THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on the life of Christ, we covered John 16. In this lesson we will examine John 17.
John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
After Jesus finished talking to His apostles, He began to pray. Prayer was an important part of Jesus’ life, and sometimes He prayed all night long (Lk. 6:12). Many people call the model prayer in Matthew 6:9ff the Lord’s Prayer, but it was just designed to teach His disciples how to pray. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is what I would call the Lord’s Prayer. It is Jesus’ longest recorded prayer, and it can be divided into three sections:
Since Jesus looked up to heaven as He prayed, some believe this suggests He was outside, but all this really means is that He looked up when He prayed. Jesus’ life and work on the earth would be ending because this would be the night He would be betrayed by Judas.
When Jesus said, “Glorify Your Son, that the Son also may glorify you,” He was talking about the Father’s part in raising Him from the dead and exalting Him to His right side. Jesus would glorify the Father by carrying out the Father’s plan, and Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven would prove that He is the Son of God.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, He was given all authority over heaven and earth, and He gives eternal life to all who choose to come to Him by having an obedient faith. As the writer of Hebrews said:
Heb. 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
The only way we can have eternal life is through Jesus (Jn. 14:6).
Back in our text, verse 3 teaches that eternal life comes to those who know the Father and the Son. Two ways that we can know the Father are found in the following verses:
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 2:4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (Also see Tit. 1:16).
If we do not have love in our hearts for others or for God, we cannot have eternal life because God is love. Without love, we are not going to keep God’s commandments. So, to know God and have eternal life requires love and an obedient faith to God’s commands. Jesus is the greatest example of this love and the greatest example of faithful obedience to the Father, which is why Jesus could say: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.”
Jesus taught throughout His ministry that He was here to do the will of the Father, and now He had done all that was asked of Him as we see in verse 4. The only things left for Jesus to do were those things involving His death on the cross.
Those who teach the rapture doctrine say that Jesus failed to set up His kingdom in the first century because of the Jews rejection, and this is why He must come back again and set up an earthly kingdom for 1000 years. However, we know this doctrine is not true because Jesus said that He finished His work on the earth. He did not fail to do anything, and He fulfilled all the prophecies about Him. Notice the following verses that prove this very thing:
Lk. 18:31 Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.
Lk. 24:44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."
Jn. 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing1 that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!"
Acts 13:27 "For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 "And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 "Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.
Though those who teach the rapture doctrine say the kingdom is yet future, the Scriptures teach that the kingdom of God, which is also called the church, began on the day of Pentecost, and Jesus is reigning over that kingdom right now.
If we accept the rapture doctrine that Jesus failed the first time to set up His kingdom, then how can we say with certainty that Jesus will not fail again when He comes back? We cannot, but fortunately this is not the case because God has never failed to accomplish His plan. Since Jesus finished doing the will of the Father on the earth, He was glorified by Him, and He is back with the Father like He was before the world was made.
Once again, Jesus is teaching us that He has always existed with the Father, and He was not created as the Jehovah Witnesses teach. Verses like (Jn. 1:1; 8:58) proves that Jesus has always existed. Next, Jesus prays for His apostles.
John 17:6 " I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 "Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. 8 "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He always gave God the glory for everything He did, and His apostles witnessed this over and over again. Jesus said the Father had given Him these men who were out of the world. To be out of the world does not mean that a person is no longer in the world; it means that a person has separated himself from worldly ways. The apostles had done this because they followed Jesus all the way except for Judas.
Everything that Jesus taught came from the Father. His apostles had heard His message and they had kept it by obeying it and teaching it. Early on, Jesus told them: “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops” (Mt. 10:27).
While Jesus prepared His apostles with the Word of God and trained them to teach it, it would not be long until they proclaimed this truth to the world. While there was some things His apostles did not understand at this point, they did believe that Jesus had come forth from the Father (Jn. 16:30).
John 17:9 "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 "And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 "But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
Jesus is teaching how specific our prayers can be. Now there is nothing wrong with praying for the non-Christian leaders of our country because Paul tells us that we should pray for all men and those in authority as we read in:
1 Timothy 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
However, Jesus is specifically praying for His apostles and not for those in the world.
According to Jesus, when we belong to Him, we belong to the Father as well because everything Jesus has is the Father’s, and everything the Father has belongs to Jesus. Once again, this shows the unity they have, which proves that we cannot have access to the Father without Jesus (Jn. 14:6).
It will not be much longer until Jesus leaves the earth and goes back to Father. Jesus wants His apostles to have the same unity that He and His Father has in word and in thought. While He was specifically talking about His apostles, He repeats this thought when He prays for all believers in verse 22.
Being unified in mind and thought is taught throughout the Scriptures. For example:
Rom. 15:5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Phil. 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
1 Cor. 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Verses like these prove that we can have unity in Christ. Since we are not to be divided proves that denominationalism is wrong because there is only one church (Eph. 4:4), and we must worship God in spirit and in truth in accordance to His Word (Jn. 4:23).
