John 17:1 – When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…”
We have arrived at John chapter 17, one of the most sublime portions of scripture in the entire bible.
Jesus has just expressed his parting thoughts to his disciples, reiterated his love for them, and given them numerous reasons to rejoice. He now commits them into the protection and blessing of Father God through prayer.
The prayer that Christ prays here was not just for the disciples; it is for every Christian in every generation, including you and me. Let’s see what he had to say.
‘These words’ refers to the extensive teaching that Jesus had given to the disciples beginning at the Passover meal and concluding at the end of John chapter 16. There is some difference of opinion about where ‘these words’ were spoken. Some believe the entire conversation took place in the Passover room. Others believe it took place as the group walked to the Garden of Gethsemane.
In either case, scripture tells us that as Jesus began to pray, he lifted up his eyes to heaven. Some scholars believe he did this to signify his reverence for God (whose throne is in heaven) and to denote his confidence that God hears and answers prayer. According to them, it shows the Christian that help comes from God, not from the world. Apparently, it was a common position of prayer back in that day (Luke 18:13).
However, this position of prayer would be uncommon for us. We tend to express reverence of God by closing our eyes and bowing our heads.
Which way is correct?
The answer is both! Jesus gave us a model prayer to follow (Matthew 6:9-13), but he never prescribed a particular position or place to pray. You can pray standing up, sitting down, on your knees or lying on the floor. You can pray with your eyes open or shut. You can pray loudly, quietly or even silently (but keep in mind that spoken words carry power). The key is getting alone to communicate with God.
Notice that Jesus prays directly to the Father. The first thing he says is that his ‘hour has come’. This refers to the appointed time of his suffering and death, which would result in his victory over Satan. This is one more confirmation that Jesus laid down his life at a predetermined time; his life was not taken away from him at the whim of man.
Now that the time of his death had arrived, he prays that the Father will ‘glorify the Son’. In other words, Jesus was asking Father God to manifest or display his power in Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension; this would prove to the world that he was truly the Messiah, the Son of God.
In turn, Jesus (as the Son) would also glorify the Father. His death honored both the Law and the mercy of God. As men were reconciled to God through his blood, it glorified the Father.
The mutual glorification of the Father and Son did not end at the cross. As the gospel spreads throughout the world by the will of Christ and the assistance of Holy Spirit, God continues to be glorified by the regeneration of each lost sinner.
John 17:2 – “…since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”
This is a verse that we need to make sure we are interpreting correctly.
Jesus acknowledges that the Father has given him authority over all flesh.
There are some false teachers who claim that if God gave Jesus authority over all flesh while he was on the earth, it means that he did not have authority before, and thus he was not divine. This is absolutely false. This verse does not speak of Jesus’ divine power as God, but of his power as the Mediator between God and man.
The entire human race was ‘given’ to Christ by his Father, so that he could procure salvation for all through his death:
Hebrews 2:9 – But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
(See also I Timothy 2:4-6, Romans 5:21, II Corinthians 5:14-15, Psalms 2:8, etc). Thus, the entire human race is under the power and authority of Christ as Mediator; he has universal dominion over all things. He has legislative power (power to make laws) as well as judiciary power (power to judge).
While his sacrifice purchased grace and forgiveness for every person, not everyone will voluntarily bow to his authority. Those who place their faith in him receive salvation, while those who reject him will be judged at the end of this age.
John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
God is the only source of eternal life; we must know him in order to receive this blessing.
What does it mean to know God?
First, let’s talk about what it doesn’t mean. It does not mean familiarity or simple factual knowledge. For instance, I am familiar with actor Johnny Depp. I know about his occupation, his love life, his income, his legal issues and much more. But despite having factual knowledge about his life, I don’t know him – we have never met each other and we have absolutely no relationship at all.
In the same way, there are people who are familiar with or have factual knowledge about Jesus, Father God and Holy Spirit. They may attend church and hear all about their activities, personalities and work. These people may even read the bible on occasion or say some words of blessing over their food from time to time. But despite being familiar with God, they don’t know him – they have absolutely no personal relationship with him.
