John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer
The series John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer focuses on the power, beauty, and majesty of Jesus’ prayer shortly before His trial and crucifixion. It is recorded only in John’s gospel. John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, is the author of the gospel. He was prominent in Jesus’ daily life.
In the first twelve chapters of John’s gospel, he records Jesus’ life and ministry in Judea as Jesus picks and prepares the apostles for ministry after His departure. In contrast to the Synoptics which focus on the Kingdom, John tends to speak less about the kingdom and more about King Jesus. Moreover, the gospel dwells at length with the events, Jesus’ teaching, and the apostles’ response to Him which belong to a period that covers less than twenty-fours of Jesus’ life (John 13-17 and it extends into chapter 19).
Earlier in John 12, Jesus prayed: Father, glorify your name (verse 28). Jesus came so that this would happen! The Triune God answered that prayer as recorded in verses 28-31: Then a voice came from heaven, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again. The crowd was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel has spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit. Now is the time for judgment on the world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
Jesus was praying to the Father and was answered. The crowds did not believe (verses 34-36). John had written of this reality in 1:9-11 and 3:17-21. John concludes John 12 with statements of truth by Jesus (12:44-50): belief in Me is belief in the Father (verse 44); the one seeing Me sees the Father (verse 45); Jesus is light and excludes darkness (verse 46); obedience is required for kingdom entrance (verse 47); rejecting Jesus is rejecting the Father (verse 48); Jesus’ words are His and the Father’s and they are equally authoritative (verses 49-50).
It is in this context that John begins the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). Much theology was presented by the perfect Teacher to imperfect students! Jesus presents Himself as the Servant par excellence (13:1-17). The apostles are still slow to understand. He closes the foot washing demonstration of humility with a challenge: now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (13:17). What were they to do? In a simple word: glorify God! That is what Jesus was doing! In John 17, Jesus summarizes the teaching of His ministry and explains Himself!
However, John 13:31-32 gives further insight into Jesus’ prayer as recorded in John 17: When he was gone, Jesus said: “Now is the Son of man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself and will glorify him at once.
John is building toward the Upper Room. The glory of God is at stake. Jesus made His statements after Judas had left. By God’s design, Judas’ leaving ushered in the events of the next hours: revelation of Himself to the apostles; humiliation; arrest; trial; desertion; crucifixion; forsaken by the Father; and death. Yet, in these verses, Jesus speaks of glorification as already accomplished!. It is this context that Jesus speaks of victory in the chapters 14-16. These include His return to heaven to prepare a place; His coming glory; the new commandment; His return to heaven for the purpose of intercession; and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Judas leaving enabled Jesus to teach and reveal God’s truth regarding glory. It is as if Jesus held back that teaching until he departed. Jesus would not throw pearls to swine. The term glorify or glorified is used five times in these two verses. Jesus’ was determined to glorify the Triune God including Himself. Glory is the “atmosphere” of heaven and it has come to earth in Christ. Glorifying God is what the angels are doing (Revelation 4-5). If there is no glory there is no God. That situation is never acceptable to God. His God-ness guarantees all the earth and peoples are and will glorify Him.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 tends to summarize the first twelve chapters in a general way. It tends to summarize chapters 13-16 in a more specific manner. The apostles minus Judas heard Jesus’ praying. They heard His words. They must have some inkling of His heart! John 17:1-5 includes the terms glory, life, know, relationships, and a direct communication with the Father. The apostles had heard these words previously but circumstances had changed. You can only wonder how often they recalled Jesus’ prayer – its fervency, intimacy, and truth.
Jesus gives a summary statement regarding his teaching in chapters 13-16 as he closes chapter 16 and begins His prayer: I have told you these things as that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world: John 16:33. Jesus was and is the Victor, even though circumstances and feelings may seem to indicate otherwise! Paul taught this same truth in Romans 8:35-39. Believers are victors because they are in Christ and Christ is in the by the Holy Spirit!
After this statement Jesus began to unfold victory. At this hour, none of the men were thinking victory. You wonder how they responded to Jesus’ teaching and Jesus’ unique prayer in John 17. Victory and glory are handmaidens. Verse 3 highlights in me (believers) as opposed to being out of me (unbelievers). Paul, too, emphasizes being in Christ as the means to intimacy, victory, and glory (Romans 8:35-39).
Victory was there but they did not understand. Victory was coming in its fullness, but they did not understand. Jesus knows they were in danger of living the lie! However, they were His. He did not live the lie and His people will not either! That is part of glorification. The truth – the person and the Word – sets people free!
- John records Jesus’ prayer: read it through once and outline it. What do you learn?
- What words and themes are recurrent?
- Christ’s victory is the believer’s victory. How is that possible?
- Christ’s glory is the Father’s glory and the believer’s glory. How is that possible?
An Instructive Comparison: John 11 and John 17: Part I
This is the second is the series: John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer. Jesus is a praying man. He taught His people to pray and He set the example. He prayed not only on special occasions (Luke 3:21: at His baptism), choosing the twelve (Luke 6:12), and at Gethsemane (Luke 22:4), but as a regular practice (Luke 5:16; Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35).
Luke, more than any other of the gospel writers focuses on Christ as a praying man. Of the fifteen references of the prayers of Christ, eleven are in Luke and three are only in Luke (11:5-13; 18:1-8; 21:36). Moreover, only Luke records the three laments of Christ over Jerusalem (Luke 13, 19, 23).
In contrast John rarely records Jesus’ praying. However, consider John 17 and John 11:41. I have already mentioned John 2:28 in the introduction. These two prayers have striking similarities. It is instructive to examine them as a unit.
First, in both cases, the conditions were similar. Death had occurred (Lazarus in John 11) or was imminent (Jesus’ in John 17). In each case, Jesus communicated with God – He prayed!
Second, Jesus had a specific reason for praying: it was for the good purpose of others! He communicated truth in these two instances just as He did throughout His life and ministry. In John 11:41-42 Jesus prayed: … Then Jesus looked up and said: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here that they may believe that you sent me.
In John 17: 1, Jesus prayed: After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven, and prayed: Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you. Jesus states that He had concluded His teaching that began in John 13 and ended in John 16. His purpose in teaching that night is given in 16:33: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
In each prayer, Jesus was concerned about His sheep. They knew His voice (John 10:14-18). In each case He was functioning as the Good Shepherd!
Third, in each case Jesus appealed to the Father and not to our Father as He taught the disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:1-4). The relationship between the Father and the Son is unique. Jesus is the unique, one-of-a-kind Son, and in the same way the Father is the only one of His kind in terms of His relationship to the Son. The Triune God’s relationship to God’s people is unique because of the uniqueness of the Father-Son relationship!
John uses the term Father some 120 times in his gospel. John highlights the intimacy of the Father’s relationship with Jesus and His people. Moreover, the term Father for God is relatively rare in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament. Moses refers to Israel collectively as the first born son of God (Exodus 4:22) and God in relation to Israel as your Father, your Creator… (Deuteronomy 32:6). The prophets highlighted the relationship of God to Israel as a Father-son relationship (Isaiah 63:16; 64:8 Jeremiah 3:4, 19; 31:9; Hosea 11:1-4).
