Where the world comes to study the Bible

38. The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus: Part II (John 17:6-19)


Years ago, I was privileged to participate in a missions conference in India, at which a well-known preacher was also speaking. I remember a young Indian fellow approaching this speaker, seeking his counsel. The young man shared his desire to teach the Scriptures, indicating with considerable regret that he was not able to attend seminary. This well-known speaker had not graduated from a seminary either, but it certainly did not seem to hinder his preaching. His response to the young Indian Christian did surprise me. He said to him, “Read a book.”

Now I think I know what he meant. He meant that if one cannot attend a seminary, he can learn a great deal by reading good books. I would agree. In fact, some of the men I know and respect have not had the opportunity to attend seminary either, but they have become very good students of the Word of God. A good part of their theological education did come from reading books. But even though reading good books is of great benefit, there is something beneficial about being personally exposed to a brilliant mind, and even more importantly, a godly life.101 I have been privileged to attend seminary, but the greatest contribution to my own life and ministry has come through personal contact with godly men. They have taught me much. Sometimes they have pointed out flaws in my thinking, theology, methodology, and practice.

In the days of our Lord, there were no printing presses, no Bible concordance programs on CD ROM, no Internet web sites from which to download good Bible study materials. In Old and New Testament times, books were exceedingly rare. One had to copy a book by hand, rather than reproduce another copy by a mere push of a button. Much learning took place by means of discipleship. A disciple followed his chosen “master” around, serving him, listening to him, and learning from him. This is the way our Lord taught, or “discipled,” His disciples. They accompanied Him virtually everywhere He went. They listened and asked many questions, and they learned. Jesus sometimes sent them out two-by-two, which gave them an opportunity to put their teaching and training into practice.

By the time we come to John 17, the discipleship program which our Lord had designed for His disciples was virtually complete. Jesus was ready to return to His Father, leaving His disciples behind. Chapter 17 is our Lord’s “High Priestly Prayer.” The portion of that prayer which we will study in this message is specifically focused on those eleven disciples who remained with Jesus, and who overheard this prayer as they were making their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.

It is not an easy prayer to expound, and reading the commentaries tends to confirm this assessment. As I have agonized in my attempts to trace the argument of our text, I found it helpful to create a grid which traces the development of this chapter by means of several themes or dimensions.

Grid for the Study of John 17


Eternity Past

Christ’s Earthly Ministry

The Future


Jesus in heaven with the Father

Jesus on earth with His disciples

Jesus in heaven, with disciples remaining behind


Father and Son

Son and disciples

Father, Son, disciples, and believers in the Son


The Father is known by the Son

The Son reveals the Father to His disciples

Disciples make the Son known to the world


Believers belong to Father

Believers given to and possessed by the Son

Believers entrusted to Father’s keeping


Father’s plan to send His Son to earth

Son accomplishes His mission on earth

Son sends His disciples into the world

It is also beneficial to remind ourselves of the structure of John 17, and of our text, verses 6-19.

The Structure of John 17

Verses 1-5

Jesus and the Father

Verses 6-19

Jesus and His disciples

Verses 20-26

Jesus and future generations of believers

The Structure of John 17:6-19

Verses 6-10

Jesus and His earthly mission: mission accomplished

Verses 11-19

Jesus’ return to heaven—His prayers for the disciples who remain

Mission Accomplished

6 “I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they understand that everything you have given me comes from you, 8 because I have given them the words you have given me. They accepted them and really understand that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying on behalf of them. I am not praying on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 Everything I have belongs to you, and everything you have belongs to me, and I have been glorified by them.”

Verses 6-8 summarize the ministry of our Lord from the time of His coming to the moment He is speaking, only minutes from His arrest. In verses 11-19, Jesus concentrates on the time following His arrival. From our Lord’s words in verses 6-10, we see His estimate of what His ministry has brought about in His disciples:

They belonged to the Father in eternity past.

verse 6

They were given to Jesus by the Father.

verse 6

They have obeyed the Father’s word.

verse 6

They understand all that Jesus was given came from the Father.

verse 7

They have accepted the teaching Jesus has given them from the Father.

verse 8

His disciples now understand and believe Jesus was sent into the world by the Father.

verse 8

Verses 9 and 10 set forth the basis of our Lord’s prayer for His disciples:

