John 17


Christ prays the Father to glorify him, 1.

In what eternal life consists, 2-3.

Shows that he has glorified his Father, by fulfilling his will

upon earth, and revealing him to the disciples, 4-8.

Prays for them, that they may be preserved in unity and kept

from evil, 9-16.

Prays for their sanctification, 17-19.

Prays also for those who should believe on him through their

preaching, that they all might be brought into a state of

unity, and finally brought to eternal glory, 20-26.


Verse 1. These words spake Jesus] That is, what is related in

the preceding chapters. We may consider our Lord as still moving

on towards Gethsemane, not having yet passed the brook Cedron,

Joh 18:1.

Our Lord, who was now going to act as high priest for the whole

human race, imitates in his conduct that of the Jewish high priest

on the great day of expiation; who, in order to offer up the grand

atonement for the sins of the people:-

1. Washed himself, and put on clean linen garments. This Christ

appears to have imitated, Joh 13:4. He laid aside his garments,

girded himself with a towel, &c. There is no room to doubt that he

and his disciples had been at the bath before: see Joh 13:10.

2. The high priest addressed a solemn prayer to God: 1. For

himself this Christ imitates, Joh 17:1-5. 2. For the

sons of Aaron: our Lord imitates this in praying for his

disciples, Joh 17:9-19. 3. For all the people: our Lord appears

to imitate this also in praying for his Church, all who should

believe on him through the preaching of the apostles and their

successors, Joh 17:20-24. After which he returns again to his

disciples, Joh 17:25, 26. See CALMET'S Dict. under

Expiation; and see La Grande Bible de M. MARTIN, in loc.

I. Our Lord's prayer for himself, Joh 17:1-5.

Father] Here our Lord addresses the whole Divine nature, as he

is now performing his last acts in his state of humiliation.

Glorify thy Son] Cause him to be acknowledged as the promised

Messiah by the Jewish people, and as the universal Saviour by the

Gentile world; and let such proofs of his Godhead be given as

shall serve to convince and instruct mankind.

That thy son also may glorify thee] That by dying be may magnify

thy law and make it honourable, respected among men-show the

strictness of thy justice, and the immaculate purity of thy


Verse 2. As thou hast given him power] As the Messiah, Jesus

Christ received from the Father universal dominion. All flesh,

i.e. all the human race, was given unto him, that by one sacrifice

of himself, he might reconcile them all to God; having by his

grace tasted death for every man, Heb 2:9. And this was according

to the promise of the universal inheritance made to Christ,

Ps 2:8, which was to be made up of the

heathen, and the uttermost parts of the land, all the Jewish

people. So that he got all from God, that he might give his life a

ransom for the whole. See 2Co 5:14, 15; Ro 5:21; 1Ti 2:4, 6.

That he should have eternal life, &c.] As all were delivered

into his power, and he poured out his blood to redeem all, then

the design of God is that all should have eternal life, because

all are given for this purpose to Christ; and, that this end might

be accomplished, he has become their sacrifice and atonement.

Verse 3. This is life eternal] The salvation purchased by

Christ, and given to them who believe, is called life: 1. Because

the life of man was forfeited to Divine justice; and the sacrifice

of Christ redeemed him from that death to which he was exposed. 2.

Because the souls of men were dead in trespasses and sins; and

Christ quickens them by his word and Spirit. 3. Because men who

are not saved by the grace of Christ do not live, they only exist,

no good purpose of life being answered by them. But when they

receive this salvation they live-answer all the Divine purposes,

are happy in themselves, useful to each other, and bring glory

to God. 4. It is called eternal life to show that it reaches

beyond the limits of time, and that it necessarily implies-1.

The immortality of the soul; 2. the resurrection of the body; and

3. that it is never to end, hence called αιωνιοςζωη, a life ever

living; from αει, always, and ων, being or existence.

And indeed no words can more forcibly convey the idea of eternity

than these. It is called ηαιωνιοςζωη, THAT eternal life, by way

of eminence. There may be an eternal existence without

blessedness; but this is that eternal life with which infinite

happiness is inseparably connected.

The only true God] The way to attain this eternal life is to

acknowledge, worship, and obey, the one only true God, and to

accept as teacher, sacrifice, and Saviour, the Lord Jesus, the one

and only true Messiah. Bishop Pearce's remark here is well worthy

the reader's attention:-

"What is said here of the only true God seems said in opposition

to the gods whom the heathens worshipped; not in opposition to

Jesus Christ himself, who is called the true God by John, in

1Jo 5:20."