Fourth, In John 11:42 and 17:1, Jesus lifted up His eyes toward heaven, the dwelling place of the Triune God. Jesus was praying directly to the Father. He had no mediator. He is the one and only Mediator (1Timothy 2:5)! Moreover He had the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ prayers were always Intratrinitarian, heard, and answered!
The Trinity was involved in every aspect of Jesus’ life (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Matthew 3:16-17; 4:1). It is well to remember that the Trinity is involved in every aspect of the believer’s life including prayer. In this sense, believers are to pray to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit (John 14:13-17; 15:16-17; 16:14-15, 23-24, 26; Roman 8:26-27). While the unbeliever can never pray this way, God in His common kindness is involved in the life of every creature (Jonah 1:5, 14; Matthew 5:43-48; Acts 14:17; 17:24-31).
Fifth: both prayers in John communicate certainty and confidence. He prayed as the Sent One and the One with God-given and directed authority (John 11:42; 17:1). Thus, Jesus was confident and certain that every prayer of His was heard and was answered.
Sixth: a major emphasis of the prayer concerns glory – the giving of it and the receiving of it (11:4, 14-15, 25, 40; and 17: 1, 4-5, 10, 22, 24). At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus was interested in glory: His, the Father’s, and believers’. If God is not glorious He is not worthy to be worshipped. He would not be God. Moreover, there would be no salvation because only God saves!
John 17 contains Jesus’ unique prayer. In it, Jesus specifically prays for the Father to glorify Him so that the Son may glorify the Father (verses 2, 5). Glory belongs to the Triune God. When one member is glorified the Trinity is glorified. What does it mean to glorify the Son? How has the Son glorified the Father even before the cross?
Eternally, Jesus had glory in heaven as did the Trinity, one glorious God in three distinct Persons. That in itself is beyond human comprehension. So what did Jesus do with His glory? He kept it but supernaturally, He chose to hide His glory; He chose not be treated as God. We call this truth the Incarnation. After sin and God’s judgment, man attempts to deny and run from God and His glory.
How is God glorified? God is glorified in Christ perfectly and imperfectly, when He is acknowledged and worshipped for who He is. He demonstrates who He is by what He does. God is glorified when the natural world – the universe – is viewed as His supernatural creative work (Psalm 8:1-9; 19:1-6; 24:1-2, 8-10; 104:19-23; 146:5-6). Job was given a trip to the “zoo;” he witnessed God’s greatness and glory as he viewed inanimate and animate creation (Job 38-41). As a result, he glorified God. He viewed God and his relationship with the Triune God radically different. He wanted more of God and not answers to his questions; he was through making demands!
Paul in Romans 1:18-25 teaches that fallen man knows God but denies Him as Creator and Controller. He makes God in his image! He glorifies himself thus stealing from God. He functions as a truth rejecter, suppresser, and exchanger. He is an idolater! Post fall, man views nature and attributes its greatness and vastness to something other than God!
Sin actually heightens God and His glory. Sin moves man into the question of an eternal destiny. How is man saved? For our purposes, Scripture teaches that Jesus came to explain and exegete the Father (John 1:14). The Trinity is glorified by knowing who Jesus is and that He is the Sent One to reveal the Father, and in fact the Trinity. God is Creator, Controller, Judge, and Redeemer. Daily, the believer acts on those facts thereby glorifying God.
Jesus is preeminently qualified to reveal the Father. He is fully God and fully man, Further, the Bible teaches that He is image of God, the image of the invisible God, and the exact representation of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). Moreover, in Jesus dwells the fullness of God’s glory (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). Therefore, Jesus is Truth and proclaims the truth about Himself and the Trinity. These facts in themselves are worthy of glorifying God.
- Do you see the Triune’s God glory? Where do you look? How is it possible to see it?
- How would you define God’s glory?
- How does creation and re-creation (salvation) glorify God?
John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer: Part II
I continue the series: John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer by looking at the first five verses.
v.1: After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven, and prayed: Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you.
v.2: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
v.3: Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
v.4: I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave to me.
v.5: And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world began.
These opening verses are explosive, provoking, personal, and Intratrinitarian. Jesus prayed with confidence. He knew His origin, His identity, His purpose, and His destiny all subjects that speculative, man-centered philosophers have considered and answered. These four areas have been the subject of debate for eons especially in the philosophical world. Jesus has given the one and final answer that should silence the debate (see my discussion of Acts 17).
Jesus as the God-man was always on schedule as is the Triune God. He knew the time/hour had come. This goes back to eternity past and the Trinity’s redemptive plan (John 6:37-43). His ministry as the covenantally faithful Lamb of God, perfect sacrifice and perfect High Priest was to be completed. He presented it to the Father as done prior to the crucifixion itself!
John records Jesus in His unique prayer moving to the heart of the redemptive story: glory! The glory is to come to both the Son and the Father (verses 1, 4-5)! He was asking the Father to bring about the fullness and the true identity and essence of the Triune God! Jesus was asking for truth to be more exposed – He was Truth and the Word was truth (John 14:6; 17:17). Truth would reveal the true identity of the Triune God. Imagine the circumstances under which Jesus prayed: Jesus prayed as the cross and separation from the Father was reaching a climax.
Jesus knew that the glory of God is what the Triune God is essentially (the stuff of what He is). Likewise, He knew that the glory of the created thing is what God meant man to be. Jesus knew the basis for His prayer was relational. The Father gave the Son the authority to grant eternal life to all those given to Him (verse 2; John 6:37-43). He had completed that work even though the cross was still hours away.
What work was Jesus referring? It was the whole of Jesus’ Messianic mission in fulfilling the eternal redemptive plan. It included the perfect life and perfect death lived out by Christ. It includes His crucifixion, death-burial, resurrection, ascension, and session. Christ revealed the Triune God in His fullness: His love, mercy, righteousness, justice, compassion, power, and glory. The cross was the height of the revelation of the true nature of God! Such is John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer!
Jesus’ request should have been an encouragement to the apostles as they stood listening. It is to be an encouragement for all believers in every age. Jesus is praying for the perseverance of the saints. They persevere because the Trinity perseveres. God is a covenant-making/keeping God who keeps promises!
Jesus had explained – made Him known, revealed Him – the Father (John 1:14-18; Luke 24:25-27). He explained to Philip that if he has seen Jesus (John 14:8-11), he has seen the Father. This was an amazing teaching. The Old Testament taught that if you see God you die (Genesis 16:13; 32:30; 33;10; Exodus 24:10; 33:20, 23; Numbers 12:8; Judges 6:22; 13:22; Isaiah 6:5).
The Levitical system taught the same concept regarding the holiness of God and man’s ungodliness. Jesus appeared as another Jewish man and He was considered a loser. How could He be King? Kings are not crucified! Paul answered that in Colossians 1:19 and 2:9: Jesus is the fullness of deity, the fullness of the Triune God!
Yet the Triune God taught that the way down is the way up – to glory. The Father and the Holy Spirit could not go down. Only the Son humbled Himself by taking on humanity as the Godman. He did that so that the Triune God would be glorified.
