John 17 Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
John 17
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
XVII.

[(3) LOVE MANIFESTED IN HIS INTERCESSORY PRAYER (John 17:1-26). HE PRAYS—

(a)For Himself; the glory of the Son (John 17:1-5);

(b)For the disciples; their union with the Father and the Son (John 17:6-19);

(c)For all believers; their union (John 17:20-21); their communion with the Godhead (John 17:22-24); which results from the revelation to them of the Father (John 17:25-26).]

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:
(1) These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven.—Comp. Note on John 14:31. If the view thus adopted is the correct one, it follows that the prayer of this chapter, as well as the discourses which preceded it, was uttered as they were preparing to leave the chamber after supper. The words “to heaven” ought not to be taken to imply that he looked up to the sky, and must, therefore, have been in the open air. The upward look is naturally expressive of feeling, and irrespective of place. This chapter contains, then, the words uttered by our Lord, with eyes lifted up to heaven, in prayer to the Father. It is often spoken of as the High Priest’s Prayer (comp. John 17:19). He who would understand it must remember that he is in the Holy of Holies, and must approach it with eyes and heart uplifted to the God to whom and by whom it was spoken.

Bengel speaks of this chapter as the simplest in word, and profoundest in thought, in the whole Bible. The key to the thought is in the presence of the Spirit, who shall guide into all truth (John 16:26).

Father, the hour is come.—“Father,” without any addition, as in John 17:5; John 17:21; John 17:24. Comp. “Our Father,” in the prayer taught to the disciples, and “Holy Father” and “Righteous Father” in John 17:11; John 17:25. In the first petition of this prayer the disciples are not identified with Him, and yet He does not by the use of the singular person exclude them. Through Him they and all believers receive the spirit of adoption, and cry, as He cried, “Abba, Father.” For the thought of the hour, comp. John 12:23; John 12:28; John 13:1; John 13:31-32.

Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.—What is meant by glorifying the Son is further explained in John 17:5. But this implies the dark path of death, which has to be trodden before that glory will be attained. (Comp. John 12:23 et seq.) The glorifying of the Father by the Son is the manifestation of God’s glory in the completion of the Messianic work by the mission of the Advocate and the future victories of the Church. This is further explained in John 17:2-4.

As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
(2) As thou hast given him power over all flesh.—Better, According as thou gavest Him . . . This is the ground on which the prayer in John 17:1 is based. (Comp. John 10:36; John 13:3.) The glory for which He asks is in accordance with the decree which appointed His Messianic work.

“All flesh” represents a Greek translation of a Hebrew phrase. It occurs again in Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20; Luke 3:6; Acts 2:17; Romans 3:20; 1Corinthians 1:29; 1Corinthians 15:39; Galatians 2:16; 1Peter 1:24. St. John uses it in this place only. Its especial signification is humanity as such, considered in its weakness and imperfection.

That he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.—Literally, That all whom thou gavest Him, He may give to them eternal life. (Comp. John 17:6, and Note on John 6:37 et seq.) The word “all” is in the Greek a neuter singular, and signifies collectively the whole body of humanity given to Christ. The word for “to them” is masculine and plural, and signifies the individual reception on the part of those to whom eternal life is given. (Comp. Notes on John 6:39-40.)

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
(3) And this is life eternal.—For these words, which are more frequent in St. John than in any other of the New Testament writers, comp. John 3:15-16; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 5:39; John 6:27; John 6:40; John 6:47; John 6:54; John 6:68; John 10:28; John 12:25; John 12:50; 1John 1:2; 1John 2:15; 1John 3:15; 1John 5:11; 1John 5:13; 1John 5:20. The thought of the previous verse is that the Messianic work of Christ is to give eternal life to those whom God has given Him. The thought of the following verse is that He has accomplished this work. In this verse He shows in what its accomplishment consists—viz., in revealing to men the only true God through Jesus Christ.

That they might know thee the only true God.—Better, That they might recognise Thee as the only true God. (Comp. Notes on John 1:9; John 14:7.)

And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.—Better, And Him, whom Thou didst send, Jesus, as Messiah. Eternal life consists in the knowledge of the Father as the only Being answering to the ideal thought of God; and in this knowledge manifested in Him, whom God anointed and sent into the world-to declare His attributes and character. Only in the Word made flesh can we hear the voice of mercy, forgiveness, love, fatherhood; which comes to men as the breath of life, so that they become living souls.