While Jesus was on the earth, He was a great leader, and He kept His apostles on the right path except for Judas. Judas chose of his own free will to stop following Jesus’ lead, and in doing so, he fulfilled the prophecy of:
Ps. 41:9 Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.
Jesus also prayed that His apostles would experience the same joy He had while He was living on the earth. Even when Jesus had to struggle with hunger, hardship, and cruelty it did not take away His joy of being in unity with His Father or the hope He had of being back with Him for eternity. His apostles would be able to experience this same joy because no matter what happened to them, they would have unity with the Father and the hope of abiding with Him for the rest of their lives.
This same joy can be experienced by every faithful Christian because no matter what trials and tribulations we go through, we can still be joyful knowing that we are in unity with the Father and the Son, and we have the same hope of spending eternity with them in heaven.
John 17:14 "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Since His apostles had received His Word and lived by it, it caused them to be separated from the world, which teaches that obeying God’s Word will separate us from the world. To be separated from the world simply means that we no longer live by the world’s standards. Instead, we live by God’s standard, which is why the world hated the apostles and why they will hate us because God’s Word condemns worldliness.
James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
This passage proves that we must obey God’s Word if we want to be separate from the world and be saved in the end. Just like the apostles, we must understand that the world will be against us, but no matter what they do to us, it is worth it to remain separated from them by remaining faithful to the Lord. As Paul said:
Rom. 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Jesus did not want His apostles taken out of the world because, if they were, they would not be able to proclaim the gospel. However, Jesus does want the Father to help protect them from the evil one, which is talking about the devil. While the apostles lived out their lives on the earth, they would remain out of the world spiritually just as Jesus did. Every Christian must live this way as well. We must continue to keep our minds on things above (Col. 3:2) and remind ourselves that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).
John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
Sanctify means to set apart and purify. Jesus says that the truth does this, which is the Word of God. This statement teaches against the view that God converts people by influencing them directly by the Holy Spirit because Jesus just said that sanctification comes through the Word of God. This truth is taught throughout the New Testament. For example:
Rom. 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ1, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Jas. 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
1 Pet. 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit1 in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
When Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, he told them: “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thes. 2:13). The Holy Spirit revealed the Word of God through the apostles and other first century Christians. By that Word, we learned how to be sanctified and saved. Again, this shows how the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to save us.
Even if the Holy Spirit worked directly on the sinner today, which He does not, He would not teach or guide someone with a different message found within the completed Word of God because the faith that is pleasing to God comes from hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).
When Jesus said He would sanctify Himself, He was referring to how He would set Himself apart to become a sacrifice for all mankind. If Jesus had not made that sacrifice, then sanctification would not be available for us because the apostles would have never received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and we would not have the lifesaving message that we have in our Bibles. Thankfully, Jesus loved us enough to die for us and make Christianity a reality.
Next, Jesus prays for all future believers.
John 17:20 " I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Jesus now prays that all future believers will share in this same unity. Notice, the future believers would believe through the inspired Word taught by the apostles. As Peter wrote:
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Pet. 3:1-2; Also see 1 Thes. 2:13).
Again, this reemphasizes that we are converted to Christ through the Word of God and not by a direct influence or teaching from the Holy Spirit. Anyone who is taught the truth and chooses to accept it can be saved.
Jesus stresses the idea of unity for all believers, because when we are unified in thought and in word, it makes it possible for the world to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This prayer goes against the manmade idea of denominationalism because denominationalism is the opposite of being unified. When man decided to start dividing the church up, it severely hurt the growth of the church because it caused uncertainty, and the world does not know who or what to believe. This confusion has been increased by such messages as “attend the church of your choice” or “one church is as good as another.”
Jesus makes it clear that the only way that we can have unity that will cause the world to believe in Him is by being unified based on God’s Word and not mans. When we have that unity, we will experience the same love and peace that Jesus has with His Father.
John 17:24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 "O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 "And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
It should be comforting to know that Jesus desires His disciples to be where He is and to be able to see His glory. Jesus taught us back in John 14 that He was going to prepare a place for the faithful, and when He comes back at His second coming, He will take the faithful with Him, and they will behold His glory.
Jesus is also declaring His Deity because He states how the Father loved Him before the foundation of the World. Now, the world has not known the Father because they did not accept Jesus as the Son of God, but all believers have because to know Jesus is to know the Father (Jn. 8:19).
Jesus declared the name of God by revealing His authority to them and by teaching them what they must do. In doing this, it taught them and it teaches us that the love that God has for His Son is the same love that He has for us, and when we have His love, Jesus is in us as well. When we become Christians, we receive every spiritual blessing that is found in Christ (Eph. 1:3), and we should continue to look forward to the day when we get to go to that beautiful place called heaven.
John 17 contains a beautiful message for us all. It should comfort us and encourage us that Jesus loved us so much that He prayed for us to be unified as He and Father are unified and that He want us to be in heaven with Him. All we have to do is love God enough to obey His Word, and this great message from Jesus’ prayer should motivate us to want to share with everyone this great love of God. I hope and pray that we will all allow ourselves to humbly submit to the will of God so that we too will be unity with God, which means we will be with the Godhead in heaven for eternity.