The words in this verse have been variously translated: 1. That

they might acknowledge thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,

to be the only true God. 2. That they might acknowledge thee, the

only true God, and Jesus, whom thou hast sent, to be the Christ or

Messiah. 3. That they might acknowledge thee to be the only true

God, and Jesus Christ to be him whom thou hast sent. And all these

translations the original will bear. From all this we learn that

the only way in which eternal life is to be attained is by

acknowledging the true God, and the Divine mission of Jesus

Christ, he being sent of God to redeem men by his blood, being the

author of eternal salvation to all them that thus believe, and

conscientiously keep his commandments.

A saying similar to this is found in the Institutes of Menu.

Brigoo, the first emanated being who was produced from the mind

of the supreme God, and who revealed the knowledge of his will to

mankind, is represented as addressing the human race and saying:

"Of all duties, the principal is to acquire from the Upanishads

(their sacred writings) a true knowledge of one supreme God; that

is the most exalted of sciences, because it ensures eternal life.

For in the knowledge and adoration of one God all the rules

of good conduct are fully comprised." See Institutes of Menu,

chap. xii. Inst. 85, 87.

Verse 4. I have glorified thee] Our Lord, considering himself as

already sacrificed for the sin of the world, speaks of having

completed the work which God had given him to do: and he looks

forward to that time when, through the preaching of his Gospel,

his sacrifice should be acknowledged, and the true God should be

known and worshipped by the whole world.

Verse 5. Before the world was.] That is, from eternity, before

there was any creation-so the phrase, and others similar to it,

are taken in the sacred writings; see Joh 17:24; Ps 90:2;

Eph 1:4. See Joh 1:1. Let the glory of my eternal divinity

surround and penetrate my humanity, in its resurrection,

ascension, and in the place which it is to occupy at thy right

hand, far above all creatures, Php 2:6, 9.

II. Our Lord's prayer for his disciples, Joh 17:6, 19.

Verse 6. I have manifested thy name] εφανερωσα, I have brought

it into light, and caused it to shine in itself, and to illuminate

others. A little of the Divine nature was known by the works of

creation; a little more was known by the Mosaic revelation: but

the full manifestation of God, his nature, and his attributes,

came only through the revelation of Christ.

The men which thou gavest me] That is, the apostles, who, having

received this knowledge from Christ, were, by their preaching and

writings, to spread it through the whole world.

Out of the world] From among the Jewish people; for in this

sense is the word κοσμος to be understood in various parts of our

Lord's last discourses.

Thine they were] Objects of thy choice; and thou gavest them to

me from among this very unbelieving people, that they might be my

disciples and the heralds of my salvation.

And they have kept thy word.] Though their countrymen have

rejected it; and they have received me as thy well beloved Son in

whom thou delightest.

Verse 8. I have given-them the words] I have delivered thy

doctrine to them, so that they have had a pure teaching

immediately from heaven: neither Jewish fables nor fictions of men

have been mingled with it.

And have known surely] Are fully convinced and acknowledge that

I am the promised Messiah, and that they are to look for none

other; and that my mission and doctrine are all Divine,

Joh 17:7, 8.

Verse 9. I pray not for the world] I am not yet come to that

part of my intercession: see Joh 17:20. I am now wholly employed

for my disciples, that they may be properly qualified to preach my

salvation to the ends of the earth. Jesus here imitates the high

priest, the second part of whose prayer, on the day of expiation,

was for the priests, the sons of Aaron:

See Clarke on Joh 17:1. These

words may also be understood as applying to the rebellious Jews.

God's wrath was about to descend upon them, and Christ prays that

his own followers might be kept from the evil, Joh 17:15. But he

does not thus pray for the world, the rebellious Jews, because the

cup of their iniquity was full, and their judgment slumbered not.

Verse 10. I am glorified in them.] Christ speaks of the things

which were not, but which should be, as though they were. He

anticipates the glorifying of his name by the successful preaching

of the apostles.

Verse 11. I am no more in the world] I am just going to leave

the world, and therefore they shall stand in need of peculiar

assistance and support. They have need of all the influence of my

intercession, that they may be preserved in thy truth.

Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me]

Instead of ουςδεδωκαςμοι, THOSE whom thou hast given me,

ABCEHLMS, Mt. BHV, and nearly one hundred others, read ω, which

refers to the τωονοματισου, thy name, immediately preceding. The

whole passage should be read thus: Holy Father, keep them through

thy own name WHICH thou hast given me, that they may be one, &c.

By the name, here, it is evident that the doctrine or knowledge

of the true God is intended; as if our Lord had said, Keep them in

that doctrine WHICH thou hast given me, that they may be one, &c.

This reading is supported by the most ample evidence and

indisputable authority. Griesbach has admitted it into the text,

and Professor White in his χρισεως says of it, Lectio indubie

genuina, "It is, without doubt, the genuine reading."