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
(4) I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work . . .—Better, I glorified Thee on earth: I finished the work . . . The former sentence is .explained by the latter. God was glorified in the completion of the Messianic work of Christ. For this conception of the work of life, which includes the whole life as manifesting God to man, comp. Notes on John 5:36; John 9:4; John 10:25 et al.

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
(5) And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self.—These words are exactly parallel with the commencement of the previous verse. “I,” “Thou,” “Thee—Me,” “on earth,” “with Thine own self.” (Comp. John 13:31-32.)

With the glory which I had with thee before the world was.—This clause admits of but one meaning—viz., that Jesus claimed for Himself the possession of the divine glory in His pre-existent state before the world was; and that He claimed this in personality distinct from, but in essence one with God. (Comp. John 1:1; John 1:18, and on the whole passage, Notes on Philippians 2:4-9.) The special importance of the thought here is that it is uttered in the words of Christ Himself, and that these words are a prayer to the Father. There can be no explanation of John 17:1-5 of this chapter, which denies that our Lord Jesus Christ claimed for Himself that He was divine, and co-eternal with the Father.

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.
(6) I have manifested (better, I manifested) thy name unto the men which thou gavest me (better, Thou hast given Me) out of the world.—This manifestation of the name of God is the making Him known as the only true God, and the glorifying Him on earth of John 17:3-4. For the special form in which the thought is expressed (“Thy name”), comp. Note on Matthew 6:9.

He thinks of the disciples as a body separated from the world (comp. Note on John 15:19), and as given to Him by the Father. (Comp. Note on John 6:37.)

Thine they were, and thou gavest (better, hast given) them me.—The meaning of these words is that they were morally prepared by the earlier manifestation of God for the fuller manifestation in Christ. They were God’s in more than name, and therefore when Christ was revealed to them, they recognised Him of whom Moses and the prophets did speak. (Comp. John 1:37 et seq., and especially Notes on John 5:46; John 6:37; John 8:47.)

And they have kept thy word.—Comp. Notes on John 8:51; John 14:23. He says here, “Thy word,” not “My word,” because the thought of these verses (John 17:6-8) is that they were originally and were still the Father’s. They had been given to the Son, but this was only the completion of the revelation of the Father to them. Christ’s word was that of the Father who sent Him. (Comp. Notes on John 7:16; John 12:48-49.)

Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
(7) Now they have known . . .—Better, Now they do know. The word means “They have come to know, and do know.” (Comp. Note on John 16:30.) This is the result of their spiritual training—in its fulness, indeed, still future, but regarded as in the immediate present.

All things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.—We ought to assign no limit to the extent of these words. The lesson He had been teaching them, and which they were about fully to know, was that the whole life of Christ—the words He had spoken (John 12:49), the works He had done (John 5:36)—was a manifestation of the Father.

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.
(8) For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.—Our Lord explains in this verse how the disciples attained to the knowledge He had spoken of in John 17:7, and lays stress in the first place on His own work in teaching them, “I, on My part, have given unto them,” and on the matter taught as that which the Father had committed unto Him (John 12:49).

And they have received them.—Not less emphatic is the work of the disciples themselves. “They on their part received them.” Others had been taught, and did not receive. The teaching was the same; the varying effect was in the heart of the hearer. (Comp. John 1:12; John 1:18.)

He has spoken of the teaching and the reception. He proceeds to the two-fold result.

And have known (better, and knew) surely that I came out from thee.—Comp. Notes on John 3:2; John 16:30.

And they have believed (better, and they believed) that thou didst send me.—The addition of this clause is in part to be explained as the Hebrew fulness of expression, and in part as an advance on the truth, “I came out from Thee.” That He came from God they knew by the harmony of His doctrine with the voice of God, which was already speaking in their consciences. But more than this, they believed Him to be the sent One, the Messiah, whom they expected (John 17:3).

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
(9) I pray for them: I pray not for the world.—Better, I am praying for them: I am not praying for the world. Both pronouns are emphatic. “I who have during my work on earth taught them;” “they who have received the truth” (John 17:8). “I who am about to leave the world;” “they who will remain in the world” (John 17:11). The tense is the strict present, referring to the prayer which He is at this moment uttering, and not to His general practice, which the Authorised version may be taken to express. Against any limitation of the prayer of our Lord, see John 17:21, and His own prayer for His enemies, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Comp. also His command to His disciples to pray for “them which despitefully used them” (Matthew 5:44). The present prayer was like that which pious Rabbis were accustomed to offer for their pupils. (Comp. Schöttgen’s Note here.) It is from its very nature applicable only to disciples. He is leaving them, and commends them to His Father’s care.

