Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 17

Glory to the Son

After Jesus and the eleven disciples finished the Passover, they made their way toward the Kidron. During their traverse, the Lord did all He could to prepare them for His upcoming crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation, recorded as one of the longest continuous discourses of Jesus in the Bible. Completing his instruction, Christ paused on the west bank of the Kidron for prayer.

Jesus was known as a man of prayer. In the very first chapter of Markís gospel account, for example, it is recorded, "And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there" (Mark 1:35). "But He Himself," recorded Dr. Luke, "would often slip away into the wilderness and pray" (Luke 5:16). And some of the more famous sayings of Jesus are His prayers. His prayer for the soldiers who crucified Him, as another example, is one: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). But the most extensive prayer of Jesus on record is the one charted in John 17. Approaching His final hours, the Lord prayed for Himself, for the apostles, and for the church; glory for Himself, glory for the apostles, and glory for the church!

The glory of God is one of the most prominent themes of the scripture. Godís earnest desire is that His children see His glory by faith during the years of testing on earth, and that they participate in His glory in the eternal city. But that glory is only to be apprehended through the revelation accomplished in the Son. Jesus prayer was appropriate: "Glorify the Son."

This Is Eternal Life

The great God has an earnest desire for deep fellowship with a specially prepared spiritual people. While He loves all of mankind, most never "understand," in the words of the apostle Paul, and will be destined for the fires of hell, away from the presence of God eternally. But somehow the "few" that find the narrow gate are worth it to the All Wise God, who sent His only begotten Son into a hostile world to pay the price for their sins.

Sin is what separates man from his God, and that Jesus would take the sins of the world upon Himself to restore lost fellowship is one of the great themes of Johnís gospel account. "Behold the Lamb of God," proclaimed John the Immerser, "who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). "If therefore the Son shall make you free," Jesus Himself announced, in reference to being liberated from slavery to sin, "you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). The Lord Jesus would therefore offer Himself to destroy the sin barrier between man and God, and send Spirit of life to the hearts of believers in order that true fellowship might be established.

The goal of God, understandably, is that men might desire to know Him, and come to know Him through Jesus Christ. But a truly spiritual people has to be produced, a people who appreciate that "God is Spirit," not One whose sole purpose is to pander to fleshly desires. Hence a system of faith is established, and a testing of that faith goes on, in order that only those who really desire to know God come through the testing successfully. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God," said this apostle in his first catholic epistle, "in order that you may know that you have eternal life" (I John 5:13).

More on Glory

Communication of spiritual truths and spiritual priorities to fleshly man is a challenge worthy of the God who is Spirit. Expressions such as "dull of hearing," and "uncircumcised in heart and ears," come to mind when the difficulty facing God is contemplated. The highest spiritual priority, obvious to anyone with a smattering of scriptural understanding, is to know God. "This is eternal life," asseverated the Son, "that they may know You, the only true God." In an age of multicultural pluralism, Jesusí statement about the "one true God" is regarded as bordering on insanity; He was a revolutionary then, and He is a revolutionary now. Those whose ears are dull and whose eyes are smeared over are going to refuse to listen to the Lordís plain statement about knowing the only true God, but those who are truly interested in eternal life are going to pay attention, very close attention.

The glorification Jesus accomplished on earth was very great, and worthy of note and honor. But the glorification of the Lord in glory was much greater and is the center of attention of the entire Bible. "Worthy," indeed, "is the Lamb that was slain" to receive glory!

The Great Manifestation

Jesus had a simple plan. He would take a select few, faithful men, train them, and get them to teach and train others. Simple plans work best; it just requires that someone work them faithfully. Hence it was critical that Jesus train these men really well, so that their efforts could be duplicated by all who would follow in their steps.

But the effectiveness of these men would not be solely dependent upon their being able to carry out the mere mechanics of the plan. Their effectiveness would greatly depend upon the character transformation occurring within them through their faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord, therefore, was rightly concerned about the apostlesí belief level, and prayed earnestly on their behalf.

Although the Father had predetermined His plan before the foundation of the world, Jesus in the flesh was pouring out His heart in prayer for these chosen apostles. The manifestation of the great name of God had been entrusted to Jesus, and He in turn was now passing it on to them; the earnestness of the Lordís prayer was certainly understandable.

Transmission of the Words

The apostles of the Lord Jesus, as they shared with Him in the night in which He was betrayed, were confused by the circumstances which swirled around them and their Mentor. Their initial calls to follow Christ were no doubt accompanied by buoyant hopes, but many circumstances had tested their willingness to be His disciples. That Jesus had to run and hide on more than one occasion probably had produced some flickers of uncertainty in their minds. But they doggedly followed on, their determination expressed as they all agreed with the words of Peter, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" (Mark 14:31). But this night they would all be shaken and would be scattered until after Jesusí resurrection. Their characters, however, had already been established to the Lordís satisfaction, and He was willing to entrust the entire destiny of man in their hands (with some heavenly help, of course).

"I am the light of the world," Jesus had pointed out on a couple of occasions. He was the only conduit for the words of God to the world. But all of Jesusí words were going to be transmitted through the apostles; hence the intensity of this prayer. "The words which You gave Me I have given to them ... I ask on their behalf."

