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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
John 17

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-12

John 17:1. These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come;

This is in a very special sense our Lord’s prayer. What a word that is from the lips of Jesus, “Father”! This was the night of his deepest sorrow and his heaviest woe, but he begins his prayer with this tender expression, “Father, the hour is come;” the hour of darkness, the hour of his passion and death, had now arrived.

John 17:1. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

Did Jesus look upon his suffering as his glory? He does not merely pray, “Sustain thy Son,” but, “Glorify thy Son.” In truth, our Lord’s lowest stoop was his highest glory. He was never more resplendent than when he hung upon the cross, that was his true spiritual throne, so he prayed, “Glorify thy Son,” — Enable him to bear the agony, and to pass through it to the glory.” “That thy Son also may glorify thee.” The death of Christ was a great glorifying of God. We see his love and his justice rendered more glorious in the death of Christ than they would have been by any other method.

John 17:2. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

In this verse you get the doctrines of general and particular redemption blended. By his death, Christ obtained power over all flesh; his death had some relation to every man, but the special object of it was the salvation of the elect. The purpose of the shower is to water one particular field; but the rain falls everywhere, so plenteous is the bounty of God. The object of Christ’s atonement is to purchase eternal life for those who were given to him by his Father; but he has also obtained power over all flesh.

John 17:3. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

To know God, is eternal life. If you know God, if you know Jesus Christ whom he has sent, you are spiritually quickened. That knowledge has brought to you, nay, it is, in itself, the new life: “This is life eternal,” — not life for a few years but life eternal. Mark the final perseverance of the saints, how they shall hold on and hold out for ever.

John 17:4. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

Jesus regards his work as already done, although he had yet to die, to pay the ransom price for his people, yet by a leap of holy faith he says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”

John 17:5. 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 laid aside his glory for our sakes, now he asks that, his work being regarded as done, his glory may be given to him again.

John 17:6. 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.

God’s people belong to him, he gives them to his Son, Christ gives them his word, and they keep it: “They have kept thy word.” Do we keep God’s word? Do we hold to it? Do we make it the guide of our whole life? Do we seek to obey it? This is the token of God’s chosen people.

John 17:7-12. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 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. I pray far them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 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 way be one, as we are. 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.

Christ always has kept his people, he still keeps his people, and he will keep his people for ever. The sheep shall be delivered into the hand of the Father in full number, there shall not be one of them missing in that day when they shall pass under the rod of the great Shepherd.

We cannot read all this prayer of our Lord tonight; we must now go, in the language of the next chapter, with the Master into the garden of his grief.

This exposition consisted of readings from John 17:1-12; John 18:1-14.


Verses 1-26

John 17:1. These words spake Jesus, and, lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come;

The hour to which he had so long looked forward, the hour which he had anticipated with ardent desire: “The hour is come.” On the very night that Jesus prayed this prayer, Luke’s record tells us, “When the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them,

With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer;” So he began his great intercessory prayer, “Father, the hour is come, —

John 17:1-2. Glorify thy Son that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

In these words we have both the general and the special aspects of redemption. Christ has received power over all flesh, but with this peculiar design, that he should give eternal life to as many as his Father has given him. Who are they who have been given to him by his Father? All who come to him by faith, even as he said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” To all of these Jesus gives eternal life.

John 17:3. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Do you know God? Do you know Jesus Christ? Are you on speaking terms, on loving terms, with them? Are they your friends? Then, you have eternal life; for “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

John 17:4-6. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 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.

What a sweet thing for the Lord Jesus to say of that poor, much-erring company of disciples, “They have kept thy word”! “They have not been all they might have been, nor all they ought to have been, but, O my Father, they have kept thy word!” I trust that we may be found faithful to the truth that the Holy Spirit has taught us, and obedient to its precepts, that our Lord may be able to say to his Father concerning us also, “They have kept thy word.”

John 17:7-8. Now they have known that all things to whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 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.

See how the Lord Jesus himself takes all his teaching from the Father. You never hear from him any boast about being the originator of profound thoughts. No, he just repeated to his disciples the words he had received from the Father: “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.” If Jesus acted thus, how much more must the messengers of God receive the word from the Lord’s mouth, and speak it as they receive it!

John 17:9-10. I pray for them: I pray not for the world but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine: and I am glorified in them.

Is not this a wonderful prayer? If anybody, possessing the greatest possible inventive faculty, were asked to produce a prayer which could be fitly prayed by a person who was both God and man, it would be an impossible task. This chapter has about it all the air of truthfulness, it ought to be sufficient to convince any man that Christ was God and man. There is such a wonderful mixing of the two natures, without any confusion of ideas, so manifestly does he plead as man, and yet so clearly does he also pray as none but the Son of God could pray, that he must be the God-man, the one mediator between God and man.

John 17:11-12. 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. 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.

It was known and foretold that Judas would be lost; therefore, the Saviour, the great Keeper of the sheep, is not to be held responsible for the loss of “the son of perdition”, who was never committed to his charge.

John 17:13-17. And now come I to thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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 pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Our Divine Lord seems to think nothing about his own sufferings; all his thoughts are occupied with that which concerns his people. All his prayers are for them, that they may be made holy, and that so God may be glorified in them.