But for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.—This is the special claim on which He commends them to the Father. They were the Father’s before they were given to the Son. By that gift they have become the Father’s more fully (John 17:6-8). They are the Father’s, for all things which are the Son’s are the Father’s, and all things which are the Father’s are the Son’s (John 17:10).

And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
(10) And all mine are thine, and thine are mine.—Better, And all My things are Thine, and Thy things are Mine. The Authorised version leaves the impression that the pronouns are masculine, and that persons are exclusively meant; whereas the words are all-inclusive, and assert absolute community in all things between the Father and the Son.

And I am glorified in them.—The division of verses is unfortunate, as the last words of this verse are closely connected with the last words of John 17:9, and the general assertion which intervenes is a parenthesis. The thought is, “For they are Thine (and all My things are Thine, and Thy things are Mine), and I am glorified in them.” The fact that Christ is glorified in them forms, then, a second reason for His special prayer for them. The tense is perfect. Its accomplishment is already in part realised (John 17:6-8; comp. John 15:8), and is more fully to be realised in that future of the Spirit’s work which all through this chapter is regarded as present. (Comp. Note on John 16:14.)

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.
(11) And now I am no more in the world.—The immediate future is still regarded as present. The words have a special reference to the interval between His death and the day of Pentecost, which would be for the disciples a time of darkness and danger, when they would have special need of the Father’s care.

Holy Father.—Comp. John 17:1; John 17:24-25. There is a special fitness in the word “Holy” here, as in opposition to the world. The disciples were left in the world, but they were not of the world (John 17:14). These were spiritually God’s children, separated from the world (John 17:6), and He commits them to the Holy Father, that He may keep them from the evil of the world.

Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.—The reading is slightly doubtful, but if we take what would certainly seem to be the true text, the rendering should be, Keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me. (Comp. John 17:12.) The Authorised version renders the same words by “through Thy name” in this verse, and by “in Thy name” in John 17:12. The thought appears to be that the revelation of the nature of God by Christ to the world (John 17:6), was that which He Himself received from the Father. “I have not spoken of Myself, but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment what I should say and what I should speak.” (Comp. Note on John 12:49.)

That they may be one, as we are.—This clause depends upon the words, “Keep them in Thy name.” They had so far realised the revelation of God that they had known Christ’s whole life to be the utterance of God to their spirits (John 17:6-8). He prays that they may be kept in this knowledge in order that they may so know the Father through Him, as to become themselves one with the Father.

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.
(12) While I was with them in the world.—Comp. the opening words of John 17:11. During His presence with them there was not this special need for commending them to the Father’s care. His relation to them now is as that of a parent blessing and praying for His children before He is taken away from them. (Comp. John 13:33.)

I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept.—Better (comp. previous verse), I kept them in Thy name which Thou gavest Me, and guarded them. The pronoun is emphatic. “While I was in the world I kept them. I am now praying that Thou wouldest keep them.” The words “kept” and “guarded” differ slightly in meaning, the former pointing to the preservation in the truth revealed to them, and the latter to the watchfulness by means of which this result was obtained. The former may be compared to the feeding of the flock, the latter to the care which protects from the wild beasts around. (Comp. John 10:28-30.)

And none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.—Better, None of them perished, except the son of perdition. The tense is the same as that of the word “guarded.” The Good Shepherd watched His flock, and such was His care that none perished but the “son of perdition.” Of him the words carefully state that “he perished.” He, then, was included in “them which Thou gavest Me.” For him there was the same preservation and the same guardianship as for those who remained in the fold. The sheep wandered from the flock, and was lost by his own act. (Comp. especially Notes on John 6:37-39; John 6:71. See also John 18:9.)

The term, “son of perdition,” is a well-known Hebrew idiom, by which the lack of qualitative adjectives is supplied by the use of the abstract substantives, which express that quality. A disobedient child is, e.g., “a son of disobedience;” other common instances are “children of light,” “children of darkness.” A “son of perdition” is one in whose nature there is the quality expressed by “perdition.” The phrase is used in Isaiah 57:4 to express the apostacy of the Israelites (in English version, “children of transgression”). It occurs once again in 2Thessalonians 2:3, of the “man of sin.” (Comp. Notes there.) It is used, in the Gospel of Nicodemus, of the devil. In the present passage it is difficult to express the meaning in English, because we have no verb of the same root as the abstract substantive “perdition,” and no abstract substantive of the same root as the verb “perish.” No exact translation can therefore give in English the point of our Lord’s words, “And none of them perished except him whose nature it was to perish.” Here, as often (comp. Note on John 10:16), the reader who can consult Luther’s German will find that he exactly hits the sense: “Und ist keiner von ihnen verloren ohne das verlorne Kind.”

