The Pulpit Commentary

John 17:1-26 (John 17:1-26)

4. The high-priestly intercession . Audible communion of the Son with the Father . The prayer which now follows reveals, in the loftiest and sublimest form, the Divine humanity of the Son of man, and the fact that, in the consciousness of Jesus as the veritable Christ of God, there was actually blended the union of the Divine and human, and a perfect exercise of the prerogatives of both. The illimitable task which writers of the second century must have set themselves to accomplish, if they had by some unknown process conceived such a stupendous idea without any historical basis to support it, has actually been so effected, that a representation is given which adequately conveys such a synthesis. The author of the Gospel does, however, draw rather upon his memory of that night than upon his philosophical imagination for a passage which surpasses all literature in its setting forth the identity of being and power and love in the twofold personality of the God-Man. We are brought by it to the mercy-seat, into the heaven of heavens, to the very heart of God; and we find there a presentation of the most mysterious and incomprehensible love to the human race, embodied in the Person, enshrined in the words, of the only begotten Son. It need not perplex those who believe that we have the words of Jesus, that this prayer of sublime victory and glorious promise should be followed by the agony and the bloody sweat of Gethsemane, where the glorification of the Son of man passed into the advanced stage of his willing and perfect surrender to the Supreme Will. Hengstenberg finds explanation of John's silence touching that agony in the supplemental character of the Gospel, which does not repeat a description of a scene already familiar to all readers of the synoptic narrative. This may account for the mere form of the record, but does it meet the perplexity that arises as to whether the scene of Gethsemane could possibly follow John's narrative? Is not such a conception incompatible altogether with the cry, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me"? Our answer is a reference to John 12:27 , where there is the exact counterpart of the scene in the garden. Nor is a mysterious troubling of the Redeemer's soul elsewhere absent from the Johannine narrative. At the grave of Lazarus, as well as when the Greeks wrung from his lips the cry, "Father, save me from this hour," followed by "Father, glorify thy Name," we have the blending of an utterly indescribable affliction with a triumphant acceptance by him of the Divine purpose of his mission and the will of his Father. Throughout these discourses he is meditating his departure with all its accompanying grief and agony. He describes the way he is about to take as one which would be like the travail-pang of a new humanity; but in his capacity of living in the light of the Father's will, he treats the whole mystery of the cross, the grave, the resurrection, the ascension, as already achieved. Throughout this prayer he regards the work as finished, and the new order of things as already existent. Thus he had prayed for Lazarus and for his restoration from the grave, and he knew then that God heard him; but still he wept, and, groaning within himself, came to the sepulcher. It should also be remembered that ( John 14:30 ) he had expressly said that he was then about to encounter the prince of this world. The perfect humanity of Jesus, on which John continually insists, does entirely justify the rapid changes of mood and the vehemence of the emotions which were in their conflict issuing in sublime courage and perfect peace. The school of Renan, Strauss, and others, following the lead of Bret-schneider, see insuperable difficulties, because they have an idea of Christ's Person which would render it inconceivable and incredible.

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John 17:6-19 (John 17:6-19)

(2) The prayer for his disciples .

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John 17:11 (John 17:11)