The fact is, the only way to truly know God is through the Mediator, Christ Jesus.
We were dead in our trespasses and sin; we had no means of having a relationship with God. But then Jesus came to earth to make the Father known to us. His final act on earth was to assume the office of Mediator by dying for our sin, so that our relationship to God could be restored.
We know God by placing our faith the sacrifice of Christ for our sin. Once we do so, we are in relationship with Father God and he gives us eternal life – but that’s not all! Our relationship with God grows and flourishes while we are here on earth. We can discover and experience the many attributes of God such as righteousness, justice, love and holiness. We can know him as a parent, a friend, a king, a defender, a healer and a provider. We know we are in a true relationship with him when we strive to obey his laws and yield our lives to his will.
Furthermore, is important to know that he (the God introduced to us via Christ Jesus) is the only true God:
Isaiah 45:21 – Tell and bring forth your case; yea, let them take counsel together: who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I the LORD? And there is no other God besides me; a just God and a Savior; there is none besides me.
All other gods are false; they are mere idols that cannot see or hear or save a man’s soul (Daniel 5:23, Revelation 9:20, Isaiah 2:17-21).
John 14:6 – Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.
Just as there is only one God, there is only one way to have a relationship with him – through his Son Jesus, our Mediator.
John 17:4 – “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”
Jesus did indeed glorify God on earth. He spoke only what the Father told him to speak, and he did only what the Father told him to do. Everything he did was for the purpose of bringing glory and honor to his Father.
Jesus came to earth, preached to the Jews, gave irrefutable proof that he was the Messiah, called the apostles, taught them the doctrines of the new covenant of grace, and gave them his parting council along with the promise of Holy Spirit.
The only thing left to do – the final accomplishment of his work – was his atoning sacrifice on the cross, which would occur in a matter of a few short hours. After that, he would return to the Father in heaven, who was well pleased with all he had done.
So think about this for a minute… on the threshold of his death, Jesus could rightfully say that he had lived his life well – he had done all that God gave him to do.
What about you and me? Our culture doesn’t like to think about death. We do everything we can to look and feel young. We get teeth implants, we re-grow our hair (or dye what we have), we get plastic surgery, we exercise and we take all kinds of health supplements. But despite all of our effort to stay young and vigorous, each of us will eventually die (Hebrews 9:27).
What will you be able to say about your life on the threshold of your death? Will you be satisfied with the things you pursued and the choices you made? Will you be content with the way you spent your time and the status of your relationships? Will you be able to look forward to eternity knowing that you accomplished everything that God gave you to do?
John 17:5 – “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
Jesus is divine; he and the Father (and Holy Spirit) are one and they have always existed for eternity. Up until he came to earth, Jesus enjoyed the splendor and glory that was fitting for him as a member of the Trinity. But for a short time (about 33 years), he humbled or emptied himself of his glory and took on a body of flesh (Philippians 2:7-8). He now prays that God will restore him to the honor and dignity which he had before the incarnation.
We can be assured that he has not only been restored to his former glory, he now has the additional honor of making atonement for sin and becoming our High Priest forever (Hebrews 6:20).
His glory will not be hidden or kept secret. The magnificence of his greatness and power which now exist in heaven will be displayed on earth at the appointed time; everyone will see it and everyone will be affected by it (Philippians 2:10, Zechariah 12:10).
John 17:6 – “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
When Jesus says he has manifested God’s name, he means that he has revealed the attributes and character of God to mankind. Man was able to discern a little bit of God and his divine nature by the works of creation. He gained a little more knowledge of God through the Mosaic Law, but the full manifestation of God (his nature and attributes) came only through the revelation of Jesus.
Although Jesus ministered to many people, the full revelation of God was only given to the apostles. These men were chosen by God from among the unbelieving Jewish nation (out of the world) to be the disciples of Christ and to spread the message of salvation throughout the world by their teaching, preaching and writings.
John 17:7 – “Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.”
Unlike the majority of the Jewish nation, the disciples are fully persuaded that Jesus has been commissioned by God to be the Messiah. They believe that the doctrine Jesus taught, the miracles he performed and the authority he carried were all given to him directly from Father God.