He is praying for His disciples because they are believers.

verse 9

He is praying for those who belonged to the Father, and now belong to Him.

verse 9

He is praying for those whom He and the Father possess together.

verse 10

He is praying for them because He is glorified by them.

verse 10

The things which have been accomplished in the lives of His disciples are those things which our Lord has Himself accomplished. And so it is in verses 6-10 that we also find our Lord summing up the ministry which He has performed in the lives of His disciples:

    1. He has revealed the Father to them—verse 6.

    2. He has given them His Word—verses 7-8.

    3. He has been glorified by them—verse 10.

It would be easy to spend a great deal of time on the details of these verses, but time will not permit, and it would hinder us from following the flow of the argument of these verses. I am seeking to convey the “big picture” here, and I think it can be summarized in two words: “Mission accomplished.”

Notice that virtually everything Jesus claims to have accomplished is described in the past tense. We realize that some of these “accomplished” items are not yet “realized.” We also know that these words will prove to be true. Is it not wonderfully encouraging to realize that even before His disciples have become what they will be, our Lord can speak confidently about them, as though they have already attained their destiny? This is because our destiny is ultimately in His hands:

28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 Because those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those God predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

23 Now may the God of peace make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect until that day what has been entrusted to me (2 Timothy 1:12).

    1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

24 Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before his glorious presence, 25 to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for all eternity. Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

What an encouragement it is to know that He is not only the one who sought us and saved us, but He is also the One who keeps us, and who perfects us! We will most certainly become what He has purposed and promised, and so it is that He can speak of our future as though it were already realized.

The emphasis of verses 6-10 is that Jesus has accomplished all that the Father sent Him to do, in terms of equipping the disciples for their “mission.” Jesus has revealed the Father to them and given the Word of the Father to them. He has told them all that they need to know,102 and thus His earthly mission of making disciples of them has been completed. Of course, His atoning work on the cross of Calvary still lay ahead, but that too is as good as done. Jesus is now free to leave and to return to the Father because He has accomplished all that the Father gave Him to do.

One can hardly estimate the benefits we have gained because our Lord was able to speak these words. On the one hand, the completion of His mission means that He has defeated Satan, and that He has accomplished the salvation of all those the Father has given Him. It means that He can return to the Father in heaven, so that the Spirit can be sent into the world in a new and better way. It is the basis for our mission and ministry. It is the basis of our security and our ultimate perfection (which takes place in heaven, not here on earth—1 John 3:2).

The apostle Paul desired to “finish well” in his life and ministry. We can see for ourselves the kind of disqualification which Paul dreaded and sought to avoid:

24 Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. 25 Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. 27 Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

As Paul approaches the time of his departure, he can rejoice, knowing he has finished well and that the work God had given him to do has been accomplished:

6 For I am already being poured out as an offering and the time for me to depart is at hand. 7 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. 8 Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day; and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Men do not always “finish well.” In the secular world, it is seldom so. This past week, we have witnessed the impeachment of our President by the House of Representatives. We have also seen the resignation of the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. What dramatic examples these are of being disqualified! We who have come to know Jesus as our Savior should dread disqualification and should desire to finish well. How thankful we can be that He who is the “author and perfecter of our faith” finished well.

Prayer Prompted by Our Lord’s Departure

11 I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one103 just as we are one. 12 When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. Not one of them was lost except the one destined for destruction,104 so that the scripture could be fulfilled.105 13 But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated106 them, because they do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. 19 And I set myself apart107 on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.

In verses 6-10, our Lord has dwelt upon the fact that He has accomplished what He came to do, and thus that He is ready and able to return to the Father in heaven. In verses 11-19, our Lord’s prayer is for His disciples in light of the fact that He is going to the Father. I should point out that these verses apply, first and foremost, to the eleven disciples.108 The divisions which we have assumed in chapter 17 are not iron-clad, however. For example, verses 20-26 seem to focus on those who will believe as a result of the preaching of the apostles and others (verse 20). Nevertheless, verses 24-26 appear to be restricted to the Lord’s disciples. Even though our Lord’s prayer may be directed toward the disciples, they may still relate to us by way of implication and application.