That they may be ONE] That they, and all that believe through

their word, (the doctrine which I have given them,) may be one

body, united by one Spirit to me their living head. The union

which Christ recommends here, and prays for, is so complete and

glorious as to be fitly represented by that union which subsists

between the Father and the Son.

Verse 12. I kept them in thy name] In thy doctrine and truth.

But the son of perdition] So we find that Judas, whom all

account to have been lost, and whose case at best is extremely

dubious, was first given by God to Christ? But why was he lost?

Because, says St. Augustin, he would not be saved: and he farther

adds, After the commission of his crime, he might have returned to

God and have found mercy. Aug. Serm. 125; n. 5; Psa. cxlvi. n. 20;

Ser. 352, n. 8; and in Psa. cviii. See Calmet, who remarks: Judas

only became the son of perdition because of his wilful malice, his

abuse of the grace and instructions of Christ, and was condemned

through his own avarice, perfidy, insensibility, and despair. In

behalf of the mere possibility of the salvation of Judas, see the

observations at the end of Acts 1. See Clarke on Ac 1:26

Perdition or destruction is personified; and Judas is

represented as being her son, i.e. one of the worst of men-one

whose crime appears to have been an attempt to destroy, not only

the Saviour of the world, but also the whole human race. And all

this he was capable of through the love of money! How many of

those who are termed creditable persons in the world have acted

his crime over a thousand times! To Judas and to all his brethren,

who sell God and their souls for money, and who frequently go out

of this world by a violent voluntary death, we may apply those

burning words of Mr. Blair, with very little alteration:

"O cursed lust of gold! when for thy sake

The wretch throws up his interest in both worlds,

First hanged in this, then damned in that to come."

That the scripture might be fulfilled.] Or, Thus the scripture

is fulfilled: see Ps 41:9; 109:8; compared with Ac 1:20. Thus

the traitorous conduct of Judas has been represented and

illustrated by that of Ahitophel, and the rebellion of Absalom

against his father David. Thus what was spoken concerning them was

also fulfilled in Judas: to him therefore these scriptures are

properly applied, though they were originally spoken concerning

other traitors. Hence we plainly see that the treachery of Judas

was not the effect of the prediction, for that related to a

different case; but, as his was of the same nature with that of

the others, to it the same scriptures were applicable.

Verse 13. My joy fulfilled in themselves.]

See Clarke on Joh 15:11.

Verse 14. I have given them thy word] Or, thy doctrine-τουλογον

σου. In this sense the word λογος is often used by St. John.

And the world hath hated them] The Jewish rulers, &c., have

hated them.-Why? Because they received the doctrine of God, the

science of salvation, and taught it to others. They knew Jesus to

be the Messiah, and as such they proclaimed him: our Lord speaks

prophetically of what was about to take place. How terrible is the

perversion of human nature! Men despise that which they should

esteem, and endeavour to destroy that without which they must be

destroyed themselves!

Verse 15. That thou shouldest take them out of the world] They

must not yet leave the land of Judea: they had not as yet borne

their testimony there, concerning Christ crucified and risen again

from the dead. To take them away before this work was finished

would not answer the gracious design of God.-1. Christ does not

desire that his faithful apostles should soon die, and be taken to

God. No: but that they may live long, labour long, and bring forth

much fruit. 2. He does not intimate that they should seclude

themselves from the world by going to the desert, or to the

cloisters; but that they should continue in and among the world,

that they may have the opportunity of recommending the salvation

of God. 3. Christ only prays that while they are in the world,

employed in the work of the ministry, they may be preserved from

the influence, τουπονηρου, of the evil one, the devil, who had

lately entered into Judas, Joh 13:27, and who would endeavour to

enter into them, ruin their souls, and destroy their work. A devil

without can do no harm; but a devil within ruins all.

Verse 17. Sanctify them] αγιασον, from α, negative, and

γη, the earth. This word has two meanings: 1. It signifies to

consecrate, to separate from earth and common use, and to

devote or dedicate to God and his service. 2. It signifies to

make holy or pure. The prayer of Christ may be understood in

both these senses. He prayed-1. That they might be fully

consecrated to the work of the ministry, and separated from all

worldly concerns. 2. That they might be holy, and patterns of

all holiness to those to whom they announced the salvation of God.

A minister who engages himself in worldly concerns is a reproach

to the Gospel; and he who is not saved from his own sins can with

a bad grace recommend salvation to others.

Through thy truth] It is not only according to the truth of

God that ministers are to be set apart to the sacred work; but it

is from that truth, and according to it, that they must preach

to others. That doctrine which is not drawn from the truth of God

can never save souls. God blesses no word but his own; because

none is truth, without mixture of error, but that which has

proceeded from himself. Our Lord still acts here in reference to

the conduct of the high priest, to whom it belonged to sanctify

the priests, the sons of Aaron: See Clarke on Joh 17:1.