John 17:8 – “For I have given them the words that you gave to me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
This explains how the disciples became fully persuaded that Jesus was teaching them the doctrines of God.
Specifically, Jesus taught them only the doctrines he received from Father God (John 12:49). These doctrines were pure; they did not contain the wisdom of man or any traditions of the elders.
For their part, the disciples received this teaching into the fertile soil of their hearts where it took root and grew (Matthew 13:23). Thousands of Jews heard the teaching of Jesus, but many of them had not prepared their hearts to receive the message, so the enemy was able to steal it from them.
The disciples also kept or continued in the words of Christ by obeying the doctrines they heard. Jesus has already stressed the importance of obedience to his commands. Obedience is one of the ways we demonstrate faith and love to Jesus. As we obey his words, he abides in us and we abide in him, and Jesus further manifests himself to us (John 14:21-24).
The end result of all this is that deep down in their hearts the disciples are absolutely certain that Jesus came from God and that he is the true Messiah. This does not mean that they fully understood the gospel, in fact, the opposite is probably true. At that point in time their knowledge of spiritual truth was very limited and weak. But even though they did not fully know/understand the message they still believed it was true. They received the doctrines of Christ as divine truths, they obeyed his commands as divine laws, and they trusted in his promises as divine securities.
Don’t forget, Jesus does not speak this only about the first disciples. Believers in every generation (including you and me) have heard the word of God and allowed it to take root and grow within our hearts. We too obey the commands of Jesus and abide in him; we too are fully convinced that he is the Messiah, the only Son of God. In fact, we have assurance of this truth from Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16).
John 17:9-10 –“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”
‘Them’ refers particularly to the apostles that were called by Christ to be his special envoys on earth. They were about to face some very intense trials and dangers; Jesus sought the protection and blessing of God on them so that they would be able to carry out their mission of preaching the gospel of salvation to the world (to the Jews first and later the Gentiles) and establishing the church.
Jesus’ role as the intercessor did not end with the death of the apostles. He continues to intercede on behalf of every believer in every generation that we too might experience the protection and blessing of the Father as we carry out the specific work he has give to us.
Notice that there is absolutely no disunity or competition among the members of the Trinity. The Father, Son and Spirit are one in essence; they are equal in power and glory. For this reason, all that belongs to God also belongs to his Son and Holy Spirit.
The scriptures declare that Christ redeemed us not only to himself, but to Father God as well:
Revelation 5:9-10 – And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation; and have made us unto our God a kingdom and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
In fact, everyone who receives salvation from Jesus is put into a covenant relationship with the Father – God considers them his children and they consider him to be their Father (Romans 8:15). Covenant relationship is one of the chief foundations on which our prayers can rest (Exodus 32:11-13).
All of the benefits of salvation that Jesus purchased with his blood bring glory to the Father when they are bestowed upon man. In return, God glorifies his Son by placing all things (including believers/the church) under the authority of Jesus.
John 17:11 – “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Jesus is just hours away from being crucified. Although his work on earth is almost done, he was not going to retire – he was returning to the Father and to heaven where he would assume the role of Mediator. (Thankfully, He is also busy preparing a place in heaven for you and me [John 14:3])!
But for now, his followers will remain behind, to spread the gospel throughout the world. In the midst of this, they will experience trials and temptations. In addition, the wicked will hate and persecute them, just as they did Jesus. Therefore, Jesus prays that God will preserve his followers by his divine power. This is a prayer that God always answers; the whole Trinity is involved in supporting us here on earth:
– Our Father gives us everlasting love and all sufficient power.
– The Son gives us redemption and constant intercession.
– The Spirit perpetually inhabits/dwells with us, giving us his constant influence, wisdom and leading.
All of this leads us to an inescapable conclusion: as believers, we have not been set up to fail; we have the strongest assurance of victory in this life. What a comfort to know that while we labor here on earth, God keeps his eye fixed on us; he watches over us and provides help and relief when we need it.
