John 17

1.  Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,

Remember, this verse continues immediately on the conversation He was having with His eleven special disciples (with Judas already gone) as they traveled from the place where they kept the Passover supper, more commonly known as the Last Supper, to the garden of Gethsemane, where He would be arrested.  We have been following this conversation all the way from chapter 13 at the supper itself.

Now, the Lord ends His conversation with the disciples, and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He starts to speak to the Father.  Remember, though, that these words are all spoken in the presence of His disciples.

In this chapter, we hear what the Lord has to say to His Father on this great occasion.  This is certainly prayer, although it does not have to do with making many requests or begging for help, as we often think of prayer as being.  Rather, it is just a conversation with the Father.  Some call this the high priestly prayer.  Yet in Hebrews 8:4, we read, “For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law.”  Since Christ was on earth here, I do not believe He was acting as a priest when He made this prayer.

The Lord lifting up His eyes to heaven was, I believe, displaying an attitude as He addressed His Father.  It was an acknowledgement of the Father’s authority, and a submitting to that authority.  As a Man on earth, the Lord took a humble attitude when speaking to the Father.  How much more should we come in humility when we come before Him, if this was the attitude taken by the Son Himself?

The Lord first tells the Father that the hour has come.  We saw earlier in John that His hour to lay down His life had not yet come (John 7:30, 8:20.)  Yet now that hour had come, and the Lord acknowledges it.  Then, He asks the Father to glorify the Son.  This means that He wants the Father to display the esteem in which He holds the Son.  All through the coming suffering and humiliation and death, the Father’s esteem for the Son would be manifest, for He would show that He considered the Son the perfect sacrifice that could take away the sin of the world.  At the same time, the Son’s esteem in which He holds the Father would also be manifest, for He would show how He was willing to suffer all these terrible things to please His Father.

2.  “As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

The Father had given the Son authority over all flesh.  This also showed the esteem in which the Father held Him.  He had done this so that the Son should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him.  “Eternal life” here is “eonian” life, a life that flows.  It is a fuller life, a better life, a life that flows through Jesus Christ to those who belong to Him.  We can see this life acting even in the Acts period, when the twelve apostles were able to act in miracles of powerful healing, such as in Acts 3:6 when Peter healed the lame man.  This was an example of life flowing from Jesus Christ through Peter to the man, giving him the gift of fuller life.  Yet ultimately, this eonian life is only fully enjoyed in the resurrection, where all those who are raised will live through Jesus Christ.

3.  “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

This is not a definition of eternal life.  Rather, this sets forth the purpose for which eternal life is given.  It is given that men might know the Father to Whom He was speaking, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He sent.  We will never fully know God in this life.  Only in eternal life will we be able to live long enough or enjoy life fully enough in order to gain such great knowledge.

The word “sent” here is the Greek word apostello, which means more than that He was merely sent from heaven to earth.  It means that Jesus Christ was sent with authority from the Father to do His will.

4.  “I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

The Lord declares that He has glorified the Father on earth.  Through His life, He showed forth the Father, displaying His character and doing His work.  Thus, He had made all who saw Him and who loved the Father to esteem Him even more than they had.  Thus He had glorified Him.

He had finished the work that the Father had given Him to do.  This is speaking specifically of the earthly ministry of the Lord, which was now finished.  This prayer was the end of His teaching of His disciples.  His work with the crowds, His work with men, all the things He taught were now completed.  Thus, he could say He had finished the work.  Yet I believe that the Lord was also speaking in confidence that now, coming to the foot of the cross, He knew that He could speak as if He was on the other side of it, knowing that the great work of death, burial, and resurrection that the Father had for Him would be completed.  Thank God that the Son finished the work!

5.  “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Now, the Lord asks the Father to be glorified together with Himself.  Surely no one who was not God Himself could ask such a thing without it being the supremest arrogance!  And we can see that this is what the Lord meant to imply exactly, for now He reveals that He is God Himself, for He says that this is the glory which He had with the Father before the world was.  No man existed before the world.  Only One Who was God Himself could say such a thing.  This shows that the Lord was not just a man born in Bethlehem.  He was the pre-existent God Himself!

The word for “world” here is the Greek word kosmos.  It means a system, order, or arrangement.  It is not the same thing as the earth.  The world we live in exists on the earth, but it is not the earth itself.  The Lord is the One Who brought the world into existence.  Yet before He created the world that is upon the earth, He had glory together with His Father.  Now, He is asking that the Father will give Him that glory again.  And surely the Father never failed to grant any request the Son made of Him!

6.  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.  They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

A person’s name is the same thing as his character.  The Lord had manifested the character of God the Father to the disciples.  As the perfect representative of God, He was able to do this as no one else could.