One must have spiritual eyes to see the glory of the Triune God. At that time, the apostles failed to grasp the glory of God in the cross and its crown! But they did after Acts 2. Paul captures the fundamental beauty of God’s glory in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Please note this teaching section follows on the heels of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. The Corinthian Church was mired in congregational and individual sinfulness in the form of factionalism, strife, and disunity. Paul moves directly to the cross in order to bring love, peace, and harmony to a sinful people.
Christ is both the wisdom and power of God (verses 21, 24, 30). The cross was considered for losers. In fact, conversely, Scripture teaches that the cross proves that the Christ of the cross is God’s wisdom and power. The resurrection affirms these truths (Romans 4:25).
God’s glory runs through God’s redemptive plan: life, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification. The cross and a crucified Savior is the centerpiece of that plan. Yet even that does not do justice to the wisdom and power of God. Christ was not simply a crucified Savior. He was the perfect Substitute before and during the cross and more: He is the resurrected Savior!
God’s glory runs through the cross. No cross, no glory. No resurrection, no glory. At Jesus’ first coming, the people were face to face with the living God; yet they did not die; rather they rejected Him (John 1:1-11). God’s glory is His essence in its entirety. But man, God’s image, cannot and does not want to know the true God (Romans 1:18-25).
Jesus came and began to display the existence, the beauty, and the glory of the Triune God. He did it in such a way that He was easily understood. Yet the people still failed to glorify Him! They failed to acknowledge and worship Him as the Lord of lords and King of kings.
The cross reveals God’s glory in its wisdom, power, and love. Saving undeserving, rebellious sinners is either the height of sheer folly or of unmitigated and supernatural love (Romans 5:6-10). Paul chose the latter as given in Ephesians 3:17-21. Grasping the magnitude of the love of God requires the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14-19). Such is the work of the Trinity.
Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him (v.4-5). The Father and Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus ascended into heaven. He was in the full measure of His previous glory except He was now Lord of lords and King of kings (Philippians 2:5-11). That must have been some reunion! Such is John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer!
1. Define what it mean to glorify God?
2. How is the cross the greatest display of the glory of God?
3. How does Paul express the cross in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31?
John 17: Glory: Part III
Verses 1, 4-5, 10, 22, 24
I continue the series: John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer. Jesus told the disciples: …Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father?” (John 14:9). Therefore, those who encountered Jesus should have glorified Him and the Father by giving Jesus His due – loyalty, affection, allegiance, and devotion. Rather the people rejected Him loving the darkness (John 1:10-11; 3:19-21).
In their rejection they lived the lie. The lie consisted of self-glorification in the forms of self-service; self-justification; self-sufficiency; self-dependence; and self-exaltation were their standard and motivation. It is based on the premise that God owes me.
The enemies of the cross attempted to silence Jesus all the way to the cross (Romans 1:18-25). Paul knew that those who denied God-given natural revelation (nature) also denied the Word of God – special revelation.
If God is God, He is full of glory. He demands and deserves to be glorified. If He is not glorious, He is not God. God cannot be God without His glory. For this reason, God is zealous and jealous for Himself (Exodus 20:4-6). He does not share His glory with anyone especially His enemies (Isaiah 42:8; 48:8-11).
The Old and New Testaments confirm these truths. The creative and re-creative story is the redemptive story. He is often summarized as creation, sin and the fall with de-creation, redemption, and consummation. Christ’s mediatorial work includes His perfect life of covenantal faithfulness, His crucifixion and His prefect covenantal death, resurrection, ascension, and session.
Those facts do not simply refer to life in heaven. Rather, they are based on the knowledge that eternal life begins now on earth after salvation (John 17:3; Romans 6:9-11; Colossians 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:8-11; 1 John 3:1-3). Knowledge, union with Christ, and salvation are linked. Eternal life is the Triune God’s glorious gift. He gave Himself. Believers have a “piece” of the Trinity due to union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. The gift of eternal life deserves glorifying Him and enables the believer to glorify Him!
Glorifying God requires you and me to get busy being His kind of person! Jesus is the only Person God was fully pleased (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Therefore, glorifying God requires the believer to become increasingly like Christ in thought, desire, and action with the proper the motivation of pleasing God. John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer gives divine credence to these truths!
The phrases the glory of God and glorifying God are easily misunderstood or tucked away and not useful to and for the believer. Often confusion or mishandling God’s glory becomes acute when the believer is faced with God’s hard providence. We would call them tough times.
What is glory and what does it mean to glorify God? Glorifying God may require being on your knees such as were Isaiah, Ezekiel, Peter, and the centurion (Exodus 3:4-6; Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 1:28; Luke 5:8; 7:6-7). It may simply mean standing in awe of and enjoying God’s creation. It may be “taking a bite out of God” as David wrote in Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed in the man who takes refuge in him.
Glory is something that a person possesses. It is something he has and displays. It is also something he receives. John and Jesus have emphasized that the Father is glorious and the Son had the same glory before the Incarnation. These are facts from the lips of Jesus. We can draw from the use of the original words in both the Old and New Testaments to help us better understand the term glory.
In the Greek language the word for glory is often doxa which means to seem or to have or to form an opinion. When speaking of glorifying God, the idea is to have a right opinion or view or perspective of God: who He is based on His Word revelation and His actions. It involves a person’s knowledge of facts, his thinking, and the use of both. The glory of God is intrinsic to God. It is part of His essential Being. You come to truly recognize God when you find Him to be glorious. If you don’t, the problem is with you and not with God!
In the Hebrew language, one word for glory is kabod which focuses on heaviness, weight, worthiness, reputation, and honor. The word also means brightness and splendor. Such was the case with Ezekiel (1:4, 14, 28) and with the Israelites (Exodus 24:17). These meanings apply to God and His intrinsic worth and majesty. Glory is something that God possesses and it is something that is due Him. Man’s creative purpose and chief end is to glorify God as revealed in Scripture. God is not a figment of our own thinking
Glorifying God can be summarized as worth-ship: giving God that which is His due and that which is His worth. Jesus considered the Triune God worth His humiliation. His glory – Christ’s and the Triune God’s – was worth the cross. Creation and re-creation (redemption) is God-focused. God expressed Himself clearly.
The glory of God and Christ is a constant theme of John’s gospel. The more John accurately reveals Him in Scripture through His preaching; teaching; signs, wonders, and miracles; and manner and motivation for life, the more glorious Christ and God are portrayed. Truth understood and applied reveals His glory and since the Triune God is truth John’s gospel is Intratrinitarian (Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16; Romans 15:8; John 1:14-18; 8:31-36; 14:6; John 17:17; 15:26; 16:13). As the believer becomes more steeped in truth, he becomes an increasingly gracious glorifier of God and an imitator of Christ.
