Christ's prayer for himself. (1-5) His prayer for his disciples. (6-10) His prayer. (11-26)
Verses 1-5 Our Lord prayed as a man, and as the Mediator of his people; yet he spoke with majesty and authority, as one with and equal to the Father. Eternal life could not be given to believers, unless Christ, their Surety, both glorified the Father, and was glorified of him. This is the sinner's way to eternal life, and when this knowledge shall be made perfect, holiness and happiness will be fully enjoyed. The holiness and happiness of the redeemed, are especially that glory of Christ, and of his Father, which was the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross and despised the shame; this glory was the end of the sorrow of his soul, and in obtaining it he was fully satisfied. Thus we are taught that our glorifying God is needed as an evidence of our interest in Christ, through whom eternal life is God's free gift.
6-10. Christ prays for those that are his. Thou gavest them me, as sheep to the shepherd, to be kept; as a patient to the physician, to be cured; as children to a tutor, to be taught: thus he will deliver up his charge. It is a great satisfaction to us, in our reliance upon Christ, that he, all he is and has, and all he said and did, all he is doing and will do, are of God. Christ offered this prayer for his people alone as believers; not for the world at large. Yet no one who desires to come to the Father, and is conscious that he is unworthy to come in his own name, need be discouraged by the Saviour's declaration, for he is both able and willing to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him. Earnest convictions and desires, are hopeful tokens of a work already wrought in a man; they begin to evidence that he has been chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. They are thine; wilt thou not provide for thine own? Wilt thou not secure them? Observe the foundation on which this plea is grounded, All mine are thine, and thine are mine. This speaks the Father and Son to be one. All mine are thine. The Son owns none for his, that are not devoted to the service of the Father.
Verses 11-16 Christ does not pray that they might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from sin, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven. The prosperity of the soul is the best prosperity. He pleaded with his holy Father, that he would keep them by his power and for his glory, that they might be united in affection and labours, even according to the union of the Father and the Son. He did not pray that his disciples should be removed out of the world, that they might escape the rage of men, for they had a great work to do for the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind. But he prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil, from being corrupted by the world, the remains of sin in their hearts, and from the power and craft of Satan. So that they might pass through the world as through an enemy's country, as he had done. They are not left here to pursue the same objects as the men around them, but to glorify God, and to serve their generation. The Spirit of God in true Christians is opposed to the spirit of the world.
Verses 17-19 Christ next prayed for the disciples, that they might not only be kept from evil, but made good. It is the prayer of Jesus for all that are his, that they may be made holy. Even disciples must pray for sanctifying grace. The means of giving this grace is, "through thy truth, thy word is truth." Sanctify them, set them apart for thyself and thy service. Own them in the office; let thy hand go with them. Jesus entirely devoted himself to his undertaking, and all the parts of it, especially the offering up himself without spot unto God, by the eternal Spirit. The real holiness of all true Christians is the fruit of Christ's death, by which the gift of the Holy Ghost was purchased; he gave himself for his church, to sanctify it. If our views have not this effect on us, they are not Divine truth, or we do not receive them by a living and a working faith, but as mere notions.
Verses 20-23 Our Lord especially prayed, that all believers might be as one body under one head, animated by one soul, by their union with Christ and the Father in him, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgment. Thus shall we convince the world of the truth and excellence of our religion, and find more sweet communion with God and his saints.
Verses 24-26 Christ, as one with the Father, claimed on behalf of all that had been given to him, and should in due time believe on him, that they should be brought to heaven; and that there the whole company of the redeemed might behold his glory as their beloved Friend and Brother, and therein find happiness. He had declared and would further declare the name or character of God, by his doctrine and his Spirit, that, being one with him, the love of the Father to him might abide with them also. Thus, being joined to Him by one Spirit, they might be filled with all the fulness of God, and enjoy a blessedness of which we can form no right idea in our present state.
John 17:1-26 . THE INTERCESSORY PRAYER.
reverential reader would not have exclaimed, Oh, 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.
1-3. These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes--"John 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" [ALFORD].
Father, the hour is
glorify thy Son--Put honor upon Thy Son, by countenancing, sustaining, and carrying Him through that "hour."
him power over all
give eternal life to as many as, &c.--literally, "to all that which thou hast given him."
3. this is--that.
life eternal, that they might--may.
know, &c.--This life eternal, then, is not mere conscious and unending existence,.but a life of acquaintance with God in Christ ( Job 22:21 ).
thee, the only true God--the sole personal living God; in glorious contrast equally with heathen polytheism, philosophic naturalism, and mystic pantheism.
and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent--This is the only place where our Lord gives Himself this compound name, afterwards so current in apostolic preaching and writing. Here the terms are used in their strict signification--"JESUS," because He "saves His people from their sins"; "CHRIST," as anointed with the measureless fulness of the Holy Ghost for the exercise of His saving offices "WHOM THOU HAST SENT," in the plenitude of Divine Authority and Power, to save. "The very juxtaposition here 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" [ALFORD].
4, 5. I have glorified thee on the earth--rather, "I glorified" (for the thing is conceived as now past).
I have finished--I finished.
the work which thou gavest me to do--It is very important to preserve in the translation the past tense, used in the original, otherwise it might be thought that the work already "finished" was only what He had done before uttering that prayer; whereas it will be observed that our Lord speaks throughout as already beyond this present scene ( John 17:12 , &c.), and so must be supposed to include in His "finished work" the "decease which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem."
