Yesterday I taught on John 17 – we finished that chapter in class and the notes are below. I hope you find them edifying. I admit that they are not as “complete” as the lesson was in person, simply because many things were coming to mind during the lesson, and those are not added in here. Still, there are some great thoughts from theologians and wonderful teaching from our Lord that we can glean from His High Priestly Prayer.
17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Introduction to 24-26
This is the second part of this section of which I mentioned earlier that there are two main themes: unity and knowing God. In these last few verses we’ll examine the latter of those two themes in some more depth. But first let’s examine what Jesus says here in verse 24…
The Desire of Jesus
So often we talk about our desires and wanting them to match Jesus’ desires. We want to have minds and hearts that are like His. And here we learn explicitly what some of those desires are.
And so the first really significant thing we learn from this passage is what the desires of Jesus actually are.
Jesus desires that 1. We be in heaven with Him when we die – “where I am” – and 2. That we see His glory in heaven. These really aren’t two separate items, I suppose, but one is the result of the other. The reason Jesus wants us in heaven is so that we will see His glory.
Later John would go on to write this:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
D.A. Carson’s comments on this verse are helpful and I will quote them at length:
…they had not witnessed Jesus’ glory in its unveiled splendor. Christians from every generation glimpse something of Jesus’ glory even now (vs. 2 Cor. 3:18), but one day, when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2). The glory of Christ that his followers will see is his glory as God, the glory he enjoyed before his mission because of the Father’s love for him. The ultimate hope of Jesus’ followers thus turns on the Father’s love for the Son, as in 14:31 it turns on the love of the Son for the Father. Presumably those who share, with the Son, the delight of being loved by the Father (vs. 23), share also in the glory to which the Son is restored in consequence of his triumphant death/exaltation.
This is just a great explanation. So without rehashing what Carson says, let me approach the text from an existential/experiential perspective…
Have you ever considered that the purpose of heaven – of our going to heaven – is largely to see the glory of Jesus? I confess that this isn’t the thing I normally think about when I contemplate heaven. I normally think about peace and my own joy and happiness. But what I came to realize that the two ideas aren’t incompatible. My joy in heaven is really going to be a result of seeing and savoring (as Piper would put it) the glory of Jesus.
The implication of this is very much what Jesus prayed for in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come.” We ought to also have this desire here during our time on earth. If we are going to have great joy in heaven from beholding the glory of Jesus there, what is keeping us from doing so in a lesser, though still important, way here on earth?
I’ve argued in the past that we behold the glory of Jesus here on earth through the Word of God and that it is God the Holy Spirit who helps us see this glory and really appropriate it to our minds, hearts and lives in the here and now.
We could really plumb the depths of this for a long time, but for now let us just be content to think on these things and what their practical implications are for our lives here.
The Father’s Love of the Son
The second really big thing we notice about what Jesus says here is that the Father’s love for the Son is very great. He loves the Son and gives Him glory. In other words, all the goodness and greatness of Jesus is His because of His relation to the Father. It is His connection to the Father that makes Him great and glorious.
Jesus, being the second member of the Trinity, is glorious and this glory is manifested most perfectly in heaven where He desires that we – His chosen people – will one day reside with Him.
There’s a lot of difficulty for our human minds here when it comes to the nature of the Trinity and why it is that Jesus is getting His glory from the Father. I’ve mentioned this earlier in other passages, but we must affirm that Jesus is ontologically equal with the Father, yet in His role He is subordinate. We must always make that careful distinction and not wander off into unfounded speculation. There are only so many truths we can know here on earth, and hopefully when we arrive in heaven we will have a greater grasp of who God is and how He is, and so forth.
Because He Prayed
This could easily be missed, but at the core of this verse is the reality that Jesus is praying that we will be with Him in heaven. This ought to give us great assurance that if we are His, if we are born again, we will surely be in heaven upon our death!
It is a popular verse to quote, but I think its worth of remembering here, that Jesus is the incarnate word of God and nothing He prays for is going to be left on the cutting room floor (so to speak):so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:11)
What a great truth to read that Jesus is praying here for us to be with Him in heaven. If He said it, surely it will come to pass.