And I am no more (no longer) in the world (cf. John 16:28 ). The earthly ministry is over; for a while he must leave them in the pitiless storm, bereft of his care and counsel, exposed to infinite peril and temptation. Headless, scattered, tempted to believe that all he had said to them was one huge delusion. And these are in the world , without me, without visible sight of the mirror in which thy glory has been reflected, and I come —I return— to thee . These are the conditions on their part and on mine, which justify this prayer for them; and my prayer is, Holy Father, keep —or, guard— them . This grand title stands here in solitary grandeur (though let John 17:25 , πάτερ δίκαιε , be noticed, and the fact that Revelation 6:10 speaks of "the Holy and True," and 1 John 2:20 of "the Holy One"). The very holiness of the Father is appealed to as the surest basis of the petition. They have already been taught to pray, "Hallowed [made holy] be thy Name." The eternal holiness and righteousness of God is involved in the saving and sanctification of the believer in Jesus. " Keep them, holy Father" (says our Lord), in and by thy Name, those whom thou hast given me. οὕς δέδωκάς μοι is the reading of the T.R., on the very feeble authority from the codices, simply D2, 69, and some versions. It is also thus quoted by Epiphanius twice; but the reading of all the best uncial manuscripts, א , A, B, C, L, Y, γ, δ, π , etc., numerous versions and quotations, is ῷ δέδωκάς κοι . Some very unimportant manuscripts read ὃ , which Godet prefers as practically equivalent to οὓς , regarded as a unity, "that which," and as calculated to explain the ῷ of the uncials, and the reading οὕς . Lachmann, Tischendorf (8th edit.), Tregelles, Meyer, Westcott and Herr, and R.T. all read ῷ , which is thrown by attraction to ὀνόματί into the dative, and requires the translation, Keep them ( in or by ) in the power of thy Name which thou hast given me . And since ὃ is a resolution of the attraction, it is quite as likely that it is a correction of ῷ as that the reverse process should have taken place. The expression is very peculiar, but not inexplicable. Philippians 2:9 is the best illustration of the clause. It reads, according to the true text, " He hath bestowed on him the Name ( τὸ ὄνομα ) which is above every name," i.e. the eternal Name, the incommunicable Name (cf. Revelation 2:17 ; Revelation 19:12 ) of Jehovah. Meyer objects to this that the Father's Name was simply given him as an ambassador or for purposes of revelation and manifestation. This may be a partial limitation of the thought. He has already said, " I have manifested thy Name, thy fatherhood to the men," etc. And now he adds, " Keep them in the power and grace of this glorious Name, of which my Person and message have been the full expression." That they may be one , united, formed into a unity of being, even as we are , not losing their personality, but blending and interchanging their interests and their affections after the Divine pattern of the Father and Son. The relations between Christians, which constitute the essential unity of their corporate being, are of the same kind as those which pertain to Christ and God, and prevail between them, therefore lying far behind the shifting phases of organization and human order, in the essence and substance of spiritual life. Some writers have found in this analogy between the union of believers and the hypostatic union of the Persons of the Godhead, either a species of tritheism in the Godhead, or a minimizing of the entire conception to what is called moral union between the Father-God and his Son Jesus Christ. But the effect of the utterance is rather to lift the idea of the unity of the body of Christ to a superlative height, and to interpret still further the nature of its oneness with the Father and Son (see Philippians 2:23 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary

John 17:6-11 (John 17:6-11)

Our Lord's prayer for his disciples.

As he had prayed for himself, he next prays for his disciples.

I. CHRIST 'S MANIFESTATION OF THE FATHER TO HIS DISCIPLES . "I have manifested thy Name to the men which thou gavest me out of the world."

1. He only could make such a discovery of the Divine mind and will

2. Those who received the revelation were God ' s . "Thine they were:"

(a) as his charge,

(b) as his subjects,

(c) as his apostles,

(d) as his reward.

II. THE APOSTLES ' FAITHFUL RECEPTION OF THE FATHER 'S WORD . "And they have kept thy Word." Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

1. Christ ' s ' Word is the Father ' s Word .

2. The disciples kept it

3. The complete loyalty of the disciples to the revelation of Christ .

III. OUR LORD 'S PRAYER FOR HIS DISCIPLES . "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me; for they are thine."

1. Christ is our gracious Intercessor .

2. Christ at present prays only for his disciples , who were to continue his work . The world is only for the moment outside the sphere of his supplications. It will by-and-by be reached by those for whom he first prays.

3. The answer to his prayers for the disciples is guaranteed by a threefold claim .

(a) in their grace

(b) and in their glory.

IV. THE DANGERS TO WHICH THE DISCIPLES WOULD BE EXPOSED . "And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee."

1. Christ thinks of his departure as all but already accomplished .

(a) by sending his Spirit;

(b) by interceding for his people ;

(c) by preparing a place for them;

(d) by triumphing over all his enemies.