Glorified in All Things

"I manifested Your name to the men you gave Me out of the world," was Jesusí reminder to the Father. As One residing in human form, Jesus credited the Father for all. In the process of emptying Himself to take the form of a bond-servant, the Christ placed Himself in a position of weakness and dependency, putting the divine exclamation point of our dependency on the Almighty for all things. The Christ-Child, then, was totally at the mercy of the Father to be delivered from the soldiers of Herod, sent to eliminate the rival "King of the Jews." He retained a consciousness of that reliance all the days of His earthly sojourn, evidenced here in His comment that even these men - the apostles - whom He chose after intense prayer, were given to Him by the Father! So also His teachings: "The words which You gave Me, I have given to them," He commented. It was fitting, then, in the final hours of His time on earth, for Him to petition the Father for the continued care of these men following His exit from His ministry on this planet.

"Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth," applauded the sweet psalmist of Israel. "Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice" (Psalm 68:32,33). The mighty voice of God would not be that which thundered from Sinai; the mighty voice would be that which spoke through the mouths of the chosen apostles! The mighty deeds of Jehovah would not be the mere shaking of the earth or casting down a kingdom; His mighty deeds were those connected with raising Jesus from the dead and exalting Him to the right hand of power! Because those things cannot be seen in the physical realm, a people of faith would have to be raised up through the proclamation of these same apostes. Hence Jesusí prayer on their behalf, and the appeal to the Father on the basis of common effort and glorification of the Son.

Keeping the Apostles

Before the foundation of the world a plan was devised to produce a people of faith. As later expressed, these people would come from "all the nations of the earth" (Genesis 26:4). "For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world," was Peterís reference for the Gentiles who had become this people of faith, "but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead, so that your faith and hope are in God" (I Peter 1:20,21). Faith in God amongst the peoples of the world is produced through the proclamation of Jesusí glory, a glory unseen by the physical eye but revealed to the eyes of the heart. This process would begin through the chosen apostles.

The first stages of the work of the Christian Liberation Army were in place. As Jesus contemplated the mission before His liberators, His petition was first for the commandos to remain in the Fatherís name, to be kept safe there from the wiles of the evil and enslaving tyrant of darkness. In oneness of spiritual purpose, and united in the deepest of fellowships, this army, in accordance with His prayer, would then move forward in its rescue operation.

The Given Word

Jesusí battle for His own soul was intense. The prince of darkness was working every possible way to get the Savior to sin, and the Lord, conscious of the struggles in the spiritual realm, had commented, "The ruler of the world is coming" (John 14:30). The other gospel accounts, therefore, record the intensity of His prayers in Gethsemane as He fought the battle to move forward into death and accomplish the Fatherís will.

But the battle also involved the apostles, one of which was Judas Iscariot. Of him, the Lord had to report to the Father in connection with his prayer for the other special disciples, "And not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). The work of Judas, the betrayer, was prophesied in the Old Testament writings. The Prince of Life, then, was happy to report that none of the others perished, and that the only one he lost was the one of whom it was written. The nature of Jesusí report indicates how intense the spiritual struggle was, and how much work He personally had to do to protect the eleven remaining men.

The word of God created all, and the word of God governs all. Judasí betrayal was still in accordance with scripture; the words of Jesus giving joy were the words of God, and the continuing teaching of Jesus, even from heaven, would still be the word of God. One of the greatest gifts Jesus ever gave the world were the words from the Majesty on High! In His prayer report to the Father, explaining His accomplishment of His mission, He was therefore jubilant to announce, "I have given them Your word."

Not of the World

What Jesus called "the world" is not neutral. Mankind has a hard time realizing the hostility of the world, and even Christians are repeatedly warned about the dangers of the world. This is not surprising since children are essentially raised by the world, and everyone who sins and falls short of the glory of God becomes, at least for a time, a part of the world. Hence the environment of most people, with the rare exception of those whose home is such that the children are sanctified, is the world, and that is considered normal. That this normal environment should be considered hostile takes significant reprogramming on the part of the faithful disciples of Christ.

During the days of Jesusí earthly sojourn, many believed in Him, and rightly so, because it was clear, as Nicodemus put it, "No one can do these signs which you do unless God is with Him" (John 3:2). But the pressure of their world was such that many who believed in Him, even if they were rulers of their own synagogues, would not confess Him before men, "for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God" (John 12:43). Conscious that this pressure would continue, Jesus petitioned the Father for these men, affirming, "They are not of this world, even as I am not of this world" (John 17:16). May we follow in their footsteps!


In Old Testament times, things were physically consecrated and set apart for Godís purposes. Thus there was a holy tabernacle, with holy implements, a holy altar, and a holy priesthood. When something was set aside for God, it was always to be the best. "Cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock, and vows it," emphasized the Almighty, "but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King" (Malachi 1:14). That which was separated out for the Lord was the best, the first fruits, the first born.

