John: Chapter 17
John Chapter 17 is the only chapter in the Bible that is totally dedicated to a prayer that Jesus prayed. In the Gospels, we find numerous places where Jesus prayed (I list these here: https://jesusalive.cc/times-jesus-prayed), and if we take all of these together (including the prayer in this chapter), we have a PERFECT outline of how to pray.
This prayer can be broken into three parts: verses 1-5 – Jesus prays for Himself, verses 6-19 – Jesus prays for His disciples, verses 20-26 – Jesus prays for all believers.
Let’s begin looking at this prayer by reading (Jn 17:1-5).
(Verse 1) “the hour is come” As we have mentioned previously, Jesus said that His “hour had not yet come” in the early chapters of John (Jn 2:4)(Jn 7:6,8,30)(Jn 8:20). Beginning in (Jn 12:23), this changed to Jesus saying His “hour has come” (Also see: Jn 13:1, Jn 16:32).
***Small rabbit trail note: People have often asked the question, “Where is Heaven?” The Bible does not tell us this, however, it does give us two “clues:” 1. It us “up,” 2. It is “north.”
This verse, and others (Acts 1:9)(Rev 21:1-2)(Mt 14:19)(1 Th 4:16-17)(Ps 14:2)(Ex 20:4) point to it being “up.” These verses point to it being “north” (Job 26:7)(Isa 14:12-13)(Ps 75:2,6-7)(Ps 48:2)(Ezek 1:4).
(Verse 2)(NKJV) “that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him”
Several verses in this chapter skirt the dreaded “election / predestination” debate. This verse is one of them (also verses: 6,9,11,12,20,25). There are two views in relation to this: Calvinism and Arminianism. Let’s “briefly” touch on this in relation to this verse, and the others.
The Calvinist view on this is called “Unconditional Election,” and it teaches that we are elect based only upon God’s decision to choose us. We do not need to do anything. He chose some people from the beginning and rejected others based solely on who He wished to save.
The Arminian view on this is called “Conditional Election,” and it teaches that we are elect based on God’s foreknowledge that we would choose Jesus. God knew from the beginning who would choose Him.
Therefore, in relation to this verse, the Calvinist would say that the ones “given to Jesus” are those whom God has chosen to save (His “elect”), while all others are condemned to Hell because God did not choose them. The Arminian would say that those “given to Jesus” are those who God knew from the beginning (in His foreknowledge) would choose Jesus, and therefore, God chose them and made them His “elect.” Those condemned to Hell are those who refused to choose Jesus.
***Note: The Calvinist also teaches that Christ did not die for “everyone,” but only for His “elect” (called “Limited Atonement”). The Arminian teaches that Christ died for “all” people (called “Unlimited Atonement”).
***Note: If you have been with me for any period of time, you know that I am STRONGLY opposed to almost all Calvinist teachings, including the ones just listed.
(Verse 3) “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
How can we have “life eternal (eternal life)?” It comes by “knowing” both Jesus Christ and the Father. (We can only know the Father through Jesus Christ: verses at bottom.)
***Note: This verse is sometimes used by those who deny the deity of Jesus. However, this verse is not attempting to make a contrast between “the one true God” and “Jesus Christ,” but rather, it is simply saying that there is ONLY one true God, and all other “gods” are not truly God. In other words, it is making a contrast between the “true God” in Heaven and “idols.”
If I may, let me restate this verse in a way to explain what I am saying: “And this is life eternal, that they might know you Father and Me (Jesus Christ), whom thou hast sent, and that they might know there is only one true God, and all other gods are false.”
(1 Jn 5:20) also helps us to understand that Jesus is the “true God” as well as the Father: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
***Trivia Note: (Jn 17:3) is the only time Jesus calls Himself “Jesus Christ” in the Bible.
(Verse 4) “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” It is interesting to note here that even though Jesus has not yet completed His work of atonement for man’s sins, His words here make it sound as though it is already a done deal. Nothing could stop God’s sovereign plan!
(Verse 5) “with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Very clearly pointing to the deity of Jesus. Jesus existed before the “foundation of the world” (See: verse 24 and Jn 1:1, Jn 8:58).
It is important to remember that when Jesus came to earth, He was “fully God” and “fully man.” The technical term for this is the “hypostatic union.” However, while on earth, Jesus voluntarily “veiled” some aspects of his deity (Phil 2:6-7)(Heb 2:9).
Once Jesus returned to the Father (after His Ascension), He would return to His full “glory,” and resume being seated at the “right hand of the Father” (see: Acts 7:56).
Next, let’s read (Jn 17:6-19).
(Verse 6) “I have manifested thy name unto the men” Jesus had “manifested” or proclaimed all of the attributes and character of the Father to the disciples during His time with them. Also, notice that Jesus credits the disciples with having “kept Your (the Father’s) word.” (Even though it sometimes seems like they didn’t do that very well.)
(Verse 8) In this verse, we learn three things that the disciples did in response to the words Jesus proclaimed to them about the Father:
1. They “received them.”
2. They understood that Jesus had come forth from the Father.
3. They believed them.
(Verse 9) “I pray for them: I pray not for the world” “The world” is referring to unbelievers (see below). This does not mean that Jesus didn’t pray for unbelievers, because He did pray for “the world” as we will see in a few verses from now (Jn 17:21,23) (Also see: Lk 23:34). (Jesus also said to pray for unbelievers: Mt 5:44.) This simply means that Jesus is praying right now for His disciples.
(Verse 11) “And now I am no longer in the world” Just as in verse 4, Jesus says this even though it has not yet happened, pointing to the surety of God’s sovereign plan coming to pass.
