious Object addressed, and of highest claim to be heard, more particularly occurring as it does in the final petition, a petition manifestly designed to exhaust all that He had to ask in His people's behalf. 'In John 17:9; John 17:15; John 17:20,' says Bengel, 'He had said, "I pray" [ erootoo (Greek #2065), rogo]; now the language rises, and the word is to be rendered "I will;" not by the weak "I desire." Jesus asks in the exercise of a right, and demands with confidence; as Son, not as servant (compare Psalms 2:8).' To the same effect DeWette, Meyer, Stier, Alford, Luthardt, Webster and Wilkinson, Lange. But observe now the two things thus majestically asked. First, "that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am." He had before assured His faithful Eleven, as representing all believers, that they should be so; using the same form of expression as here, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am [ hopou (Greek #3699) eimi (Greek #1510) Egoo (Greek #1473)], there ye may be also" (see the note at John 14:3).

In now asking what He had before explicitly promised, the majestic authority of that "I will" is further revealed. But next, when they have arrived where I am, it is but in order "that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world." The glory here intended has been already explained. It is not His essential glory, the glory of His Divine Personality, but His glory as the Incarnate Head of His people, the Second Adam of a redeemed humanity, in which glory the Father beheld Him with ineffable complacency from everlasting. Jesus regards it as glory enough for us to be admitted to see and gaze forever upon this His glory! This is 'the beatific vision;' but it shall be no mere vision - "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).

Here end the petitions of this wonderful chapter. In the two concluding verses He just breathes forth His reflections into His Father's ear, but doubtless for the benefit of those mortal ears that were privileged to listen to Him, and of all who should read it in this priceless Gospel.


Verse 25

O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me - or, preserving the strict sense of the tenses, 'the world knew Thee not, but I knew Thee, and these knew that Thou didst send Me;' all this being regarded as past. 'The world knew Thee not.' Clearly this refers to its whole treatment of "Him whom He had sent." Accordingly, in a previous chapter, He says, "He that hateth Me hateth My Father also;" "Now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father;" "All these things will they do unto you for My name's sake, because they know not Him that sent Me" (John 15:23-24; John 15:21): for, "had they known it," says the apostle, "they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8). Our Lord, it will be perceived, utters this with a certain tender mournfulness, which is rendered doubly affecting when He falls back, in the next words, upon the very different treatment which the Father had received from Himself - "The world knew Thee not, O righteous Father: but I knew Thee!" 'While the world was showing its disregard of Thee in its treatment of Him whom Thou hadst sent, from Me Thou gatest ever the glory due unto Thy name, O Lord, Thou knowest.' But Jesus has another source of consolation in the recognition of His divine mission by "THESE" Eleven that were in that upper room with Him, in whom doubtless His eye beheld a multitude that no man could number of kindred spirits to the end of time; just as in "the world" that knew Him not He must have seen the same blinded world in every age: "I knew Thee, and these knew that Thou didst send Me." Once and again had He said the same thing in this prayer.

But here He introduces it for the last time in bright and cheering contrast with the dark and dismal rejection of Him, and of the Father in Him, by the world. One other thing deserves notice in this verse. As before He had said "HOLY Father," when desiring the display of that perfection on His disciples (John 17:11), so here He styles him "RIGHTEOUS Father," because He is appealing to his righteousness or justice, to make a distinction between those two diametrically opposite classes - "the world," on the one hand, which would not know the Father, though brought so nigh to it in the Son of His love, and, on the other, Himself, who recognized and owned Him, and along with Him His disciples, who owned His mission from the Father.


Verse 26

And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

And I have declared , [ egnoorisa (Greek #1107)] - 'I declared' or 'made known'

Unto them thy name. He had said this variously before (John 17:6; John 17:8; John 17:14; John 17:22); but here He repeats it for the sake of adding what follows.

