This is Jesus’s long and profound prayer of consecration before going to the cross. He prays for himself, his immediate disciples (the eleven) and the church. He even prays for people in the world. The church is called to live in unity.
As I write in every introduction:
This translation and commentary are for everyone who needs an online reference, but the commentary is mainly for readers in developing and persecuting countries, where Christians cannot afford or do not have access to excellent printed Study Bibles or commentaries. The main goal is missional.
The translation is mine. I offer it only to learn what the Greek says. It tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so I had to make adjustments.
Readers can go to biblehub.com and use the interlinear link to look up every Greek word, and then the links go to every occurrence of the word. They can also visit biblegateway.com for many translations.
A GrowApp section is offered after every passage of Scripture, which asks challenging questions for deeper discipleship.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus’s Great Prayer of Consecration (John 17:1-26)
1 Jesus spoke these things, and after lifting his eyes to heaven, he said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, so that everyone you have given him—he may give them eternal life. 3 This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I have glorified you on earth by completing the work which you had given me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had in your presence before the world existed.
6 I have made your name known to the people you have given me out of the world. They were yours, and you have given them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they understand that everything you have given me is from you, 8 because the words you have given me I have given to them; they have received them and truly understand that I have come from you and believe that you have sent me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but instead for those you have given me because they are yours. 10 And everything that is mine is yours and yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. 11 No longer am I in the world, yet they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in your name which you have given me, and I guarded them. No one of them was lost except the son of destruction, so that Scripture may be fulfilled. 13 And now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that my joy completed in them. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you remove them from the world, but instead that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. 18 Just as you have sent me into the world, I also am going to send them into the world. 19 I consecrate myself on their behalf, so that they also may be consecrated in the truth.
20 I do not ask for them alone, but also who will believe in me through their word, 21 so that all of them may be one, just as you, Father are in me and I in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory which you have given me, so that they may be one, just as we are one. 23 I am in them as you are in me, so that they may be perfected into one, so that the world may understand that you have sent me and you love them, just as you have loved me. 24 Father, those whom you have given me, I want them to be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory which you have given me before the foundation of the world. 25 Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these ones have known that you have sent me. 26 And I have made known your name and will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I may be in them.
Since the verb believe and the noun faith are so important in John’s Gospel, I would like to plant word studies at the beginning of each chapter. Then you can scroll back up here to read what the terms mean. I paste this word study again here because this is online writing, so the cost per printed page is not a factor.
The verb believe (verb is pisteuō, pronounced pih-stew-oh) and the noun faith have to penetrate one’s whole being. Now let’s study them more formally. The noun faith is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us.
A true acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
One has to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. The bottom line is that for John’s Gospel believing and faith must not get stuck in an intellectual assent. “I believe that God exists and Jesus lived.” These statements may be a good start, but everyone who believes or has faith must put their complete trust in God’s Son.
Now let’s move on.
I approach this prayer with fear and trembling, because it is so real and profound and relational between himself and his Father and disciples—and by extension—us, his present-day disciples.
It has rightly been called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. It his prayer of consecration just before going to the cross.
The simplest division:
Jesus prays for himself (vv. 1-5 or 1-8)
Jesus prays for his disciples (vv. 6-19 or 9-19)
Jesus prays for the Church (vv. 20-26)
You can do research to find other divisions.
I keep the prayer as one long unit and provide the GrowApp questions at the very end.
Ps. 123:1 says that the psalmist lifts up his eyes to God. Jesus lifted his eyes when he prayed for Lazarus to be resuscitated (11:41 and when he healed a deaf man (Mark 7:34). In the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, the tax collector would not lift up his eyes (Luke 18:13). Lifting up his eyes towards heaven is a gesture indicating his close relationship with his Father, who lives in a different realm from earth and the world, which figures prominently in this prayer. There is a sharp contrast between the Father’s presence (heaven) and the world (this domain, both physical but mostly moral or the world of lost humanity).
In the past, he said his hour had not yet come (John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20). However, he then said the time or hour had come just before the discourse here in the upper room, after the triumphal entry (12:23). But most significantly, at this meeting in the upper room, he said his hour had come (13:1; 16:32). His hour was the cross.
