“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” (John 17:1-26)
In these 26 verses of Holy Scripture we have the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, as he was about to enter into the Holy of Holies in Heaven, with his own blood, to obtain eternal redemption for his people.
Our blessed Savior left us the full text of this prayer. He prayed frequently while he was here on the earth in our flesh; but this is the only prayer of our Lord Jesus that is recorded in its entirety. This is Christ our God-man Mediator, our great High Priest, praying to the heavenly Father on our behalf, interceding for us. He left us the full text of this prayer as an example of his intercession, which even now he carries on for his people at the Father’s right hand.
The Scripture says that when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and was buried and raised again that he ascended to Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us. There he prays or makes intercession for his people. This prayer is the prayer of our High Priest, our Mediator, which he is praying for us at this moment, as he makes intercession for us in heaven (Romans 8:34).
In Hebrews 7:25, we read that, “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him; seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” So, this is the prayer of the great High Priest, the one Mediator between God and men. The Scripture says, “There is one God and one Mediator,” one who prays for us and only one. That is our Lord Jesus Christ. This is his effectual prayer of intercession.
It is the Lord Jesus himself who is praying here. The fact that he prayed, prayed often, and prayed earnestly ought to encourage us to pray (Hebrews 4:14-16). Prayer doesn’t change God or change the will of God. It finds the will of God. Prayer not only finds the will of God, it bows us to the will of God. Prayer rejoices in the will of God and changes us, causing us to know and to follow the will of God. If our Master prayed, his servants certainly ought to pray.
In John 16:28 the Lord Jesus summed up his life and ministry, his person and work, in three plain and simple statements. Look at them.
- “I came forth from the Father.” — Who is this man, who declares that he came forth from God the Father? That declaration certainly indicates at least these two things about who he is: First, if he came forth from the Father, he must have been with the Father and in the Father (John 1:1, 18). Second, if he came forth from the Father, he must have been sent by the Father for a specific purpose, to accomplish a specific work (Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 10:5-10).
- “I am come into the world.” — He is not of this world, but came into this world. How did he come into this world? He came through the womb of a virgin, by supernatural, divine intervention. The Son of God came into this world by incarnation, conceived in the womb of the virgin, and brought forth into the world by the power of God the Holy Spirit. The eternal God assumed into union with himself our nature. God came into the world as a man (Philippians 2:5-7).
Why did he come into this world? He came here to redeem and save his people, to put away our sins, to justify and sanctify us by his own life’s blood, which he poured out to God as a sin-atoning sacrifice for us (Galatians 4:4-6).
What did he do while he was in this world? He did what he came to do. He brought in everlasting righteousness for us by his obedience to the Father (Romans 5:19) and satisfied the law and justice of God for our sins by his death as our Substitute (Romans 3:24-26). The Lord Jesus Christ effectually redeemed his people from their sins and delivered us from the curse of God’s holy law (Galatians 3:13).
- “Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” — He must have completed what he came here to do. Otherwise, he would not have left. If upon his leaving the world he went to the Father, from whom he was sent, it is evident that the work he was sent here to do was finished and that the Father approved of and accepted him, his work, and his people (Hebrews 10:11-14).
The Book of Hebrews begins with these same three facts, facts that define the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. — “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our sin-atoning Sacrifice and Substitute, by whom our redemption has been accomplished. He is our great High Priest who makes intercession to the Father for those people he has redeemed. And he is our almighty Savior, by whom grace is conveyed to us, and by whom we shall be carried into the very glory of heaven itself. Perhaps the best commentary on who Christ is, what he did, why he did it, and where he is now is to be found here in John 17 in his high priestly prayer, that great prayer which he made to God the Father for us just before he went forth to the cross to accomplish our redemption.
In this seventeenth chapter of John our great High Priest makes four mighty requests, requests which the Father cannot deny. Not one of these requests can be denied, because they are made upon the basis of Christ’s finished work. Really, these four requests are more than requests. They are the claims of Christ, our sovereign Redeemer, claims made by him when he had finished the work the Father gave him to do. They teach us much about the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
His first request is this: — “And now, O Father, glorify Thou me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (v.5). That is the request that he makes as our mighty Mediator and Substitute. This is not just an ambition for personal exaltation. It is a prayer for power and dominion as a man for the salvation of chosen men. And the basis of the request is his fulfillment of all the stipulations of the covenant of grace by him as specified in verses 1-4.
Verse 1 — “These words spake Jesus (the words spoken to his disciples in the preceding chapters), and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come (the hour he so often spoke of, the hour for which the world was made, the hour for which he came into the world); glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” — As the Son of God, he needed no glory to be given to him; but he is here praying as our Mediator, as a man. He is here praying that God the Father would uphold and sustain him in the work he was about to accomplish upon the cursed tree, that he might thereby glorify his every attribute.
Verse 2 — “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given him.” — The Father has given the Son, as our Mediator and Savior, all authority, dominion, and power over all flesh (John 3:35; Matthew 28:18). This total, sovereign dominion, power, and authority belongs to him by divine, eternal decree, both as our Creator and our Redeemer. He is the appointed and rightful Administrator of the Father’s will, purpose, and kingdom.
Our Lord Jesus Christ holds and exercises this absolute power so that he may “give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given him” (John 6:37-39). This is a very important phrase. Our Lord refers to his people, those given to him by the Father, six times in this prayer (vv. 2, 6, 9, 12, 24).
