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The High Priestly Prayer (John 17,18)

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"The glory I had with you before the world was" (Jn. 17:5)




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John 17

Jesus’ prayer to God
These things spoke Jesus, and lifting up his eyes to Heaven, he said: Father, the hour comes. Glorify Your son, that the son may glorify you, 2 even as You gave him authority over all flesh, so that he should give eternal life to all whom You have given him. 3 And this is everlasting life, that they should know You, the only true God, and him whom You sent, Jesus Christ.
   4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You gave me to do. 5 And now Father, glorify me with Your own self with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
   6 I manifested Your Name to the men whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were and You gave them to me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they know that all things, whatever You have given me, are from You. 8 For the words which You gave me I have given to them, and they received them, and knew as a truth that I came forth from You; and they believed that You did send me.
   9 I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for those whom You have given me; for they are Yours. 10 All things that are mine are Yours, and Yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
   11 I am no more in the world; but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them whom You have given me in Your Name, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in Your Name which You have given me, and I guarded them; and not one of them perished except the son of perdition, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
   13 Now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word, and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out from the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent me into the world, even so I send them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they may also be sanctified in truth.
   20 Neither for these only do I pray, but for those also that believe in me through their word; 21 that they may all be one, even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they may also be one in us; that the world may believe You did send me. 22 And the glory which You have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one. 23 I in them and You in me, that they may be perfected into one, that the world may know You did send me and that You have loved them just as You loved me.
   24 Father, I desire that they also whom You have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which You have given me. For You loved me from before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world did not know You; but I knew You, and these knew that You sent me. 26 And I declared to them Your Name, and will declare it, so that the love with which You loved me may be in them, and I in them.


17:3 “Know” is in the Greek continuous tense. We will spend eternity growing to know God. This is what eternal life will be about. If we don’t want to know God now, then there will be no point giving us eternity in God’s Kingdom to do this.

17:5 We need to remember that the Lord was speaking, and John was writing, against a Jewish background. The language of 'pre-existence' was common in Jewish thinking and writing. To be 'with God' didn't mean, in Jewish terms, to be up there in heaven with God literally. Mary had favour para God (Lk. 1:30) in the same way as Jesus had glory para God, but this doesn't mean she pre-existed or was in Heaven with God with her "favour". The Torah supposedly pre-existed, everything on earth was a pattern of the pre-existing ideas of those things which were held in the plan and mind of God in Heaven. John 17:5 has reference to these things: "And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed". The Talmud and Genesis Rabbah speak of the "Throne of Glory" pre-existing before the world existed. And the Lord Jesus seems to be alluding to that. The Jewish mind wouldn't have understood the Lord Jesus to be making any claim here to have bodily, physically existed before birth. Peter reflected Jewish thinking when he wrote (albeit under inspiration) that Jesus was "foreknown" before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20 ESV). Think through the implications of being "foreknown"- the Greek word used is the root of the English word 'prognosis'. If God 'foreknew' His Son, the Son was not literally existent next to Him at the time of being 'foreknown'. Otherwise the language of 'foreknowing' becomes meaningless.

17:14-18 We are to be “in” the world, but not “of” the spirit of this world.

17:23 The unity of believers was a major theme in the Lord’s mind as He faced His death. It should be of paramount importance to us too.

17:26 God’s Name refers to His characteristics. As the Angel declared these to Moses as he hid in a cave, humbled by God’s glory passing by (Ex. 34:4-6), so Jesus declared that Name to perfection in His death. He did this in the life He lived (“I made known to them your name”), but in a very special way at the crucifixion (“and will make it known”). The result of us perceiving this in the cross is that we shall love one another, with the love of Christ.