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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
John 17

 

 

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Verses 1-5

Christ's Great Sacerdotal Prayer.

Christ prays for His own glorification:

v. 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,

v. 2. as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.

v. 3. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.

v. 4. I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.

v. 5. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.

Jesus had finished the words of His last great charge to His disciples. And now He lifts up His eyes to His heavenly Father and pours forth His soul in a most wonderful and inspiring prayer of intercession. It has fitly been called the great sacerdotal prayer, for here Jesus appears in His work as Mediator, beseeching His heavenly Father first for Himself, then for His little band of disciples, and finally for all those that would be gathered by the proclamation of the Gospel. There is so much beauty, comfort, and power in this simple prayer that its main thoughts at least, if not the entire text, should be memorized. Jesus prayed in the presence of His disciples; what He wanted to tell the Father, what He wanted to ask of the Father, was in their interest, and in the interest of the faithful of all times. "But this is the summary and reason for this Chapter. Upon a good sermon there should follow a good prayer, that is: If one has sent forth the Word, he should begin to utter prayerful sighs and to desire that it may also have power and work fruit. For since Christ the Lord has now enunciated all His doctrine and office and completed it, and has blessed His disciples with the fine, long, comforting sermon, He finally felt constrained to speak a prayer, both for them and for all Christians, in order that He might fully bring to end His office, as our one High Priest, and omit nothing that would serve to strengthen and keep them, since He wanted to leave them behind Him in the world. " Jesus addresses His Father in just that one word, thereby giving to His prayer a tone of intimacy and confidence which should characterize every true prayer. The hour is come, that one hour which was to be the climax and culmination of His life's work, the hour in which He was to go to the Father through His death. Therefore the Father should glorify the Son, He should have the purpose of His life carried out through His Passion, death, resurrection, and session at the right hand of God. This glorification concerns the human nature of Christ; according to this nature He was to be endowed with the unlimited exercise of all the divine attributes. And the object of this glorification would be, in turn, that the Son should glorify the 'Father. The fulfillment of the will of the Father, the reconciliation of the world, the imparting of the redemption to all believers, all these facts would redound to the glory of the Father. The entire work of Christ in His state of exaltation is a continuous glorifying of the Father: its aim and object is the praise of God for His grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. The glorification of the Father is therefore in accordance with the measure of power given to Christ with respect to all flesh, that God, on account of the work of Jesus, might have the Savior give to everyone that belonged to Him eternal life. The Son has the authority and power to give eternal life to them that God gave Him as His own. Through His suffering and death Jesus has power over all flesh, since He earned all men, gained them for Himself, by His redemption. There is none excepted: whosoever belongs to the category "flesh" is included in the number of those for whom Jesus paid with His blood. And out of this whole number God has given certain ones to Jesus. They are the ones that actually receive the salvation of Jesus by faith, they are the only ones that actually become partakers of the grace of God in Christ the Savior. The object of salvation, intended for all men, is realized only in the case of the believers. But this life eternal, which the believers receive at the hands of Jesus, consists in the true knowledge, in the right understanding of God as the only true God, as the one and only Lord, and of Jesus Christ, the Savior, in both His person and office, as the one sent by God to accomplish the salvation of the world. The knowledge and belief in both the Father and the Son are necessary for the obtaining of eternal life, for the two are on the same level: the Father has revealed Himself in the Son, and the Son has made known the Father. Eternal life is the intimate union and communion with the Father and the Son. This happiness and bliss begins even here in time; here on earth, indeed, only in part, but in the future life in all its fullness and glory. In this way the Son glorifies the Father, by bringing the believers to the right knowledge of the Father. This work He began in this world, that was one of the purposes of the incarnation. The fact that Jesus carried out the work entrusted to Him, that He fulfilled the will of the Father in every detail, will serve the glory and praise of the Father. Every person that was gained by the teaching of Jesus will add his voice in praising the God of mercy and in praying to Him in spirit and in truth. All this being accomplished, the Father should now, in turn, receive the Son up into glory. crown His human nature with the full and unrestricted exercise of all the divine attributes and powers which were His in the bosom of the Father before the world began. Jesus, even in the midst of humiliation on earth, was the possessor of the divine glory; even as man He was almighty, omniscient, omnipresent. But He did not make use of these divine attributes communicated to Him except in His miracles and at a few other occasions when the flashes of His divine majesty became visible to men. But through His Passion, death, and resurrection Jesus wanted to enter into the state of glory, into the full exercise and enjoyment of the heavenly, divine essence, and of all the joy and bliss in the presence of His Father, also according to His human nature. This section of Christ's prayer therefore includes a petition for Himself, namely, for His own glorification as man; but He indicates even here that this glorious culmination will be of benefit also to men.


