John Chapter 17: Jesus’ Prayer, His Commission, His Love for All His Disciples to the End of the Age

Dec 14th, 2009 | By | Category: John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

John Chapter 17: Jesus’ Prayer, His Commission, His Love for All His Disciples to the End of the Age

John 17:1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

This prayer of John 17 occurred outside the Garden of Gethsemane, en route, before Jesus crossed the brook Cedron (John 18:1). The eleven disciples were with him and heard him. Jesus lifted his eyes to heaven as he prayed (as he did when Lazarus was raised).

Notice Jesus’ humility. He wanted to be glorified only so he could, in turn, glorify the Father. He recognized the supremacy of His Father in all matters.

But in what way would Jesus glorify God by being glorified himself? The redemption work and God’s plan could be carried out. During his earthly ministry, Jesus glorified the Father, giving credit to Him, always teaching His doctrine, etc., but now, if raised from death and given the great capability of the new nature, he would be able to continue to glorify the Father but on a higher and grander scale.

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

In this context, Jesus’ “power over all flesh” will occur in the future, when he reigns as King of earth and exercises his power. However, the words Jesus uttered after his resurrection, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” applied then and had a different meaning (Matt. 28:18). He meant that at that time, all power had been secured, not exercised. Jesus has the potential; he has proven faithful. Therefore, all of the promises are his, but he cannot exercise the power until the Church is complete and the Father says, “All right, now you can do it.” Jesus waits until then.

The Bible was written not just for us but for ages and ages into the future—hence the seemingly incongruous tenses. It will be a textbook for other planets and generations. All will know that Jesus came to earth, to this planet. He died on Calvary here on earth. Therefore, even the simplest statements are fraught with meaning. The lessons can be deeper than we realize. The first part of verse 2 mentions “all flesh”; the second part mentions the disciples. The Father gave Jesus the disciples, and Jesus trained and taught them—the eleven at that time. But all of the Church are called of God and come to Him through Jesus. Thus Jesus again used past tense (“thou hast given”) for something mainly futuristic from the time of utterance.

The phrase “eternal life” is characteristic of John’s Gospel and his epistles. This expression means everlasting life, which is a boon, let alone immortality. It would embrace immortality (the Little Flock) but includes also the Great Company.

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

The Living Bible is good: “This is the way to have eternal life—by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth!” In other words, our initial conversion is not sufficient to get eternal life. We must spend however long we have here in the flesh getting to know God and Jesus, which means knowing God’s Word and obeying. We must learn as much about their characters as we can. Emphasis: We must know God (and Jesus Christ, whom God sent).

Even if we lived forever, we still would not fully know God; that is, it would take an eternity to know God because He is so great. There are so many facets of His love, power, wisdom, and justice that just as an eternity never ends, so God’s attributes can never be fully plumbed. God’s qualities, depth of character, etc., will always be on the increase. (Certain translations stress this thought.) Some of Jesus’ simplest statements are the hardest to fathom. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).

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

Notice the tense. Jesus had finished his public ministry of educating his apostles and others.

Following this prayer, he would not be talking much with them. (And even after his resurrection, he spoke only with his disciples.) Yet his greatest work lay ahead: suffering the death on the Cross. Therefore, verse 4 is both “yes” and “no” depending on the perspective. This verse reveals something about Jesus’ character; namely, he intended to fulfill the work given to him, for he had to die in order to glorify God. He would have alternating experiences of deep sorrow followed by firm determination, but his will was crystallized like iron. In other words, even though one’s character is crystallized, it does not mean his emotions are frozen.

Jesus knew what lay ahead, and he was determined to see it through. Hence when he said, “I have glorified thee on the earth,” he was thinking not only of his completed earthly ministry but of the upcoming crucifixion where he would be a public spectacle. He spoke of his crucifixion as past tense, but it was future.

John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

Jesus was asking to be restored to the glory he had as the Logos—not for anything additional.

His great humility here is interesting despite his talents and capability. With us, just to see the Father and have life will be a blessing. True, we must run the race to win it; we must run as if we had to beat out all other contenders. Such motivation, concentration, and effort are needed in order to attain the prize of the high calling. Nevertheless, to get life even as Great Company will be a great joy and blessing.

“With thine own self” means “in thine own presence.” Jesus wanted to be with the Father as formerly. He longed just to be in the Father’s presence—to hear His voice and to see Him. (See the RSV, New English Bible, and Phillips Modern English.)