Once again, there are many details here which rightfully merit further study, but our intent in this lesson is to trace the main themes of our Lord’s prayer. As I study this prayer, there seems to be one primary request, with a three-fold outcome. The request of our Lord is that the Father keep His disciples safe. The three-fold outcome is: (1) their unity in Him; (2) their joy in Him; and (3) the fulfillment of their mission. When all of our Lord’s statements are reduced to their least common denominator, Jesus indicates that He is leaving His disciples and returning to His Father. The Father has given His name to the Son, and so it is in this name that Jesus asks the disciples to be kept (verse 11). Jesus states that He has watched over His disciples and kept them safe while He was with them. He did not lose a one. Our Lord did not lose Judas, because he never truly believed in Jesus as the Messiah. His departure was not an exception to the rule, but the fulfillment of prophecy (verse 12).

The first result of the disciples’ safe keeping is their unity. The second result of their safe keeping is joy: “But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves” (verse 13). Notice that Jesus calls this “joy” which His disciples will experience “my joy.” I believe the request to keep the disciples safe is the equivalent of keeping them abiding in Christ. To be kept safe is to be kept in Christ. It is believing in Him, depending on Him, looking for Him, obeying His Word. When believers “abide in Christ,” they should evidence Christian love and unity, and as a result, they should experience the joy of our Lord. It is His joy that we experience when we abide in Him.

We should look at the words of our Lord in verse 13 carefully. Jesus is not praying that the Father will keep His disciples safe so that they will find joy, as though for the first time. He is praying that the Father will keep them so that His joy may by completed or perfected in them. It is a joy that they already possess, in measure, but also a joy that they will possess in even fuller measure as they abide in Him.

If I understand Jesus correctly, the Word of God plays a crucial role in the safe keeping of the disciples. Our Lord spoke only that which the Father gave Him to speak (John 8:28, 38; 12:49-50). It is this word that is the truth, and it is by means of this truth that the disciples will be set apart (sanctified), just as Jesus set Himself apart from the world. Nevertheless, the world hates His disciples, because they do not belong to this world, just as Jesus does not call this world “home” (verse 14). Even though they are hated by the world, Jesus is not asking the Father to take them out of this world. It is to this world that they are to be witnesses of the Savior’s death and resurrection.

The safety for which our Lord petitions the Father is not that of freedom from suffering and pain, or from persecution. He prays that the Father might protect His disciples from “the evil one” (verse 15). The world will hate the disciples and oppose them, but behind this resistance is Satan. He is the ultimate source of that opposition which seeks to undermine the faith of believers and to defeat their witness to the world. He is the one who desires to rob believers of their unity and their joy.

Let me seek to illustrate this. In the Garden of Eden, Satan successfully deprived Adam and Eve of their unity and their joy. He deceived Eve, so that she ceased to enjoy what God had richly provided for her—and for Adam. Somehow, the bounty of the fruit of the garden was not enough. Furthermore, Satan not only robbed Eve of her joy, he destroyed the unity which she once had with Adam, her husband. She seems to have listened to the serpent and to have acted independently so as to have disobeyed God. Satan was successful in undermining the unity of Cain and Abel. Where there is disunity, man’s relationship with God is in disrepair, and Satan is not far away.109

Third, the disciples are to be kept safe so that they can fulfill their mission. Jesus came to this earth to carry out the mission the Father had given Him. He came to reveal God to men and to die for the sins of men, thus providing an atonement for sin. This is God’s only provision for obtaining eternal life. Jesus was sent into this world by His Father. Now, Jesus is about to send His disciples into the world, to proclaim the gospel. Being kept safe assures that the disciples will complete their mission, just as Jesus completed His mission on earth. Jesus set Himself apart for His disciples’ sake, and they, likewise, are to set themselves apart to proclaim the gospel to guilty sinners. It is the Word of God which sets us apart from the world. It sets the standard. It defines sin and righteousness. It speaks of sin, righteousness, and judgment. When men turn away from the Word to the world, it should come as no surprise that they become worldly. When men turn to the Word of God, they are set apart from the world, and the world comes to hate them.


Our text contains the last public prayer of our Lord before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion on the cross of Calvary. I find that this prayer becomes much more meaningful to me when I consider it in the light of two other events which are recorded for us in the New Testament. The first (and closest in time) is the prayer of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. It takes place only moments after the high priestly prayer is concluded. In His prayer in Gethsemane, we see the depth of our Lord’s agony, knowing that He is to “become sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), to suffer the wrath of God for our sins, and not for His own.