“Son of God”: Let’s look into some more systematic theology (as I do throughout this commentary). Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters, though, surprisingly, in John’s Gospel we are not called “sons,” but “children.” Only Jesus is the Son. In any case, on our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Now that we have opened up some systematic theology about the Son in relation to Father God, let’s discuss even a little more systematic theology: The Trinity. The Father in his role as the Father is over the Son; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant. Look at it this way: a human father and son are equal in their essence. Both have a soul and spirit. But in their roles and family relationship, the Father is over the Son.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son while the Son was incarnated and effecting the plan of redemption.
In their essence or essential natures: Father and Son are equal.
To glorify the Son repeats a theme in the Fourth Gospel that he seeks the glory of the Father alone (John 5:44). “The cross, as he knows full well, is to be the vehicle of that glory, and he prays that he may so accept it as to bring glory to his Father in turn” (Bruce, comments on vv. 1-2).
“authority over all flesh” is an interesting phrase. “Flesh” means “humanity.” The word authority must not be overextended to block free will. It is similar to what Jesus told Peter and the other disciples that whatever they loose (permit) and bind (prohibit). Also, Jesus bequeaths this authority to his disciples (John 20:23). So his authority over all of humanity extends to permitting entrance to the kingdom or eternal life. Humans have enough free will to reject and resist God’s grace, but not enough free will to strut into the kingdom without the invitation.
Let’s recall Matt. 28:18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Now let me review the word authority more generally, and apply it to our lives, as I have before in this commentary.
It is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12).
So do we have the same power and authority that the twelve have in this passage, or are they a special case? Restrictive interpreters say they are special cases with unique callings, while freer interpreters say we too, as disciples of Jesus, can have the same authority. I come down on the freer interpretation.
Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2. Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
“eternal life”: this is more than mere existence. This is life of the next age, that age, which has broken into this age or right now. In other words, eternal life happens now, but we must be careful not to believe that everything in the new age, in everlasting life, is happening now. This is called over-realized eschatology (study of ends times and new ages). Not every new-age blessing becomes realized or accomplished right now. But let’s not remain negative. We get some benefits of the next age or new age right now. We get some benefits of eternal life, right now.
Let’s look at life by the book—by the prominent Greek lexicon.
It is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.
Clearly, John means the fourth definition.
In v. 2, Grammarian Novakovic suggests the word since for kathōs (pronounced ka-thohss), which is usually translated as “just as.” However, I like how Carson keeps the standard translation: “Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you (v. 1b) just as you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” You can decide which you prefer.
Eternal life is built on the knowledge of God. It is not knowledge about God. Atheists and scoffers can take a philosophy of religion class at the local university and learn about God. They can watch a youtube video with a panel discussion about arguments for the existence of God. But none of these views and discussions grant us eternal life. We have to know God personally, by being born again by the power of the Spirit (John 3:1-8). You must have a personal relationship with God through Christ, and then he grants you eternal life.
“eternal life” please see v. 2 for more comments.
What does the term Christ or Messiah mean? The term means the Anointed One. In Hebrew it is Messiah, and in Greek it is Christ. It means that the Father through the Spirit equipped Jesus with his special calling and the fulness of power to preach and minister to people, healing their diseases and expelling demons (though demon expulsion is not mentioned in John’s Gospel). The Messiah / Christ ushered in the kingdom of God by kingdom preaching and kingdom works.
The clearest way that Jesus glorified the Father is by completing or fulfilling the work that the Farther commissioned him to do. The one work that he has yet to complete is the cross, which would supremely glorify the Father. On the cross he will say, “It is finished” or “it is completed” (John 19:30), the same verb in 19:30 as here. “Any mention of the ‘finished work’ would be unthinkable if it did not embrace that greatest work of all” (Bruce, comment on vv. 4-5). The greatest work of all was the cross.
This glory was experienced and his reality before the creation of the world, in the presence of his Father. The Word existed eternally with the Father. Recall these verses: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). Paul says that Jesus humbled himself and took on the form of a servant, though he had existed in the form of God (Phil. 2:6-8). It is now clear that he emptied himself of the glory he had in his Father’s presence. Think of the immediate presence of his Father, with the angels and the throne and the wonderful light. When he took on the form of a servant, he missed those glorious things, the presence of the Father, in his realm.
