John

17:20-26

The glory of the Messiah, 13:1-20:31

1. The farewell discourses, 13:1-17:26

xiv] Jesus prays for all who will believe

Synopsis

John concludes his record of the farewell discourse which covers chapters 13:1-17:26. Jesus' prayer that "they may be one as we are one", v11b, is now extended to those who will believe through the preaching of the apostles.

 
Teaching

All who embrace the preaching of the apostles will be embraced in the love of God, becoming one in him.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 13:1-17.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, Witnesses to the resurrection, presents as follows:

The Prayer of the Departing Redeemer (Schnackenburg), 17:1-26:

Jesus addresses his own glorification, v1-5;

Jesus addresses the needs of his apostles / disciples, v6-19;

The basis for the prayer, v6-11a;

A prayer for divine protection, v11b-15;

A prayer for their consecration in the word, v16-19;

Jesus addresses the needs of all who believe, v20-26:

The unity of all believers, v20-23;

"in order that all of them may be one."

Perfection in Christ, v24-26.

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am."

 

The climax of the prayer is v21-23: the iJna purpose clause, "in order that they may all be one", v21, repeated in v22, "in order that they may be one even as we are one", repeated in v23, "in order that they may be perfectly one."

 

iii] Interpretation:

Jesus began his prayer by addressing the unity expressed in the Godhead and then extended that unity to cover the eleven disciples, a unity that enables a participation in God's glory. Jesus now extends this prayer to all who believe, that they too may experience the glory and unity experienced by the Father and the Son. "Such a participation in the perfect unity of the Godhead will be both an historical and an eschatological privilege of the Church.... As believers come to share that unity, and the glory inseparable from it, during their earthly life, they will be able themselves to recognize the divine origin and quality of life of the Church; and by the same token, other people will be able to share their recognition", Marsh.

 

What is the nature of the oneness / unity for which Jesus prays? The substance of Jesus' prayer is that his disciples be one. This request is first mentioned in verse 11 where Jesus prays that his disciples be kept safe, probably in the sense of eternally safe by firmly holding onto the gospel of God's grace during their life's journey. The consequence of their security in the gospel is their being "one as we are one." Actually, since the verb is a present subjunctive the sense is "may continue to be one as we are one." The disciples are already one, just as the Father and Jesus are one, and Jesus acts for their security so that they may continue to be one. This then is the substance of Jesus' prayer for all believers. Yet, what type of unity/oneness is Jesus praying for?

Verses 21-23 serve to explain something of the nature of this oneness:

• Unity is a character of the godhead;

• Unity links the godhead with believers;

• Unity is observable to unbelievers;

• Unity prompts faith;

• Unity exhibits divine glory;

• Unity will one day be perfected.

It is possible, of course, that the second hina clause is a separate prayer point, namely: Jesus prays that believers continue to abide in the divine. Yet, it is more likely that being one and abiding "in" the divine, refer to the same reality. The Father abides in the Son and the Son in the Father, and they are one. This reality is possessed by all believers. We abide in the divine and in that abiding we are one with the divine and one with each other. Jesus prays that this reality will continue for his followers and be ultimately perfected in the last day.

So again, what is this unity? Obviously, something more than organizational unity is intended. It is likely that the nature of this oneness is revealed in the message which Jesus and his followers proclaim. Jesus prays that those who have heard the "message" (the gospel) and believed, may continue one. Verse 23 seems to imply that oneness is evident in love (divine compassion): the Father's love for Jesus and for those who believe in Jesus, cf. also v26. "It is the Divine unity of love that is referred to where all wills bow in the same direction, all affections burn with the same flame, all aims are directed to the same end - one blessed harmony of love", Moulton and Miligan. Nicely put! So, we can probably define this oneness/unity as a unity of love - united in a common understanding and experience of God's gracious mercy displayed in the person and works of Jesus Christ. In short: one in love.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 17:20