. Glorifying God requires the person to have a right view of God and His control of His universe and to respond accordingly – as His covenant being and image bearer. Preeminently, the believer will grow in fear of the Lord, the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). He then acts according to truth and who he is in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
The believer is no longer in Satan’s kingdom and family (Ephesians 2:1-3). Rather, the believer trusts God and His control rather than self (James 1:2-4; 4:1-3).Accordingly, he puts on the fruit of the Spirit in place of the fruit for himself by himself for himself (Galatians 5:23-24). He dies to self as he becomes alive to God and the things of God (Matthew 10:32-38; 16:24-28; Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:23; 14:25-27; John 12:25). He thinks, desires, and acts according to biblical truth.
- Define God’s glory. What is the appropriate response?
- What is God worth? What are the reasons for glorifying Him?
- How have you been a partaker of His glory and how has that encouraged you daily?
John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer: Part IV
We continue our discussion of Jesus’ unique prayer as recorded in John 17. In verses 6-8, Jesus declared:
v.6: I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.
v.7: Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.
v.8: For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you and they believed that you sent me.
Jesus begins a second petition; He prays in specific terms for the disciples. Remember in verses 1-5, and after glorifying the Father on earth, Jesus prayed for Himself. It is as if the crucifixion had been completed! He had used the authority given to Him by God to give eternal life to those the Father gave Him. He asked the Father to return Him to His former glory.
In verses 6-8, Jesus prayed that He had revealed the Father to the disciples who were the Father’s gift to Him. This was a completed task but an ongoing one! Such is the uniqueness of Jesus’ prayer.
Most believe the content and perhaps concern of Jesus’ prayer changed with verse 6 or perhaps verse 9. As noted above, He had prayed for Himself and the Father in the opening five verses. These verses included Jesus’ request that the Father glorify Him – that is give Him His true worth! He is asking for the blessing of the Triune God on His ministry which was entering its final phase on the earth and a return to His former glory.
Jesus knew the cross preceded the crown but both were necessary in order to capture the fullness of God’s glory. God had granted authority (exousia: delegated authority) to the Son for the purpose of making known the Triune God and giving eternal life – union with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit and all the benefits that accrue from that relationship. Jesus is speaking of all that God is – the entirety of His Being and His attributes (verses 1-5). He connects heaven, obedience, knowledge, and glory. Jesus is going back to heaven as the Winner-Victor because He was and is the Winner on earth. He is looking forward to a joyful, one-of-a-kind reunion!
Beginning with verse 6, Jesus begins to pray for the disciples. He makes some amazing and unique statements. Jesus is still focusing on His and the Triune’s God glory. The glorious God emphatically and comprehensively expresses His glory in the salvation of His people – redemption. This simple but profound truth indicates several truths: 1. God is Judge and Savior; 2. Man is the sinner and is judged; 3. Salvation is supernatural; 4. Jesus defines the disciples as His and God’s: He is declaring ownership; they were given to Him for teaching and safekeeping; 5. God has been covenantally faithful and fulfilled His work.
These truths were of such importance to Christ that He entered into humiliation. That in itself makes no sense to fallen mankind. Verse 6 is a statement about Jesus: He is the Revealer. He makes known that which would not be known (John 1:18; Matthew 11:25-27; Romans 1:18-20). The fact that He makes it known indicates the problem with understanding is not with Him but with man.
Man is both a counselor and a counselee. He counsels himself from within and receives counsel from without. He has many voices wooing him for their attention. Jesus declared to the Father but also to the disciples who heard His prayer: I am the Revealer. Moreover, man is a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. Man always responds to God’s revelation either by rejecting it or embracing it.
While the revelation of God is general (called natural revelation or through the creation) – for all to hear and to see – God provides special revelation. The Triune God reveals Himself in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Jesus did not make His Person and glory known to everyone in a salvific way. The Triune God does not make Himself known in salvific through nature. Rather, the Triune God has His word – the Bible. However, not all have ears to hear and eyes to see! Their hearts have no desire and no ability to hear and respond correctly to God’s revelation whether via nature or Scripture. The fault is not in the Revealer or His methods but in the receiver.
Jesus proclaimed that the disciples had come to true knowledge of the true God. Yet it was nascent knowledge because the fullness of the Holy Spirit had not yet come (see John 20:22-23 and Acts 2 – Pentecost). The disciples had the Teacher par excellence! Yet it was these same disciples who would desert Him. They knew but they did not know. But they would!
Jesus meant that He had given the apostles the word perfectly. He ministered truth to them meeting them where they were personally and theologically (v.6); they were given the Word and they received the Word. They knew more than simple facts about God (verse 7); and they understood that these truths were necessary for them to live God-honoring, glorifying life. However, they were not there maturity –wise; but Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit would build on His foundation (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Such is John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer! Salvation and prayer and praying are Intratrinitarian activities!
Faith and understanding are linked and are not mutually exclusive (see Anselm and Augustine: faith seeks understanding and vice versa). They are necessary for salvation and growth in grace. Paul’s words in Romans 10:17 are his commentary on this portion of Jesus’ prayer (Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard from the Word of Christ.).
Paul equates the written Word and Jesus’ spoken Word. The disciples missed His teaching; they were still in the dark. However, Jesus spoke as if the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of truth – had come. He would come and lead the disciples into all truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
As believers this side of the cross, we have the whole counsel or will of God (Acts 20:20, 27). Jesus and Paul, as well as other writers of the New Testament, presented the fullness of the Godhead. In part this is because they preached Christ, the fullness of God (Colossians 1:19: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him….; 2:9: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,… ). In part, this was Paul’s commentary on John’s opening verses (1:9-11; 3:17-21).
The Triune God was speaking in and through Christ. It was as if the Godhead was speaking! With this background, the people then and today should listen carefully, respond correctly, and enjoy trusting and obeying. The apostles were equipped with knowledge. The Holy Spirit would come fully in a short time. Jesus knew He was the Victor and that He had trained His people. Such is the essence of John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer.
- What is your view and thoughts of Christ as the Revealer?
- Jesus is Truth (John 14:6) and the Word is truth (John 17:17): why do some many define truth their way and seek it elsewhere? How would you respond to that person? See Romans 1:18-23.
- Jesus placed His imprimatur on His ministry: what did He say that He had done in verse 6?
- Knowing and believing are linked following may not occur. Saving faith is an active, doing faith. What evidence did Jesus have that the apostles “knew everything”?
John 17: 9-10, 11-12: Part V
We continue the series John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer:
v.9: I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me for they are yours.
v.10: All I have is yours, and all that you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
Jesus declares to the Father that He has and is praying for His disciples. He is not praying for everyone. He gives reasons that the disciples heard and thought about as the cross loomed larger and larger. First: the disciples are gifts from the Father to Jesus. Gifting and ownership are twin themes in Jesus’ prayer. Such is one aspect of John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer. Because the disciples belong to the Father, Jesus values them! What the Father gives to Jesus He takes seriously! Again, the old biblical adage is appropriate not only for marriage; what God has joined together, let no man attempt to separate.
His concern for the disciples is a mutual concern. He is concerned about them as well as for the Triune God! His concern for the gift is concern for the Giver! All believers belong to the Father and to Jesus! Concern for believers is concern for the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The giving of the disciples is not merely corporate. These disciples are the nucleus for the New Testament expansion. But I suspect Jesus is thinking individually as well. He knows His sheep and they know His voice and they follow Him; no one can steal His sheep because the Father and Jesus are One (John 10:5, 14-18, 25-30). They are for each other and the sheep.