Recall these verses: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify him in himself and will immediately glorify him” (John 13:31-32). The connection between God and his Son is rich and tight, and soon he will share it with his disciples, both the Father’s love and eternal life.
Bruce insightfully adds: “Yet, since the resumption of that glory would be attained by way of the cross, it would inevitably have a new dimension which was absent from it ‘before the world existed.’ … Of this new dimension of glory Jesus had already spoken” (then Bruce quotes 13:32; see his comments on vv. 4-5).
Let’s explore the noun glory more thoroughly, as we have done throughout this commentary:
“glory” means, in many contexts, the light of God, shining to all the world. In saying that “we” beheld or saw Christ’s glory, John is probably referring to this passage about the Mount of Transfiguration:
1 Then after six days, Jesus took along Peter, James, and his brother John and brought them up into a high mountain privately. 2 He was changed before them, and his face shone as the sun, and his clothes became white like light. 3 Then look! Moses and Elijah appeared before them and were talking with him. 4 But in response, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here! If you want, I’ll make here three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!” 5 While he was talking, look! A bright cloud covered them. And then listen! A voice from heaven from the cloud speaking: “This one is my beloved Son, in whom I have been well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matt. 17:1-5)
This brightness is the glory of God.
Moses experienced the glory of God:
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exod. 33:18-22, NIV).
Commentator Bruce also saw this connection between the glory which Moses saw and the surpassing glory of Jesus. Further, he connects the glory of the old tabernacle with God pitching his tabernacle through his Son (comment on v. 14). “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exod. 25:8, NIV). When the tabernacle was completed, we read: “34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34-35, NIV).
But Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, says that the glory which Moses experienced, soon faded away.
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! (2 Cor. 3:7-11, NIV)
The glory of the New Covenant, initiated by Jesus, will last forever.
Carson says that Jesus’s glory was displayed in his signs (2:11; 11:4, 40); he was supremely glorified in his death and exaltation (7:39: 12:16, 23: 13:31-32), Yes, he also had glory before he began his public ministry, for in fact he enjoyed glory with his Father before his incarnation and returned to his Father to receive the fulness of glory (15:5, 24). While other men seek their own glory, Jesus’s relationship with his Father meant that he did not need to seek his own glory; he was secure in his relationship with his Father. He sought only God’s glory (5:41; 7:18; 8:50). (comment on v. 14).
Keener also brings focus to John’s definition of glory:
Jesus, in contrast to his opponents, accepts this only from the Father (5:41, 33; 7:18; 8:50, 54; 9:24; 12:41, 43; 16:14; 17:12). The Fourth Gospel applies Jesus’ “glory” to various acts of self-revelation (his signs–2:11; 11:4, 40), but the ultimate expression of glory is the complex including Jesus’ death (12:16, 23, 28; 13:31-32; cf. 21:9), resurrection and exaltation (cf. 7:39; 12:16; 17:1, 5). This glory thus becomes the ultimate revelation of “grace and truth”: where the world’s hatred for God comes to its ultimate expression, so also does God’s love for the world (3:16). If the Johannine [adjective for John] community’s opponents regarded the cross as proof that Jesus was not the Messiah, John regards Jesus’ humiliation as the very revelation of God; his whole enfleshment, and especially his mortality and death, continue the ultimate revelation of God’s grace and truth revealed to Moses (p. 411)
As a sidebar comment, some teach that God became Father and the Second Person of the Trinity became the Son when he was incarnated. They were not eternally Father and Son in the past. However, this verse and v. 24 teach against this truncated theology. Jesus prays to the Father that that Jesus would receive the glory that he had before the foundation of the world, implying that God was Father before creation. Of course, Jesus did not say the precise words, “You were my Father and I was your Son before the foundation of the world,” but the implication certainly is strong.