Verse 18. As thou hast sent me-so have I also sent them] The

apostles had the same commission which Christ had, considered as

man-they were endued with the same Spirit, so that they could

not err, and their word was accompanied with the same success.

Verse 19. I sanctify myself] I consecrate and devote myself to

death-that I may thereby purchase eternal salvation for them.

There seems to be here an allusion to the entering of the high

priest into the holy of holies, when, having offered the

sacrifice, he sprinkled the blood before the ark of the covenant.

So Jesus entered into the holiest of all by his own blood, in

order to obtain everlasting redemption for men: see Heb 9:11-13.

The word, αγιαζω, to consecrate or sanctify, is used in the

sense of devoting to death, in Jer 12:3, both in the

Hebrew and in the Septuagint: the Hebrew signifies also to


III. Our Lord's prayer for his Church, and for all who would

believe on his name, through the preaching of the apostles and

their successors: See Clarke on Joh 17:1.

Verse 20. Neither pray I for these alone] This prayer extends

itself through all ages, and takes in every soul that believes in

the Lord Jesus.

And what is it that Christ asks in behalf of his followers? The

greatest of blessings: unity, peace, love, and eternal glory.

Verse 21. That they all may be one] This prayer was literally

answered to the first believers, who were all of one heart and of

one soul: Ac 4:32. And why is it that believers are not in the

same spirit now? Because they neither attend to the example nor to

the truth of Christ.

That the world may believe] are have already seen that the word,

κοσμος, world, is used in several parts of this last discourse of

our Lord to signify the Jewish people only.

Christ will have all his members to be one in spirit-one in

rights and privileges, and one in the blessedness of the

future world.

Verse 22. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them]

That is, the power to work miracles, and to preach unadulterated

truth, say some; but as our Lord is not here praying for the

disciples, but for all those who should believe on him through

their word, Joh 17:20, it is more natural to understand the

passage thus. As Christ, according to his human nature, is termed

the Son of God, he may be understood as saying: "I have

communicated to all those who believe, or shall believe in me, the

glorious privilege of becoming sons of God; that, being all

adopted children of the same Father, they may abide in peace,

love, and unity." For this reason it is said, Heb 2:11, Christ

is not ashamed to call them brethren. However, our Lord may here,

as in several other places, be using the past for the future; and

the words may therefore be understood of the glory which they were

to share with him in heaven.

Verse 23. That the world may know] That the Jewish people first,

and secondly the Gentiles, may acknowledge me as the true Messiah,

and be saved unto life eternal.

Verse 24. That they may behold my glory] That they may enjoy

eternal felicity with me in thy kingdom. So the word is used,

Joh 3:3; Mt 5:8. The design of Christ is, that all who

believe should love and obey, persevere unto the end, and be

eternally united to himself, and the ever blessed God, in the

kingdom of glory.

Verse 25. The world hath not known thee] Has not acknowledged

me. See on Joh 1:11, 12.

And these have known] Here our Lord, returning to the disciples,

speaks: 1st. Of their having received him as the Messiah; 2dly. Of

his making the Father known unto them; 3dly. Of his purpose to

continue to influence them by the Spirit of truth, that they

might be perfectly united to God, by an indwelling Saviour for


Verse 26. I have declared unto them thy name, &c.] I have taught

them the true doctrine.

And will declare it] This he did: 1st. By the conversations he

had with his disciples after his resurrection, during the space of

forty days. 2dly. By the Holy Spirit which was poured out upon

them on the day of pentecost. And all these declarations Jesus

Christ made, that the love of God, and Christ Jesus himself, might

dwell in them; and thus they were to become a habitation for God

through the eternal Spirit.

OUR Lord's sermon, which he concluded by the prayer recorded in

this chapter, begins at Joh 13:13, and is one of the most

excellent than can be conceived. His sermon on the mount shows men

what they should do, so as to please God: this sermon shows them

how they are to do the things prescribed in the other. In the

former the reader sees a strict morality which he fears he shall

never be able to perform: in this, he sees all things are possible

to him who believes; for that very God who made him shall dwell in

his heart, and enable him to do all that He pleases to employ him

in. No man can properly understand the nature and design of the

religion of Christ who does not enter into the spirit of the

preceding discourse. Perhaps no part of our Lord's words has been

less understood, or more perverted, than the seventeenth chapter

of St. John. I have done what I could, in so small a compass, to

make every thing plain, and to apply these words in that way in

which I am satisfied he used them.

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