Meditations on the Son’s Prayer

 Part Three: The Son Asked For All Christian Believers (Verses 20-26)

By David Anderson

In this final part of His prayer, the Son included everyone who believes the gospel in our dispensation. In John 17:20 (ESV), “these” are the apostles and “those” means all who have responded by faith to their preaching or teaching of the New Testament message of salvation. In the beginning of verse 21, the Son prayed for believers, “that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.” This spiritual unity of believers is fundamental and essential for the life of God’s children within His family. It is “in Us” (v.21), in the Father and the Son, derived from the oneness of the Father and the Son in their eternal relationship to each other within the Godhead. In Ephesians 4:3 it is called “the unity of the Spirit,” which was formed at Pentecost. The Son had already referred to it, “ … that they may be one, even as We are one” (Jn. 17:11).

This unity was actually manifested, or shown, to the world by the Church in the early days of Christianity: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). By reading through Acts we get the sense of what the Son meant when He asked in His prayer that a witness of unity would cause the world to believe that the Father sent the Son (see 1 Jn. 4:14). To achieve this objective, the Son stated that He has given believers the very glory bestowed on Him by the Father (v.22). This is His glory as the Son of Man, who is now glorified at God’s right hand as we wrote about in the second article of this series.

His prayer for their unity continued in verse 23, “I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one.” He recognized the ongoing need for the spiritual maturity of His people throughout the church age to continue this unity. Oneness would be necessary to convince the world that the Father had indeed sent the Son, and it would make the world understand that the Father loves believers as He loves His Son (v.23).

It was given to the apostle Paul to know and teach that such unity would ultimately only come about when “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). That will be when the Church is complete and by His side (1:22-23). When the perfect unity of John 17:21-23 is arrived at and achieved in the coming day of glory, the Son’s fullness will be displayed in and through the complete body of the saints. It is then that the whole world will recognize that the Father loves believers as He loves His Son. Additionally, it is then that unbelievers will have to openly acknowledge that the Father did indeed send His Son into the world.

The Son began to express His own personal desire at verse 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.” “I desire,” or “will” (KJV), is a strong expression meaning “I demand by my own right.” In that sense it contrasts with His requests made in verses 9, 15 and 20.

As Son, He can demand or require that the Father grant His desire. It is that His own be “with Me where I am.” However, this demand was made on the basis of His appreciation of the Father’s love for Him from “before the foundation of the world.”1 Reading John 14:2-3 we understand “with Me where I am” means “within the Father’s house” – which is heaven itself! “With Me where I am” is the reward for all faithful service to Him (Jn. 12:26). There in the saints’ eternal home believers will behold, or look at, His glory. His displayed excellences will fill the new heavens and the new earth throughout eternity.

The Lord Jesus specifically demanded that His own be privileged to contemplate His preeminent glory as the Son of the Father. It will include that glory which the apostles beheld while with Him on earth (2:11). This glory is described as the glory of the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father (Jn. 1:14,18). For believers heaven will be the full realization of eternal life and the everlasting enjoyment of that family, or home, life of God into which we have been brought by the Son.

In John 17:25-26 the Son concluded His prayer by summarizing His ministry to His own, which He said continues throughout the Christian era – even today – and into eternity. He addressed the Father as “righteous Father” (ESV) when He thought of the fact that the world is willfully ignorant of the true God. The world proved itself to be unrighteous when it rejected Him, God’s Sent One (see Jn. 16:8-11). By contrast, believers know the Father because they have been given divine insight to appreciate the unique glory of the Son of His love: He came from His Father’s side.

In coming into the world the Son’s special work was to make the Father’s name known to His own. He said to the Father, “I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave Me” (v.6, see v.26). The Son displayed the Father’s name by word and by deed. He also committed Himself to continue, from heaven, to make the Father’s name known (v.26). He declares it; He tells it forth.

For us this is the basis of our true worship, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee” (Heb. 2:12 KJV). This worship arises from our ongoing experience and appreciation of the Father’s love. We are overwhelmed to know that it is the very same love that He has for His Son! Yes, there is no greater spiritual experience than to actively participate in the family life of God. This is the essence of Christianity – eternal life, known and enjoyed even now on earth!

Summary Of John 17
Let me summarize the main points of this Series on the Son’s prayer in John 17.

He asked for His own glorification:

  • In risen, ascended Manhood so He could glorify the Father by giving eternal life to believers (vv.1-3), and
  • As Son, in the Father’s presence (v.5).

He asked for His own:

  • Safety, security and unity by being kept in the good of the Father’s name (vv.7-12),
  • Present satisfaction so they may be completely full in His joy while in this world (v.13),
  • Protection from all of the world’s evil and the Evil One (vv.14-15),
  • Sanctification so that they could be sent into out the world (vv.16-18),
  • Spiritual unity of all of His own so the world would believe and know the testimony (vv.20-23), and
  • Present enjoyment of eternal life and for their eventual translation to heaven (vv.24-26).

I finish my meditations by pointing out that the Son always did the Father’s will and obeyed all of the Father’s commands.2 Unlike us (consider 1 Jn. 5:14), He never asked/prayed for anything which was not in keeping with and in absolute conformity to His Father’s will. He knew that the Father always heard Him (Jn. 11:42), and He did not need to finish His prayer with “Amen [let it be so].” Therefore we are guaranteed that all He has asked in this prayer, both for Himself and for His own, has been, continues to be, and will be completely and fully answered by the Father!

1. “Before the foundation of the world” means from eternity, and it has to do with eternal issues. See Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20 and Revelation 13:8.
2. See John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 8:29, 10:17-18, 12:49-50, 14:31, 15:10.

This concludes “Meditations On The Son’s Prayer.”
Christ Jesus in love divested Himself of His divine glory, emptying Himself to become man, then humbled Himself such that He could go no lower, even to the death of the cross. The form of a man, the condition of a slave, the dishonorable death of a criminal, such were the steps of this wonderful pathway. Yes, God in complete righteousness had to raise Him to the very height of heaven, to honor Him with a name above all others. It is by this name of Jesus, so glorious and gentle, which He took in order to obey, to serve, to suffer and to die, that He will be acknowledged as Lord and will receive universal homage. Dear friend, what is the value of this name to your heart?

— Jean Koechlin (Day By Day, adapted)