But all these things in Old Testament times were to communicate what was to be accomplished in the spiritual realm under the terms of the New Covenant. Hence that which was holy under the Old was holy without its choice, as a rule; the bronze implement that was for sanctified use at the altar did not have anything to say about its special position in the sacrifices to God. But sanctification in the new and living way would involve the choice of the individual being sanctified, and the sanctification of anything else would flow from a sanctified follower of Christ.

Holiness, or sanctification, under the terms of the new covenant has more to do with the mission and character of those sent out in Jesusí name than a dead list of "thou-shalt-notís". May all disciples be sanctified in truth, and may they carry out the mission of Jesus, holy in all their behavior!

Through Their Word

God Himself is the author of language. Language is not something that evolved upward from systematic grunts around a campfire to the finally elevated language of a Shakespeare. Communication, when it first appears in what records of man that can be obtained from the archeological digs in the earth, is very complete and very complex. Those who operate from the thesis that man evolved upward are always surprised at this finding, expecting modern man, the most highly evolved and therefore the most intelligent of the species, to have the most developed language and the most complex thought. But the opposite is actually true; in the process of streamlining language - of which modern English is the most strident example - a gradual "dumbing down" has occurred, because the complex speech patterns produce elevated thought patterns in children in their early developmental phases. All modern languages, then, are derived from those which were given to mankind as the families were scattered from the tower of Babel.

God, then, having developed the languages for man, has orchestrated the communication of His message through those languages. Hence, as Jesus moves from praying for the apostles to praying for the future church, He describes all following disciples as believing "through their word."

The prayer of Jesus was that a unified body of believers could be formed from the language shared with the world by the apostles. These people would be an army of messenger boys and girls shouting the good news in the streets, weaving it into chats with the neighbors, distributing it in every form of print. Spiritually connected, bound together by the word of Jesusí especially chosen disciples, these brethren work as leaven throughout the world, and eventually bring every willing soul under the government of King Jesus. Through the WORD!

Perfected in Unity

"We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord," goes the campfire song. The sentiment is certainly scriptural, but it is laughable when fundamentalists, evangelicals, and assorted charismatics try to sing it together. Satan has done a powerful job of confusing terms; many of these groups call themselves "non-denominational" or "undenominational," but they are really "interdenominational." And these two terms are exact opposites. Non-denominational means "unsplintered," with all parties united in doctrine and practice in accordance with the teachings of primitive Christianity. Inter-denominational means that no one cares what any of the parties believe or practice as long as they can contribute to the body count at the coordinated event. Jesusí prayer for His disciples was that they be non-denominational, that they be united in doctrine and intent.

In the throes of leaving the apostles behind, and contemplating the future of His kingdom as He prayed in the presence of the Father, the earnest desire of the suffering Savior was that His disciples be perfected in unity through their participation in His glory by faith. What follower of Christ could willingly disregard this prayer? Who, as one making a claim to be a disciple of the Lord, could have such a cold heart as to fail to pursue the things which make for peace and the unity of doctrine and practice found in the pages of Jesusí holy word?

Glory as a Means to Unity

There are movers and shakers out there who contemplate what could happen if all disciples could be united. Their problem is that they only think in terms of masses, of congregations, or groups of congregations. Hence their plans for "one body" are formulated on the basis of having these groups or leaders of these groups bump together in meetings and forums in hopes that some sort of spiritual gravity will cause them to stick to each other long enough to call it "unity." Such a process, however, is of human origin, and thus guaranteed to fail in accomplishing the will of the spiritual Father, expressed in the prayer of His Christ. The only means to the unity contemplated by Jesus is individual participation in His glory by faith.

The movers and shakers, wanting to use political games to manipulate people, routinely avoid the thrust of Jesusí prayer when they want to talk about unity. They are aware that participation in Jesusí glory is going to require a truly spiritual people, not just pew-packers who pump up the numbers count. To have the word of God produce this spiritual people is going to take more work than they are willing to do, and therefore runs counter to their agenda. As a result, those who make the claim of trying to generate "unity" are, by contrast, hostile to the actual unity of the Spirit Jesus contemplated in His prayer. Let those, then, who are truly disciples of Christ participate in the transformation accomplished by seeing His glory in the mirror, and thus come to the unity of the faith.

The Incredible Love of God

Faith, hope, and love abide in the church of God. The day will come, praise God, when faith will be transformed into sight at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Hope will become obsolete at that same time. But love, the greatest, will abide forever in the eternal kingdom of God! Twice the aged apostle John reminds us in his first epistle, "God is love." His greatest attribute, His deep resounding love, is what He desires to communicate to mankind and to the hosts of heaven. He demonstrated that love in sending Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world. He proclaims that love through the preaching of the gospel. And He produces that love by pouring it out in the hearts of His followers through the Holy Spirit which was given to them. It is not surprising, then, that the love of God should be the closing focus of Jesusí intercessory prayer on the west bank of the Kidron.

These words of Jesusí prayer must never die out: Jesus makes the Fatherís name known to the disciples, "that the love with which the Father loved" Him might be in all disciples! Godís love for each disciple is incredible, and His ability to spread His love through His disciples is even more incredible. This was a plan in motion before the foundation of the world, and a plan to make His love known throughout the world. God is love!