That the scripture might be fulfilled.—Comp. Note on John 13:18, and Acts 1:20.

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
(13) And now I come to thee.—Comp. the first words of John 17:12, with which these are in contrast.

And these things I speak in the world.—The thought is that He is about to leave them, and that He utters this prayer in their hearing (comp. John 11:42) that they may have the support of knowing that He who had kept them while with them, had solemnly committed them to His Father’s care. The prayer itself was a lesson, and this thought is to be remembered in the interpretation of it.

That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.—Comp. Notes on John 15:11; John 16:24. The joy here thought of is that which supported Him in all the sorrow and loneliness of His work on earth, and came from the never-failing source of the Father’s presence with Him. (Comp. Note on John 16:32.) He would have them fulfilled with the abundance of this joy.

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.
(14) I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them.—The terms “I” and ‘“the world” are opposed to each other. The world’s hatred followed necessarily from the fact that Christ had given them God’s word, and that by it they had been separated from the world. (Comp. Note on John 17:6.)

Because they are not of the world.—Comp. Note on John 15:18.

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
(15) I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world.—The thought may naturally have come to their minds that they would be most effectually kept from the hatred and danger of which He had spoken if they were to be with Him taken out of the world. But there is for them a work in the world (John 17:18; John 17:24). He has finished the work His Father gave Him to do; He has glorified the Father on the earth (John 17:4). There is a work for them to glorify Him (John 17:10), and He prays not that they should be taken out of the world before their work is done. The Christian ideal is not freedom from work, but strength to do it; not freedom from temptation, but power to overcome it; not freedom from suffering, but joy in an abiding sense of the Father’s love; not absence from the world, but grace to make the world better for our presence; not holy lives driven from the world, and living apart from it, but holy lives spent in the world and leavening it.

But that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.—Comp. Note on Matthew 6:13. The usage of St. John is, beyond question, in favour of the masculine. The only other passages where he uses the word in the singular are 1John 2:13-14; 1John 3:12; 1John 5:18-19. We have to bear in mind also that the present passage occurs in the second “Lord’s Prayer,” and that His prayer for them may with probability be interpreted in the same sense as the words in which He taught them to pray. On the whole, therefore, it seems likely, but yet is by no means certain, that we ought to read here, “that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one.”

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
(16) They are not of the world.—These words are repeated from John 17:14. The thought of their being still in the world leads on to their mission in the world, and the prayer passes from the thought of preservation to that of their sanctification for their work. Their fitness for this is prominent in this verse. Already they are not of the world, even as He is not of the world.

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
(17) Sanctify them through thy truth.—Better, in Thy truth. Truth was the sphere in which their sanctification was to take place. They had through Christ received the Father’s word, which was truth, and had passed into a new region of life, separate from the world (John 17:6-8; John 17:14-16). He has prayed that the Father would preserve them in this, and now He prays further that the Father would in this new region of life set them apart for the work to which He had sent them (John 17:18).

The idea at the root of the word rendered “sanctify,” is not holiness, but separation. It is opposed not to what is impure, but to what is common, and is constantly used in the Greek of the Old Testament for the consecration of persons and things to the service of God. Hence our Lord can use it of Himself in John 10:36, and in this context (John 17:19; these are the only places where it occurs in St. John’s writings). He was Himself “set apart and sent into the world.” He has to send them into the world in the same way (John 17:18, and John 10:36), and prays that they may be in the same way consecrated for their work.

Thy word is truth.—There is a strong emphasis in the pronoun “Thy word is truth.” This word they had kept (John 17:6-8). It had become the region of their life. They are to be the channels through which it is to pass to others (John 17:20). They are already in the higher sphere of truth, in which their entire consecration is to take place, when the gifts of the Holy Spirit shall descend upon them.

As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
(18) As thou hast sent me into the world.—Better, As Thou didst send Me. The tense points out the definite moment of His mission. (Comp. John 10:36.)

So have I also sent them into the world.—Better, I also sent. Comp. Notes on Matthew 10:5; Luke 6:13. In the very word “Apostles” their mission was contained; but the thought here comprehends the immediate future of their wider mission. (Comp. Note on John 20:21.)