Jesus was the clearest revelation of the Father. He manifested the Father’s name, which stands in for the person and character of the Father. It can stand in for other things, like the entire mission of the Father: to go into the world and offer it salvation. Jesus manifested this name to the world and the disciples. The world as a whole rejected this mission, which leads back to rejecting Jesus, which in turn leads back to rejecting the Father. However, these disciples and other people accepted the Messiahship and Sonship of Jesus. They were given to the Father out of the dark place called “the world.” See Luke 8:2-3 for an introduction to women who followed Jesus. See also John 19:25-27 and Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:49, 55 for other women too. After Pentecost, thousands of Jerusalem and Judean Jews surrendered to the Messiah (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7 [large number of priests]; 21:20).
John first mentioned the world in v. 5, but there he meant the created order. Now let’s explore it as we have done throughout the commentary on John. The Greek noun is kosmos (pronounced koss-moss). As noted, it could refer to the physical universe (17:5; 21:25). Or it could refer to humanity as a group. What we call humanity or humankind is, in John, the world. This is why God invades the kosmos. “The ‘world’ is the place or realm where God is at work, the place that is the main focus of God’s attention. God’s saving light invades the dark world. Jesus came to the dark world to save as many as those who believe in him and in his name. In sum, “it appears that the personification of the ‘world’ in John is the portrait of a class of people.” It is the dimension of a relational encounter between God and people (Klink, comment on 1:10, pp. 100-01).
They kept his word is somewhat of a prediction. He could see that they treasured it in their hearts and eventually they would go out and preach the word to the world. So the verb tense “kept” is in the past—so far—and then they would keep his word after the cross and restoration to the mission.
God takes the initiative (John 6:44, which says no one can come to the Son unless Father draws him). If the disciples had not obeyed, they would not have been chosen or given (Mounce. comment on v. 6).
The everything that came from God is explained by the words which the Father had given him to speak. John 7:16-17 clarifies what is meant here: 16 “So Jesus, in reply, told them, ‘My teaching is not mine, but of the one who sent me. 17 If anyone wants to do his will, he will learn about this teaching, whether it is of God or I speak on my own’” (John 7:16-17). Doing God’s will enlightens the mind to understand the truth of God’s word. Jesus can perceive that the disciples are in the process of putting the whole of Jesus’s mission together, both the coming of Jesus from the Father and his teaching.
“It is not a burning bush (Exod 3) but God himself who has now declared and defined his true identity in the Son” (Klink, comment on v. 6).
In the great prologue to the entire Gospel (1:1-18), John writes: “No one has ever seen God; the only and unique God, who is in the bosom of the Father—that one has made him known” (John 1:18).
“name”: His name means his person, his character, and his being—who he is, the Lord, the Son of God and the Messiah. The noun name stands in for the person—a living, real person. Let’s develop this thought, so it can apply to you.
What’s in a name?
You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, next to the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
Remember that believing in his name is more than just intellectual assent or agreement with a doctrine. Belief has to go from the head to the heart (1:6-8), or so says the entirety of the Gospel of John.
Jesus says that he does not pray for the world, but for his disciples. We have to be careful not to over-interpret the clause that Jesus does not pray for the world, as if he means that we should not pray for the world because in vv. 20-21 he will pray for the ones who will believe through their message or word. The purpose is that the world may believe. So his outreach and prayer is for the world and puts no limits on their outreach, other than their refusal to believe. He is the Savior of the world (John 4:42; see 3:17; 12:47). And in v. 9, he does not pray for the world because at that moment he is praying for his apostles.
“But Jesus is not talking here about the world in the sense of individual people for whom he is about to die” (Mounce, comment on v. 9). Jesus does not pray for the world system, which is hostile towards God and his Son and is doomed to fail. He is praying for his disciples or individuals.
Even though John uses the neutral plural (“everything” or “all things”), he is referring to the disciples and their capacity to believe. He means “whole thing”: his mission, his teaching, and their gradual belief. He sees into their lives with “the insight of faith, hope and love, and realized their present devotion and their potential for the future. In themselves they were weak indeed, but with the Father’s enabling grace and the guidance and illumination of the Spirit, they would fulfill the mission with which they were now being entrusted and bring glory to their Master in fulfilling it” (Bruce, comments on vv. 9-10).