iii] Jesus addresses the needs of all who believe, v20-26: a) Jesus prays for the unity of all believers, v20-23. Christ has prayed for the unity of his disciples and now he turns his attention to those who will come to believe in him through their preaching. This prayer is for those who hear the gospel, turn to Jesus and put their trust in him. Christ's prayer for broken humanity is that we may continue to be one. The meaning of this oneness is unpacked for us in verses 21 to 23. The oneness that Jesus desires for us is the same oneness that binds together the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is the sum of God's character, a unifying love, merciful compassion - see above. Jesus prays that we continue in the unity of love in association with the Father and the Son. A consequence of knowing and experiencing the love of God in Christ is that God's ultimate plan of gathering a people to himself is progressed when broken humanity sees something of the divine in Christ's people, and in seeing they believe. Jesus states further in v22 that our continued experience of the love of God, both in our relationship with Jesus and each other, is guaranteed by the gift of glory. The radiance of the divine, his glory, exhibited in the person and work of Jesus, is revealed to us in the scriptures. So, we continue in God's love through the renewing power of Biblical truth. Finally, in v23, Jesus prays that this unifying love, evident in the relationship between the members of the Trinity and in brotherly fellowship, might soon be complete, perfected. The world will see this divine love "because" Christ was sent and "because" the Father's love for believers is evident to all.

toutwn (ouJtoV) pron. "them" - [I do not ask for] them [alone]. Referring to the disciples presently gathered with Jesus.

alla kai "also" - but also. Contrastive use.

peri + gen. "for" - about, concerning. Reference.

twn pisteuontwn (pisteuw) pres. part. "those who believe" - the ones believing. The participle serves as a substantive. Jesus is not just praying for the unity of the present band of disciples, but also for a wider band of believers (the church) who will come to believe in him through the apostolic preaching.

eiV eme "in me" - to/into me. This prepositional phrase may be linked to "believe", as in the NIV, NRSV.., "believe in me", or may be linked with "word", "believe because of their testimony (word) in me." Given the word order, the natural reading is the second option, but the first is more in character with John. Grammarians argue that in the New Testament the preposition eiV, normally translated "into", is often synonymous with the preposition en, "in", as here. The meanings are close, one meaning a movement toward and into something, and the other meaning a static in. So, a believing into Jesus carries the sense of movement toward him, with a consequent resting in his sphere of personal authority. John often uses the phrase "believe in/on (eiV) his name", which means much the same, also much the same as "receive Christ / come to Christ / know Christ."

dia + gen. "through [their message]" - through, by means of [the word]. Instrumental, expressing means; "by means of the preached word / the gospel."

 
v21

iJna + subj. "that" - that. In this verse we have three hina clauses, another in v22 and another two in v23. In this verse, the first two serve as object clauses / dependent statements of indirect speech expressing what Jesus prays for. The third hina clause probably forms a final clause expressing purpose, as NIV, outlining the goal of the oneness in the first and second hina clauses; "so that the world ..."

panteV eJn wsin "all of them may be one" - all one may continue to be.

kaqwV "just as" - as. This conjunction introduces a comparative clause which serves to provide an example, or model, of the unity Jesus is praying for. It is repeated in v22 and v23. Brown suggests that the clause is also causative, but this is unlikely. The model of the unity prayed for by Jesus is found in the very existence of God, of his being. God's being is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the radiant center of whom is divine love: grace, mercy, kindness, forgiveness.... The unity of the godhead is expressed in gracious love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and by extension, to us. So, the unity Jesus desires of us is a common understanding and experience of love between believers. This understanding and experience of love prompts graciousness, mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, ....

iJna kai aouto en hJmin wsin "may they also be in us" - that also they in us may continue to be. The clause further explains the substance of the prayer that "we may continue to be one". Being in the Father and the Son further explains what it means to be one. "That they may continue in the love of Christ in both experience and understanding."

iJna + subj. "that" - in order that. This third hina clause is probably final (a purpose clause), and is probably not functioning as an object of the verb "pray". This being the case, Jesus is not praying that the world may believe through the apostolic preaching. Of course, if he did so pray, the world would believe. Bultman says the clause represents the goal of the oneness prayed for in the first and second hina clauses. As such it functions as an object of "may they be" [in the divine].

