John 17: The Prayer of Jesus

Friday, January 26, 2007

This morning, I turned to where I stopped previously in Carson’s For the Love of God, Vol.1. , John 17. Talk about parallel logic and circular logic in CT1, reading John 17 got me my brain all jumbled up! I need some straightening up. (The verses here are taken from the ESV.)

Referring to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, the chapter can be divided into the following:

1. Jesus praying for himself (1-5)
2. Jesus praying for those that are his
.....a. General pleas (6-10)
.....b. Particular petitions
..........i. That they might be kept (11-16)
..........ii. That they might be sanctified (17-19)
..........iii. That they might be united (11, 20-23)
..........iv. That they might be glorified (24-26)

John 17 happens in the midst of a conversation with his disciples. In John 16, Jesus was discoursing with them and preparing them for the time that is to come when he will be crucified, arise and taken from the world. He spoke about troubles, the Comforter, his resurrection, his returning to Father and the assurance of peace in him. At the end of the discourse, he lifts up his eyes to heaven and prayed. John 18 is where after the prayer, they went across the Kidron Valley into a garden where he was arrested after being betrayed by Judas.

Jesus praying for himself (1-5)
Jesus has accomplished all that he was set out to do, he will be returning to the Father. He spoke about giving eternal life. While I was reading it, I wondered about what he meant when he said that. Verse 3 answers it, this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

We talk a lot about eternal life but I think mainly in the line of the results of accepting Christ as one’s personal Saviour. There must be some returns from such an investment. Therefore, believe and you will go to heaven. But what Jesus tells us about eternal life is different. Eternal life is a verb – something that we do – eternal life is knowing the only true God. So it is not so much, believe and you will go to heaven but believe and know the Lord your God. Yes, you will still go to heaven but that is not the point. You don’t go to a friend’s house just to be there but you go there to build a relationship. And to know God is to partake in the Holy Community of Three, to know Him.

General pleas (6-10)
I did a simple word diagramming to understand the roundabout way of saying 2 things: Jesus has manifested God’s name to the people and he is now praying for them. But we also see what Jesus said about the people, who they are and who they believe.

Petition 1: That they might be kept (11-16)
Jesus is about to leave our world, and going back to the Father but his disciples are still in the world though not of the world. He has while on earth, kept them prayed for them, guarded them and now that he is to return to the Father, he is praying that the Father will keep them in His name, and away from the evil one.

To understand what it means to be kept in God’s name, we need to understand what a name means to the world then. According to ISBE, “In Scripture, names were generally descriptive of the person, of his position, of some circumstance affecting him, hope entertained concerning him, etc., so that ‘the name’ often came to stand for the person.” Therefore, Jesus’ petition is for God to keep the people in Him. And that a wealth of meaning and significance: we are in God’s presence, in His saving grace, in His arms, in His bosom, in His plan, it goes on.

Petition 2: That they might be sanctified (17-19)
Jesus prayed that his disciples will be sanctified in the word: to be cleansed from corruption, purified from sin, made holy and detached from the world and its defilements, and exalted to a supreme love to God. This sanctification is not for the sake of the disciples alone but because Jesus has sent them into the world as testimonies. They need to mirror Jesus in a life sanctified by Jesus, the very Word of God.

Petition 3: That they might be united (11, 20-23)
Then Jesus extended his prayer to other people, those who will believe in him, like you and me, that we will all be united; firstly with God and then with one another.

The prayer is intriguing:
Father you are in me
.....and I am in you,
..........I pray that they may also be in us.
You have given me the glory,
.....and I have given it to them, that they may be one, as we are one.
So now that I am in them
.....and you are in me,
..........I pray that they may become perfectly one.

This is so that the world may believe that you have sent me,
.....and love them
..........even as you loved me.

It speaks of an amazing unity. The Father and Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) is one. Jesus prays that we who are in Him will be perfectly one because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is one. This is so that the world will believe that Jesus is God, will love the people of God because the Father loves the Son.

I mean, this is not linearly logical, not at all – it actually makes no sense. But I think it is as circularly logical as you can get, and to me, it is simply amazing: God is one, we are one, so that people will believe Jesus is God, so that they will love us because the Father loves the Son.

Petition 4: That they might be glorified (24-26)
And finally he prays that we will all be with him, not to enjoy heaven, but to see him in glory, to worship him. This reminds us of our purpose in life. We all have our small little purpose in our lives – to get an education, to have a good career, to get married, to build a good family – but our ultimate purpose in life is to worship and glorify God.

Henry puts it that “they might be glorified,” though in the verses, it is translated as “to see or behold my glory”. Pardon my limited knowledge of Greek, but I think the word θεωρεω, theoreo, may mean more than see and behold. It may well mean experience. In that sense Jesus prays that we will experience the glory of Jesus, when we are with him in the Lord’s day.

After studying the above, the final few words of the prayer of Jesus strikes very close to heart:

O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

With that, it is my prayer that we will all be truly and perfectly one because our Lord God is one.


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4 comment(s)

  1. Hi Pearlie,

    So another example of unity across the globe - our pastor preached about John 17 last week (cf Living the Message). It was great to read what you thought about it here!

  2. Great! I will check it out in Living Message.

  3. Pearly,

    Wow! You mean that we, as believers should be unified? What a glorious idea. ;]

    Thanks for the great reminder. As usual, you are wonderful about heading right to the heart of the matter.

    God Bless

  4. Doug,
    John 17 is an amazing chapter. I spent a whole long day thinking about it! It was a good day :)