The second event is that of our Lord arranging for someone to assume the responsibility of caring for His mother (John 19:25-27). I see from these two events that even in the midst of great personal agony, our Lord does not let His suffering keep Him from attending to the needs of those whom He loves. Thus, Jesus prays for His disciples and for those who will believe through them, before He prays that agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. And on the cross, Jesus sees to it that His mother is cared for. In both cases, Jesus is taking care of those He will leave behind. We can go even further with this, because our Lord’s agony itself is for the sake of others. It is by means of His death that Satan is defeated and the penalty for our sins is paid. Therefore our Lord’s high priestly prayer is typical of His love and concern for His own.

In the light of this, how dare we ever question God’s love and care for us. How many times have we found ourselves in some kind of pain or discomfort and cried out to God in our distress, thinking that He does not care (cf. Mark 4:38)? He cares enough to endure the agony of the cross. And even when the horrors of the cross are immediately before Him, Jesus cares enough to pray this prayer for His disciples. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews and the Apostle Peter can write,

5 Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” 6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

6 Humble yourselves then under the mighty hand of God and he will exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).

We would do well to ponder these words by D. A. Carson:

Would to God that the truths of these verses might burn themselves into our memories. It is a rare and holy privilege to observe the divine Son of God not only formulating his prayers but formulating the grounds for his petitions. These grounds reflect the essential unity of Father and Son, and reveal that Jesus’ prayers for his people trace their argument back to the inscrutable purposes of Deity. When the Son of God himself has offered prayers for his followers like these prayers, and when the prayers have been grounded as these prayers have been grounded, it is horrifying to remember that, in moments of weakness and doubt, we still rebelliously question the love of God for his own people. This passage ought rather to engender the deepest and most stable faith, the most adoring gratitude. The disciples of Jesus Christ are loved with a special love … which distinguishes them from the world.110

I am deeply indebted to D. A. Carson for reminding us that this prayer of our Lord teaches us what we should pray for:

The spiritual dimensions to this prayer are consistent and overwhelming. By contrast, we spend much more time today praying about our health, our projects, our decisions, our finances, our family, and even our games than we do praying about the danger of the evil one. Materialists at heart, we often discern only very, very dimly the spiritual struggle of which Paul (for instance) was so deeply aware (Eph. 6:10ff.). The Lord’s (model) prayer likewise teaches us to pray, ‘Deliver us from the evil one’ (most likely the correct rendering). Certainly the church will not produce many spiritual giants when it fails to discern its chief enemy.111

At the outset of this lesson, I pointed out that our text divides into two major sections: verses 6-10, which focus on the time our Lord has spent with the disciples up till the present moment, and verses 11-19, which address the disciples’ needs because of His departure. If you broaden the scope of your thinking to include verses 1-5 and 20-26, then you find that this prayer of our Lord covers every period of time, from eternity past to eternity future. Verses 1-5 look back in time, to the glory which our Lord had with His Father from eternity past. Verses 20-26 look forward in time, down through the ages of church history to the present moment for us. And, this last part of His prayer includes all those yet to be saved, until the time of His return. Thus the prayer encompasses all of time.

I would suggest to you that this is really the only vantage point from which we can rightly appraise our circumstances at the moment. Jesus could pray as He did because He knew not only the past, but the future. It goes far beyond this, as you know. He not only knows what the future holds, He controls the future. Our Lord manifests the calm certainty that only God can exhibit, because He is God, and because He sees the trials and tribulations of the moment from an eternal perspective.

I could not help but recall Psalm 73, in which Asaph complains to God about the prosperity of the wicked, and the suffering of the righteous. To Asaph, it looked like God had lost control, and as though God was not living up to His promise to prosper the righteous. It was only when the psalmist began to view his circumstances from a divine and eternal perspective that he saw things clearly, and began to think and to respond rightly to God.