And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
(19) And for their sakes I sanctify myself.—Comp. Note on John 17:17. The consecration here thought of is that to the work which was immediately before Him—the offering Himself as a sacrifice. The word was in frequent use in the special sense of an offering or sacrifice set apart to God. As a New Testament example of this, comp. Romans 15:16. By this consecration of Himself—which in a wider sense is for all men, but in the special sense is “for their sakes”—He will, as both Priest and Sacrifice, enter into the Holy of Holies of the heavenly temple, and will send the Holy Ghost, who will consecrate them.

That they also might be sanctified through the truth.—Better, as in the margin, . . . . might be truly sanctified. The words “they also” are emphatic, answering to “their sakes” and “myself” in the preceding clause.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
(20) Neither pray I for these alone.—Comp. Note on John 17:9. The thought of the work to which the Apostles are to be consecrated and sent leads on to the wider thought of the Church which shall believe through their word, and the prayer is enlarged to include them.

But for them also which shall believe on me through their word.—All the best MSS. read, “but for them also which believe;” but the sense is not affected by the change. As we have again and again found in these chapters, the future of the Church is so immediately in our Lord’s thoughts that it is spoken of as actually present. “Their word” is their witness concerning Him through which men should believe (John 15:27). He had manifested the nature of God to them; and they who had received His word and witnessed His work would become, by the indwelling of the Spirit in them, the means of extending this revelation of God to others. They would do this by means of the word which, in His name, they would preach. (Comp. Romans 10:14 et seq.)

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.
(21) That they all may be onei.e., both “these” (the Apostles) and “them also which shall believe on Me through their word” (the whole body of believers in all times and places). He expresses in this grand thought of the unity of the whole Church the fulness of the purpose of His prayer.

As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.—The insertion of “art,” which, as the italics show, is not in the original text, weakens the sense. It is better, therefore, to omit it. The word “one,” in the second clause, is of doubtful authority, and has the appearance of a gloss. The probable reading, therefore, is, That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; and the meaning is that the union of the Church may be of the same essential nature as that between the Father and the Son; yea, that the union of the Church may result from the union of individual members with the Father through the Son. (Comp. John 14:23; John 15:4-10, et al.) The Father in the Son and the Son in the Father; both Father and Son taking up their abode in the believer, and the believer, therefore, in the Father and the Son. This is the ideal of the unity of the Church of Christ; and if this union with God is realised by each individual, it necessarily follows that all the individuals will be one with each other. (Comp. Notes on Ephesians 4:4 et seq.)

That the world may believe that thou hast sent me.—The result of the union of believers with God, and therefore with each other, will be that the world will see in it a proof of the divine origin of Christianity, and will believe that the Father sent the Son into the world. As this will be the result, it is thought of as the purpose of the prayer for the whole body of believers. Instances of this result crowd involuntarily upon the mind. The brotherhood of Christians has ever been the witness to their common Fatherhood in God. The divisions of Christendom have ever been the weakness of the Church and the proof to the world that, in that they are divided, they cannot be of God. (Comp. Note on John 13:35.)

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
(22) And the glory which thou gavest me (better, hast given Me) I have given them.—Comp. John 13:32, and in this chapter John 17:1; John 17:5; John 17:24. Here, as all through this Intercessory Prayer, the future which immediately grows out of the present is regarded as present; the fulness of the glory which awaits Him at His Father’s right hand is thought of as already given to Him; and the believers who have become, and will become, one with Him, to whom He has given eternal life (John 17:2), are thought of as sharers in it. It is the thought which is expanded by St. Paul when he speaks of the children being “heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if we suffer with Him to the end that we may be also glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17); and by St. John when he speaks of children of God being like Him because we shall see Him as He is” (1John 3:1-2). In the original the pronoun “I” is emphatically expressed. “The glory which Thou hast given Me,” our Lord’s words seem to mean, “I have on My part given to them. I have fulfilled the work which Thou hast given Me to do. I have made and declared an atonement between man and God. My work is done. I pray that Thou wouldst fulfil Thine own.”

That they may be one, even as we are one.—This is here expressed, in addition to the thought of the last verse, as the purpose for which He has given to them the glory which the Father has given Him. It is future in the union of the glory of heaven; it is present in the realisation of heaven now in those who have the one common hope of their calling.