Psalm 121:2-4 – My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved: he that keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
(See also Proverbs 18:10, I Corinthians 10:13, II Timothy 4:18, Psalms 124, etc). We are also set up to be inseparably united to God, just as Jesus is united to the Father and Spirit (Ephesians 4:2-6).
John 17:12 – “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and no one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
Jesus was a faithful steward of all that God entrusted to him – including the people who served him. While Jesus was in the world he perfectly shepherded his twelve disciples. He preserved them from apostasy by his example, his instruction, his miracles and his presence.
Although Jesus did not fail in any way, one of the disciples was ‘lost’ – Judas Iscariot.
Judas is described as the ‘son of destruction’. The term ‘son of’ was used to describe someone who displayed the characteristics of the name or word which followed. For example, Jesus refers to the religious leaders as sons of hell:
Matthew 23:15 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
In this example, the term ‘child (son) of hell’ means that the religious leaders had hellish characteristics – they were liars and hypocrites who pretended to serve God while their hearts were full of evil.
The term ‘son of destruction’ (your translation may say ‘perdition’) means one who desires and promotes complete loss, utter ruin/devastation/subversion; one who destroys or devastates; one who desires a state of damnation, future misery or eternal death.
Judas personified the spirit of destruction. His crime (betraying Jesus) appears to be an attempt to devastate/destroy the entire human race by means of ‘destroying’ Jesus or causing him to fail which would result in the damnation/eternal death of us all.
The point is that even though Judas was with Jesus outwardly, he never inwardly placed his faith in Christ. He never accepted Jesus as the Messiah, despite being an eyewitness to all of the miracles he performed. He did not believe in the gospel, despite hearing it repeatedly and in greater detail than others. And once he sinned, he did not seek repentance or forgiveness, even though he could have obtained it at any time.
Psalm 41:9 – Yea, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
It should be noted that even though scripture predicted the falling away of Judas, it was Judas’ own decision to reject Jesus. He was not ‘forced’ to reject Christ simply to make the scriptures true; he had a free will choice, just as we all do. Scripture simply foretold the decision Judas would make.
This is a tragic outcome, but not an uncommon one. Even today we find people who go to church and profess to be Christians, but have never actually placed their faith in Christ as Redeemer. To us, they seem to be followers of Christ, because we look on their outward appearance. However, God can see their hearts (I Samuel 16:7). When they die, they will not inherit eternal life; they will be assigned a place in hell with their real father, Satan.
Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:
As we look at the state of our country – our culture, our schools, our government and our economy – we may be tempted to despair. We may be tempted to think that Satan is going to gain victory over the entire world, despite the work of the church of Jesus Christ. But let me give you some encouragement and relief – that will NEVER be the case!
God has NOT set us up to fail. Jesus is the head of the church and he has never lost a battle. He is going to make his church victorious over the kingdom of darkness:
Matthew 16:18 – And I say also unto you… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
When you are tempted to be discouraged by the evil around you, take your eyes off the enemy and place them back where they belong – on the promises and assurances of God Almighty.
Instead of considering the power of the enemy, think about this: God has given us all the weapons we need in order to prevail over Satan and his kingdom. We have spiritual armor, we have God’s word, we have the keys to the kingdom of heaven, we have power and authority over demons/sickness, we have the power to bind and loose, we have the power of testimony and we have Holy Spirit living within us.
In light of what God has given us, how should we be living our lives? Should we be hiding in fear, or courageously take a stand for Christ in this generation?
Don’t let the devil fool you – he is a defeated foe.
Let me offer you some strength:
You can’t save the entire world and you will be overwhelmed if you try. But what you can do is take action in the place where you are right now:
Campaign for a position on the local school board or town council. Run for mayor. Get involved in antiabortion work. Support your local police. Pray on the campuses of local schools and colleges. Use your creative talents to bring Christianity into music and entertainment. Use your social media influence as a platform for Christ.
Do something/anything to get involved in taking our society back from the enemy and placing it under the authority of Christ! It has always been God’s will for us to exercise authority over this world on his behalf, so get started today, in your own corner of the globe.
Genesis 1:28 – And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.
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