pisteuh/ (pisteuw) pres. subj. "[the world] may believe" - Note, in John "believing" is "knowing", cf. v23. A textual variant has "believe" as an aorist. The aorist would imply a belief and knowing at its inception, "that the world may come to believe/know", rather than an ongoing belief/knowing. The consequence of a church infused with love (the grace of acceptance, forgiveness ....) is that the gospel of grace is set before the world in sign, as well as word, and where the gospel is manifested, people believe.

oJti "that [you have sent me]" - that [you me sent]. Forming an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the world may know / believe. The statement is repeated in v23. By itself it seems rather light-weight, but takes on weight in the context of Jesus' prayer in 11:41-42, where the exact same words are used. Here, at the raising of Lazarus, Jesus says, "did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?", 11:40. Jesus serves to reveal the very person of the living God so that the lost may come to know him, to come to know God through the one who was sent, and now through the words of those who proclaim him, cf. v22.

 
v22

Verses 22 and 23 restate 21, but unpack the prayer a little more by further explaining the nature of oneness.

dedwkaV (didwmi) perf. "I have given" - . The "given" is in the perfect tense which implies a timeless given.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - to them. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.

thn doxan (a) "the glory" - The giving of "glory" concerns the manifestation of the being of God, the content of which has prompted much debate (see Beasley-Murray). For John, Christ's glory is displayed in his crucifixion, in his lifting up, and this as the ultimate act of love, therefore, the glory is the manifestation of a redemption bought with a price, but freely given by grace through faith. The glory is the manifestation of God's gracious love toward broken humanity. This glory is "given" in that it is "offered" and so can be received and experienced. God's revelation in Christ encapsulates this glory, initially in the person and work of Christ, but now in the inspired record of God's revelation to the world, namely, the scriptures. So, for us, God's Word is the radiant source of that glory, and as noted below, it is this Word which most likely function to maintain unity/oneness, ie. to keep us in God's love.

iJna "that [they may be one]" - that [we may continue to be one]. It does seem that this clause maintains the syntactical structure commenced in v21, namely, as an object clause / dependent statement expressing the content of Jesus' prayer. If this is the case, the sentence would more properly be translated "I have given them the same glory you gave me; may they be one as we are one." On the other hand, it can be treated simply as a purpose clause, where the purpose of the giving of glory is the maintenance of unity/oneness. Most translations take this tack and so begin the clause with "that" or "so that." The "they" is most likely all believers, rather than just the apostles.

 
v23

en + dat. "[I] in [them and you] in [me]" - Local, expressing space / sphere. In v21, oneness is explained as: Christ "in" the Father, the Father "in" Christ and disciples "in" the Father and Son. Here it is the Father "in" disciples, with Christ "in" the Father again. All depict the unity of love that is the subject of Christ's prayer.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. As above, we are again unsure how we should read this hina clause, and the one following. The ESV, etc. takes both as a final clauses expressing purpose, while the NIV takes the second as consecutive, expressing result; "then the world ....."

w\sin teteleiwmenoi (teleiow) perf. pas. part. "they may be [brought to] complete" - [they may be] perfected [into one]. A periphrastic perfect construction. The perfect tense can imply an attaining of oneness (perfect love) in this life - an example of John's realized eschatology? On the other hand, Paul's perspective of pressing on toward an eternal goal, of striving to be what we are, should probably control our understanding of this completeness, cf. Phil.3:12. "That they may attain perfect oneness / be brought to completion as one."

oJti "that [you ...... have loved them]" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the world "may know." The world will see in Christ and his disciples, the very character of God, his infinite love, and this "because" Christ was sent and "because" the Father's love for believers is evident to all. The Father's infinite love is evident in his forgiveness of those who believe through Christ's death and resurrection.

kaqwV "even as [you loved me]" - as, just as. Comparative.

 
v24

b) Jesus prayers that all believers may be perfected in him and so participate in his glory, v24-26. Jesus now winds up his prayer for all who believes. Jesus affirms the Father's will that those who believe will share eternity with Christ and see the nature of his glory in all its wonder. This glory is divine, an expression of the reciprocal love that exists within the Godhead. Addressing the Father, v25, Jesus makes a simple observation: only he knows God and only in him is God known. The disciples have recognized the divine in Jesus and so have come to know God. The world, on the other hand, has not recognized the divine in Jesus and so has failed to come to know the living God. Jesus concludes in v26 with an affirmation of fact. He has made known his Word, the gospel, and will continue to make it known through the apostolic witness and the Word ministries of the church. The purpose of this ongoing revelation is that believers will continue under the abiding influence of divine love, and so retain the intimate involvement of Jesus Christ in their life.