The men the Father had given the Lord were His disciples.  Here, I believe it has reference specifically to the twelve disciples.  Then He reveals that they were the Father’s, and the Father gave them to Him.  Remember, the Lord did not “save” these twelve men.  They were Israelites, law keepers, in good standing with God, and related to Him through the covenant He made with Israel.  Thus, they already belonged to the Father.  Apparently, this was even true of Matthew, for though he was an outcast tax collector, the Lord says he belonged to the Father.  Not everyone who was outcast by the religious leaders deserved it!  So these men belonged to the Father, and He gave them to the Son to be His.  And He bears witness to them, that they have kept the Father’s word.  Remember, the Lord revealed in John 14:24b that “the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”  So the Lord had spoken to them the Father’s word, and they had kept that word.  That is what He says of them, and a good recommendation it is indeed.  May we all strive to keep the Father’s word as these men did!

7.  “Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.

The disciples realized that the things the Lord was telling them were not just things He had decided upon or made up.  Rather, they knew that they had come to Him from the Father.  There are those today who refuse to acknowledge this.  Let us never be among them!

8.  “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.

Again, we get this idea of a flow: the words flow from the Father to the Son, and from the Son out to the disciples, and they receive them.  These were words of eternal life indeed!  And they received them as such.  As Peter said to the Lord in John 6:68, “You have the words of eternal life.”  “Eternal” is “eonian,” which means “outflowing.”  Peter realized that the Lord’s words were words of outflowing life, flowing from God to them.  And now they flow to us as well through the Scriptures.

Just back in John 16:30, the disciples had affirmed, “Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You.  By this we believe that You came forth from God.”  Now the Lord mentions their knowledge to the Father.  They know that He came forth from the Father.  They have also believed that the Father sent Him.  “Sent” here is the Greek word apostello, for they did not just know that God had sent Him, but also that He had sent Him with the authority to do the things He did.

9.  “I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.

The word for “pray” here is erotao, and means “to ask.”  The Lord was going to ask for something on their behalf.  What that is we will find out in a subsequent verse.  He makes it clear that He is not going to ask for the world.  Someday, the Lord will ask the Father for the world, as is made plain in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.”  Yet the Lord was not asking for the world at this time.  Rather, He was asking for those whom the Father had given Him, for, He acknowledges, they belong to Him.

10.  “And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “Any man can say, ‘All mine is Thine,’ but only the Son can say, ‘All that is Thine is Mine.’”  This is very true.  All we have belongs to God, but only the Son can say that all the Father has also belongs to Him.  This is a statement of perfect equality with the Father.  When we come to the Son, we come to One Who in no way is less than the Father.  All that the Father has is also His.

The Lord is glorified in the disciples.  That is, He is held in greater esteem because of them.  May this be true of us as well!

11.  “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You.  Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

The Lord is again speaking as if He is on the other side of the cross and the resurrection.  This is His prayer as He returns to His Father.  He is no longer in the world.  The disciples, however, are remaining there, while He comes to the Father.  Thus, He asks His request of the Father.  This is what He said He was asking on their behalf back in verse 9.  He asks the Holy Father to keep those He has given the Lord Jesus through His name.  He also tells why He asks this for them.  He asks that they may be one as He and the Father are.  Again, we have this idea of flow going on, with God’s character flowing to the disciples and making them one.  How much must the Lord have wanted this for His disciples, to make this His great request to the Father for them!

12.  “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.  Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

While the Lord was with the disciples in the world, He was the One Who guarded them, and He did it in the character of the Father, so that none of them was lost.  There is one exception though: Judas.  The Lord calls him here the “son of perdition.”  “Perdition” is a word not in common use anymore in English, so it may be necessary to define it.  Perdition means total or utter ruin.  This is something that can never happen to the believer, for even if we were to come to total ruin like Job did, we would still have God, and still have hope in resurrection.  Even death for us is not perdition, for we have hope beyond the grave.  For the unbeliever, however, the same cannot be said.  For one like Judas, death brings the loss of everything, for the only hope beyond death is a resurrection to judgment and condemnation.  Judas’ ultimate end is utter ruin and total calamity.  He is truly a clear representative in the Bible of one who has no hope but total destruction.  Thus, though he was one the Father gave the Lord, he was lost.  This was not a mistake, however, but was so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

13.  “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

Now, however, He was leaving them to come to the Father, and could no longer do this work of guarding them.  But He was speaking these things of that time while He was still in the world, and His purpose for doing so was so that the disciples would have His joy fulfilled in themselves.  His joy was in the accomplishment of the great work He had to do on the cross.  What a joy it must have been to Him to complete that work, and know that He had fulfilled the requirement for our forgiveness and eternal life!  And His joy in His fulfilled work would be fulfilled in the disciples as well because of what He revealed to them while He was still in the world.