Jesus’ Prayer In John 17


‘After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.’ John 17:1-5

Jesus’ High Priestly prayer

Traditionally so-called ‘Jesus’ high priestly prayer’ because ‘in it he solemnly consecrates himself to be priest and victim in the approaching sacrifice’. It’s the longest recorded prayer of the Saviour, we don’t know where it was spoken.

Did Jesus stay in the Upper Room after saying, ‘let us go now’? John 14:31. Was it in the courtyard of the Upper Room before He set out for the Garden of Gethsemane? Was it in the temple court, just before leaving the city? Was it on the Mount of Olives, on the way to the garden? Nobody knows.

The prayer marks the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, in it, He looks forward to His work carried on by His apostles, and to those who will subsequently believe in Him through their teaching.

Jesus prays for Himself

In John 17:1-5 we see that Jesus has accomplished all that he set out to do, He has passed God’s message on, He has made God known, now there remains only death and beyond it the Glory, He renounced to become a man. The idea of looking towards heaven during prayer was very common at the time, as is even now. It can’t be used as proof to indicate that Jesus was by this time in the open, as people would and still do look upward during prayer.

The great hour had now just about arrived, Jesus was about to be glorified, this didn’t only refer to His imminent crucifixion, but all the events that were inevitably going to follow, His resurrection, ascension and coronation. These had to follow, it was inevitable the plan couldn’t fail as Jesus’ overwhelming driving force was His love for man. If He had chosen to use His power to prevent His crucifixion, all this coming redemption couldn’t occur, but His love ensured all went well.

‘Father the hour has come,’ He said in Cana John 2:4 ‘My hour has not yet come’. To His brothers, He said, ‘My time has not yet come, my time has not yet fully come’, John 7:6-8. Enemies couldn’t arrest Him ‘because his hour had not yet come’ John 7:30. Now, His chosen death is imminent, John 12:23 / John 13:1 / John 13:31.

‘Glorify your Son’ is repeated in John 17:5 and is the only personal petition in the prayer, and even this is ‘that my Son may glorify you,’ extol, honour, magnify you. To enemies, the cross was the ultimate in humiliation, Galatians 3:13, but to Jesus, it was a means of glorification, it honoured and exalted Him, Philippians 1:21.

The word ‘glorify’ is used in a very broad sense, it’s an indication of all that is good, bright, blessed, and godly, much more than the word generally conveys. The whole magnitude, radiance and heavenly splendour of God are described.

Jesus has been granted total authority over all people, He now seeks the opportunity to grant eternal life to those who accept it. It’s available to all, Jesus has the authority to give it to all and He has the desire to give it to all. ‘Eternal life’ consists in knowing God, the only true, and Jesus, sent by God.

Note the word ‘know’ in John 17:3 has the sense of ‘keep on knowing’. All that is necessary is for them to accept it. Eternal life here is defined as they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

This doesn’t tell of a superficial theoretical knowledge of God, but rather a deep understanding of His love brought about only by a personal relationship with Him. This verse doesn’t endeavour to tell how one gained this eternal life but gives a definition of the finished product, true knowledge of the sender and the sent.

Jesus says in John 17:4 that ‘I glorified ‘honoured, magnified, exalted’ you on the earth’ means He had always been fully obedient to the Father, John 5:30 / John 6:38. The same principle is obvious in Matthew 5:16, the righteous life of disciples brings glory to the Father.

When He says, ‘having accomplished the work which you gave me to do’ means Jesus has completed the task. That task included dying for a sinful world. He hadn’t yet died but He speaks as if also this suffering has already been endured, so certain is it that he will endure it.

Jesus then prays for a full restoration of his pre-incarnate glory, John 1:1 / Philippians 2:6-11. Jesus looks forward to being with the Father and receiving the just reward for a job well done, He seems to seek a restoration to the ‘good old days’ before He came to earth when He was the Word of God.

Jesus prays for the apostles

‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me, and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.’ John 17:6-19

In John 17:6-12 we see that Jesus sees that the disciples He has trained during the last few years are to be attacked by Satan in the last hours. He doesn’t ask that they be relieved from this attack, but that they have the strength to cope with the troubles on the way. Jesus specifically seeks assistance for those who are to be left behind and He claims that they were God’s and that God gave the disciples to Jesus to train for this position of high responsibility.

