…Jesus’ prayer is relational. He’s requesting that his Father bring his flock into the relationship that Father and Son share, not as partners in their divinity, but as partners in the fellowship of the relationship.
Week 17 John 17:1-26
John’s Theme: John 20:31 … these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Overview of Chapters 14-17
Chapters 14-17 form a unit, possibly all taking place while in the upper room still at supper or shortly thereafter. Or, chapters 15-17 may have been given while in route to the Garden of Gethsemane. The text does not give enough information to know conclusively.
Chapters 14-16 form a single, long discourse by Jesus to his disciples, while chapter 17 is a prayer to God by Jesus both for himself and for his disciples. A general description of each chapter is given below.
- ch 14 Comfort with an emphasis upon the Trinity
- ch 15 Admonition
- ch 16 Prediction
- ch 17 High Priestly Prayer
Chapter 17 Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer
Introduction: Jesus’ prayer and John’s style of recording it produce a tapestry of words and concepts whose colorful strands interweave repeatedly throughout. Attention paid to Jesus’ use of repetition goes a long way towards identifying the main themes of the prayer. Even a glance at the chart below reveals that Jesus’ prayer is relational. He’s requesting that his Father bring his flock into the relationship that Father and Son share, not as partners in their divinity, but as partners in the fellowship of the relationship.
1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I. Petition: Glorify your Son (vs 1)
A. Affirmation: The hour has come (vs 1)
Petition: Glorify your Son (vs 1)
Purpose/Result: so that your Son may glorify you (vs 1)
• you have given him authority over all flesh (human life in particular)
–you have given some people to him
–Purpose/Result : so that he will give eternal life to these people
Paraphrase: Jesus will give eternal life to those people whom the Father has given him for this purpose. When he does, this will result in glory to the Son and to the Father. Fulfillment of the first petition for Glory to the Son will come through the salvation of people to eternal life.
Theme: Eternal life is for people to Fellowship with God the Father and God the Son (vs 3)
Affirmation: I have glorified you on the earth
–by finishing the work you sent me to do. (vs 4)
II. Petition: Glorify me together with you (Fellowship) (vs 5)
A. Affirmations: I have manifested your name (vss 6-8)
–to the people you gave me
–they have kept your word (believed, obeyed)
–they know and believe that you are the source
–they have received (believe)
–that I came from you
–that you sent me
B. Affirmations: I’m praying for the ones you gave me (vss 9-13)
–I’m not praying for the world
–I kept the ones you gave me and none is lost but one (in order to fulfill Scripture)
–now I come to you (the hour has come)
Purpose/Result: so that my joy may be fulfilled in them
Paraphrase: Unless I leave them now and go to you through the cross, my joy in them will not be fulfilled. When I am glorified, part of the glory will be having my joy in them fulfilled.
Theme: Having Jesus’ joy fulfilled in believers is an attribute of having Fellowship with him.
Affirmations: They are in the world; I’ve given them your word; the world hates them (vss 14-19)
–I’m not praying that you should take them out of the world.
–They are not part of the world.
III. Petition: Keep them (vs 11) (guard them, protect them) in the world. Keeping them is a means to achieve the Glory of the Son, so that Jesus’ joy may be fulfilled in them.
IV. Petition: Sanctify them (vs 17) (set them apart within the world; place a boundary around them; make them holy within the boundary, separate and apart from the world). Sanctifying here is in the same class as keep. It is a description of what the keeping would look like. Christ is asking the Father to keep them in the world by means of sanctification. His primary request is that the disciples be kept. He goes on to clarify that the keeping he wants is not to take them out of the world, but to sanctify them within the world.
Affirmations: –I pray for the ones who believe through hearing the testimony of other believers. (vs 20)
Purpose/Result: that they may be one as we (the Father and Son) are one. You the Father in me, and I in you, that they may be one in us. (vs 21) This is Fellowship.
Paraphrase: Keep and sanctify them within the world, so that we all (you, I, and they) may have Fellowship (unity of heart, mind, spirit, will) together. This will be part of my Glory.
Purpose/Result: The world will believe that you sent me. (Implied: there will be more believers who join us from the world.) (vs 21)
Affirmation: I have given them the Glory which you gave me. (vs 22)
Purpose/Result: so that they may be one, just as we are one.
This is Fellowship. (vs 22)
Purpose/Result: so that the world will know:
–that you sent me (and I sent them)
–that you loved me (and I loved them) (vs 23)
–Implied: that some of those will come to “know” (same word as used of believers in vss 7 and 8 above; equivalent there of believe), i.e., receive and believe the same good news that the disciples and first converts received and believed. In other words, this is Evangelism.
SECTION 3: Summary within the Prayer of Affirmations and Petitions (vss 24-26)
John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
A. Jesus doesn’t have to ask the Father in the same sense that we would ask God, who is so much higher than we are. Jesus is one with God–he is the second Person of the Trinity, God himself. Therefore, Jesus in his divine identity simply states his desire, and because his will and the Father’s will perfectly coincide, God will also answer affirmatively. God wants the very same thing.
–You, Father, have given me these people.
–You gave me glory.