All people – believer and unbeliever – are image bearers of God. This is God’s creational design. Believers are not only image bearers of God but they are in covenant with Him and are called to be covenantally responsible. Jesus adds another truth to what the believer is: they are the Triune God’s and His gift to the Godman (John 6:37-43). Saving the sheep honors God and is a strong statement that the Father and Son are in complete agreement. That is great news for the believer!
In John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer, He emphasizes several facts as to why He is praying the way He does: the disciples are God’s and are His; what is the Father’s is the Son’s; and Jesus is and will be glorified in them. In His prayer, Jesus speaks of a present and continuing glorification because of His saving, sanctifying, and mediatorial work. In this statement, Jesus gave simple yet profound truths: He is glorified in their salvation and in their growth in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Once saved, the believer is God’s agent and he is to live as one saved. There is no greater glory to God than thinking, desiring, and living as His child daily moment by moment. Jesus was and is the only person in whom God was well-pleased (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Believers are to imitating Him!
Jesus, in His unique prayer, moves to another truth as given in verses 11-12:
v.11: I will remain in the world no longer but they are still in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave to me – so that they may be one as we are one.
v12: While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so Scripture would be fulfilled.
In these verses Jesus proclaims a contrast between two groups of people; those in the world and of the world. John uses the term world in a variety of ways. Here Jesus is referring to people both individually and collectively, and their system of thinking, wanting, and doing that is opposed to the Triune God. The people and their system are characterized by pro-self and anti-God in varying degrees. This description characterizes the unbeliever all the time and the believer some of the time.
In these two verses, Jesus’ central teaching centers on being kept. Jesus while in the world was kept by the Father and the Holy Spirit. He proclaims that those God gave Him, He has kept them. In addition, Jesus has kept the disciples. Jesus refers to a double bond, the Father and the Son keep their people so that no one can snatch out of God’s hand (John 10:28-30).
Nothing and nobody can snatch the true believer from the double grip of the Father and Son. Paul highlights this concept in Romans 8:35-39 using the terms victory and separation. Christ’s victory was the Triune God’s victory and the believer’s victory! You can only wonder how the disciples processed this truth then and later.
In John 14:1-3, Jesus told the disciples to cease troubling themselves – what I call inner-man angst (Do not let your hearts by troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am).
Jesus told them why and how to come to their senses. He told them to stop living the lie. He was leaving to go to the Father which was best for them! The disciples did not consider it that way! Here in John 17, Jesus prays in a similar vein. He highlights His protection and keeping. Jesus highlights the great doctrine of perseverance – running the race with godly endurance for the glory of Triune God. The disciples were called to imitate Christ (Hebrews 12:1-3: See my book: Endurance: What it is and How it Looks in the Believer’s Life).
In these two verses (John 17:11-12), Jesus highlights the Lord as Keeper and divine Watchman and Doer (Genesis 2:15; 3:24; 4:9; Psalm 121). As Jesus headed to the cross, two things controlled Him: pleasing His Father and keeping His people. Jesus is speaking of a personal, intimate relationship within the Trinity and between the Trinity and the believer. Jesus is speaking of intimacy, power, and love. Such is John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer.
Paul may consider this truth as an aspect of his “in Christ.” He, too, is speaking of union with Christ by the Holy Spirit. In Proverbs 18:10, the name of God is equivalent to the person of God and is the source of strength: The name of the Lord is like a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The apostles eventually ran to Jesus but not before they forsook Him!
Jesus’s prayer was designed to give truth and by it comfort, joy, and strength. We know that Jesus’ prayer was answered. Judas did not persevere because he was not a true believer. All the other apostles did! Such is John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer.
- Distinguish between the world and “them.”
- Who is Jesus praying for and for what reasons?
- What is John teaching by his use of the words kept and protected?
- How do you respond to God’s perseverance? What does it have to do with yours?
John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer: Part VI
We continue our series: John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer. In review, Jesus’ prayer for those other than Himself shows selectivity. He did not pray in a salvific way for everyone (verses 9-10). Jesus’ acknowledged mutual ownership; His and Father’s double grip (John 10:28-30). True believers belong to God and to Jesus as Jesus belongs to the Father. Jesus is praying for His people.
Jesus is professing and guaranteeing eternal security for the disciples (true in every age!). True believers don’t lose their salvation; they persevere because God gave them to Jesus and the Triune God perseveres! True believers are God’s and He does not share His glory or family with anyone! The Triune God does not lose anyone who Jesus lived for, died for, purchased with His shed blood, and who the Holy Spirit indwells.
Further review, in verses 11-12, Jesus speaks as the Good Shepherd, the Keeper of His sheep (Psalm 23; John 10). The Son glorified the Father as He engaged in the supernatural and double–grip and keeping activity if the Father and Son. Jesus is soon to depart and return to heaven (John 14:1-3). Jesus emphasized the Old Testament adage: be strong; fear not; I am with you (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:6-9): Further, Peter highlights Jesus’ activity as Shepherd in terms of keeping and protecting His inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Both audiences, the disciples in John 17 and Peter’s congregation, were about to undergo heavy trials. What better gift than the guarantee of being kept by the Triune God. The initiation of keeping flowed from oneness – unity between the Son and the Father – and resulted in oneness: the disciples were one with the Father and with Jesus. Such is John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer.
The union and result of it imitated Intratrinitarian oneness. The disciples would grow individually in their understanding and appreciation of fellowship. As a result, God’s Church would grow and the gates of hell would not prevail against it! Both the individual believer and the Church are kept by God!
We come now to verses 13-14.
v.13: I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
v.14: I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of this world any more than I am of this world.
Jesus continues to highlight the majesty of God’s word, the Giver, and the receiver. Jesus had been discipled by the Father (John 5:19, 30; 8:26; 12:49-50) and now He is discipling the disciples. He has a major emphasis: knowledge and joy. Joy and happiness are not the synonymous terms. Happiness is linked to happenings; joy is deeper and is related to God who is driving and ordaining those happenings (see James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Theologians use the term providence to describe what people call life.
Jesus speaks of His joy and His desire to give it in full measure to the disciples which He did (John 15:11). He did by imparting biblical truth to them through His relationship with the Father and with them, and because of their relationship with Him. Joy, knowledge, and fellowship are connected.
Joy is one of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Moreover, joy is commanded. Believers are told to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1; 4:4). God does not give commands that the believer cannot keep! Rejoicing is a necessary outcome of having joy. The two are linked. Moreover, joy has content – the Triune God. Jesus’ joy rests on truth – God’s Word. Thus, in this time of great consternation, Jesus gifted the disciples with the Father’s Word. This was and is of utmost importance for rejoicing. Again such is John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer.