The claim that all the Father has is mine (Jesus’s) “must have struck them as remarkable, to say the least. No sane man would dare to pretend he was co-owner with God of everything that exists. That would be the sole prerogative of the eternal son, by whom and for whom all things were created (Col. 1:16)” (Mounce, comment on v. 10).
“Outwardly the little group was not distinguished. People of the day saw nothing about its members to mark themselves off as eminent in any respect. But, just as the world’s values were all wrong concerning the cross, so were the world’s values all wrong concerning the apostolic band. In them the Son of God, none less, was actually glorified” (Carson, comment on. v. 10).
“Holy Father”: commentators have noted that the attribute of “holy” sets God apart. I like Borchert here: “The awesomeness and power of God provides the basis for the sense of security that is necessary for the disciples to face the hostile world. Moreover, it will also become the unique and transforming characteristic of the disciples in the world that will be strategic in their mission when we reflect on the next petition (17:17)” (comment on v. 11)
When Jesus says he is no longer in the world, he is looking to the near future when he was about to die on the cross. Yet Jesus was never a part of the worldly system of lost humanity, sitting in darkness. He came into the dark world, but he was not of it. The disciples then (and we his disciples today) are still in the world, so Jesus prays to the Holy Father to keep them in his name, which the Father gave him. As we observed before the name often stands in for the character and person. To say that the Father gave the name to Jesus means that the Father revealed himself to Jesus, who is the clearest revelation of the Father. The purpose of this divine exchange of giving Jesus the Father’s name of character is so that the disciples may be one, as the Father and Son are. The only way this unity or oneness of the eleven disciples can be achieved is by the power of the Paraclete (the Spirit of truth) and a united mission to reach the world.
Here are a few Scriptures that talk about the name of God and protection by it (NIV):
May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. (Ps. 20:1)
Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might. (Ps. 54:1)
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe. (Prov. 18:10)
See this link for the names of God:
“son of destruction”: it may refer to a fulfillment of Scripture, and so give the phrase the flavor of destiny, but I believe Bruce is on target: “Despite the predestinarian flavour of the language, Judas was not lost against his will but by his consent. He might have responded to Jesus’ last appeal to him in his gesture of fellowship at the supper table, but he chose to respond instead to the great adversary. Jesus has not responsibility for Judas’s fatal decision. Judas, like the other disciples, had been given by the Father to the Son, but even among those so given apostasy is a solemn possibility” (comments on vv. 11-12). God does not compel people against their will when they seek him and are open to him. But when they abandon him and his purpose, the devil can enter them and push them along. The Scripture to be fulfilled is surely Ps. 41:9, which Jesus had quoted at John 13:18.
“Judas was not predestined to destruction but chose the course of action that led to it. It was with his full consent, not against his will, that he ended up where he did. A life of disobedience and deception leads steadily on toward the predetermined end of destruction. Acts determine destiny. Scripture was ‘fulfilled’ in the sense that God’s principles are carried out in the consequences that inevitably flow from actions taken” (Mounce, comment on v. 12).
For more comments on the name, please scroll back up to v. 11.
Earlier in the evening, Jesus said: “I have spoken these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (15:11). Praying for joy just before the cross shows how strong of character Jesus is. When the Father reproduces his love in them, they will have joy, regardless of the trials thy are about to go through. This verse reminds me of this one: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (Jas. 1:2).
Jesus said the same in the previous chapter:
“But I will see you again, and your hearts will celebrate, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). We can have joy down here on earth. It is one of the fruit of the Spirit, in the Epistles, after Pentecost, 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23, NIV).
Begin a nine-part series on the fruit of the Spirit:
“your word”: is the total of the entire message they have received from Jesus and more specifically the “words” of v. 8. The word “word” here is logos, and we have looked at it before. See vv. 20-21 for more details.
The world will hate you because you have the word of God in you. You also do not belong to the world, you may be in it, but you do not live in its darkness and hostility towards God. While we are here, Jesus does not ask his Father to take the disciples or us out of the world, but to protect us from the evil one. Since the world hated the Master of the disciples, it will surely hate the disciples themselves.