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.
(23) I in them, and thou in me.—These words are best regarded as a parenthesis more explicitly setting forth the thought of the union of the Father, the Son, and the believer. The thought is continued from the last verse, “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.” It is the thought which the words of Christ have uttered again and again, and which we yet feel that no words can utter. The disciples heard the words immediately after they had heard the allegory of the true vine (John 15); and the fullest meaning of separate words and phrases in these chapters is best arrived at by remembering that they were not uttered as separate words and phrases, but that they were spoken as a whole, and should be read as a whole; and that the most unfathomable of them were spoken in prayer from the Son to the Father.

That they may be made perfect in one.—Better, . . . unto one. The unity is the result of their being made perfect. (Comp. Notes on Hebrews 10:14 and 1John 2:5; 1John 4:12; 1John 4:17-18.)

And that the world may know that thou hast sent me.—Better, . . . didst send Me. Comp. John 17:21. “That the world may know” (recognise) here is parallel to “that the world may believe,” in the earlier verse. We are to regard it, therefore, as another instance of the repeated expression of the fulness of thought; and this is borne out by the parallel in John 13:35; John 14:31. The thought which has been introduced here of the conviction of the unbelieving world, seems to be opposed to the context. The prayer is that the world, seeing in its midst the power which binds men together in unity, may believe and know that this is of God, who sent Christ into the world, and may accept for themselves the message of love which the “Sent of God” has brought unto them. (Comp. Note on John 3:16.)

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.
(24) Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.—Better, Father, I will that that which Thou hast given Me, even they may be with Me where I am. The thought of the unity of the Church is still prominent. It is conceived as one collective whole, “that which Thou hast given Me” (comp. John 6:39), and the members of it are thought of as individuals composing the whole, “even they may be.”

The “I will” expresses the consciousness that His will was that of the Father, and is the prayer of Him who is one with the Father. He had before said, “I pray” (John 17:9, and Note on John 17:20), but the thought of the union with the Father, expressed in John 17:23, leads to the fuller expression of His confidence that the prayer will be answered.

For the words, “with Me where I am,” comp. Note on John 14:3.

That they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.—Comp. Note on John 17:22. That we are to think of the future glory of the divine-human nature of Christ, is shown by the addition of the words, “which Thou hast given Me.” The pre-incarnate glory of the Son was of His divine nature only, and is not, therefore, spoken of as given to Him, nor could it be given to those who believe in Him (John 17:22). That with which the Father has glorified the Son, is “the glory which He had with the Father before the world was” (John 17:5), but it is the Son of man who is glorified with it, and therefore it is that human nature is made capable of receiving it.

For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.—Comp. Note on John 17:5.

O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
(25) O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee.—Better, . . . the world indeed knew Thee not. In these closing words of His prayer, our Lord again solemnly appeals to the Father (comp. Notes on John 17:1; John 17:5; John 17:11), but now with the special thought of the Father’s righteousness. This thought follows upon the prayer that those whom the Father had given Him may be where He is, and behold the divine glory; and the connection seems to be in the thought that sinful humanity cannot see God and live. The world, indeed, knew not God (comp. John 15:21; John 16:3), but the Son knew God, and the disciples had recognised that He had been sent by God, and in their knowledge of Him had passed through a moral’ change, by which they were no longer of the world, but were sons of God (John 1:12).

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.
(26) And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.—The Greek word here rendered “declared” is of the same root as the verb rendered “known” in the previous verse. It is better to preserve this connection by rendering the clause, And I made known Thy name unto them, and will make it known. His whole teaching had been a making known of the name, character, will of God, to them. In part this had been received, but in part only. The first steps in the spiritual lessons had been taken, but in His Presence in the Paraclete He will guide them into all truth, and make known to hearts quickened to receive it, the love of God which passeth knowledge.

That the love wherewith thou hast loved (better, didst love) me may be in them, and I in them.—Comp. Note on John 15:9. The thought of Christ’s prayer in this verse is expanded in St. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:17-19. It is more than that God may love the disciples, even as He loved the Son; it is that they may so know the nature of God that this love may be in them, dwelling in them as the principle of their life. And then the thought passes on to that fulness which has been present all through this last discourse and prayer, “and I in them.” (Comp. John 17:23.) Going from them, to be yet with them; not to be with them only as a Person without, but as a power within. “I in them” are the last words of the Intercessory Prayer. The words remain in all their comfort for them in whom “Christ is formed;” in all their encouragement for doubting hearts seeking to know God; in all their warning for hearts that do not seek His presence. They are the prayer of Him who knoweth that the Father always heareth Him.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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