Verses 6-8

Christ prays for the disciples as such that have kept the Word:

v. 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.

v. 7. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee.

v. 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.

The prayer of the Lord now concerns His disciples, specifically His apostles. To them He has manifested, revealed, the name of the Father; the whole essence and glory of the Father Jesus has proclaimed and taught to those men whom the Father had given Him out of the world as His, own. He has shown them what the feeling and. intention of the Father is toward sinful men. By this preaching and the call which it included certain men were separated out of the world by the Father and allotted, given, to Christ. They were God's own by His choice and selection; and the Father gave them to Christ in time, in order that the latter might give them the revelation and knowledge necessary for obtaining eternal life. This object was realized; the men accepted and kept the Word of the Gospel; the faith which was worked in their hearts clings to the promises of the Gospel. The disciples, first of all, had gained the understanding that Jesus was not acting in an independent capacity, apart from the will and counsel of God, but that all the gifts and powers and words which He displayed and taught were from the Father. Then also, when Jesus had delivered to them the words which He had received from His Father, they had accepted them in faith. By their acceptance of the words, of the teaching of Christ with this understanding, they have shown that they have true faith and correct knowledge. So the disciples have the true knowledge, the certainty of faith, that Christ really came from the Father, that He was the Messenger and Ambassador of the Father to mankind. To accept the Word of God, to cling to the promises and statements of the Gospel, that is the characteristic attitude and work of the believers. So much the ministry of Jesus and His testimony had effected in their case.


Verses 9-11

The distinction between the disciples and the world:

v. 9. I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.

v. 10. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them.

v. 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.

Jesus here makes a deliberate distinction. He expressly says that He is praying for His disciples; His intercession concerns them only. He sets aside the unbelieving world, for the unbelievers included under that name refuse to accept Him under any circumstances. "But this is the difference. In this way and in the same manner He does not pray for the world as He does for His Christians. For the Christians and for all that are to be converted He prays thus, that they may remain in the true faith, grow and continue in it, and not fall away from it, and that those that are still without faith leave their manner and also come. That means to pray right and well for the world, as we should all pray. " For those that God has given Him by a deliberate act of mercy, and that belong to God by His gracious choice and selection, Jesus prays. He is so certain of being heard in this instance because the believers are God's own, in whom He will naturally take an interest. And Jesus here addresses the Father in a very bold manner: And what is Mine is all Thine, and what is Thine is Mine. He calmly claims absolute community of interests and property for Himself and the Father. "This no creature can say before God. For you must understand this not only of that which the Father has given Him on earth, but also of His one divine essence with the Father. For He speaks not only of His disciples and Christians, but comprehends in one heap all that is the Father's, eternal, almighty essence, life, truth, righteousness, etc. , that is, He confesses freely that He is true God, for the word 'All that is Thine is Mine' permits nothing to be excluded. If everything is His, then also the eternal Godhead is His; otherwise He cannot and dare not use the word 'all. '" And so Jesus, the Son of God, that has everything in common with the Father, is glorified in His believers. He has taught them to know Him; He has brought His picture as the Redeemer of the world into their souls. Their understanding has been enlightened to enable them to understand, at least in a measure, the purpose of God in the salvation of the world, to place their trust in Christ, in the definite hope that the remaining revelation will be theirs in heaven. The career of Jesus in the world is now coming to its end; He is now leaving the world to return to His Father. But the disciples are still in the world, in the midst of unbelievers and enemies of the Gospel. Therefore the earnest petition of Christ is most necessary, that His Father, the holy Father, that desires to keep His holy name unsullied, would keep the believers in His name, in the confession of His name, in true faith, to the end. Only if the Father Himself takes care of His own, will the spiritual union of the believers in no wise be disturbed or brought to naught. God must keep the believers in the one true faith by the Word of His truth, which revivals and teaches His name. The preservation in faith is the work of God. To Him the believers of all times must look to keep them steadfast in His Word and faith, unto the end, as is His gracious and good will.


Verse 12-13

Keeping the believers in God's name:

v. 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.