“evil one” could be translated as “evil,” but in the bigger context, Jesus had already referred to the devil or the ruler of the world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). So it is best to translate as “evil one,” meaning the devil. In the name of Jesus, we have authority over the devil.
A skeptic may say that Jesus’s prayer was not answered entirely, because disciples do fall into the trap of the devil, as Jesus said about Peter and the devil sifting him (Luke 22:31-32). However, in that context, Jesus said that Peter would temporarily fall, but he would be restored. To protect someone from the evil one does not mean no more attacks, but God will sustain the follower of Jesus through the attacks, if the follower is surrendered to Jesus.
In the Epistles, the sanctifying work is done mainly by the Spirit, but here the word will have a cleansing and consecrating effect on those who proclaim it. “The very message which they are to proclaim in his name will exercise its sanctifying effect on them: that message is the continuation of his message, just as their mission in the world is the extension of his mission” (Bruce, comments on vv. 17-18). The Father brought the disciples out of the world and given to the Son (v. 6), so they no longer belong to the world (vv. 14, 16, though they remain in the world (v. 11) and are not to be removed from it immediately (15). They are sent into it as Jesus’s messengers and agents. Jesus did not pray for the world (until vv. 21-22), but his prayer for the disciples contributes to the salvation of the world, if the individuals in the world want it.
Bruce is right, as usual: “God’s electing grace is not exercised in such a way that the non-elect are lost, but rather with the purpose that through the elect the non-elect may receive his blessing” (comments on vv. 17-18). God loves everyone in the world and he desires them to come to repentance and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and his main channel through which he reaches them is the elect or those who have already come to repentance and are saved.
I like what Titus 2:14 says: “Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (NIV).
“God’s redemptive work is not complete until all who come to him become like him” (Mounce, comment on v. 19).
“In practical terms no one can be ‘sanctified’ or set apart for the Lord’s use without learning to think God’s thoughts after him, without learning to live in conformity with the ‘word’ he has graciously given. By contrast, the heart of ‘worldliness,’ of what makes the world the world (1:9), is fundamental suppression or denial of the truth, profound rejection of God’s gracious ‘word,’ his self-disclosure in Christ” (Carson, comment on v. 17)
Jesus now consecrates himself. While it is true that the verb “consecrate” could be translated as “sanctify,” the Greek verb is rich in definitions, and it is not here talking about walking away from a sinful life. In this context the verb can mean “consecration” or “setting himself apart” from the world, which means he has to be ready to depart from it by going to the cross. To “be ready” is the same as consecration to God.
Bruce references church father Chrysostom who said that in consecration Jesus is offering himself in sacrifice. “The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Look! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world!’” (John 1:29). “The bread which I will give is my flesh, on behalf of the life of the world” (John 6:51). “Now my soul is troubled, and what should I say? Father, rescue me from this hour? But for this reason, I have come to this hour” (John 12:27). “It is because the priest and victim are one that the sacrifice is not only completely voluntary but uniquely efficacious” (Bruce, comment on v. 19).
Borchert is excellent:
To follow the way of the Lord and die as the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of humanity was Jesus’ mission. The disciples were likewise called to a mission of not only proclaiming this truth but also of living and dying for this truth in their own consecrations. For Jesus holiness/set-apartness to the point of personal sacrifice was the key to an effective mission in a hostile world. That example is not passé today. (comment on v. 19)
Jesus expands his prayer from paying just for the eleven apostles (v. 9) to praying for those who will believe in Jesus through their message. The word “message” is the Greek noun logos.
First, recall that the Logos became flesh (John 1:1-4, 14). But here it refers to the message or teaching of Jesus.
The noun logos is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level.) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Jesus’s words also have Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the Gospels are very charismatic, but they are also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
It should be pointed out that Jesus often uses another noun for word: rhēma (pronounced rhay-mah). In John’s Gospel, synonyms are used often, so let’s not make a big thing of the nuanced differences. In any case, I wanted to point out for today’s Bible teacher in my corner of the church world that we must have better teaching or doctrine whether it is the logos or the rhēma.