17:25-26 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Leon Morris says, “The last two verses are something of a retrospect. They might, perhaps, be set off as a separate division of the prayer. There is no petition in them. Jesus is no longer praying for those who would believe through the apostolic witness. He is making statements about what he has done and the purpose of his doing it.”
The World Does Not Know You
Again I want to quote Morris, who is spot on in this passage, when he says, “It is probably significant that immediately after addressing God as righteous he proceeds to distinguish between ‘the world’ and his followers. It is because God is righteous that he treats both groups as he does.”
This is something we’ve looked at in the past, but John’s gospel is teaming with examples of how the world has rejected Jesus. There is a real dichotomy in John’s gospel between those who “know” God and those who do not. In this gospel “knowing” is tantamount to “believing.” The word “believe” is used 98 times (Schreiner)!
So here we see that the world does not know God in this intimate, believing, sort of way. Obviously the world knows that there must be a God (so Romans 1), and that is why Paul can say that they are all without excuse. But this kind of “knowing” is much more than simply the internal conscience that God has given every man that must acknowledge there is a creator.
Throughout the Gospel of John this concept of knowing God has been contrasted with those who do not know God. “Knowing” and “Believing” in John are really the same thing in many many instances.
Here are some examples of the contrast between those who know God and those who don’t and the call to believe and know God:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”  But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?  Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)  And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-66)
But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. (John 8:55)
This concept is not limited to John’s gospel though; it is all over the New Testament. One example that comes to mind is how Paul articulates this in 2 Corinthians:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)
Therefore, knowing God and believing in Jesus are very closely tied together in John’s gospel. To know the heavenly Father is to first know His Son. To place your faith in the name of Jesus is how we come into a relationship with God.
As a side note, we earlier learned about how the name of God sort of acts as short hand for summing up who He is, His attributes and character etc. Well there’s an interesting connection here between the importance of the name of the Father, and how later in the NT the apostles call us to believe in the name of Jesus, and do wondrous things in His name. The natural conclusion here is that Jesus is divine. I just mention this because so many in our group are reading or studying other Gospels and we have just finished a study of Acts where this is so prominently seen.
Knowing in Order to be Filled with Love
There is a close relationship between “believing” and knowing God. The connection is that the Spirit, who helped us believe in the first place, is now filling us with knowledge of who God is.
Tom Schreiner aptly sums up John’s close tie between soteriology (the study of salvation) and Christology (the study of Christ) in the following comment:
He is fully divine and equal with the Father, so that those who honor the Father must honor him as well. Prayers offered in his name (the name of Jesus) will be answered, and eternal life comes to those who believe in his name. The Son existed with the Father before the world began and shares his glory, and the disciples will enjoy the Son’s glory forever in the future. And yet the Son was sent to bring glory to the Father, while at the same time the Father glorifies the Son. The Son as the sent one acts in dependence upon and in submission to his Father and constantly does what is pleasing to the Father…Life in the age to come is the portion of human beings even now if they put their trust in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. His name saves because his name is exalted.
We already addressed that when Jesus speaks of the “name” of God, He is referring to the sum total of God’s attributes – his characteristics. Now we hear Jesus end His prayer by asking that His followers be kept in God’s name in order “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
This “love” is nothing short of the Holy Spirit’s filling us post-Pentecost. Tom Schreiner says that “the Spirit has the unique ministry of filling believers with the Love of God.”
This is seen in Paul’s letter to the Romans as well:
…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
There is a progression here in Jesus’ prayer. He prays that we would be kept in God’s name in order to have the love of God manifested in our hearts through a kind of unity with God. This must have been pretty mysterious to the disciples at the time, but we know looking back that Jesus is saying that knowing God and being filled by the Spirit are all part of the same Christian experience.
We are born again, filled with the Spirit, and learn more and more about God. We are unified with God through the filling of the Spirit, and the adoption into His household.
John Stott says this, “what the Holy Spirit does is to make us deeply and refreshingly aware that God loves us. It is very similar to Paul’s later statement that ‘the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children’ (Romans 8:16). There is little if any appreciable difference between being assured of God’s fatherhood and of his love.”
This chapter is one of the neatest, most assuring sections of Scripture I have ever studied. It is a source of great comfort, and also great insight. I hope that it serves you as a continual well of inspiration and comfort in the years to come.
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