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John 17:1-8 Commentary & Lesson
for February 28, 2021
New Revised Standard Version

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L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
Teaching the Truth in Love

John 17:1-8

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I glorified you on earth
by finishing the work that you gave me to do
(John 17:4).

How to Know the Father and Jesus

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Praying Through John 17:1-8

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John 17:1-8

(John 17:1) After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,

In John 17, before Jesus prayed what has been titled His “High Priestly Prayer,” a prayer of intercession as our High Priest, He encouraged His disciples by saying in John 16:33, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” Our heavenly Father answers all the prayers of Jesus and all who trust Him as Lord and Savior. When Jesus tells His disciples to have peace in Him and take courage (and His disciples for the past 2,000 years have needed His peace and to take courage), the Holy Spirit helps them have His peace and take courage in answer to His and their prayers to the Father. In John 17, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for all His disciples through the years who would come to know and love Him because His disciples taught His words—the words of His Father. Jesus’ last command to His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 included the words, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and His disciples have continued to do so—despite facing persecution from those of this world.

Jesus prayed aloud for His disciples to hear, learn, and remember because His time had come for Him to leave them. He knew that He would leave them in such a terrifying way (as John saw) that they would need to remember His reassuring prayer for them. They knew that God answered all Jesus’ prayers. And His Father answered Jesus’ prayer for them before and after those of the world arrested, tried, tortured, and crucified Jesus.

We might think of Jesus’ prayer as a “progress report” to His heavenly Father. Jesus prayed an unselfish prayer, for He prayed and asked the Father to help Him glorify His Father. In asking the Father to glorify Him, Jesus wanted His glorification to glorify His Father. Another word for “glorify” is honor. Jesus only wanted His Father to honor Him so He could honor the Father by all He said and did. When believers pray for success, they can pray that their success will glorify or honor the Father and the Son and show others that they love and supremely serve the Father and the Son.

(John 17:2) since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

The Father gave Jesus, the Son, authority over all people. In Matthew 9:6, we learn that Jesus, the Son of Man, had “authority on earth to forgive sins.” In Matthew 28:18, Jesus told His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In John 5:27, Jesus said the Father had “given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” In John 17:2, Jesus said that He has the authority to give eternal life. In John 19:11, Jesus told Pilate that he would have no power or authority over Him unless it had been given him from above. The Father and Jesus gave Pilate the authority or power as governor of Judea to order Jesus crucified. Jesus did not use His authority to stop Pilate or His persecutors, because He came to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for all He came to save. For good reasons, Jesus could share His authority with His disciples. In Matthew 10:1, Jesus gave His disciples “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.” Jesus died and rose again to save sinners and give eternal life to all who would believe in Him (see John 3:16). The Father gave to Jesus all those who would be saved by grace through faith in Him as Lord and Savior. When disciples of Jesus worship the Father and the Son, they can thank the Father for giving them to Jesus. All Jesus’ disciples can have peace in Him and take courage from knowing the fact that the Father will never take from Jesus any gift that He has given Him—they can remember that they are the Father’s gifts to Jesus. Think how precious the disciples of Jesus are to the Father and the Son!

(John 17:3) And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

In His prayer, Jesus defined the meaning of “eternal life.” Eternal life can begin now in this present world and last forever. Eternal life involves knowing the only true God, the Father and Jesus Christ, the One the Father sent. Eternal life involves and depends on knowing both the Father and the Son. Knowing the truth about them will fill the believer with true love for them. Knowing God involves more than having an intellectual conception of some facts about God. Knowing God involves a personal relationship with God that includes listening to God when reading the Bible, loving God, praying to God, worshiping God, serving God, and obeying God.

(John 17:4) I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

Jesus loved others, taught, healed, cast out demons, raised the dead, fed the multitudes, calmed the stormy sea, and did other things that were part of the work His Father intended for Him to do. Jesus looked forward to glorifying His Father and finishing His work by obeying Him and dying in our behalf to save believers in Him from practicing sin and the eternal consequences of sin. Jesus said and did what would glorify God and point people to the true God. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus, the Father glorifies the Son by pointing those He has given Jesus to Jesus in ways that lead people to trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. As disciples of Jesus, we can honor and glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit by finishing the work that Jesus has given us to do. Because we love them, we want to glorify them, just as Jesus loved His Father in heaven. Jesus wanted to glorify His Father by obeying Him and teaching others the words that His Father had given Him to share with them. We find these words in the Bible—the infallible Word of God written.