John 17:6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

Jesus was audibly praying and all the time looking heavenward. The eleven were listening. He was thinking not only of the disciples present but of those who would become his down through the age. This would have been a mentally exhausting prayer.

Verse 6 is touching, for it shows that Almighty God opened our eyes of understanding to see Jesus as the Savior. Here Jesus is speaking especially of the apostles, but other Scriptures show that all of the Church are called of God. Up to this point, the eleven had “kept” God’s Word— and they would till death, we find out later. These eleven, plus Paul, are the twelve foundations of the Temple.

One can be of a tender age and make a sincere consecration. However, parents should not push or pressure their children into consecration. The motive can be pride—wanting children to be “in the truth.” The old heart can be deceitfully wicked and deceptive. Such pressure is scary and sad. We can reason with our children regarding consecration and hope they will dedicate their lives, but we should not pressure them. The Lord “loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

Hence consecration should be a natural outpouring.

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

“All things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.” Jesus always gave credit to God.

John 17:8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

John 16:30 records the apostles’ affirmation of this belief that Jesus came out from the Father.

“Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” In the next verse, Jesus replied, “Do ye now believe?” In other words, “Do you really believe in me?” Jesus uttered these words for future reference. He was aware of the depth of despondency that would come over them because even if they did not deny him like Peter, they would forsake him. And their forsaking would hit them hard. Jesus’ question shows that he was aware of the forsaking in advance and that it was just about to occur. His words in John 17:6, “They have kept thy word,” were intended to be a comfort, or solace, to the apostles lest they become so despondent they would think they had committed the sin unto Second Death. Some forsake the Lord because of a wave of depression that comes over their soul. They cannot see that they can be forgiven. Thus it is important to note that care and concern are in the Word.

John 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

Jesus’ prayer continues. He was still en route to Gethsemane. Notice that he made a clear-cut distinction between the consecrated and the unconsecrated. Jesus prayed for his disciples, for those the Father had given him. The expression “Thou hast given me” is used repeatedly in Chapter 17, and it shows the Father’s superiority. “Thou hast sent me,” another expression used frequently in John 17, also shows the superiority of the Father. Thus John 17 is excellent for refuting the Trinity. In his prayer to the Father for the disciples, Jesus showed that the union is not triune but 144,000 + 2 (the Father, the Son, and the Little Flock are “one”).

John 17:10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

As the consecrated manifest faithfulness to Jesus in the present life, he is “glorified” in them. This verse applied primarily to the disciples, the apostles, but secondarily to the whole Church.

“Glorified” means “honored.” The Church in the present life honors Jesus as Jesus has honored the Father.

John 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

Jesus knew he was about to leave the world, so he spoke of the future as the present. Some misunderstand John, especially in his epistles, where he used tense (past versus present versus future and vice versa) as Jesus did.

“Holy Father, keep … those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” This is a powerful Scripture—it is good proof against the Trinity and one of the best Scriptures to show that the Church would have the same type of union that the Father and the Son have. The Church are one with God and Jesus in the same sense that they are one with each other.

In regard to the designation “Holy Father,” it is bad enough that the pope is considered Christ’s vicegerent on earth, but when he assumes a title due the Father, it is blasphemy of the most repulsive kind. The pope, a human being, usurps this prerogative of God Almighty Himself. Again, God’s superiority is shown. Jesus was asking (not ordering), praying to the Father. It was up to the Father. Moreover, the apostles were comforted to audibly hear Jesus utter this prayer, petitioning the Father on their behalf.

John 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

The “son of perdition” was Judas, and the term implies a Second Death destiny. This verse indicates that Jesus knew about the heart condition of Judas even prior to the actual betrayal. It also shows Jesus’ intimate acquaintance with the Father and the Father’s plan. He knew that eleven apostles would make their calling and election sure and that one would fail utterly.

Verse 12 is proof that Judas went into Second Death, for “perdition” signifies complete destruction or extinction, from which there is no return. The beast that goes into the “lake of fire,” which is called Second Death, is also spoken of as going into perdition (Rev. 19:20; 20:14; 17:11).

It is helpful to consider other Scriptures that indicate Second Death. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the man of sin is called the “son of perdition.” Hence both Judas, an individual, and Papacy, a system, go into utter extinction. Psalm 41:7-9, speaking of Judas, says that “he shall rise up no more”; i.e., his fate is utter extinction (Second Death). And Matthew 26:24 reads, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed!

it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” If Judas had not been born, he would not be rendered infamous throughout eternity for having betrayed Jesus. All other beings, when created in the future on other planets, will read the story of Jesus here on earth and know that Judas was the traitor. Therefore, it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born and another had done the betraying.