I really like the unity of the Father and Son and especially how the Body of Christ can be one as the Father and Son are one. This union and unity image refers back to the vine and branches of John 15.
This unity with the Father and Son and his followers reminds me of these verses in Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians:
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Cor. 12:12-13, NIV)
When we love another and are united (John 13:35), then the world may believe that the Father sent Jesus; that is, he is the Messiah and the Son of God, sent from heaven. Our manifest oneness in love would be public confirmation of our relationship with the Father and Jesus (Bruce, comment on vv. 20-21).
The glory that Jesus gives them (and us) leads them to unity. And they are perfected or completed in unity (“perfected in one” can be translated as “completely one”).
Simple logic: If the Father is in his Son, and the Son is in them, then the Father is in them as well. “They are drawn into the very life of God, and the life of God is perfect love” (Bruce, comment on vv. 22-23). Wow. Perfectly said.
“If the glory of God is the splendor and power of God’s presence, then the unity God desires will come as we grasp the incredible truth that God has taken up his abode in the lives of his children. To be one with God is to be one with all others who call him Father. It is his glory, his presence, that makes the difference” (Mounce, comment on v. 22).
“Since ‘glory’ is ‘the manifestation of God’s being, nature and presence, in a manner accessible to human experience,’ Jesus asks the Father to consecrate the disciples’ participation in the fullness of God for the purpose of including them in the personal manifestation of God through Christ, which is again depicted as the great act of unification (cf. v. 21)” (Klink, comment on v. 22, citing C. H. Dodd, p. 206).
The challenge to the church is—can we recover the unity? Can we be ecumenical? Does ecumenicalism work? Do we have too many doctrinal distinctives for unity? Can Calvinists and Arminians ever be united and attend the same church together regularly? What about continuationists (gifts are exercised regularly today) and cessationists (gifts are not exercised regularly)? Is the answer that we should just love one another in our differences? Maybe unity and uniformity are not the same thing.
My prediction is pessimistic. We will never be united on doctrine. Unity ≠ Uniformity. We will simply have to love another in our differences.
“Unity in the church will not come as a result of committees assigned to the task but by a renewal of personal fellowship with the Lord so profound as to be comparable to union between the Father and Son. The Christian life is a supernatural experience made possible by remaining in constant contact with the source of all spiritual power” (Mounce, comment on v. 21).
Maybe Carson is more optimistic:
Although the unity envisaged in this chapter is not institutional, this purpose clause at the end of v. 21 shows beyond possibility of doubt that the unity is meant to be observable. It is not achieved by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator, but by common adherence to the apostolic gospel, by love that is joyfully self-sacrificing, by undaunted commitment to the shared goals of the mission with which Jesus’ followers have been charged, by their self-conscious dependence on God himself for life and fruitfulness. It is a unity necessarily present, at least in nuce [in a nutshell] amongst genuine believers; it is a unity that must be brought to perfection (v. 23). (comment on vv. 20-21)
Great words, but can they be lived out? In the 1960s to 1980s, the Renewal Movements, particularly the Charismatics and Neo-Charismatics, brought some level of unity, when people of mainline denominations and Catholics got filled with the Spirit, but the Movements and the individuals within those movements were shot and sniped at by Christians holding to a more restrictive pneumatology (doctrine and reality of the Spirit).
My opinion has not changed: we will be unified like this prayer requires only, sadly, in the Next Age (even though we are intended to be unified in This Age).
Jesus enjoyed the love of the Father throughout his existence before the foundation of the world and during his ministry on earth. However, when he became incarnated, he did not keep the glorious environment of heaven, though he and Peter, James, and John saw the glory in part on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). Now he prays that the Father will keep them all the way until the disciples see his glory in person—up until they die and go to heaven. However, he is speaking of sharing in his love, which means that they share in his glory. Logic again: “If the gift of glory to the Son is the Father’s token of the Father’s love for him, those who share that love will naturally share the glory” (Bruce, comment on v. 24). The disciples saw the glory of the Incarnate word (John 1:14). Then they will see it more fully when they are united with him in the future. So there is an eschatological (end times or s new age coming) aspect to this verse in his prayer. It makes sense, because he is summing up his prayer. He prays that the Father will ensure that his disciples will remain to the very end.