Pater (Pathr) voc. "Father" - Barrett suggests that the better reading is nominative.

oJ dedwkaV (didwmi) perf. "those you have given me" - that which you have given to me. The gift (neuter) being believers.

qelw pres. "I want" - I wish, will. Christ wills what the Father wills and so therefore, there is no need to ask, concerning those whom the Father has given, that they may share eternity.

iJna "to [be with me where I am]" - that [where I am those also may be with me]. In this verse we again have two hina clauses and a oJti clause, similar to v23. Yet, this time the two hina clauses form dependent statements expressing what Jesus desires of the Father, while the oJti clause is causal, "because you loved me ...." Jesus has made the point that his disciples do not necessarily go to the Father as Jesus goes (ie. via crucifixion), nor can they come with him at this moment, but they will be with him in eternity.

qewrwsin (qewrew) subj. "see" - they may see, observe. That they may behold the preexistent glory of the divine evident in Jesus, although his disciples could only glimpse this glory through human eyes. We are inclined to see glory in the terms of "divine radiance / transfigured radiance", although again God's glory is most evident in his love for us; his kindness, mercy, his redemptive nature. "That they may behold the glory of the divine."

pro + acc. "before [the creation of the world]" - before [the foundation of the world]. Spacial; taking the sense "the beginning of the world."

 
v25

pater dikaie "righteous Father" - O just Father. The vocative produces a strong "O Father most just."

kai "though" - and. Probably with a concessive slant, although as Zerwick notes the intention "is not clear"; "even though", ESV.

egnwsan (ginwskw) aor. "[they] know" - [these ones] know. "These ones" refers to the disciples, as distinct from the world that does not know.

oJti "that [you have sent me]" - that [you sent me]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "they know." The disciples have recognized the divine in Christ, and in recognizing it, have come to know/believe in God. The world, on the other hand, has failed to recognize the divine in Christ, and so God remains unknown to them, and this because God is only known in Christ.

 
v26

egnwrisa (gnwrizw) aor. "I have made [you] known" - I made known [the name of you]. The lost "know" God because Christ makes him known.

to onoma sou "you" - the name of you. The genitive sou is adjectival, possessive. Jesus has revealed the person, the very being of God.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - Dative of indirect object.

gnwrisw (grnrizw) fut. "will continue to make you known" - will make known. Jesus will continue to make God known through his disciples.

iJna + subj. "in order that" - that. Here the NIV takes the hina clause as final expressing purpose.

hJ agaph ....... hJ/ + pres. subj. "the love ..... may be [in them]" - the love ..... may continue to be [in them]. The present subjunctive of the verb "to be" again indicates that Jesus envisages an abiding (a continuing love) in believers and this achieved through his Word. The love that Jesus envisages in believers is the same love that is expressed between the Father and the Son. Again, the love is linked to the indwelling of the divine. Although not stated, the link obviously extends to the oneness of the Godhead, to believers with the Godhead, and to believers with each other. Being "in", being "one" and possessing "love", are all much the same. This "love", of course, is not an expression of moral rectitude, nor some wishy-washy feeling, but is divine compassion.

hJn hgaphsaV (agapaw) aor. "[the love] you have for me" - [the love] which you loved me. This love is an essential relational element of the Godhead which eternally binds the members of the Godhead together.

en + dat. "in [them]" - Jesus actively promotes his Word-ministry so that love/he may continue to permeate the life of all believers, cf. Rom.8:39. "In" can certainly mean "within them", referring to the indwelling Spirit of Christ, but also "among them", "intimately associated with them." The sense, "in the midst of", reflects the covenantal idea of God dwelling in the midst of his people, Ex.29:45-46, 24:16, Deut. 7:21, 23:14. Note the prologue where Jesus comes to dwell (lit. "pitch his tent") among his people. Kostenberger opts for "among them", Carson accepts both meanings.

 

John Introduction.

Exposition

 

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