2. The world is always a place of danger to the disciples .

(a) the lust of the flesh,

(b) the lust of the eye,

(c) and the pride of life.

V. OUR LORD 'S ENTREATY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF HIS DISCIPLES . "Holy Father, keep through thine own Name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are."

1. The term of address suggests the thought of the petition . The name, " Holy Father," suggests at once the filial relationship and the consecration which mark off our separation from the world.

2. It is the Father who will maintain this continued separation .

3. The end of this Divine keeping is the unity of the disciples in estrangement from the world . "That they may be one , as we are."

(a) for growth in grace,

(b) for comfort,

(c) for the furtherance of the gospel.

(a) by carnal pride,

(b) by selfish interests,

(c) by intellectual restlessness ,

(d) by the diversity of human temperaments.

(a) that man may attain to a union like that between the Father and the Son;

(b) that God may be thus abundantly glorified;

(c) that the world may be thus attracted to Christ by the visible oneness and love of his disciples.

- The Pulpit Commentary

John 17:9-11 (John 17:9-11)

Jesus praying for his own.

I. THE EXCLUSION . We have here a striking illustration of the definiteness of the prayers of Jesus. He knows exactly for whom he is praying, and what he wants for them. He defines them positively, and he defines them negatively. It is not enough for him to call them his own.' It must also be said why they are his own. If they belonged to the world, and had in them, unchecked and unmixed, the spirit of the world, they would not be his. This is a very decided exclusion for the purpose which Jesus has in view; but no one who understands the whole drift of the work of Jesus will say that it is a harsh exclusion. When Jesus prays for his own, he is really doing the best he can for the world. What can the Father of Jesus do for the world, so long as it remains the world? He has nothing to give that the world cares for. What God bestows on the world is given irrespective of prayer—given to all; given, a great deal of it, to the lower creation as well. If more is to be given, it is because of the appearing of a spirit of recipiency which is in itself a sign of passing from the world to the Church. When Jesus prays for his own, he is really praying that they may so let their light shine as to attract and persuade the world. The very best things that Jesus can do for the world are to be done through the character of his own people.

II. THE GROUNDS OF THE REQUEST . Jesus prays to the Father for those whom the Father had given to him. What a view of the claims of the heavenly Father is here! When we give anything it implies that we have a right to give it. We have made it our own by purchase or manufacture; We could not take any human life and make a present of it to somebody else that he might use it for his own purposes. There would be a protest at once. But God makes this claim, and gives over human souls to the control of Jesus. To that control and to no other. The same truth is expressed when Jesus says that all authority is given to him in heaven and on earth. What an inspiration there should be in the thought that the Father reckons us worthy to be bestowed on the Son for him to use! What a folly and misuse of ourselves if we, who are intended for gifts to Jesus, should refuse to Jesus the necessary control! What an explanation of the frequent misery and waste of life! If Jesus cannot get a proper use of his own, how can we turn it to anything but misuse? But Jesus goes on to say how that in receiving he only receives to give back. "All mine are thine, and thine are mine." No wonder that, in the first fullness of Pentecostal blessing, the disciples had all things in common. The Father and the Son have all things in common. The Father gives humanity to the Son that Jesus may send out consecrated men and women to glorify him. And then these consecrated men and women, used as they only can be used by Jesus, are rendered up to the Father who bestowed them on the Son. The heavenly Father is the great Fountain of the highest good, and all that he gives comes back to him at last, having ministered strength and gladness to human hearts innumerable. All that is in God and all that is in Jesus are for us; and we are, not for ourselves—that is only a small part of the truth—but for the Son in the Father, and the Father in the Son. There is no serving the Son without serving the Father, nor glorifying the Son without glorifying the Father. And we need that the Father should strengthen and equip us through invisible means for all this serving and glorifying, because the Son no longer remains visibly in the world. The invisible ministry is far to excel in depth and extent the visible one.—Y.

- The Pulpit Commentary