During his three-year ministry, they have depended on Him as little children depend on a loving parent. Now He is about to leave them, He has promised that another Counsellor will take His place, John 14:15-18. But they are still unprepared for His death.

Now He commits them to His Father’s care. John 17:6 He had ‘manifested’, revealed God’s ‘name’ to the apostles. God’s ‘name’ stands for His Person or Being. The Father can only be adequately understood or fully appreciated, through the words and works of Jesus, John 14:9 / Colossians 2:9.

The meaning of the phrase, ‘they are yours’ is interesting, Calvinists wrongly use this to support their theory of special election. Now election is the immutable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He had, according to the most free good pleasure of His own will, of mere grace, chosen out of the whole human race, fallen by its own fault from its primaeval integrity into sin and destruction.

The fact is, those who rejected Jesus’ teaching and were therefore condemned, were people who wouldn’t come to Him, they weren’t those who couldn’t believe, John 5:39-40 / Acts 13:46. ‘They, ‘apostles’ have kept your word’, this is the word, ‘tereo’ and it means to watch over, preserve, keep. It occurs twice in Acts 12:5-6, ‘kept…guarding’.

A frequent theme in Jesus’ teaching, is the ‘keeping’ of His and His Father’s commandments, John 8:51-52 / John 8:55 / John 14:15 / John 14:21 / John 14:23-24 / John 15:10 / John 15:20. The apostles are far from perfect, their faith is weak, John 16:31-32; but they have held onto the message.

John 17:7-8 says the apostles ‘know’, understand, that the words and works of Jesus are those of God Himself, John 14:10. This understanding was the result of receiving the ‘words’, teaching, God had given Him, John 17:14.

They ‘know in truth’, means know truly, are sure, that He came from God and was sent by God. The apostles have accepted the word, this we saw in verse thirty-one of the previous chapter. They accepted, unlike the Pharisees, they knew, with certainty the divine origin of Jesus, they believed, John 1:7 / John 1:12 / John 20:31.

In John 17:9-19 Jesus makes specific requests for the apostles, ‘I am praying for them, I am not praying for the world’, John 17:9. The important aspects are why He prays for them, and what He desires for them. He prays for them because, they are God’s possession, ‘for they are yours’ John 17:9-10, 1 Peter 2:9, ‘a people for His, ‘God’s’ possession.’

In them Jesus is honoured, exalted, ‘I am glorified in them’, John 17:10, 1 Peter 2:9, ‘that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ They had to remain in a hostile world while He returned to the Father, ‘they are in the world’, John 17:11.

During His ministry, He had personally protected them, ‘I kept them’, ‘tereo’, as in John 17:6, this literally means, ‘I was keeping them’. Also, ‘I have guarded them’ this is a different word, ‘phulaso’, from this word we get ‘sentinel’, ‘phulax’, Acts 5:23. For three years He had cared for them personally, now He must return to the Father, John 17:13.

Again, Jesus specifically asks for protection of the apostles, praying that they would be united. The idea of unity is very clear throughout the New Testament, with man’s denominations never being given the all-clear. Jesus affirms that all but one of the men has been kept safe, and He prays for this to continue. One doomed to destruction, son of destruction, Judas Iscariot.

In John 17:13-18 Jesus acknowledges that He is soon to come to the Father and gives the assurance that all that was given to Himself in so far as the world is concerned, has now been passed on to the disciples. They, as with us, are no longer of the world although they and we are still in it. We also now enjoy eternal life, and that is the life we now enjoy, not the short godless life of man.

He asks that God Sanctify the disciples, in the past, only priests could be so set apart, from the people. They were all set apart for the use by God, no longer for human use. In John 17:15 Jesus says, ‘keep them from the evil one’, the apostles had heard their Master refer often to Satan, John 12:31 / John 14:30 / John 16:11 / Luke 22:31-32 / 1 John 2:13 / 1 John 5:18.

‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’, in the New Testament usage, the word, ‘hagiazo’ means to set apart for God’s use we can see this used in and illustrated by Exodus 28:41 / Exodus 29:1 / Exodus 29:36 / Exodus 40:13.

God can only sanctify those who believe, obey, and live by the truth, His word. There are no instances, not even in the case of the apostles, of persons going on unto a more perfect state of sanctification without the constant necessity of their remaining under the tutelage of the revealed will of God.