Verse 3 — “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” — Eternal life is knowing God in Christ. Eternal life is not a religious experience. Eternal life is not a moral or religious reformation of conduct. Eternal life is spiritual life. It is life given to dead sinners by God the Holy Spirit in sovereign regeneration. Eternal life is not knowing that there is a God, but knowing God. It is having God revealed in you and to you by his Spirit. It is understanding who God is by personal acquaintance (John 14:6-9; 1 John 5:20).
Verse 4 — “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” — No one but the Lord Jesus Christ could ever make this claim. Here is a man who literally loved, obeyed, and honored the eternal God all the days of his life. In his life and in his death, our Savior glorified God’s law, God’s will, God’s justice, and God’s grace. He did it for us, that God might be both just and the Justifier of his people (Romans 3:24-26).
When our Lord says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,” I have no doubt that he is referring to three things.
- The righteousness he brought in, established, and finished for his people by his perfect life (Jeremiah 23:6).
- The redemption he was about to accomplish and finish at Calvary (John 19:30).
- The kingdom he shall at last finish when he has given eternal life to all that the Father gave to him from eternity (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Hebrews 2:13).
It is upon the basis of this finished work that our Savior prays, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (v. 5).
Keep My People
Second, in verses 6-19 our Savior makes this great request for his people: — “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (v. 11). — His prayer is this: Father, preserve and keep my believing people; but notice how the Son of God describes his believing people. Here are twelve (12) things which are true of all God’s people in this world.
- Believers are men and women to whom God almighty has been made known.
Verse 6 — “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: Thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” — God’s name is his character, his attributes. His name is who he is. It is written, — “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That simply means, whosoever shall believe God, worship God, trust God, as he has manifested and revealed himself in Christ shall be saved. His name is…
- Jehovah-jireh (Genesis 22:13-14 “The Lord will Provide”).
- Jehovah-rapha (Exodus 15:26 “The Lord that Healeth Thee”).
- Jehovah-nissi (Exodus 17:8-15 “The Lord our Banner”).
- Jehovah-mkadesh (Exodus 31:13 “The Lord that Sanctifieth Thee”).
- Jehovah-shalom (Judges 6:24 “The Lord our Peace”).
- Jehovah-ra-ah (Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd”).
- Jehovah-tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6 “The Lord our Righteousness”).
- Jehovah-shammah (Ezekiel 48:35 “The Lord is There”).
- Believers know that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Verse 7 — “Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.” — We recognize that the Father and the Son are one. We know that everything Christ did and said, and everything he shall yet do is of God the Father. This is the confidence we must have. It is the confidence we do have (2 Corinthians 5:19-21; Acts 17:30-31).
- Believers are people who receive the Word of God and, receiving the Word of God, know who Jesus Christ is, the Sent One of God in whom is all our hope and all our salvation.
Verse 8 — “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.”
- Believers are sinners chosen by God the Father in eternity and given to Christ in effectual grace as the special objects of his mercy, love, and grace.
Verse 9 — “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” — Everything Christ has done, is doing, and shall hereafter do is for his people. To speak of God’s love as universal love for all men is to make God’s love utterly meaningless. God loves his elect. Christ redeemed his elect. The Holy Spirit calls, regenerates, and keeps his elect. Everything God does in providence and in grace is for his elect (Romans 8:28).
- Believers are those men and women in whom the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified.
Verse 10 — “And all mine are Thine, and Thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” — Christ is glorified by his own operations of grace for us and in us, our faith in and obedience to him, and by our final, consummate salvation and everlasting glory by him (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14; 2:7; Revelation 5:9-13).
- Believers are kept in life, grace, and faith in Christ.
Verses 11-12 — “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” — God’s saints are here described as a people in the world, in hostile enemy territory, kept by God’s grace and power, and united as one body in Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6).
- Believers are those who shall have Christ’s joy fulfilled in themselves.
Verse 13 — “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” — This joy is the Joy of his grace (1 John 1:3-4) and the joy of his salvation (John 16:20; Hebrews 12:1-2). — “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy!”
- Believers are, because of their faith, the objects of the world’s hatred.
Verse 14 — “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” — The gospel we believe, the Savior we serve, the God we worship is despised by this world.
- Believers are left in this world to preach the gospel amid much evil and under the relentless assault of the evil one.
Verse 15 — “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” — Let nothing hinder faithful obedience to Christ. Our God will keep us from evil and from the evil one!
- Believers are sinners who have been sanctified (set apart and distinguished from the world) by the Word and truth of God.
Verses 16-17 — “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
- Every believer, every child of God is sent into this world as the servant of God almighty to do his will, glorify his name, and serve the interests of his Kingdom.
Verse 18 — “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”
- You and I, God’s elect, sinners who trust the Lord Jesus Christ, are the special objects of all that the Lord Jesus Christ came to do.
Verse 19 — “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” — The Son of God set himself apart to be a sin offering that we might be sanctified by hearing and believing the Gospel. Our sanctification is threefold. We are sanctified by God the Father in election (Jude 1), God the Son in redemption (1 Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 10:10), and God the Holy Ghost in regeneration (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13), through the instrumentality of the Word of God.
Save My Redeemed
Third, in verse 20-23, our Savior turned his attention specifically to us, his people who were yet to be saved. His prayer is this: Father, save my redeemed ones.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
Give Me My Reward
Then, in verses 24-26, the Lord Jesus prays, Father, give me the reward of my labor.
“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare [it]: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Soon, our Savior’s prayer shall be fully answered. He will have all his people with him in glory; and we shall have his joy fulfilled in us. In that great, blessed, glorious day, our sorrow shall be turned into joy; and our joy shall be full!
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21:3-7)
Donald S. Fortner, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church of Danville
2734 Old Stanford Road-Danville, Kentucky 40422-9438
Telephone (859) 236-8235 – E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org