A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

John 17:1-21 - The Gospel of John

Bible study


Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

John 17:1-21

Chapter sixteen closes the time of Jesus’ teaching in the Upper Room. He has prepared his men for the future which is pressing upon them. In the seventeenth chapter, we listen in to the longest recorded prayer of our Lord. Jesus turns from His disciples to His Father, opening His heart, showing His concern for the glory of God and the well-being of His people. What precious insights we see in this intimate conversation! God’s plans and purposes come into fuller view. We do well to give some quiet thought to the content of this prayer.

Verses 1 & 2 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that your Son may also glorify you, as you have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him.’

Clearly, Jesus spoke in an audible voice. Immediately, wide, sweeping issues are addressed. The glory of the Son and the glory of the Father are of ultimate importance as there is nothing greater in existence. The members of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit honour and glorify each other. In His sovereign rule, God has power over all creation and power to give eternal life to human beings. What a huge privilege it is to be counted among those who have this everlasting life!

Verse 3 ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’

The sentence contains the essence of what John’s Gospel is all about. Knowing God through knowing Jesus. True life is found through relationship with Him, not through good deeds, religion, or any effort of ours. Nothing in this world can compare in value with knowing God. The poorest people in this life are forever rich if they know God.

Jesus praying
A statue in Canada of Jesus praying

Verse 4 ‘I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You gave me to do.

The life and ministry of Jesus was always directed toward the honour and glory of the Father. He often said that His miracles were done to this end. In saying that He had finished the work given to Him, He meant that his ministry was complete. The work He was to do on the cross was a settled matter, though it was yet to occur.

Verse 5 ‘And now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was.

Note that only deity could speak this way. How wrong it is to think of Jesus as being less than divine. Here He refers to equal glory, and glory that existed before there was a universe. The life of the Son of God did not commence at Bethlehem. He always was and is.

Verse 6 ‘I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word.

The disciples were chosen men, set apart for the special purpose God had for them. Though they were anything but mature or complete, they were well taught with the seed of the Word planted in them.

Verses 7 & 8 ‘These things I have spoken to you in figurative language, but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

In about three years of association with the disciples, the Lord passed on all things vital for their understanding of God and His unfolding plan. Their minds were opened to the truths by the work of the Holy Spirit. One occasion, for instance, was when Peter said: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’

Verses 9 & 10 ‘I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom you have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

This gives us an insight into the closeness, the intimacy into which mortal men have been brought by the grace of God. How wonderful that He should care so much!

Verses 11 & 12 ‘Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.’

Jesus is saying that He has preserved and protected His disciples up to this point but now is asking the Father to do it. Then, as now, believers need God to guard them as there is always opposition to be faced. The one who is lost is, of course, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. The Scripture referred to is Psalm 41:9 which speaks of the betrayal.

Verses 13-15 ‘But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.’

A number of times Jesus has mentioned the joy that the disciples may experience through knowing the truth. This is despite the hatred of the world around them. We must understand that ‘the world’ as mentioned here, means the whole godless social system mankind has developed. It is not the world of nature; it is the world of men that is referred to as being in the devil’s control. Jesus is not asking for the removal of the believers from this life but that they will be guarded and kept.

Verses 16 & 17 ‘They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

The Lord calls people out of the world. Not to be in isolation, but simply not to be part of society’s ways and its independence of God. To ‘sanctify’ means to separate or set apart. This happens when believers are subject to the Word of God and the action of the Spirit.

Verses 18 & 19 ‘As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

The disciples are to be in the world but not of it. They are to be there to do God’s work, but not there to take part in its ways. Jesus was sent here on a mission and in the same way, these men are sent on a mission. Jesus is saying that He dedicates Himself to the task of their spiritual growth and progress.

Verses 20 & 21 ‘I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.’

Now He mentions all who will become Christians through the mission of the disciples.
In praying for all like this, Jesus shows that He is the Great High Priest, the One Who intercedes with the Father for us. He prays for all who are saved to be in union with the Persons of the Godhead. This is an amazing accomplishment of the grace of God, an accomplishment which one day the world will have to acknowledge.


It is an enormous privilege for us to hear the actual words that Jesus prayed on this occasion, but the privileges that the prayer opens up to us are too great to comprehend. How necessary it is for us to be sure that we are numbered among those that God calls His. Also, how important for us to share the Good News of God’s salvation with those around us. Thus we will obey our Father and be part of what He is doing in the world.

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