I was struck by the structure of our Lord’s prayer in John 17. Jesus clearly separates and distinguishes between those who were our Lord’s disciples at the time (verses 6-19), and those who would later come to believe in Him through the witness of the disciples or others (verses 20-26). I take this distinction to imply that there is a substantial difference between His disciples (or apostles) and other Christians, who are saved at a later time. There are those who would teach that there are apostles today, just as much as there were apostles in New Testament times. At least some would maintain that these contemporary “apostles” speak for God, with greater authority than others. Jesus speaks of His disciples as a distinct group, a very restrictive group. The disciples themselves seem to concur with this, as can be seen by their insistence in Acts 1:12-26 that one who would replace Judas must have been present with Jesus. It would seem as though only two men met the requirements set down by the disciples for Judas’ replacement. We need to be careful about calling men apostles today, when Jesus seems to have restricted them to His day. The apostles of the first century church seem to be in a class of their own. Our Lord’s prayer appears to assume this distinction. I am reminded of the writer to the Hebrews, who also distinguishes the apostles from those who will believe because of the gospel that they proclaimed:

1 Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, 4 while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:1-4).

The “us” of verse 3 seems to be synonymous with the “those who believe in me through their testimony” of John 17:20. The “those who heard him” of verse 3 seems to be synonymous with “the disciples” for whom Jesus prays in verses 6-19.

Safe. What a wonderful assurance. Earlier in John, Jesus said, 27 “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one” (John 10:27-30). Do you remember that song, “Safe am I”? “Safe am I; Safe am I, in the hollow of His hand.” And notice that the safety of the sheep is linked to the unity of the Father and the Son (10:30). Safety is His work. We are to abide, but He keeps us safe.

This safety that our Lord prays for is linked to the work He has given us to do. Do you remember how many times in John’s Gospel the Jews sought to kill Him? They could not lay a hand on Him until it was His time. He was “safe” from the opposition of the devil and from men. It did not keep Him from suffering, and from death. But it did keep Him from being prevented from fulfilling His mission. I would suggest to you that no one is ever more safe than the one who is pursuing God’s will, who is fulfilling their God-given mission. Blessed assurance!

This text weaves together two themes which might be considered antithetical. On the one hand, we find very clear indications that the outcome of the disciples’ lives is certain and secure. Jesus speaks of their future growth and ministry as though it were already accomplished. On the other hand, our Lord speaks of the opposition and resistance of Satan, who seeks to bring about their downfall, and ours. Our Lord’s intercession on behalf of His own, along with the Father’s “keeping” of those who are His, guarantees the future of the disciples, and, by extension, the future of all who trust in the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, in chapter 15, Jesus teaches that abiding in Christ is something that every believer needs to work at, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and through the provision of the Word of God.

It is very clear from our Lord’s words in this passage that one of His major concerns is that there be unity among His disciples. One should not at all be surprised that Jesus saw this as a problem. Frequently in the Gospels, we read of the disciples arguing with one another about who was the greatest (cf. Luke 9:46ff.; 22:24ff.). It wasn’t just a matter of them getting along, either. It was a matter of them staying together. In 16:1, Jesus spoke of the possibility of them “falling away.” Later on in chapter 16, Jesus said, “Look, a time is coming—and has come—when you will be scattered, each one to his own home, and I will be left alone” (John 16:32a).

Indeed, this is precisely what happened. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples did not gather together for a prayer meeting; they all fled (Mark 14:50). Even after Jesus had risen from the dead and His tomb was found to be empty, the disciples “went back to their homes” (John 20:10). When it was apparent that Jesus had been raised from the dead, the disciples were seldom all together in one place, and in chapter 21, Peter sets out to go fishing, with only a partial gathering of the disciples (John 21:1-3). There was not the “unity” we would have hoped for until after our Lord’s departure (Acts 1:12-14; 2:1).

Christian unity is a very difficult issue. We should certainly say that there should never be division over matters like race or economic status (cf. Galatians 2:11-21; Ephesians 2:11-22; James 2:1-13). Neither should there be divisions over matters of personal conviction (Romans 14:1–15:6, esp. 15:6), or over material gain (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, esp. v. 7). We should, however, divide over immorality and open sin (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15; Titus 3:10-11) and doctrinal heresy (Galatians 1:6-10; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 2 John 1:7-11). It is actually those who teach heresy who divide the church, and thus should be put out to avoid divisions (Jude, especially verses 17-19; Titus 3:10-11). Let us be sure that we are not denying our unity in Christ when we refuse to be identified with those who trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins, even though they may be of a different theological persuasion or belong to a different denomination. If Christian unity is so important to our Lord, it should be important to us as well.

