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 17:20-26 (John 17:20-26)

(3) Prayer for the Church Catholic in all time .

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John 17:23 (John 17:23)

I in them, and thou in me . He does not say, "Thou in them, as thou in me," nor "They in thee, and I in thee;" but he includes in the ἡμεῖς of the previous verse, ἐγὼ καὶ σύ , and distinctly regards himself as the mediating link of relation between the Father and the disciples. The ἐγὼ is that of the Son of God, manifested in Christ's consciousness of the God-man-hood; the σύ is the eternal and non-incarnate God. God is in him, as he is in them. They are in him, as he is in the Father. That they may be perfected , completely realizing the end of their being and the meaning of the gift of eternal life, fully ripened in their graces until they reach up into one , into the fullness of the stature of the perfect Man, until they become the one new and immortal body of the living Christ, ( εἰς ἓν indicates the sublime result so far as they are concerned). Each individual believer reaching the highest perfection of his being, as according to his own capacity and function he fills his place in the one living body of the Lord The end is not here, however, so far as others are concerned; for this unity, when consummated, is to bring about a yet further result on this earth, and in order that the world may come to know ( γινώσκῃ .) that thou didst send me, and lovedst them as thou lovedst me. Our Lord has advanced upon the assertion of John 17:21 ,

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John 17:22-24 (John 17:22-24)

A prayer that the disciples may share in the Lord's glory.

Jesus supports his petition by declaring what he has already done for his disciples.

I. HE HAS ALREADY IMPARTED TO THEM A SHARE IN ' HIS GLORY . "And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them."

1. This glory is not apostolic office or gift of miracle .

2. It is not the glory of the future kingdom .

3. It is the glory of adoption . As Christ's glory consisted in his Sonship, so that of believers consisted in their filial dignity, as children of God and brethren of himself as the eider Brother.

4. The effect of this glory is twofold .

(a) Christ's mission would be manifest in its blessed and enduring effects.

(b) The Father's love to believers would be manifest as a love resembling that with which he regards his Son.

( α ) He loves them in Christ;

( β ) he loves them through Christ;

( γ ) his love is the guarantee that he will uphold them, as he did Christ, assist them in his service, provide for their wants, and reward them for their services.

5. Christ ' s will is that his disciples should share his throne in the heavens . "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."

(a) Love seeks the companionship of the loved.

(b) Heaven is wherever Christ is.

(c) Union with Christ draws after it everlasting communion with him.

(a) not his essential glory, for that could not be given him,

(b) but the glory of a consummated fellowship effected between God and man.

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John 17:20-23 (John 17:20-23)

Christian unity.

Notice it—

I. IN ITS IMPORT AND SCOPE .

1. Believers are to be in unity . Many and yet one, one and yet many. Many members, but one body; many bodies, but one Spirit; many believers , but one spiritual community. They are to be one with each other, with Christ, and with the Father.

2. Their union is to be universal . "Tidal they all may be one." There is to be no exception. It is not optional, but the universal rule of the society and law of its great Head. They are to be one:

3. The union is to be perfect . They are to be perfected into one. It is not a sham union, but a real one; and perfection is its goal, although gradually attained. Something like this is the import, scope, and ideal of this grand union, of which Christ is the Author, President, and Inspiration.

II. IN ITS HIGH MODEL AND BASIS .

1. Its model is Divine . "As thou, Father, art," etc. Its model is the union of the Father and the Son. What union was this?

2. Its basis is Divine . "That they may be in us, and one in us."

III. IN ITS PRACTICAL AND EFFICIENT MEANS . How does the Divine go forth and effect the unity of the human? What are the means used?

1. The union of believers with Christ by faith , and his union with them . Faith brings Christ to the soul, and Christ brings that soul to the Father and to all in him. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may," etc. These are the efficient means used and the order of their operation. Thus faith unites believers to him, to the Father, and to each other. As the sun is the center of union in the solar system, so Christ is in the Christian system.

2. The endowment of the Divine glory . "The glory which," etc. What glory was given to Christ which he also gave to his disciples?

3. The prayer of Jesus on their behalf .

IV. IN ITS SPECIAL AND ULTIMATE PURPOSES .

1. The perfection of each individual believer . Perfect unity of all can only effect the perfection of each one. Not one believer can be perfected till all believers are. No member of the body can be absolutely free from rain until every member is. Believers must be perfected into one ere one can be absolutely perfect.

2. The conversion of the world .

LESSONS .

1. Christian union is of supreme importance . It is the goal of Christian life and the perfection of Christian character, and essential to individual and social sanctification. It is the central idea of Jesus and the burden of his prayer, and with regard to Christian character. With this his great prayer ends.

2. The Christian Church lacks in nothing so much as in this . It is essentially imperfect in the present state, especially taken as a whole; but no virtue today is so absent from it as real spiritual union.

3. This should be diligently and prayerfully cultivated . All hindrances to it should be excluded—which, in a few words, are selfishness, self-seeking, and pride, with their injurious progeny. Let these be driven out, and let the Church make the same efforts for inward and spiritual union as it makes for outward reforms; then it will shine with the true glory of the Lord, with the true light of its mission, and with convincing effects upon the world.

4. To attain this let Christ occupy his proper position in each believer , and in the Church as a whole . Let him be the sole Prophet, Priest, and King. Let his self-sacrificing life and love be the center, example, and inspiration of every believing heart; then we shall soon have a true Church of Christ on earth.—B.T.

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