John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Jesus had checkered emotions at the end of his life. During the Memorial Supper, he said his soul was exceedingly sorrowful almost unto death. Now he was speaking of his joy, for as soon as the wave of depression was lifted, he came back to his normal feelings. Yet later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prostrated himself and prayed that, if possible, the cup would be withdrawn from him. Many Christians try to say that joy should be ever present, but that is wrong! Jesus and the Apostle Paul both had mixed experiences. Paul said, “Now no chastening [tribulation] for the present [while going through it] seemeth to be joyous, but grievous” (Heb. 12:11). However, if we are rightly and patiently exercised, it does work out the peaceable fruits of righteousness.

Some writers say Paul contracted a sickness in his travels that had recurrences. Physical ill health does affect us. When sick, we are not the same as when we are healthy. If one part of our body hurts, the whole body hurts. Even the brain is affected.

2 Corinthians 1:8,9 proves that Paul had “down” experiences: “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”

Paul and Jesus both despaired of life at times.

We are not to be stoics—impervious to pain, etc., through mental conditioning. What we should do is fix our determination so that NOTHING will deter us from our goal. But we cannot go through life without some emotion.

John 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Interesting! During his 3 1/2-year ministry, the apostles were “hated” too, as well as Jesus, probably by some friends and neighbors along the way who thought they were fanatics to leave their professions and families. Jesus appreciated the apostles’ suffering up to that time in espousing him and his cause. When the Twelve were sent out, and the 70 later, they no doubt suffered.

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

This verse is a reminder of part of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus prayed that God would keep his followers “from the Evil One [Satan]” (see Diaglott). Verse 15 is also proof that the Christian should not isolate himself from the world—he should just keep himself unspotted by it.

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

In spite of the imperfections of the eleven apostles, Jesus could appreciate their loyalty.

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

Sanctification is progressive and ongoing throughout our consecrated life. If we are to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, it means a continual imbibing until the end of our course. The initial act is called consecration (although consecration can also mean a process). The process is usually called sanctification, which is the transforming power and the keeping of that consecration alive.

Notice, “through thy [God’s, not Jesus’] truth.” Again a verse in this chapter is a proof against the Trinity, for it shows the Father’s superiority.

“Thy truth” would be all of God’s truths: character lessons, principles, chronology, doctrines, etc. This term is broader than just a creedal thought. The humblest child who hungers and thirsts for truth and righteousness will be filled.

In our consecrated walk, we do make discriminations between teachers and fellowship. A teacher should at least be a little above the average—and certainly on the subject that is being studied. However, even in fellowship, we should try to get information wherever we can. If the leadership and instruction are not sufficient in our local ecclesia and we pray earnestly about the matter, God will provide. If we hunger and thirst to be fed, spiritual food will be supplied. Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20 paraphrase). One problem could be, Do we have the courage to leave our present class where we are not being fed? We should make a break and go where there is more spiritual food. We are not to be bound by family or the fear that we will hurt feelings. It is the same principle as coming out of nominal Christendom. We should want to grow in grace and knowledge.

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). There comes a point at the end of the age when the salt is leaving. Therefore, the general counsel will not always be the best counsel. As the Little Flock in the flesh gets less and less, the judgment of the majority is less sound. Many heads are not necessarily better than one head.

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

Neither Jesus nor the Christian is forced to go into the world. A proposition was presented, and Jesus and the apostles voluntarily went into the world—so should we.

Again the Father’s superiority is shown in that He sent Jesus. Similarly, Jesus sends us and he is our superior. Order of authority: (1) the Father, (2) Jesus, and (3) disciples.

The invitation was given to Jesus by the Father. However, once the invitation was accepted, it became a command. First Jesus, of his own free will, gave his heart to the Lord God. Then he was commanded. The same is true with us. We are instructed to sit down and count the cost before we consecrate, but once we take the step of consecration, certain things become mandatory. Although there are degrees of importance, some things are absolutely required.

For instance, now the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional, but originally it was conditional. God told Abraham that if he left the country he was living in and went to a country God would show him, he would be blessed. Once Abraham obeyed, then the covenant, which previously had conditions, became unconditional. Once Abraham fulfilled his part of the agreement, God was required to give him what was promised. After consecration come “commands,” as shown in Acts 10:42, “And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.”