(John 17:5) So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

Jesus did not take His Father’s love for Him and His plans for Him as simple matters of course. Jesus asked His Father to keep His promise to Him fully while knowing that the Father would do what He promised and answer His prayers. Disciples of Jesus can pray according to the promises of God in the Bible fully knowing that God will do all that He has promised in the Bible. Jesus wanted to return to His place on the throne of God where He sat before the Father created the world through Him, for Jesus is the Word of God (see John 1:1). As we learned in John 1:1-18, Jesus was not a mere prophet or mere human being or an angel from heaven. Jesus is the Son of God who had the glory of God in the presence of God His Father before the world existed. Jesus came to earth fully God and fully human, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary, His mother. In Luke 1:35, “The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God’.”

(John 17:6) “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Jesus prayed for His disciples and all who would become His disciples. The Father gave followers to Jesus, followers who would become Jesus’ disciples, by taking them out of the world that they might enter the Kingdom of God under the rule of Jesus the King (the Messiah). Jesus reported in His prayer that He had made the Father’s Name (the true character and nature of God) known to them and they had believed and obeyed the word of God that had Jesus taught them and the crowds. Jesus knew that it was important for His disciples to hear His “progress report” in prayer and believe that God, His Father and their Father, had accepted His report and work. God the Father gave absolute proof that He accepted Jesus “progress report” when He raised Jesus from the dead and gave Jesus’ disciples the Holy Spirit to indwell them. The Father and the Son always worked and work together in perfect unity of heart and mind. Those who become Jesus’ disciples are those the Father has given Jesus. Today, by using the Bible’s teachings, Jesus’ disciples must make the Name (the nature and character) of the Father and the Son known to those in the world. Those who come to believe in Jesus have been given to Jesus by the Father. Those who have been given to Jesus by the Father will keep (obey) the word of God (the words of Jesus). In prayer, disciples of Jesus can ask the Father to help them make disciples of Jesus as Jesus did, and they can give the Father a “progress report” as Jesus did. In these and other ways, with the help of the Holy Spirit, disciples of Jesus can glorify the Father and the Son. They can glorify Jesus by finishing the work Jesus has given them.

(John 17:7) Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

Jesus lived and taught in ways that always pointed people to the true God, the Father and the Son. Jesus taught and acted in such a way that people could hear with their ears and see with their eyes that everything Jesus said and did was consistent with the express will of His Father, and the Father blessed and enabled His incarnate Son to do everything Jesus did and all that He taught. All things belong to the Father and the Son, and Jesus taught His disciples this truth.

(John 17:8) for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”

When He spoke with authority, Jesus always made it clear that He did not speak only on His own authority independent from the Father. Jesus’ words and deeds convinced His followers that He came from God and He was sent by God to them for their benefit and the benefit of all who would hear and believe the good news about and from Jesus. A true disciple of Jesus has received the words of Jesus as the words of God the Father. They know “in truth,” as “actual fact,” that Jesus Christ came into this world because the Father loved the world and sent Jesus into the world. Jesus did what He was sent by the Father to do. Remember John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Disciples of Jesus know and believe what they have learned from and about Jesus as revealed in the Bible. Because the know and believe the words of Jesus they keep and obey the words of Jesus—the very words of God.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1.Why did Jesus come into the world?

2. Why did Jesus want the Father to glorify the Son?

3. Why did the Father give Jesus authority over all people?

4. What is eternal life?

5. How did Jesus glorify the Father? How can we, if we are His disciples, glorify the Father and Jesus?

How to Know the Father and Jesus

I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do (John 17:4).

When Jesus prayed aloud to His Father, His disciples learned that Jesus glorified His Father by finishing everything His Father sent Him to do. His Father had sent Him “so that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). In John 17:3, Jesus defined eternal life saying, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” By Jesus’ loving and caring ways, by His power to meet every human need, and by His teaching the word of God, His disciples came to know the Father and the Son. By describing His disciples’ responses to Him, Jesus’ prayer teaches people how they can know whether they know the Father and Jesus or not. First, the same as Jesus’ first disciples, today Jesus’ disciples know that everything Jesus had, including His disciples, were given to Him by His Father. Second, they know that the very words Jesus spoke were His Father’s word [message or teaching]. Third, the same as Jesus’ first disciples, today Jesus’ disciples receive Jesus’ words. They know and believe “in truth” that His Father sent Jesus into the world. Fourth, Jesus’ first disciples and today’s disciples keep [obey] the word of God, the words the Father gave Jesus to give to His disciples (see John 17:1-8). In John 14:15, Jesus taught, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In 1 John 2:3, John explained, “Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments.” Today, Jesus’ disciples still glorify God by finishing the work He gives them. — LG Parkhurst Jr.

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