Part of the true circle of life is being discipled and discipling, being loved and loving (1 John 4:7-12). Jesus relates in verse 14 the fact that Jesus taught the word of God to the disciples was one reason the world hated them. Early, John wrote that Jesus came to His own but they rejected Him; later he wrote why: they loved darkness and hated the light (John 1:9-11; 3:17-21). The world knows Jesus to be teacher par excellence. He taught with authority. But God? No way!
Returning to the thought that Jesus is Truth and conveys truth, it is important to remember that the Triune God created man a revelation receiver, interpreter, and revelation implementer. He was created to hear, to assimilate, to love, and to act on God’s truth. In order to glorify God, accurate and adequate information was vital for mankind to know the truth – it is the only thing that sets captives free (John 8:31-34; 14:6; 17:17).
Hopefully, it is clear to you that when the disciples then and believers throughout the ages are settled and secure in a true knowledge of God, they will rejoice! Knowledge of God’s will, His ways, His purpose, His plan, and His provisions, motivate and enable believers in every age to rejoice in the Lord. Feelings will not be their guide to think, to desire, and to act. Circumstances will be interpreted through the grid of biblical truth. Jesus provided multiple reasons for the apostles, and us to rejoice. They did and believers and the Church grew.
- Contrast joy and happiness.
- What is the basis for joy?
- What desire did Jesus have regarding joy and how did He accomplish that fact?
John 17: verses 15-17: Part VII
We continue our series: John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer.
v.15: My prayer is not for you to take them of this world but that you protect them from the evil one.
v.16: They are not of this world even as I am not of it.
v.17: Sanctify them by the truth, thy word is truth.
Jesus makes several requests of the Father but He does not seek their removal from the world. Again world refers to that system of thoughts, desires, and actions that are pro-self and anti-God. The apostles have work to do!
Moreover, Jesus returns to His keeping- protecting function spoken of in verses 11-12. In the verses before us, He asks the Father to keep and protect them as well. In both places, He is referring to the double grip of the Father and Son (John 10:28-30). There is security in the Triune God and Christ!
The disciples and all true believers are in the world but they are not of the world. Of refers to the presence of the same spiritual DNA as Satan and the consequ3ences of that fact! The world is God’s world but there is a cosmic war begun in heaven and continued on earth and in the hearts of every person.
In refers to the existence and time spent in the world. It is important to remember that this is God’s world (Psalm 24:1-2, 8-10; Acts 17:24-28). Everyone is passing through to an eternal destiny. John expressed these facts in terms of love: he told the people don’t love the world – its approach to life, self, and God (1 John 2:15-17). The concept of world includes its system of anti-God, pro-self thoughts, desires, and actions.
Perhaps Paul was thinking of Jesus’ teaching when he penned 1 Corinthians 10:13. Paul reviewed Israel’s history with and to the Corinthian Church; it was a divided, factious, and strife-torn Church (1:10-17). In the course of chapter 10, Paul reminds the people that sin was around them and in them – spiritual warfare was a reality.
He also reminds the people of God’s providence. Jesus does the same here. The key for Jesus to the disciples and for Paul to the Corinthians is this simple but profound fact: victory comes to the believer in the problem by and when he responds biblically. Responding biblically is victory! A response to a person or situation is a response to God.
Jesus then gives the way to victory: sanctification. Jesus is asking God not to remove the apostles from the world but to sanctify them. In a sense Jesus is asking the Father to set them apart to God and service to Him. He is speaking of sainthood! These apostles were to be and were consecrated to God (Exodus 19:10-11; 28:41; 29:1, 29; 40:13). So it is for all believers. Consecration and service occurs in the world through union with Christ by the Holy Spirit!
Pleasing God thereby imitating Christ requires separation from self, sin, and Satan. We speak of separation from the world as if the world is the problem. Sinners are the problem and the “head” sinner is Satan. However, Paul, in 1 Timothy 1:12-15, announced himself to be chief of sinners!
Paul knew he would one day be face to face with the living God. He was the chief of sinners because God would judge him without reference to any other person. He was responsible for his sin! Paul also knew he was judged in Christ as not guilty (Romans 8:1). He was a saint, set apart for God, by God, to God. Jesus prayed that the apostles would approach themselves, the world, and others with the same mentality.
In summary, in these verses, Jesus prayed not for the apostles to be removed from the world. They had godly ministry ahead of them as did Jesus and as do all believers. They were to be busy. To that end, Jesus prayed that they would be kept (the keeping-protecting function again) for the purpose of teaching and practicing truth. Further, He prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil one (verses 11-12).
John comments on this fact in 1 John 5:18: We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe and the evil can’t touch him. This is a powerful and often misunderstood passage. Satan is prohibited from leading the believer because of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the believer and the believer’s union with Christ. The Holy Spirit and Satan do not exist side by side! The two cannot co-exist in the believer’s heart!
The devil’s power has been broken and the believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 John 3:9).
Jesus knew that the ministry of truth through the Word is taxing and heart-wrenching. Only truth will set one free. It does that in part by setting the person apart from falsehood and error. In John 14:6, John equated truth with Jesus (John 14:6) and in John 17:17, with the Word- Scripture (John 17:17).
Moreover, the Holy Spirit applies Christ’s work – redemption accomplished – through His illumination in the hearts of God’s people – redemption applied. The Spirit uses the life and words of Jesus described in Scripture as God’s tool for setting His people apart as He did Christ.
- Jesus returns to the idea of holiness – set apart. How do you understand the word and concept?
- The privileged high priest once-a-year consecrated himself for service before entering the Most Holy Place. Why?
- The holiness of God is in stark contrast to man’s uncleanness and ungodliness. Review the scenes: Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3; Uzzah and the Ark in 2 Samuel 6), Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3; and Isaiah in Isaiah 6. Answer:
- What do you learn about them and yourself?
- What do you learn about Jesus?
- What is the truth about yourself and about God that sets you free?
John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer: Part VIII
We continue our series: John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer. We come to the following verses:
v.18: As you have sent me into the world I have sent them into the world.
v.19: For them I sanctify myself that they too may be truly sanctified
Jesus continues to lay out the redemptive story. This is how the message of truth is brought into the world. Its purpose is to the glory of God. Jesus continues to link knowledge, truth, and glory. Jesus describes the Father and Himself as Senders. Only Christ is the Sent One, the great apostle (Hebrews 3:1). The word in the original language is derived from the word we get apostle. It means to send out. In part, it refers to Christ’s original commission by the Father (John 4:31-34; 5:19, 30; 6:38; 8:26; 9;4; 10:37-38; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10; 17:5, 18-19).
It also refers to the original commission of the apostles and to Jesus’ discipleship method (Mark 3:14). They were to be with Jesus in order to be like Him in thought, desire, and action (Luke 6:40; Acts 4:13). Jesus successfully completed His mission. Judas was not a believer so he went out from them because he was never one of them (John 12:1-6; 1 John 2:19).
Moreover, Luke 24 describes Jesus unfolding truth – the whole truth and nothing but the truth – to two disciples despondent and seemingly clueless while on the road to Emmaus. He unpacked truth beginning with Moses and all the prophets – the whole of Scripture to the preset day and time (24:25-27).