v. 13. and now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

As long as Jesus was present in the world, in the flesh, so long He personally tended to the keeping of His disciples in the faith. He taught, He admonished them day by day; He always revealed anew to them the name of the Father, in the Gospel which He proclaimed. And His Gospel-work had been most successful. He had kept all of the disciples whom the Father had given Him, His watchful guiding and warning had not been in vain but only in one single case, that of the son of perdition, of the traitor. In his case the Scripture had to be fulfilled. See Psa_69:4; Act_1:20. But now the sojourn of Christ on earth was drawing to a close; no more would He be present with His disciples in the terms of personal, visible contact to which they had become accustomed. Jesus was going to the Father, and therefore He was making this prayer in their presence, while He was yet in the world, that they might be convinced of His personal interest in them, of His unchanging solicitude for them. His urgent prayer for their preservation in the faith should give them the assurance, as it should to the believers of all times, that nothing is left undone which will assist them in the midst of all the perils of the world and their own flesh. That is a source of wonderful comfort to the believers, that gives them the fullness of joy. Theirs, then, is a joy in Christ; they are happy over the fact that they are Christians, that they are intimates of the Father. This joy must drive out every bit of doubt as to a person's remaining in faith to the end, just as this entire section of Christ's prayer contains nothing but comfort for every Christian. Where there is such intimacy as between God and Christ, on the one hand, and the believers, on the other, all fear and doubts must vanish. "Now if someone wants to know whether he is elected or in what relation he stands to God, let him but look upon the mouth of Jesus, that is, upon these and similar verses. For though a person cannot say of a certainty who will be elected in the future and remain to the end, yet this is certainly true, that whosoever is called and comes thereto, namely, to hear this revelation, that is, the Word of Christ, provided he accept it in all sincerity, that is, fully hold and believe that it is true, they are the ones that are given to Christ by the Father. But those that are given to Him He will surely keep, and insist that they do not perish."


Verses 14-19

The Word keeps in faith:

v. 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.

v. 15. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

v. 16. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

v. 17. Sanctify them through Thy truth; thy Word is truth.

v. 18. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

v. 19. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Only one means Jesus knows of, both for working faith and for keeping in the faith, and that means He has given to the disciples: the Word of the Father. There is no need of following the lead of enthusiasts that prate of new revelations, the inner light, and keys to the Scriptures. The Word of the Gospel as we have it in Scriptures is all-sufficient for all needs. But the Word thus becomes a distinguishing factor, since the Christians accept it, and the world, the unbelievers, refuses to recognize its worth and power. The result is that the unbelieving world hates the Christians. Their acceptance of the Gospel is a constant accusation of the world's rejection of Christ; it emphasizes the essential difference between believers and unbelievers. The former have nothing in common with the world, with the nature and manner of the children of the world. The attitude toward the Word of the Gospel is the deciding factor; the Word is the touchstone by which men decide their fate. The Word therefore is the rock-foundation of a Christian's faith. "There I have the Word of Christ, my Lord, yea, of the almighty Father in heaven; that I know and am certain, if I cling to that, then no power on earth nor the gates of hell can harm me, for He loves His Word and will hold His hand over it, and therefore also protect and defend all that cling to it. " The Christians, then, are perfectly willing and satisfied to occupy the position in which the world places them by its hatred, since thereby they are identified more fully with Christ. Purposely, therefore, Jesus does not ask that the believers be taken out of the world, that they be removed from the proximity of harm and danger and hatred, but only that the Father would keep them, shield them against the wiles of the devil. That is the one side of the Christians' preservation in faith, which is the work of God. God guards and protects them from their enemies, the world and the devil, by not permitting these enemies to seduce them, nor lead them into misbelief, despair, or other great shame and vice. That danger is always present, and many a believer has been overcome, since he did not trust in the power of God alone. What Jesus here prays should be remembered by all Christians at all times: They do not belong to the world, as I am not of the world. Christ and the unbelieving world have nothing in common; and so the followers of Christ and the unbelieving world can have nothing in common. Their interests, their objects, lie in opposite directions and can never be reconciled. To attempt a compromise with the unbelieving world is to make peace with the devil. And therefore the prayer of Jesus takes this factor into account. He asks that God complete the separation between the believers and the world, sanctify the disciples wholly by consecrating them to God alone, through the power of the Word. The Christians are sanctified, separated from the world, as soon as faith has been wrought in their hearts. But it is the power of God in the Word which must continue to keep them separated and consecrated. And this sanctification and these fruits of faith are not our work and ability, but God's mercy and divine power. The believers being thus set apart through the power of the Word, they are ready for their great ministry. Even as God sent the Son into the world to preach and bring salvation, so the Son, in turn, sends the believers out into the world to preach the redemption that has been earned by Jesus. They should be witnesses for the truth, they should confess Christ. They are His witnesses to the world, for all men are included both under sin and under grace, Joh_3:16. In the midst of the unbelieving world Christ wanted to build His Church. And in order that this might be accomplished, in order that the work of the disciples might be done with the feeling of free and full consecration, Jesus consecrates Himself, gives Himself as a sacrifice for the whole world. He is about to enter upon His Passion now to work a perfect redemption. And every believer that accepts this deliverance, this redemption, thereby is separated from the hostile, unbelieving world and consecrated in and for the truth of the Gospel. Thus the disciples are sanctified and remain sanctified; they remain in the Word of Truth, in and through which the sin which persists in troubling them is forgiven, and they receive strength both to combat the evil and to carry out the will of the Lord for the proclamation of the Word to others.


