Reflections on John 17

Readers are acquainted with this passage, and our exercise is to share a few thoughts concerning our Lord which are treasured by many, however much His deity, the incarnation, and the perfection of His humanity are increasingly questioned by writers on theological subjects.

Concerning Himself.

Quoting the psalmist’s words, “I believed, therefore have I spoken”, Paul in the same spirit of faith says, “we also believe, and therefore speak”, 2 Cor. 4. 13. Being God, the Son was with God in (not from) the beginning. He was the Word in the beginning, the Wisdom and Power of God that expresses the divine mind, the One by whom and for whom all things were created, John 1. 3; Col. 1. 16.

As Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour is come”, John 17. 1. He had come from heaven to do the Father’s will, and now spoke to the Father at the end of His pathway of humiliation on earth, during which He glorified God in the most adverse circumstances and in a surrounding atmosphere so alien to His nature. With what calm dignity He spoke, and joy must have filled His soul at the prospect of returning to His Father. At the same time, He had thoughts of care and concern for His own, whom He committed to His Father’s care.

Concerning His Hour

Outwardly men might have thought that all was lost as Christ was crucified, since God did not intervene to rescue a righteous Man, His Son. But Father and Son knew that the hour was in the divine counsels before the foundation of the world, and it was in this connection that Jesus mentioned it briefly, thinking more of what was beyond. Willing to be the sin-offering, Jesus knew the consequences, and when that “hour” came (only a matter of hours later), following betrayal, trial and conviction, a holy God did not spare His Son. Lifting “up his eyes to heaven” teaches us what close union Jesus had with the Father: in contrast, the hour reminds us how far away we were, and the awful distance Jesus was prepared to go to reach and recover us. He restored what He did not take away, and the plan was agreed in the counsels of God.

  • The hour was determined, Acts 2. 23; 3. 18; 4. 28.
  • The Lamb was chosen, 1 Pet. 1. 19, 20.
  • The time was known, Rom. 5. 6; Gal. 4. 4, 5.

Events happened according to God’s calendar, not man’s. Daniel’s prophecy looked forward to the development of the kingdoms of men, but also referred to divinely known events relating to the Messiah, 9. 25-26. The Son of God was the only One who could be the sacrificial Lamb of God because in Manhood His humanity was perfect. He was

  • Perfect in mind: He “knew no sin”, 2 Cor. 5. 21.
  • Perfect in behaviour: He “did no sin”, 1 Pet. 2. 22.
  • Perfect in nature: “in him is no sin”, 1 John 3. 5.

Thus the Lamb of God was perfect and pure in nature and practice: He was that “holy thing” born of Mary. As in the Levitical offerings the sacrifice had to be without blemish, so we are redeemed by the precious blood of

Christ as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot. God’s love provided the Lamb for that hour, and He bore the penalty for our sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, 1 Pet. 1. 19; 3. 18.

Concerning the Glories

The Father loves the Son, and delights to honour Him, as the Son delights to honour the Father. Two glories that the Father gives the Son are

  1. universal judicial authority because He is the Son of man, John 5. 22-27, and
  2. the glory of life-giving power to give those who receive Him and believe in His name as the Son of God.

These, with other glories, are given Him, but the glory that He twice spoke of in John 17. 1, 5 refers to His glory which He had with the Father before the foundation of the world; He requested to return to the sphere of this pre-creation glory as having become Man. This glory is not given, and He asked in His own right to be displayed in it, on the righteous basis that He had done everything required of Him in finishing the work given Him to do. He asked the Father to do His part in glorifying Him. On the occasion of Judas going out from the supper, John 13. 31-32, Jesus spoke, as He did in 17. 4, of the fulfilment of an event before it occurred: “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him”. Whatever man’s wickedness was waiting to do in the garden and intended to do at the cross could not interfere with the purpose of God, and Jesus could speak to His Father with the certainty of accomplishment. He had nothing more to teach to the world; only to His disciples and to His Father would He speak before laying down His life. Blessed thought, that Man is now in glory, our Advocate and Great High Priest.

Concerning His Disciples

The prayer gives us an elevated view of those who are Christ’s, and how they were valued. They were the Father’s. God has universal creatorial rights, and has the divine authority to call men out of the world, as He did when He called Abram out of the idolatrous domain of Satan. He gave them to His Son, to whom He had given authority to give eternal life to those who received Him, John 5. 26; 6. 40; 12. 50; 17. 2. Jesus commended them to the Father because they had received the Father’s words as spoken by the Son: they believed that the Father had sent Him, and they kept the Father’s word. These principles of receiving, believing and keeping are important features of the Christian faith. Later the ascended Christ commended those at Philadelphia because they had kept His word, had not denied His name, and had kept the word of His patience, Rev. 3. 8-10. What encouraging promises He makes to the overcomer!

Concerning His Will

The love of Christ is unchanged. He asked that His own may be with Him where He is, so that He may have the company of the redeemed eternally. They had seen Him in humiliation, and He desires them to see His glory. They had shared His humiliation and He desires them to share His glory. What a glorious prospect.

Concerning His Absence

We are left here to witness, John 17. 20, and our Lord values faithfulness and trustworthiness. There is mutual trust. Like Paul, having the same spirit of faith, we know Him and are fully persuaded that He is able to keep that which we have deposited with Him in trust. He also trusts us to keep what He has deposited with us, to avoid oppositions of falsely called science, and by the Holy Spirit to hold fast the form of sound words in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This eliminates harsh legality and the use of texts like missiles to aim at well selected targets. Rather the Lord would have us to hold the truth in love, contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, Jude 3.

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