5. And now--in return.
glorify thou me--The "I Thee" and "Thou Me" are so placed in the original, each beside its fellow, as to show that A PERFECT RECIPROCITY OF SERVICES of the Son to the Father first, and then of the Father to the Son in return, is what our Lord means here to express.
with the glory which I had with thee before the world was--when "in the beginning the Word was with God" ( John 1:1 ), "the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father" ( John 1:18 ). With this pre-existent glory, which He veiled on earth, He asks to be reinvested, the design of the veiling being accomplished--not, however, simply as before, but now in our nature.
6-8. From praying for Himself He now comes to pray for His disciples.
I have manifested--I manifested.
thy name--His whole character towards mankind.
to the men thou gavest me out of the
8. they . . . have known surely that I came out from
9-14. I pray for them--not as individuals merely, but as representatives of all such in every succeeding age
not for the world--for they had been given Him "out of the world" ( John 17:6 ), and had been already transformed into the very opposite of it. The things sought for them, indeed, are applicable only to such.
10. all mine are thine, and thine are mine--literally, "All My things are Thine and Thy things are Mine." (On this use of the neuter gender, Absolute COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY between the Father and the Son is here expressed as nakedly as words can do it.
11. I am no more in the
but these are in the world--that is, 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--rather, "in thy name"; in the exercise of that gracious and holy character for which He was known.
that they may be
12. I kept--guarded.
them in thy name--acting as Thy Representative on earth.
none of them is lost, but the son of perdition--It is not implied here that the son of perdition was one of those whom the Father had given to the Son, but rather the contrary ( John 13:18 ) [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. It is just as in Luke 4:26 Luke 4:27 , where we are not to suppose that the woman of Sarepta (in Sidon) was one of the widows of Israel, nor Naaman the Syrian one of the lepers in Israel, though the language--the same as here--might seem to express it.
son of perdition--doomed to it ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3 , 14:21 ).
13. I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves--that is, 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,
15-19. 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 . . . keep them from the evil--all evil in and of the world.
16. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world--(See John 15:18 John 15:19 ). This is reiterated here, to pave the way for the prayer which follows.
17. Sanctify them--As the former prayer, "Keep them," was "negative," 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.
thy truth--God's revealed truth, as the medium or element of sanctification; a statement this of immense importance.
thy word is truth--(Compare John 15:3 , Colossians 1:5 , Ephesians 1:13 ).
18. As thou hast sent--sentest.
me into the world, even so have I also sent them--sent I also them.
into the world--As their mission was to carry into effect the purposes of their Master's mission, so our Lord speaks of the authority in both cases as co-ordinate.
19. And for their sakes I sanctify--consecrate.
myself that they also might--may.
be sanctified--consecrated. The only difference between the application of the same term to Christ and the disciples is, as applied to Christ, that 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 [OLSHAUSEN].
the truth--Though the article is wanting in the original here, we are not to translate, as in the Margin, "truly sanctified"; for the reference seems plainly to be "the truth" mentioned in John 17:17 .
20-23. Neither pray I for these alone--This very important explanation, uttered in condescension to the hearers and readers of this prayer in all time, is meant not merely of what follows, but of the whole prayer.
them also which shall believe--The majority of the best manuscripts read "which believe," all future time being viewed as present, while the present is viewed as past and gone.
21. that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us--The indwelling Spirit of the Father and the Son is the one perfect bond of union, knitting up into a living unity, first all believers amongst themselves; next, this unity into one still higher, with the Father and the Son. (Observe, that Christ never mixes Himself up with His disciples as He associates Himself with the Father, but says I in THEM and THEY in US).
that the world may believe that thou hast sent me--sentest me. So the grand impression upon the world at large, that the mission of Christ is divine, is to be made by the unity of His disciples. Of course, then, it must be something that shall be visible or perceptible to the world. What is it, then? Not certainly 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 co-operation 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 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 till 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. Should not Christians ponder these things? Should not the same mind be in them which was also in Christ Jesus about this matter? Should not His prayer be theirs?
22. And the glory which thou gavest--hast given.
me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one--The last clause shows the meaning of the first. It is not the future glory of the heavenly state, but the secret of that present unity just before spoken of; the glory, therefore, of the indwelling Spirit of Christ; the glory of an accepted state, of a holy character, of every grace.
23. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in
24-26. Father, I will--The majesty of this style of speaking is quite transparent. No petty criticism will be allowed to fritter it away in any but superficial or perverted readers.
be with me where I
that they may behold my glory which thou hast given Christ regards it as glory enough for us to be admitted to see and gaze for ever upon His glory! This is "the beatific vision"; but it shall be no mere vision, for "we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is" ( 1 John 3:2 ).
25. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee--knew thee not.
but I have known thee--knew thee.
and these have known--knew.
that thou hast sent--sentest
me--As before He 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 even His disciples, who owned His mission from the Father.
26. And I have declared--I made known or communicated.
thy name--in His past ministry.
and will declare it--in yet larger measure, by the gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost and through all succeeding ages.
that the love wherewith thou hast loved--lovedst.
me may be in them, and I in them--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 the Redeemer closes 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" [OLSHAUSEN].