Verses 20-24

Christ prays for the future believers:

v. 20. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word,

v. 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.

v. 22. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them, that they may be one, even as We are one:

v. 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.

v. 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.

Jesus Himself had gained believers, disciples, through the preaching of the Word. In their interest He had addressed a large section of His prayer to His heavenly Father. But before His mind's eye there arose the picture of the future, when the purpose of His work in the world would be fully realized, when the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, would be gathered from all nations. Through the testimony of the disciples, whom He is commissioning as His messengers to the world, there will be others, many others, that would believe on Him through the Word as proclaimed by the servants of the Lord. And all these believing Christians of all times shall be one. All those that have faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and actually put all their trust in Him alone, are thereby united most closely and inseparably. Even though they know nothing of each other, even though they belong to various Christian denominations: if they but have faith in the Word and in the Savior in their hearts, they are all truly, internally one (communion or saints. This unity of the Church of all places and of all times is in God, in the Father and Son. It is as real and intimate as the union obtaining between these two persons of the Godhead. And the influence of this great united body, though invisible in itself, will be such as to compel the acknowledgment of the world as to Christ's having been sent into the world by the Father to work salvation for all men. There are so many manifestations of the power of God in the work of the Church that at all times some, at least, in the world are convinced and gained for Christ. The Christian Church does a great deal of missionary work by its very existence. Add to that the confession and the testimony of the believers, and much may be accomplished for the Savior and His glory. To this end the Lord has given to His disciples the glory which He has received from the Father. The Christians, by the call of Christ, have a certain amount of divine nature, of divine power, by virtue of their regeneration and sanctification. They exhibit this divine life in their whole being and manner. Their every word and act serves to impress men with the power of the Word of God in them. But it serves especially to make that communion of their hearts and minds before the Lord perfect, since it places them in contrast to the world. And thus again the unbelieving world gets some idea of the truth of the Christian religion and of its superhuman power. Some of them will always, by the grace of God, form the right conclusions as to the mission of Christ and as to the certainty of God's love toward them, equal in sincerity and power to that wherewith He loves the Son. Jesus, therefore, in His omniscience beholding the assembly of the Church as it will be gathered until the end of time, makes a bold request: Father, those that Thou hast given Me, I will that where I am, they also be with Me. Here is the confidence of the Redeemer, whose vicarious work is sufficient for all men. The elect of God are Christ's own, and He holds them safe against all enemies, to be with Him in all eternity. And all the greater is His boldness for this request, since they were given to Him, because the Father loved His Son from eternity, before the foundation of the world was laid. And the consummation of Christian blessedness will be the share of the believers, according to this prayer of the Lord, since they will see the glory of their Redeemer; they will behold the head which was once crowned with thorns adorned with everlasting honor as the eternal Son of God with power. That is the final goal of. faith, the final purpose of the election of grace-eternal life, eternal glory in and with Christ.


Verse 25-26

The conclusion of the prayer:

v. 25. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee; but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me.

v. 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.

It is the righteous Father whom Christ is addressing, and therefore He who fulfilled all righteousness may well expect from Him the hearing of a prayer based upon the complete redemption of the world. The unbelieving world does not know the Father, and will not know the Father. But the fact that the Son knows Him will effect the granting of this petition, and the fact that the believers place their trust in the Son's mission and atonement places them in a position which will insure the hearing of the prayer. Their faith and their understanding is of the right kind and results in the intimate relationship upon which they base their hope. The teaching of Christ by which He revealed the name, the Word, and the will of the Father has not been in vain. This work of Christ will continue also in the state of exaltation, through the preaching of His disciples, until the end of time. And wherever the name of God is preached, there His honor and glory will be exalted.. "And mark that He not only says: I have declared unto them Thy name, but also adds: And I will declare it, that is, I not only want to have a beginning and let it go at that, but I want to continue always, and do that same thing without ceasing, both through Word and: Spirit, that people seek nothing else or higher, but always have enough to do to grasp it better and more strongly. For therein lies the power that we learn to know the Father well through faith, in such a way that the heart full of consolation and with happy trust in all mercy will stand before Him, and fear no wrath. " In this way only will the final object of Christ's salvation be realized, namely,. that the love of the Father in Christ dwells in the believers, and Christ Himself is united with them for all eternity. The entire prayer of Christ is a wonderful expression of His love.

Summary.Christ ,

in His sacerdotal prayer, prays first of all for His own glorification, then for His present disciples, and finally for the future believers, asking that the gracious power of God may be manifested for their union here on earth an d

in the final consummation of glory and bliss in heaven.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 17:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/john-17.html. 1921-23.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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