And will declare it - or 'make it known' [ egnoorisa (Greek #1107) ... gnoorisa (Greek #1107)]. As this could not mean that He was to continue His own Personal ministry on earth, it can refer only to the ministry of His apostles after His ascension "with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven," and of all who should succeed them, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of reconciliation, to the end of time. This ministry-Jesus here tells His Father-would be but Himself continuing to make known His Father's name to men, or the prolongation of His own ministry. How consolatory a truth this to the faithful ministers of Jesus, and under what a responsibility does it lay all who from their lips hear the message of eternal life in Christ Jesus!

That the love wherewith thou hast loved, [ eegapeesas (G25), 'lovedst'] me may be in them, and I in them. He had just expressed His desire "that the world may know that Thou lovedst them as Thou lovedst Me" (John 17:23). Here it is the implantation and preservation of that love in His people's hearts that He speaks of; and the way by which this was to be done, He says, was "the making known to them of the Father's name;" that is, the revelation of it to their souls by the Spirit's efficacious sealing of the Gospel message-as He had explained in John 16:8-15. This eternal love of the Father, resting first on Christ, is by His Spirit imparted to and takes up its permanent abode in all that believe in Him; and "He abiding in them, and they in Him" (John 15:5), they are "one Spirit." 'With this lofty thought,' says Olshausen, 'the Redeemer concludes His prayer for His disciples, and in them for His Church through all ages. He has compressed into the last moments given Him for conversation with His own the most sublime and glorious sentiments ever uttered by mortal lips. But hardly has the sound of the last word died away, when He passes with the disciples over the Brook Kedron to Gethsemane-and the bitter conflict draws on. The seed of the new world must be sown in Death, that thence Life may spring up.'

Remarks:

(1) How strange is the spiritual obtuseness which can imagine it possible that such a prayer should have been penned if it had not first been prayed by the glorious One of whom this Gospel is the historic Record! But it is not only the historic reality of this prayer, in the Life of Jesus, which is self-evidencing. It throws a strong light upon the question of Inspiration also, which in this case at least must be held to attach to the language as well as to the thoughts which it conveys. In such a case, every intelligent reader must see that apart from the language of this prayer, we can have no confidence that its thoughts are accurately conveyed to us. But who that has any spiritual discernment, and any of that spiritual taste and delicacy which constant dealing with Scripture in a devout and loving spirit begets, does not feel that the language of this prayer is all-worthy of the thoughts which it conveys to us-worthy of the Lips that poured forth this prayer: and what internal testimony to its inspiration could be stronger than this? We are not insensible to the difficulty of explaining all the facts of the Biblical language, considering it as inspired; but let not this despoil us of what is beyond reasonable dispute, as illustrated by the language of this divine prayer. Nor need we commit ourselves to the many rash and at least dubious theories, by which it has been sought to explain and reconcile acknowledged difficulties on this subject. Sitting loose to all these, let us nevertheless-planting our foot upon such a prayer as this-rest perfectly assured that He of Whom the Lord Jesus promised that He should "bring all things to their remembrance, whatsoever He had spoken to them," has so guided the sacred penman in the reproduction of this prayer that we have it not only in the substance and spirit of it, but in the form also in which it was poured forth in the upper room.

(2) One feels it almost trifling to ask again whether such a prayer as this could have been uttered by a creature? But it may not be amiss to call the reader's attention to the studious care with which Jesus avoids mixing Himself up with His disciples as He associates Himself with the Father. "THOU IN ME," He says, "and I IN THEE" and again, "I in them, and they in US." This, we think, is one of the most remarkable features in the phraseology of this chapter; and as it has a most important bearing on the subject of the foregoing Remark-the inspiration attaching to the language-so it is in singular harmony with our Lord's manner of speaking on other occasions (see the note at John 3:7, and Remark 3 at the close of that section; and at John 20:17).