The concept of biblical truth is foundational to the Triune God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s ministry. At the heart of the redemptive story is the validity of Scripture. Jesus had a high view of Scripture – it cannot be broken and it must be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18-20). Jesus used the latter phrase in regard to Judas (John 13:18; 17:12; Psalm 41:9).
Moreover, truth and the truth deliverer were linked. Jesus was discipled by the Father for the Father and for His people; He then discipled the apostles and they in turn discipled others who in turn discipled others (2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2). Such is another example of the true circle of life (1 John 4:7-12)!
Jesus then makes a startling statement in verse 19: He sanctifies Himself. Clearly, if He was not sanctified, the apostles and believers would not be sanctified. Consider Jesus’ sanctification. Jesus set Himself apart and was set apart. The angel told Joseph that Mary will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Immanuel – which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:21, 23). Jesus was set apart at birth. In Luke 1:29-33, Mary was told of the divine and immaculate conception. She would give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the most High.
Isaiah furthers prophesizes this setting apart (Isaiah 9 and 11). God declared His beloved Son to be One who was set apart (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). The only logical response was to hear Him! He was truth and He spoke and taught truth.
Consider Christ’s reasoning for His sanctification: it was in order for the disciples and believers to be sanctified. His sanctification leads to others’ sanctification. What is happening? Return to the Old Testament. To enter into the Holy of Holiness, the high priest must be cleansed – sanctified. Otherwise God was not approachable without death. The book of Hebrews teaches that because He was the perfect High Priest and believers are in Him, what He accomplished is counted as the believer’s (Hebrews 7:22-25, 26-28; 8:6; 9:11-14, 23-28).
Such is the profound wisdom of John 17: Jesus’ uni9que prayer. In it, Jesus highlighted the truth that He would enter into the heavenly realm. He knew that believers have and shall enter it (Ephesians 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 3:1-3). What a source of comfort for the inner- man angst of the apostles (John 14:1-3). The fullness of understanding this truth would come at Pentecost. But prior, the Father and Christ sustained them – kept and protected – until that time (John 10:28; 17:11-12, 15-17).
Moreover, the believer has a piece of heaven now – union with Christ and the Holy Spirit. Resurrection life begins at salvation on this earth in this physical world (Romans 6:9-11; Colossians 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:8-10; 1 John 3:1-3)! No one would be in the heavenly realm unless Jesus had set Himself apart for service to God, by God, in the Holy Spirit for the benefit of those that the Father gave Him (John 6:37-43).
Jesus had His attention – His” eye” – on the Father and those that God had given Him. What a Person, what a Savior! The passages mentioned above from the book of Hebrews highlight Christ’s high priestly function. Perfect He was, He set Himself apart for service to God. He did that in His humiliation and is doing that in His exaltation.
He came to earth and was considered a Loser. He set Himself apart fully because He is and was the only covenantally faithful person who has ever lived and will live. In that way, He imitated and thus glorified the Father and the Triune God. He is doing the same in His exaltation as He awaits the fullness of glory beginning at His return.
Jesus gave himself first to the Father and the Holy Spirit and then to people. Initially believers had been haters of God and lovers of self, His enemy (Romans 5:6-10). Jesus taught the way of sanctification in terms of denying self (Matthew 10:32-38; 16:24-25; Luke 9:23; 14:23; Mark 8:31-34; John 12:25-27).
Denying self mean denying what you want more than you want to please God. Denying self means not living by I wants and I deserves but what God commands and deserves. It is motivated by awe and reverence of God and thankfulness to Him and for Him.
Throughout His life Jesus was continually setting Himself apart for service to God. Every thought, desire, and action was set apart to the glory of God and the good of his people. In this way, life was simplified. He ran the race with vigor all the way to the cross and beyond (Hebrews 12:1-3).
- Define apostle. What is the significance of the term for Jesus and the original eleven?
- How did Jesus sanctify Himself and what is its significance?
- Give ways in which you sanctify yourself thus imitating Christ.
John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer: Part IX
The next verses that I consider in the series: John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer seems to focus on the Church universal. It attests to the breadth and grandeur of John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer!
v.20: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
v.21: that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
v.22: I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.
v.23: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Jesus seems to begin a new section. Jesus prays for those who have believed and will believe through the apostolic witness. In 1 John 4:1-6, John emphasized the testing of the spirit 1 Thessalonians 5:21) as the means of being kept and protected. Spirit refers to the heart motivation and desire of the person teaching.
This testing is according to a standard; it is of vital importance for the basis of the believer’s assurance and eternal security. Testing the spirit refers to the activity of the person to determine the source of that which is being taught. It is from God by the Holy Spirit or is satanic in nature, generated by the father of lies (John 8:44).
Assurance fits nicely into the subject of perseverance – both God’s and Christ’s keeping and protecting activity (see verses 6, 11-12, and 15). The apostolic witness – biblical truth as presented by the apostles – was the foundation and standard for what the believer is to believe and act upon. Not every person who claims to be a truth-proclaimer in fact is! Truth sets you free; falsehood leads to bondage.
Jesus is teaching and proclaiming the oneness of believers in and as the body of Christ – the Church. This fact reflects and proclaims the Trinity and its unity! Jesus has an individual and panoramic view of salvation. People are saved, are being saved, and are rejoicing in God’s presence. They became more and more like Christ in thoughts desires, and actions on earth.
In heaven that activity continues even in perfection! Yes, pleasing the Father by growth in Christlikeness never ceases! This growth glorifies the Father and leads to unity of the brethren. Paul and Peter picture the oneness in Ephesians 4:1-8 and 1 Peter 2:9-10 that begins on earth.
The goal of unity is glorification. What is the glory of the believer? It is Christ by the Holy Spirit. Remember, the Triune God gives His glory as a gift; glory is an inherent aspect of God’s Being. Believers are joined together by and in Christ through the Holy Spirit (Paul’s union with Christ and the believer’s being “in Christ.” They have Christ and the Triune God has them.
Paul puts it this way in Colossians 2:9-10: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. The totality of God – God power and attributes – Christ possessed. Christ was all God-ness! And believers have Him by the Holy Spirit!
By virtue of Christ’s work, Christ is in the believer; the believer has intimacy with and in Christ; he is one with Christ; and he shares in His fellowship (Ephesians 3:17-21; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3-4; 1 John 3:1-3). The Son gives Himself including His glory. There is no greater glory than to be partakers of the Triune God (Psalm 34:8; Philippians 3:8-11).
If believers have received God’s glory – Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – then the believer and only the believer, is without excuse. He is motivated to think, desire, and act as one glorified. This activity in not burdensome (1 John 5:3-4)! When he does that, the world “sees” evidence of Christ. Such was Jesus’ discipling method that I mentioned previously and below. His people were known to be like Him!
Jesus was with the disciples – He was intimate with them teaching them in the milieu. Some would say, He was practical (Matthew 11:28-30). The people knew that Jesus taught truth and with authority (Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:22). The disciples were changed: they were with Him – He appointed them (Mark 3:14), to be with Him (Luke 6:40 – to be fully trained), in order to be like Him (Acts 4:13). These ways were ways in which Jesus was glorified. Since He was glorified so was the Father.