John 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

In what way did Jesus sanctify himself for the Church? Jesus not only separated himself so that he could bless the world of mankind in due time, but he was willing to share this honor with others who would consecrate and be faithful unto death during the Gospel Age.

To “sanctify” means to set apart. We must be set apart from sin, let alone other things. Jesus did not have this problem with sin because he already was perfect. Therefore, his sanctification was of another nature. Jesus was so committed to the Father’s plan that there was no jealousy in regard to his followers sharing his honor. However, since we have the problem of imperfect flesh, our sanctification, or separation from sin, is a progressive, slower process, whereas Jesus, being perfect, was already sanctified.

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

“Neither pray I for these alone [the eleven apostles primarily and other believers at that time secondarily], but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” This verse broadens the picture and gives us hope that we are included in these promises. “Their word” would be the apostles’ word, that is, the Gospels plus the epistles—the New Testament.

John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

The first part of this verse is very important for refuting the Trinity—it shatters the arguments of the Trinitarians. The 144,000 will all be “one” with God and Jesus. It is a oneness of purpose, intention, mind, spirit, and disposition.

Notice the last part of the verse: “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Suppose there had been no zealous apostles or believers back there. How much would we know about Christ? The apostles and disciples were so moved that they wrote the Gospels and epistles. As a result, not just their contemporaries but future generations, after their demise, would know the truth. Just as Jesus prayed for those who would believe in future days through the teachings of the apostles, so the apostles had the same motivation. They were concerned that a record be left to inform future generations. It was important that knowledge of Jesus’ ministry be perpetuated so that the world might believe that God had sent him. If that word had not gone out, who would know about Jesus’ life and ministry?

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

This “oneness” refers to both the present and the future life. However, in regard to the subject of “glory,” Jesus spoke of the future as present. We receive the “earnest” now, and the reality comes later when, if faithful, we will be born to the spirit nature (2 Cor. 1:22). This principle is shown in the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 2:13, “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.” In what sense did the “young men,” who had not known Jesus in the beginning of his ministry, “overcome the wicked one”? These young men were not necessarily faithful unto death, so what did John mean? They had been faithful in respect to a particular trial by siding with the Apostle John. We should always keep this principle in mind with John, for he is the most misunderstood apostle in his writings. Thus here in verse 22, where John recorded Jesus’ words in regard to “the glory,” he was speaking in an anticipatory sense of a class who would respond faithfully but who had not yet finished their course.

Beyond the veil, in the fullest sense, the “oneness” is in nature—the divine nature.

What “glory” did God give Jesus? The HOPE of glory. But Jesus was so determined to be faithful that he laid hold of something future as if it were past. Jesus had not yet secured that glory. Later he had a low point and wondered if he had been faithful. But neither Jesus nor the Christian can be judged by a low point—it may not be characteristic of normal behavior.

John 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

How do we know God loved Jesus? A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father answered Jesus’ prayers for healing and raising the dead. Also, Jesus himself was raised from the dead. And how do we know God loved the apostles? Historically, we can look back and see that, except for Judas, they made their calling and election sure.

John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

“Before the foundation of the world” means “before the ordering of earth’s surface.”

John 17:25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

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

This is Jesus’ last statement to the disciples before his crucifixion. He had faithfully declared his Father’s name and would yet do it through being faithful in the Crucifixion.

The seventeenth chapter of John uses two wonderful titles for God: “Holy Father” (verse 11) and “righteous Father” (verse 25). This is a very good chapter to keep in mind for the future in regard to refuting the Trinity, as well as for pointing out that the pope usurped God’s title, let alone Jesus’. Based on this chapter, even the humblest saint can speak confidently on the relationship of the Father and the Son. We should concentrate on the simple statements and avoid semantics, for there are many Greek scholars. The unity is between Father, Son, and the Church.

The sum and substance of Jesus’ ministry was to honor his Father. What he spoke and did were with the authority, power, knowledge, and instruction of the Father. Christendom has not known the Father. The emphasis is on Jesus, and then the matter is beclouded with the Trinity.

(1986–1987 Study)

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  1. This article was an answer to prayer. I googled “chronology of Jesus prayers” and this article was the fourth result on the second page. I recently wrote an article for the Herald where I was challenged for my statement “they witnessed the final words of their master.” This article helped me put the prayer of John 17 “on the way” to Gethsemane instead of “in” Gethsemane. Thank you, nice work.

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