–You gave me glory because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
V. Petition: Jesus desires (vs 24) that they (these believers, the Church) would be with Christ (Fellowship) where he is (Implied: when he goes to the Father–and see John 14:3).
Purpose/Result: That they may see his Glory.
–The petitions for keeping and sanctifying are subsets of the petition for glory and fellowship. They are a means to the end of glory and fellowship.
Notice: how Jesus’ requests run in a circle. His first petition (vs 1) is that the Father will glorify him. His last petition is that his disciples and everyone worldwide who believes through their word (all believers, the church universal) will be with him where he is (Fellowship) (vs 24) to see and behold his glory.
By way of repetition for emphasis, one item Jesus and John together make clear in this prayer of Jesus is that God the Father and God the Son are One, and that they share the closest intimacy (this is what I have called fellowship throughout). Jesus’ prayer is 1) that the Father will glorify him, who is the Son, and 2) that all believers will be with them (believers in Jesus, and Jesus in believers, Jesus in the Father and the Father in Jesus) to share through the closest possible observation Jesus’ glory.
Again, to behold Jesus’ glory is possible only through the intimacy of believers in and through Christ with both Father and Son. This is what I have called fellowship. Almighty God wants to have an intimate relationship with fallen humankind through redemption in Christ. This includes believers of all races, nations, times, and places selected out from (sanctification) the world at large. God is sharing himself with us in the most magnificent way conceivable or possible. God created humankind in his own image for fellowship with each other and with himself, just as the triune God communes within himself. Jesus is praying to God in his high priestly prayer for the success of this his mission of opening the doorway to heaven for humanity’s restored fellowship with the glorious God.
Closing Affirmations (vss 25-26)
— the world does not know you
— I know you
— these believers know that you sent me
–I made known to them your name
–and will continue to make it known
–so that the love (attribute, or characteristic quality of God) with which you loved me may be in them
–and I may be in them (intimate Fellowship)
John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
SUMMARY: Five Direct Petitions
The first four of the direct petitions are imperative aorist active second person singular. The fifth is indicative present active first person singular.
1. Father…glorify your Son (vs 1)
2. Father…glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed (vs 5)
This petition adds the request of intimate fellowship, oneness, to the initial request for glory.
3. Holy Father…keep [protect, guard] them in your name (vs 11)
Verse 15 is not included as a separate direct petition, since it appears to be a clarification of the request made in verse 11.
4. Sanctify [set apart, make holy, keep separate] them in the truth (vs 17)
Verses 20-21, similar to verse 15, extend the requests in numbers 3 and 4 above in an indirect way and add the purpose/goal of oneness to the request. The direct petition I desire in verse 24 (see just below) requests directly what is presented as a purpose in verses 20-21.
5. Father…I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am (vs 24)
*It is interesting to note that there are only six occurrences of the word Father in John 17. Four of them occur in the above direct prayer requests.
This final petition (vs 24) sums up the entire prayer.
1) Wherever Jesus is, especially after he ascends, is crowned King, and returns to his prior abode in heaven with his Father, there will be glory.
2) Similarly, wherever Jesus is, there will be abundance of joy and love.
3) Jesus will always be in the Father and the Father in him.
4) In order for the disciples and other believers to be eternally where Christ is, they must now on earth be protected (watchfully and vigorously guarded), kept (successfully guarded), and sanctified (set apart from the world for holiness).
5) Therefore, when the Father satisfies Jesus’ desire that his followers may be with him where he is (vs 24), all other elements of Jesus’ high priestly prayer will be fulfilled as well.
This is a prayer for divine/human fellowship (but NOT divinity) in glory.
Personal Note: Just as unweaving the multiple threads of a woven tapestry would be difficult, it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to unweave, or at least to identify, the threads of Jesus’ high priestly prayer. This lesson as presented so far is my attempt to make Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel clearer to myself. Many people have different ways of approaching this chapter, none of them necessarily more “on target” than any of the others.
Reading the text through a few times caused me to realize that the word (or most often pronouns for the word) Father occur with more than normal frequency. I also noticed that Jesus spoke a great deal of himself. These two facts caused me to realize that Jesus’ prayer is about the relationship between the Father and the Son. Not until I made the little graphic color chart above did I fully comprehend that Jesus’ main prayer is for all the believers in humanity to be in close relationship of intimate unity, oneness, with Father and Son, although never as concerns their divinity. Separating out the colors helped me to see just how fully the theme of relationship among Father, Son, and Church permeates Jesus’ prayer throughout.
For this particular chapter, as I do for every chapter, I read the text through a few times myself before turning to outside helps. I found myself drawing diagrams and little pictures as I read. I discovered a joy of confirmation when I opened my favorite commentary on John by William Hendriksen (See Bibliography) and found that for the first time in the entire book he had resorted to diagrams as well. I have xeroxed and included two of his here, because they are far more excellent than my little “doodles.” The copyright belongs to William Hendriksen. (Hendriksen, Vol. 2, 371, 372)
For other approaches to this chapter see: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/jesus-high-priestly-prayer and https://bible.org/seriespage/35-high-priestly-prayer-jesus-john-17.