By Peter Amsterdam
August 17, 2021
Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, which we started going over in the previous article, continues on to the end of John 17. In verse 12, Jesus’ prayer referred to His disciples—saying that He had kept them, had guarded them, and that not one of them had been lost, with the exception of Judas, whom He referred to as the son of destruction.
Jesus’ prayer continued as follows:
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.1
Jesus continues the thought from verse 11: 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.2 Jesus’ prayer to the Father replicates what He had told His disciples earlier in this Gospel about His joy and theirs being fulfilled.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.3
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.4
Jesus wants His own joy for His disciples, even during the period of their grief in the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.5 Their joy will be “fulfilled in themselves” because of their relationship to Jesus, not because of the difficult circumstances they will experience, which Jesus now speaks of.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.6
Here, Jesus repeated something He had said earlier in this chapter: I have given them the words.7 However, now He adds that the world has hated the disciples. This isn’t the first time He has spoken of the world’s hate. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”8 He also repeats the reason for the world’s hatred; because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.9 Because of the world’s hatred, the disciples are in need of protection. In Jesus’ prayer He states that He has cared for them.
While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them.10
He will guard them once again before His departure into heaven, when He is being arrested and tells His captors “if you seek me, let these men go.”11
Jesus continued praying:
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.12
At this point in His prayer, Jesus returns to intercessory prayer, which He had stopped after He had earlier prayed “that they may be one, even as we are.”13 The disciples, who we’re told have been chosen out of this world, are not to be taken out of this world, rather they are to remain in the world. The main focus of Jesus’ petition is that you keep them from the evil one. This also reflects the words of the Lord’s Prayer deliver us from evil,14 or as in some translations, from the evil one.15 To “keep them from evil” means to keep them safe in the hostile “world.” Jesus’ statement that they are not of the world repeats what He said two verses earlier; they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.16
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.17
Jesus prayed for the Father to sanctify the disciples in the truth. He then defines “the truth” as “your word.” Jesus wasn’t referring to the written Old Testament Scriptures (the Torah and the Prophets) when He spoke of “your word”; rather, He was pointing to the “word,” the message of the Father, which He had given to the disciples and which they had “received” and “kept.”18 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”19 The truth has set them free, so that they are no longer “slaves” but “friends.” No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.20
As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.21
Jesus’ mission of being sent into the world by the Father sets the pattern for the mission of the disciples. Jesus referred to the disciples’ mission in the past tense, as if it had already started. However, it will not “officially” start until chapter 20 when He tells them: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22 In the synoptic Gospels,23 Jesus sent the disciples on missionary journeys during His ministry.24 However, here He used the phrase “into the world,” which is not used in the synoptic Gospels. The focus here seems to be the worldwide mission which was to begin after Jesus’ resurrection.
And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.25
The sanctification of the disciples has not yet been accomplished and so Jesus states, for their sake I consecrate myself. He sets himself apart in order to do the Father’s will, which means laying down His life for the disciples (and for all future believers). He will give His life so the disciples can be sanctified and set apart for God.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”26
Jesus now prays for all believers, those of past generations as well as for us today. His words echo what He said earlier in this Gospel. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.27 His prayer is that all believers everywhere should be united with one another in their commitment to Jesus and to the Father.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.28
Jesus says that He has given His followers the glory that the Father gave Him. What is that glory? One author states:
Just as His true glory was to follow the path of lowly service culminating in the cross, so for [His disciples] the true glory lay in the path of lowly service wherever it might lead them.29
The purpose of giving glory to the disciples is unity. Jesus prayed that they may be one as He and the Father are one. Jesus dwells in believers, and the Father dwells in Him. It is through Jesus that believers have their unity with the Father, a point He had made earlier in this Gospel. No one comes to the Father except through me.30
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.31
In His prayer, Jesus has brought His petitions before the Father three times. In doing so, He has addressed God as Father three times (vs 1, 5, 21) and as Holy Father once (vs 11). Now, Jesus addresses His Father once again, only this time rather than making a petition as He has before, He uses the term “I desire.” This is in keeping with what He had earlier told His disciples regarding prayer: ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.32
In His prayer, Jesus speaks of those “you have given me,” referring to His disciples. The focus is on the Twelve33 (minus Judas who betrayed Him) who had accompanied Jesus throughout His ministry. However, it also includes others who believed in and followed Him during His ministry, such as Mary Magdalene (Mark 15); Martha (John 11); the Samaritans in Sychar (John 4); the man born blind (John 9); Joanna, the wife of Chuza (Luke 8); and beyond that, those who will believe in me through their word.34
In praying that He desires that His disciples may be with me where I am, Jesus wasn’t referring to the present moment but rather to their presence with Him after His ascension into heaven. When Jesus says to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world, this brings up the question how the disciples would “see” the glory that would be His when He returns to the Father.
One author writes:
In what way will that vision of future glory go beyond what they have “seen” already in the course of His ministry? At one level, it is impossible to say. How does one quantify “glory”? The best answer, perhaps, is that the glory Jesus had “before the world was,” and will have again on His return to the Father, is the measure of the Father’s love for Him. The Son’s glory is that “which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” What He wants the disciples to “see” is the full extent of that love.35
The disciples likely wouldn't fully comprehend God’s love until they were to stand with Jesus in the Father’s presence and see for themselves the “glory” of the Father’s love for the Son and for them.
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.36
The term of address Righteous Father is unique, only used here within Scripture, though it is close in meaning to “Holy Father,” which was used earlier in verse 11. Though Jesus referred to the world’s potential belief and knowledge (vs 21 and 23), and the disciples’ future vision of Jesus’ “glory,” He could still say to the Father, “the world did not know you.” This same point was made at the beginning of this Gospel. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.37
However, in contrast to the world, Jesus knows the Father. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.38 He adds that the disciples know the Father as well. These know that you have sent me. … I made known to them your name.39 They know the Father’s name because Jesus has revealed Him as their Father. Jesus then states that He will continue to make the Father’s name known. This looks to the future, as we’re told that His ministry will continue on. This likely refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had spoken of earlier. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.40
Jesus ends His prayer with “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”41 He refers to the love from which all other love begins—the love of the Father for the Son. From this love comes the Son’s love for the disciples, and from Jesus’ love for the disciples comes their love one for another.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 John 17:13.
2 John 17:11.
3 John 15:11.
4 John 16:24.
5 John 16:22.
6 John 17:14.
7 John 17:8.
8 John 15:18.
9 John 15:19.
10 John 17:12.
11 John 18:8.
12 John 17:15–16.
13 John 17:11.
14 Matthew 6:13.
15 Matthew 6:13 NKJV.
16 John 17:14.
17 John 17:17.
18 See John 17:6, 8.
19 John 8:31–32.
20 John 15:15.
21 John 17:18.
22 John 20:21.
23 Matthew, Mark, Luke.
24 Mark 6:7–13; Matthew 10:5–16; Luke 9:1–6; 10:1–12.
25 John 17:19.
26 John 17:20–21.
27 John 10:16.
28 John 17:22–23.
29 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 650.
30 John 14:6.
31 John 17:24.
32 John 15:7.
33 John 6:70.
34 John 17:20.
35 Michaels, The Gospel of John, 880.
36 John 17:25–26.
37 John 1:10.
38 John 10:15.
39 John 17:25–26.
40 John 16:13.
41 John 17:26.