Seeing Christlikeness in a believer helps explains Jesus’ response to Philip: Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus explained the Father (John 1:14-18). The glory of the Triune God was seen in Christ (John 11:4, 40; 17:4; Hebrews 1:3). Jesus highlights knowledge and intimacy with glory. Jesus expounds and “opens up” the true nature of the Trinity. Believers do the same when they imitate Christ. Again, such is the wisdom and beauty of John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer!
God is glorious: this fact is an understatement! Not only is He glorious, but He shares His glory within the Trinity and man – believers. But note: He does not share it with His enemies (Isaiah 42:8; 48:9-11)! These facts are simply boggles human understanding. How can that be? It is true because God reached down through His Son and Holy Spirit to man. In response, believers reach up and out to God motivated by union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
All of the preceding is an attempt to describe glory – God’s and the believer’s. The believer partakes of the Triune God and therefore His glory. Jesus was aware of His glory and the Triune God’s glory. Yet He chose to hide His and in doing so, hid God’s glory. Yet He knew the cross was the way to glory which was the way to the crown (Hebrews 12:1-3)! In that way, the world would know the glory of God. Yet unbelievers would deny it and not partake of it.
- In verses 20-23, who is Jesus praying for?
- What is He giving them?
- What is the “big-deal” about receiving it?
- Describe your response to receiving God’s glory? How does that gift change your thoughts, desires, and actions?
John 17: Jesus’ Unique Prayer: Part X
This is the conclusion to the series: Jesus’ Unique Prayer. I conclude the series with a discussion of verses 24-26:
v.24: Father I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me before the creation of the world.
v.25: Righteous Father, though the world does not know you I know you and they know that you have sent me.
v.26: I have made you known to them and will continue to masker you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them
As mentioned previously, Jesus seems to have changed His emphasis beginning with verses 20-26. He turned His attention to those who believe through the apostolic witness. He has trained them and imparted Himself to them. Moreover, Jesus is functioning as the true High Priest – the names of His people are engraved upon His breastplate (Exodus 28:15-21, 43; Revelation 6:6; 7:3; 19:9). He knows His people and they know Him (John 10:14-18).
In addition, and implied throughout the prayer, Jesus has concern for the Father, the apostles, and all believers, Jew and Gentile (John 10:16; Acts 10:34-39) in every age. He also has concern for His Church. He birthed and nurtured her initially through His apostles (Matthew 28:18-20). They will go to the ends of the earth – God’s world – to every tongue, tribe, and kindred and build the Church (Ephesians 2:11-15; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 4:11; 5:9-13). The kingdom of God reaches far and wide. Again, such is the scope of John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer.
In the Old Testament, the holiness of God was the major consideration and fear for coming into the presence of God. Unholy people did not fare well! Yet God met His people via mediator in a veiled way (Exodus 32:12-23; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18). Now in Christ, the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5) access to God is open (Hebrews 9:23-27; 10:19-22). Paul points to the Intratrinitarian nature of this access in Ephesians 2:18 and 3:12. Immanuel – God with us – highlights not only Christ but the Trinity.
Blessings flow from the Blesser: from the Father to the Son, from the Father and the Son to the apostles, and to all believers in every age. These blessings are applied by the Spirit. Jesus is speaking of individual believers and the Church. He wants His people to be in the presence of the Triune God. This starts at salvation and will be consummated at His return. In this way, God is glorified; believers partake of Him and His glory (1 John 3:1-3). Moreover, the world knows and is thus without excuse. This includes the unbeliever – Romans 1:18-20 – and the believer – Psalm 145:3; 147:5.
This last point raises the issue: when did the Church begin? Some may say in the Garden; others in John 20; others say in Matthew 16; and still others at Pentecost. In one sense, it is a moot point. Believers as a corporate body are the bride of Christ (Isaiah 54:5; 62:4-5; Hosea 2:19; Matthew 22:1-14; 25:31-46; Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 19:7-10). Christ takes care of His people – Matthew 16:13-20. He expects them to acknowledge that point by glorifying the Triune God!
The glory Christ speaks is His own but He always points to the Trinity. The Trinity holds out the vision of God in Christ as heavenly bliss. Moses longed for it as should all believers (Exodus 33:18). Moses had to wait for Christ!
John wrote that the greatness of God’s love is expressed in adoption and the grand reality of seeing Him as He is the height of that love (1 John 3:1-3). The cross itself is the stepping stone into God’s glory – His presence. It began at salvation and continues to be more glorious!
Jesus Himself continued His teaching on how the glorification process will continue: it is summarized by the simple word love (John 13:33-34: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.). This teaching came earlier in the Upper Room Discourse. John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer reflects and continues Jesus’ teaching noted in John 13.
The essence of Jesus’ prayer is the fulfillment of the new command. It was old in the sense that love of God and neighbor has always been commanded (Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37-40). No person before or after Jesus has or will demonstrate perfect love. Perfect love was required and deserved by the Perfect God. It comes in Christ!
Jesus ushered in perfect love. It came on the heels of sin and sinfulness. Perfect love from all eternity came to earth in Christ. In that sense, it began on earth; it will continue eternally (verse 24). In verse 24, Jesus states His desire is for all believers to be with Him in heaven (His presence) and to experience His glory. Jesus expects the glory experience that began when the person became a believer will continue in its fullness in heaven. The reason He gives is love! Love and glory are linked. Specifically He mentions the Father’s love of the Son.
Such is the beauty, wisdom, and splendor of John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer. Imagine: the Triune God’s redemptive plan centers on Jesus’ perfect law keeping and His crucifixion as an act of Intratrinitarian love. Humanly speaking this seems unreasonable and illogical. But we know that God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9; 1 Corinthians 2:14, 16). The believer has the mind of Christ so he can grasp the depth, height, width, and breadth of not only God’s love but His God-ness and His glory (1 Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 3:17-21)! These are eternal activities because our God is inexhaustible in His Being.
In verses 25-26, Jesus closes His prayer. He wanted the apostles and He wants believers to know the Father’s perfect love of the Son. In this way the believer will experience the wisdom, power, justice, and mercy of God. In that way God is glorified. Glory redounds to the Triune God. Jesus knows that from the knowledge He is imparting and has imparted, the apostles and all believers will begin to grasp the love of God. The Trinity loves powerfully, undeniably, forcefully, and eternally.
In this short prayer, Jesus links truth, knowledge, love, and glory. Jesus gives all believers a peek into heaven and into the Godhead. He takes us into the heavenly realms much the way the book of Revelation does. Jesus is the consummate Victor, and victory is Intratrinitarian! Again, John 17: Jesus’ unique prayer imitates Him: it is one of a kind!
- Jesus’ prayer is comprehensive. What is Jesus’ overriding focus?
- How do you know Jesus’ prayer was answered?
- For the believer, he moves from the inglorious (when he was an unbeliever) to a more glorious state (as a believer) with greater things to come. What are those things?
- Is it possible to get enough of God – His glory and goodness?
- What would that look like?
- Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 1 John 3:1-3: how do they help you answer question 3?