This week we will celebrate Christmas. One may wonder what this text has to do with Christmas. Actually, it has a great deal to do with our Lord’s first coming, which we celebrate at Christmas. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 tells us what Jesus came to this earth to do. We should have a much greater appreciation for our Lord’s first coming as we look back from the cross, than men did looking forward from His birth. When Jesus came to this earth, He came to reveal the Father to men and to make an atonement for the sins of men. Jesus came to do the very things He speaks about and prays about in this high priestly prayer. Everything He came to do, He accomplished. There are many who have big plans and lofty goals, but few achieve them, and none achieve them perfectly. None but Jesus, that is. Jesus came to this earth to reveal the Father to men, to proclaim the Father’s word to men, and to procure the salvation of those whom the Father had given to Him. This He accomplished, every part of it. And even the apparent failure of Judas was a part of the plan of God, determined in eternity past. Jesus does all things well. What He came to earth to do, He did. And because of it, we do well to hear and to heed Him.

101 When one does not have the opportunity to get to know great and godly men personally, reading the biographies of godly men and women can be of much help.

102 I understand that our Lord has indicated earlier in this discourse that there were things He had not revealed to them, because they were not able to bear them at the time. The point here is that Jesus had revealed to them all that He needed to reveal before His death. Future instruction would, of course, come, both from our Lord (see Luke 24:13-49), and from the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

103 “It is crucial to the understanding of this petition to note that Jesus does not simply request unity for his followers, but rather requests his Father to grant protection to his followers so that they may be unified. The implication seems to be that various dark forces will strive to break up this unity; and nothing less than the power of the Father’s name—that is, the revealed character of God—is adequate for the task of protection.” D. A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), p. 189.

104 “There was one exception, Judas. The past tense seems to show that the loss was irrevocable: Jesus does not see any possibility of his coming back again. There is a play on words in the original, meaning something like ‘none of them was lost except the son of lostness’ (cf. NEB, ‘Not one of them is lost except the man who must be lost’). The exact expression is used of the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. In both cases the thought is that the person’s characteristic is ‘lostness’; neither of them belonged among the loyal and faithful. It is said in Acts 1:25 that Judas fell away ‘to go to his own place,’ and there is something of that thought here. His heart was not with Jesus; he really belonged elsewhere and would go where he belonged.” Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), vol. 4, pp. 583-584.

105 “Jesus speaks of Scripture being ‘fulfilled.’ It is not certain which passage is specially in mind, but Psalm 41:9 and Psalm 109:4-13 have both been suggested. It does not matter which of them is to be preferred or even whether we can pin the prophecy down to any one passage. What Jesus is saying is that the purpose of God was fulfilled in the one as well as in the eleven.” Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), vol. 4, p. 584.

106 “It is not without its interest that John, who writes so often and so feelingly about love (is he not often called ‘the apostle of love’?), uses the verb hate more often than anyone else in the New Testament. He has it twelve times and nobody else has it more than seven times. The reason is that he uses it so often, as he does here, for the hatred the world has for God and the people of God.” Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), vol. 4, pp. 585-586.

107 “Jesus ends this part of his prayer by saying that ‘for them’ he sanctifies himself, so that they may be sanctified. The idea of sanctifying oneself is found only here in this Gospel and is rare elsewhere. It points to a solemn setting of oneself apart for the service of God. We should notice also that the verb is used in the Old Testament for the ‘sanctifying’ of the firstborn of people and of animals. They were set apart for the Lord (Exod. 13:1), which meant, in the case of animals, that they were sacrificed (if not, they were killed in some other way); in the case of men, they had to be redeemed (Exod. 13:12-13). It was also used of animals for sacrifice (2 Chron. 29:33).” Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), vol. 4, p. 589.

108 Or, perhaps, to the New Testament apostles who authored the books of the New Testament. This would include Mark, Luke, and Paul, for example.

109 Is this not what we see in 1 and 2 Corinthians? First Corinthians begins with Paul’s admonition concerning the divisions which existed at Corinth. By 2 Corinthians 11, we see that Satan is behind this disunity (see 2 Corinthians 11:3, 13-15).

110 D. A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), p. 188.

111 D. A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus, pp. 191-192.

Related Topics: Discipleship