Accomplishment of Jesus’ Work (John 17:1-8)
Jesus begins his prayer stating that it was time for him to be glorified; that is, time for him to be resurrected and sit at the Father’s right hand (Philippians 2:9-11). In doing this, glory will come to the Father (John 13:31) because the Father has given the Son authority over mankind (John 3:35; 13:3; Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 2:8) in order that the Son can grant eternal life to as many as God has given him (I John 2:25). Eternal life starts from a knowledge of the Father and the Son (Jeremiah 9:23-24; John 6:63; 12:50).
The work Jesus was given by God has been accomplished, foreshadowing Jesus’ statement on the cross (John 19:30). He has glorified God while on earth (John 4:34). Jesus, himself, had left that glory to come to earth and now prays to be reinstated (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus has also show God’s name, or authority, to the disciples (Psalm 22:22). They belonged to the Father, but were given to Jesus and they have kept God’s word. As a result they understand that all things have been given to Jesus by the Father.
Jesus taught them what God wanted taught, they accepted this teaching, and as a result believe that Jesus came from the Father (I John 4:14).
Requests for the Disciples (John 17:9-19)
This prayer of Jesus is not for the world in general but for his disciples and for those who would later come to believe through their teachings (John 17:20). They are in the world, but they are not of the world because of their belief in Jesus’ teachings (I John 5:19). And by their living according to Jesus’ teachings and spreading it to others, Jesus is glorified by them in turn (I Peter 2:9).
Jesus’ work is essentially done. Though the suffering on the cross is yet to happen, all thing have been set in order and it will happen. Thus Jesus speaks of no longer being in the world. But his concern is for those he must leave behind. He prays that God will preserve them and that they will be united. They are being kept in the authority of God (I Peter 1:5; Proverbs 18:10). This is not saying they are prevented from leaving God, but that while they remain under God’s authority, God would preserve them. They will also face a severe trial being scattered when Jesus is taken and Jesus is concerned that they pass through the trial and join together.
Jesus kept them safe and on the right track while he was with them. All of them remain except the one, Judas Iscariot, who was prophesied to be lost (Psalm 41:9; John 6:39, 70). It is Jesus’ fervent desire that God continues to watch over them as Jesus is no longer with them. And it was Jesus’ desire that they experience his joy as well (John 15:11; Hebrews 12:2; I John 1:4; Psalm 126:5).
The disciples need God’s care because they have been taught and accepted God’s word. As a result they are no longer a part of the world and face the world’s hatred (Proverbs 29:27; John 15:18-21; I John 3:13). Jesus does not want them out of the world, just protected from the deceptions of Satan (Psalm 121:7; II Thessalonians 3:3). The implication is that they have work to do which cannot be done if they left the world too soon. Nor can they be isolated from the trials of the world because the hardships will cause them to grow (Romans 8:37; Revelation 2:26; 3:21).
They are not of the world, just as Christ isn’t, because they have been set apart by the truth, the Word of God (I Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26; II Thessalonians 2:13; Psalm 19:7-14). Jesus was sent into the world, though he was not a part of it. He in turn is now sending the disciples into the world though they are not a part of it. Jesus set himself apart that the disciples might follow his example (I Corinthians 1:2; II Corinthians 5:14-17; I Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 10:10).
Thus Jesus made a three requests on behalf of the disciples: that they might be united, that they might be kept separate from the world, and that they might be sent to serve in the world.
Prayer for Unity Among All Disciples (John 17:20-26)
Jesus extends the application of his prayer beyond just his immediate disciples to include all who will follow their teachings.
Foremost, these followers also need to be united (Romans 12:5). A unity which can only be reached within God. The unity between the Father and the Son is set forth as an example of what Jesus desires of his followers. Sadly, those in denominations feel that a mere claim of following Jesus is sufficient to reach the unity that Jesus wanted, and it doesn’t even come close (I Corinthians 1:10). The unity that Jesus desires is one where all disciples are included in the unity between Jesus and the Father so that all three groups become one. In becoming one with God they will share in God’s glory (John 1:12; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 2:19; I John 3:1). And that unity will show to the world that Jesus was from God and that God’s love is extended to them.
Jesus’s second desire is that the believers may join him in heaven to see his glory (I Thessalonians 4:17; I John 3:2). They will see for themselves the love of the Father for His Son that has existed before the world was created – yet another hint that Jesus was not a created being but a part of the Godhead.
The world does not know God (I Corinthians 1:21; 2:6-10; II Corinthians 4:4; II Thessalonians 1:8), but Jesus has always known Him (John 10:15). Now, the followers of Jesus also know and know that the Father has sent the Son into the world (Hebrews 8:11; I John 5:19-20).