John 17:18-19. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself,

Or, “I set myself apart.”

John 17:19-20. That they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

They were only a handful of disciples, but you cannot tell what a multitude will believe on Christ through their word. There were but twelve apostles; yet John beheld a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel, and after that he beheld a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and with palms in their hands. The Saviour doubtless linked his little band of disciples with the ancient promise, “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains, the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon.” What great events from little causes spring! Whenever you are doing good, remember not only those who are immediately saved, but the others who will be blessed through them, even as our Saviour said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” We who have believed on Jesus, through the word preached or written by the apostles, are also included in this prayer of their Lord and ours. Notice what our Saviour asked of his Father for them and for us: —

John 17:21. 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.

And when Christians, being one in Christ, and one in the truth, shall become more manifestly one in heart, and life, and faith, what glad days we may hope to see!

John 17:22-23. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and them 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.

This is a wonderful expression, where will you find anything like it! It is indeed marvellous that God should have loved his people even as he loved Christ his Son, yet that is what the Lord Jesus here says: “Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

John 17:24-26. 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. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name,

“Thy character, thy work,” —

John 17:26. And will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

This prayer is for you, and for me, as much as for the twelve apostles. May the Lord fulfill it in all of us as well as in them, for his dear name’s sake!

Amen.


Verses 15-26

We will read this evening a portion of two prayers offered by our Divine Lord and Master on that night in which he was betrayed. The first is that memorable intercessory prayer of his recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel according to John.

John 17:15. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou should keep them from the evil.

Christ did not pray that his disciples should be taken out of the world. It is very seldom that we ought to present such a petition. If that had been a proper prayer for us to offer, it would have been authorized by the Master. There are times when, in great pain of body, or in deep depression of spirit, the believer, like Elijah under the juniper tree, requests for himself that he may die. If you ever do pray such a prayer, utter it very softly, for the Master does not authorize it, and that is a matter that must be left to the Lord of life and death. Jesus says here, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Sin is the real evil of the world; the danger of our being entangled in worldly customs, or dropping into the evil ways of an ungodly generation. Christ does pray that we may be kept from the evil that is in the world; and we also may and must pray that the Lord will keep us from the evil by which we are surrounded, and especially from the evil one who seeks our destruction.

John 17:16. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

“They are of another race: they are swayed by other motives, they have another life; they have another destiny; ‘They are not of the world.’” Is that true of you, dear hearer? We are reading out of God’s Book, remember. This is the description of Christ’s people; does it describe you? “They are not of the world: “they are not worldly, they are other-worldly; their thoughts and hearts are set upon the world to come”.

John 17:17. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

What! Do they need to be sanctified? They are not of the world, and are kept from the evil in the world; do they need to be sanctified? Yes we shall always need sanctifying until we reach our heavenly home, where sin cannot enter. Every day we need the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit to lead us unto holiness. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” It is only the truth of God that can beget holiness; false doctrine is never the medium of sanctification. You can tell which are false doctrines, and which are the true, by our Lord’s own test: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The same men who reject the old-fashioned doctrines also rebel against the old-fashioned style of living; loose living generally goes with loose doctrine. There never was an age in which the doctrines of grace were despised but, sooner or later, licentiousness prevailed. On the other hand, when we had Puritan teaching, we had also pure and holy living. This prayer is still needed for all Christ’s disciples, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

John 17:18. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

This is the original Missionary Society, and the model for all others; Christ sent, missioned, of the Father, and every saint missioned of Christ. Are you carrying out your mission, O ye people of God? How dare you call yourselves by that name if you have no mission to anybody? If you are living here for yourself alone, how can you belong to Christ, who never lived a moment for himself, but always lived wholly for others?

John 17:19. And for their sakes I sanctify myself,

“I set myself apart, as one who is consecrated, dedicated, devoted to a grand design.”

John 17:19. That they also might be sanctified through the truth.

This is our Lord’s prayer for his disciples. In the ninth verse we read, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”

Now our Lord Jesus prays for those who are to be his people. I wonder whether there are any of them here tonight.

John 17:20. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word;

There is a great company of people who are not at present believers, but who shall yet believe on Christ through the testimony of those who are already believers on him. O God, call out many such through our word I pray.

John 17:21. That they all may be one;

This is Christ’s prayer for all those who shall believe on him, that they may be converted, and brought into the one Church together with those who are already there:” that they all may be one.”

John 17:21. 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.

Christ would have all his people joined in communion with himself, and with his Father; and when that is the case, then will men know that Christ came into the world for a definite purpose: “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

John 17:22-23. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one;

Christ is the incarnation of God, and the Church should be the incarnation of Christ. Oh, when shall this great prayer be answered?

John 17:23-26. And that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 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 those lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 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.

A very short time after our Divine Lord offered this intercessory supplication, he prayed a very different prayer, in a strangely-altered style. You will find it in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter twenty-six. Remember that there was a very short interval between the utterance of the majestic prayer I have been reading, and the presentation of the cries and tears of which we are now to read.

This exposition consisted of readings from John 17:15-26; And Matthew 26:36-46.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 17:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/john-17.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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