Notice in John 17:12 the description of Judas, ‘the son of perdition’ this is a term meaning one who is doomed to destruction, destined to be lost, the same phrase is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The word, ‘Apollumi’ gives us the idea, not extinction, but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being. Luke 16, the lost sheep and son.

Notice the spiritual character of the followers of Jesus, in John 17:14 / John 17:16, ‘they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.’ The world ‘kosmos’ is a human society opposed to, and alienated from God, John 7:7 / John 8:23 / John 14:30.

The apostles were ‘in the world’, John 17:11, and their Master ‘sent them into the world’ John 17:18 but like Him, they were ‘not of the world’, which means they didn’t belong to the world. Galatians 6:14 / James 1:27 / 1 John 2:15-17.

The teaching of the apostles is authoritative, Matthew 10:40 / Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus was set apart and now He passes this on to the disciples. Jesus draws many parallels between Himself and the disciples at this point.

Jesus ‘Not of the world.’

Disciples ‘Not of the world’.

Jesus ‘Sent into the world.’

Disciples ‘Sent into the world’.

Jesus ‘Truly Sanctified.’

Disciples, ‘truly sanctified’.

Now the disciples are ready to go into the world and preach the good news requiring only one thing to be completed – that which now lay before Jesus.

Jesus prays for all believers

‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’ John 17:20-26

In John 17:20-23 Jesus prays for, ‘those who believe in me through their ‘the apostle’s word.’ The word ‘believe’ is present tense, but the church isn’t yet in existence.

He is speaking prophetically, seeing future events as if they have already occurred. Jesus prays for us even while Judas Iscariot is walking towards him with the mob.

Finally, Jesus prays for all the believers that are to come, this prayer is for us as well as all Christians through the ages before and still come, again the prayer follows the path of unity. This is truly a sign that the divided ‘Christian’ world of today is unacceptable to the Lord. The results of unity are given, ‘the world may believe that you have sent me; they may be one as we are; you love them even as you love me’.

Much is lost due to the disunity within the Christian world, we have distorted the growth of the church and the members within. Remember Jesus prays for unity, not ‘union’, or ‘uniformity’, some think we must agree on all things, but this isn’t the case, we should be unified in doctrine, not opinion, Ephesians 4:4-6. Notice that others will come to ‘believe’ in Jesus through the apostle’s word, this is the only way faith in Jesus can come, Romans 10:17.

This is what He desires for all believers, ‘that they may all be one.’ He desires their unity, and indicates the nature and degree in view, ‘even as you, Father, are in me and I in you’, the harmony existing between the Father and Son is precisely what He desires among His people. He had already expressed the same desire for the apostles, John 17:11.

He says in John 17:23, ‘that they may become perfectly one’ this means, perfectly united, brought to perfect unity. The ‘glory’ given by the Father to the Son is given to all believers, this is the future glory of final salvation in heaven, Romans 8:16-17 / Philippians 3:20-21 / 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 / 2 Timothy 2:11-12.

The Saviour is looking toward Cavalry, but He speaks as if the battle is already won, and the glory already received, John 17:5 is also already shared with His followers.

The unity of believers is ‘so that the world may know that you have loved them even as you have loved me’, John 17:23. The true, spiritual unity of Jesus’ followers can only be explained on the basis of God’s love.

In John 17:24 Jesus clearly states the desire He has for all Christians, He urgently and deeply wants all men to be with Him, He doesn’t want to see one astray, but wants all to be with Him in the glory that comes from God the Father.

He wants them to dwell in his unquenchable love and glory for all time and never to escape into the darkness around. The fact that God loved the Son before the creation of the world resulted in this majestic glory.

His desire for His people, ‘may be with me where I am’, John 14:3. ‘To behold my glory,’ seeing and sharing in His glory, Matthew 25:31 / Colossians 3:4 / Hebrews 2:10. The glory ‘doxa’ the Father gave to the Son was because of His love for Him, ‘before the foundation of the world’. In His pre-incarnate state, the ‘Logos’ existed before creation and shared the glory of Deity, John 1:1-3 / John 8:58 / John 17:3.

The statement made in John 17:25-26 refers not to the people being the Pharisee and others, but to the disciples who in the previous chapter had realised whom they were truly dealing with. The world doesn’t know God, as if they did they would have recognised the Father’s own Son.



"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."