(3) Has Christ, in order to give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him, obtained from the Father "power over all flesh"? With confidence, then, may we entrust to Him our eternal all, assured "that He is able to keep that which we have committed unto Him against that day" (see the note at 2 Timothy 1:12). For since His power is not limited to the objects of His saving operations, but extends to "all flesh," He can and assuredly will make "all things to work together for the good of them that love God, of them who are the called according to His purpose."

(4) How fixed are the banks within which the waters of "eternal life" flow to men: "This is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Beyond this embankment the water of life may not be sought, and will not be found; and the spurious liberality which would break down this embankment is to be eschewed by all to whom the teaching of the Lord Jesus is sacred and dear.

(5) Did Jesus yearn to "ascend up where He was before," and be "glorified beside the Father with the glory which He had along with Him before the world was"? What an affecting light does this throw upon His self-sacrificing love to His Father and to men, in coming hither and staying here during all the period of His work in the flesh-enduring the privations of life, the contradiction of sinners against Himself, the varied assaults of the great Enemy of souls, the slowness of His disciples' apprehension in spiritual things, not to speak of the sight of evil all around Him, and the sense of sin and the curse pressing upon His spirit all throughout, and bringing Him at length to the accursed tree! "Ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich."

(6) Small indeed was the saving fruit of Christ's personal ministry-few the souls that were thoroughly won to Him; but those few-how dear were they to Him, as the representatives and pledges of a mighty harvest to come! and how does He yearn over those Eleven faithful ones, who represented those that were to gather His redeemed in all time! And will not His faithful servants learn from Him to value and cherish the first fruits of their labours in His service-however few and humble they may be-according to His valuation?

(7) Hardly anything in this prayer is more remarkable than the much that Christ makes in it of the exceedingly small amount of light and faith to which His most advanced disciples had up to that time attained. But He looked doubtless rather to the frame of their hearts toward Him, and the degree of teachableness they had, than to the extent of their actual knowledge-to their implicit rather than their explicit belief in Him. The servants of Christ have much to learn from Him in this matter. While mere general goodness of heart is of no saving value, a guileless desire to be taught of God, and an honest willingness to follow that teaching wherever it may lead us-which distinguished the Eleven-is, in the sight of God and the estimation of Jesus, of great price. It was precisely this which Jesus commended in Nathanael, and in this respect they were in effect all Nathanael's. Is there not a tendency in some of the servants of Christ, jealous for soundness in the faith, to weigh all religious character in the scales of mere theological orthodoxy? to prefer rounded but cold accuracy of knowledge to the rudimental simplicity of a babe in Christ? to reject an implicit, if it be not an explicit faith? Of course, since the one of these advances surely into the other in the case of all divinely taught believers, even as the shining light shineth more and more unto the perfect day, so those who, under shelter of an implicit faith, advisedly, and after full opportunity, decline an explicit acknowledgment of the distinctive peculiarities of the Gospel, as they are opened up in the writings of the apostles under the full teaching of the Spirit, show clearly that they are void of that childlike faith in which they pretend to rest. But the tender and discerning eye of the true shepherd will look with as much benignity on the lambs of his flock as on the sheep of his pasture.

(8) The whole treatment of believers by the Lord Jesus has three great divisions. The first is the drawing of them, and bringing them to commit their souls to Him for salvation; or in other words, their conversion: the second, the preserving of them in this state, and maturing them for heaven; or in other words, their sanctification: the third, the bringing of them at length to His Father's house; or in other words, their glorification. The first of these stages is, in this prayer, viewed as past. Those for whom He prays have received His word, and are His already. The second being that of which they now stood in need, and all depending upon that, the burden of this prayer is devoted to that sphere of His work: "Keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me;" "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil;" "Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is truth." One petition only, but that a majestic and all-comprehensive one, is devoted to the third department: "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."