(Verse 11)(NASB) “yet they themselves are in the world… Holy Father keep them in your name”
While Jesus would no longer be in the world, the disciples would be. He prayed for the Father to “keep them” in the midst of the trials He had just warned the disciples to expect in (Jn 16:1-4). (Jesus “kept them” while He was in the world – verse 12, also see: Jn 18:1-11.) He also prayed for their unity in the midst (“that they may be one”).
***Note: “Holy Father” This term is used nowhere else in the New Testament.
(Verse 12) “none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
This is speaking of Judas Iscariot, who was soon to betray Jesus. “Perdition” (Gr. = “apoleia“) means “destruction, ruin, or waste, especially through eternal destruction brought upon the wicked by God” (Illustrated Dictionary Of The Bible – Herbert Lockyer). Elsewhere, Judas is called “a devil” (Jn 6:70-71) and “a thief” (Jn 12:6). He became demon possessed before betraying Jesus (Lk 22:3)(Jn 13:26-27,2). Jesus later says it would have been better for him if he had never been born (Mt 26:24)(Mk 14:21).
(Verse 13) “they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” While many places in the Bible speak about the wonderful gift of having “joy” (Rom 15:13)(Gal 5:22)(1 Pet 1:8)(Isa 51:11), this is one of several places that mention how to have “full joy.” (Also see: Jn 15:11, Jn 16:24, 1 Jn 1:4, Ps 16:11)
(Verses 14, 16) “the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
As people, we live in the world, but as Christians, we are not “of the world.” The Bible has much to say about Christians, and the world. Following is a few things:
We are to to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27).
We are not to be conformed to the world (Rom 12:2).
Whoever is a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).
(1 Jn 2:15-17) says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
(Verse 15)(NASB) “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Notice that Jesus is not praying for them to “escape” from this world. but to be protected from the “evil one” while in the world. Protection from the “evil one” is a common theme in the New Testament (Mt 6:13 – Lord’s Prayer)(Lk 22:31-32)(Eph 6:10-12).
While many of us as Christians long for eternity with Jesus, our prayer should not be to be “taken out of this world,” but rather to be used by God, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to further the Kingdom of God while we are in this world. Let’s look at Paul’s struggle with this in (Phil 1:19-26).
(Verse 17) “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
The Greek word for “sanctify” is “hagiazo.” This word means “to make holy and signifies to set apart for God, to sanctify, to make a person or thing the opposite of koinos (common).” (Strong’s)
Therefore, Jesus is saying that the “Word of God” is truth, and that Christians can be made “holy” and “set apart for God” through God’s Word. (Also see: Eph 5:26, 2 Th 2:13)
(Verse 19) “I sanctify myself”
Obviously, in this usage of “sanctify,” Jesus is not talking about being made “holy.” He is speaking of being “set apart” to carry out the Father’s will. He mentions this in numerous verses: (Jn 4:34)(Jn 5:30)(Jn 6:38)(Jn 9:4). This may also have a secondary meaning of Jesus being “set apart” from the “world.”
Finally, let’s read (Jn 17:20-26).
(Verse 20) “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”
Jesus is praying for ALL people who will “believe on (Him)” as a result of what the disciples will teach (this would includes the books of the New Testament they would write). In other words, Jesus’ prayer includes people today as well! If you are, or will become a Christian, you are an answer to Jesus prayer!
(Verse 21) “That they all may be one; …. that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
This verse is in the same sentence as the previous verse, and must be looked at in conjunction with it. “Through their word; that they all may be one.” The unity of Christian believers is evidence to “the world” of the reality of Christ. On what should believers be united? The Word! What aspects of the Word must all believer’s be united on?
(Verse 22) “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them”
The meaning of this phrase is debated amongst scholars. Some believe it is talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which would soon occur. Some believe it is speaking of eternal life. Some believe it is talking about the glorified body which Jesus is about enter, and the glorified bodies which believers will one day receive. Some believe Jesus is saying that the glory (union) that He has with the Father, He has created that same glory (union) between Himself and believers.
Poole adds, “Others understand the power of working miracles, by which Christ is said to have manifested his glory, (John 2:11); and the effect of this power is called the glory of God, John 11:40. Others understand the preaching of the gospel, in which the ministration of the Spirit is glorious, (2 Corinthians 3:8); and the faithful ministers of the gospel are called the glory of Christ, (2 Corinthians 8:23).”
*** One of those is probably right, or perhaps you would like to add your own interpretation. 🙂
(Verse 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.”
The key thing to take away from this verse: The Father loves believers as much as He loves Jesus!!
(Verse 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:”
The first part of this verse seems clear, Jesus is speaking of the time when believers will join Him in Heaven. “That they may behold my glory.” I am going with one definition for this, and I believe that the “glory” Jesus is speaking of here is what He will look like in Heaven.
Since Jesus ascended to Heaven in the body He had on earth after His resurrection (Lk 24:50-51)(Mk 16:19)(Acts 1:9-11), I believe that we will one day see Him in that same body when we go to Heaven. However, I also believe that in “His glory,” there will be more to the appearance of Jesus. While it is somewhat symbolic, let’s look at (Rev 1:9-18) for an example.
(Verse 25) “O righteous Father” As with “Holy Father” in verse 11, this exact term is used nowhere else in the New Testament.
(Verse 25) “the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.”
The reason that “the world” does not know the “righteous Father” is because they do not “know” Jesus. One cannot get to the Father (in Heaven), or “know” the Father except through Jesus (Jn 14:6)(Mt 11:27)(1 Tim 2:5)(Heb 9:15)(Heb 10:19-20).