As a sidebar comment, which I noted at v. 5, some teach that God became Father and the Second Person of the Trinity became the Son when he was incarnated. They were not eternally Father and Son in the past. However, this verse and v. 5 teach against this truncated theology. Jesus prays to the Father that that Jesus would receive the glory that he had before the foundation of the world, implying that God was Father before creation. Of course, Jesus did not say the precise words, “You were my Father and I was your Son before the foundation of the world,” but the implication certainly is strong.
“Righteous”: this modifier may refer the common OT theme of righteousness and justice and in convicting the world that it is wrong about who God is (John 16:8-11) (HT: Klink, comment on v. 25).
Jesus is summing up his wonderful high priestly prayer. He has made known his Father’s name (see. v. 6-8 for more comments on name). He will continue to make the Father’s name known, yes through his death on the cross and then the coming of the Paraclete, who will guide or lead them into all truth (John 16:13). This small number of men here in the upper room and some disciples outside, including women (see vv. 6-8), were not all that impressive, but they would make an impact, as the Book of Acts teach us.
The love which the Father gives them and places in them reminds me of this verse: “for he [the Father] himself loves you because you love me and have believed that I have come from God” (John 16:27). Jesus once again repeats the truth that God sent him. After thinking about it, I believe this refers to his Messiahship and Sonship. It refers to his authority as coming from the Father (v. 2).
“The relationship of the triune God carries over to his saving work on behalf of the world. It is because God dwells in and among his people through the agency of the Son and Spirit that the message of his love is transmitted to each successive generation. History will give way to eternity as the believing multitudes are swept up into the eternal glory of the Father and Son … The discord of sin will be forever removed, and the church eternal will live in joyous unity to the everlasting glory of God” (Mounce, comment on v. 26)
Bruce draws the distinction between Matt. 28:20 (“I am with you”), which is excellent enough, and v. 26 (“I may be in them”), which is better still.
Now Jesus goes forth to fully manifest the Father’s glory and his own glory by being arrested and dying on the cross.
For more comments on the name, please scroll back up to v. 11.
As usual, Borchert offers a great summary, not only of this verse, but also of the entire chapter and transitions to the next one:
The world is a hostile place, and the disciples were now to be sent to that world. With what spirit should they go? And what would be their model and resource? Those questions are answered in the concluding words of the prayer, which are both an affirmation and a petition. The spirit of the disciples was to be that of love, not the love of which the world speaks but the kind of love God had for the Son. May that kind of love be in us! And the model and resource of the disciples? Surely not the power structures of the world. It must be Jesus himself. Jesus would act in them after the resurrection through the agency of the Paraclete. That is the reason he breathed on them as God breathed on Adam (cf. John 20:22; Gen 2:7). Jesus himself through the Spirit would be the focal resource of Christians, even though such a resource may seem foolish and weak to the world (cf. 1 Cor 1:22–25). The way of God in Christ Jesus is neither foolish nor weak because, as Pilate would learn, ultimate power is not in the world. It is from above (John 19:11).
GrowApp for John 17:1-26
A.. Jesus said that eternal life is knowing the Father and the one whom he has sent (Jesus). How did you come to a saving knowledge of God?
B.. Jesus prayed that he would not take the disciples out of the world but keep them from the evil one (Satan). How has God protected you from Satan and the world’s pollution?
C.. How does the loving Father sanctify you through reading his word?
D.. How do you maintain the unity of your Christian brothers and sisters?
E.. Jesus prayed that the love with which the Father loved the Son may be in the disciples. How has God placed his love in you? Tell your story.
Beasley-Murray George R. John. Word Biblical Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 1999.
Borchert, Gerald L. John 12-21. New American Commentary. Vol. 25b. Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Bruce, F. F. The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Eerdmans, 1983.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 1991.
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Vol. 1. Baker Academic, 2003.
Novakovic, Lidija. John 11-21: A Handbook on the Greek Text. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor UP, 2020.
Klink, Edward W. John. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2016.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1995.
Mounce, Robert H. John. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.