(9) Does Jesus so emphatically pray here for His believing people, first, that His Father would "keep them through His own name" (John 17:11); and then-dividing this keeping into its negative and positive elements-pray both negatively, that they may be "not taken out of the world, but kept from the evil" (John 17:15), and positively, "that they may be sanctified through the truth"! (John 17:17). What a tender and powerful call is this upon themselves, to keep praying along with and under their great Intercessor, to His Father and their Father, that He would do for them all that He here asks in their behalf! And is it not an interesting fact, that this "keeping" is the burden of some of the most precious promises of God to His ancient people, of many of their weightiest prayers, and of some of the chiefest passages of the New Testament; as if it had been designed to provide believers of every age with a Manual on this subject? Thus, "He will keep the feet of His saints" (1 Samuel 2:9); "Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust" (Psalms 16:1); "O that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me" (1 Chronicles 4:10); "He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock" (Jeremiah 31:10). "The Lord is faithful," says the apostle, "who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil" (2 Thessalonians 3:3); "I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12); "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling (this answers to the negative part of our Lord's petition here) and to prevent you faultless (this is the positive) before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy," etc. (Jude 1:24). But

(10) In thus praying, we not only follow the example, and are encouraged by the model here presented to us, but we utter here below just what our great Intercessor within the veil is continually presenting in our behalf at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Indeed, as this Intercessory prayer of Christ, though actually presented on earth and before His death, represents His work in the flesh in nearly every verse as already past-insomuch that He says, "Now I am no more in the world" - we are to regard it, and the Church has always so regarded it, as virtually a prayer from within the veil, or a kind of specimen of the things He is now asking, and the style in which He now asks them, at the right hand of God. So that believers should never doubt that whensoever they pour out their hearts for what this prayer teaches them to ask of the Father in Jesus' name a double pleading for the same things enters into the Father's ready ear-theirs on earth and Christ's in heaven; in their case the Spirit making intercession with groaning which often cannot be uttered (see the note at Romans 8:26), and so, as the Spirit who takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us, making our cries to chime in with the mightier demands of Him who can say, "Father, I WILL."

(11) Does Jesus so emphatically represent the Father's "word" as the medium through which He asks Him to sanctify them, and the very element of all true sanctification? How does this rebuke the rationalistic teaching of our day, which systematically depreciates the importance of Biblical truth to men's salvation! Between this view of God's truth, and that of our Lord here, there is all the difference that there is between utter and dismal uncertainty in eternal things, and solid footing and assured confidence founded on that which cannot lie. On the one we cannot live with comfort, nor die with any well-grounded hope; on the other we can rise above the ills of life and triumph over the terrors of death. On nothing less than, "Thus saith the Lord," has the soul that repose which it irresistibly yearns for; but on this it enjoys unruffled peace, the peace of God which passeth all understanding.

(12) Do believers realize the length and breadth of that saying of Jesus, "The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them, that they may be one even as We are one"? The glory of a perfect righteousness; the glory of a full acceptance; the glory of a free and ready access; the glory of an indwelling Spirit of life, and love, and liberty, and universal holiness; the glory of an assured and rightful and abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom-and all this as a presently possessed, and to-be-presently realized glory? And lest this should seem an overstrained exposition of the mind of Christ in John 17:22, the words which follow seem almost to go beyond it - "I in them, and thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me:" and the prayer dies away with the expression of the means He had taken and should continue to take, in order "that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me (says He) may be in them, and I in them." It is too much to be feared that few believers rise to this. Yet "this," according to our Lord's intercessory prayer, "is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 54:17). A grovelling carnality, a false humility, and an erroneous style of teaching, growing out of both these, seem to be the main causes of the general indisposition to rise to the standing which the Lord here gives to all His believing people. But shall we not strive to shake these off, and "walk in the light as He is in the light"? Then shall we "have fellowship with each other" - He and we - "and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son shall cleanse us from all sin." And then may we sing --

`So nigh, so very nigh to God, I cannot nearer be; For in the Person of His Son

I am as near as He. So dear, so very dear to God, More dear I cannot be; The love wherewith He loves the Son -

Such is His love to Me.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 17:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-17.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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