Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer

by Mike Ratliff

1 Ταῦτα ἐλάλησεν Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἶπεν· πάτερ, ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα· δόξασόν σου τὸν υἱόν, ἵνα ὁ υἱὸς δοξάσῃ σέ, 2 καθὼς ἔδωκας αὐτῷ ἐξουσίαν πάσης σαρκός, ἵνα πᾶν ὃ δέδωκας αὐτῷ δώσῃ αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. John 17:1-2 (NA28)

1 Jesus said these things and having lifted up His eyes to Heaven said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You, 2 as You gave Him authority over all flesh that all You have given Him, He may give them eternal life.” John 17:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In John 17, we have the transition marking the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the beginning of His intercessory ministry for all believers (Hebrews 7:25). This has been called “The High Priestly Prayer,” however; it does summarize John’s entire Gospel. For instance, its principal themes include Jesus’ obedience to His Father, the glorification of His Father through His death and exaltation, the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the choosing of the disciples out of the world, their unity modeled on the unity of the Father and the Son, and the believers final destiny in the presence of the Father and Son. There are three main sections to this prayer. In vv1-5, we have Jesus’ prayer for Himself. In vv 6-19, we have Jesus’ prayer for the apostles. In vv20-26 we have Jesus’ prayer for all New Testament believers who will form the Church. 

1 Ταῦτα ἐλάλησεν Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἶπεν· πάτερ, ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα· δόξασόν σου τὸν υἱόν, ἵνα ὁ υἱὸς δοξάσῃ σέ, 2 καθὼς ἔδωκας αὐτῷ ἐξουσίαν πάσης σαρκός, ἵνα πᾶν ὃ δέδωκας αὐτῷ δώσῃ αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 3 αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. 4 ἐγώ σε ἐδόξασα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς τὸ ἔργον τελειώσας ὃ δέδωκάς μοι ἵνα ποιήσω· 5 καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ, παρὰ σεαυτῷ τῇ δόξῃ ᾗ εἶχον πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι παρὰ σοί. John 17:1-5 (NA28)

1 Jesus said these things and having lifted up His eyes to Heaven said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You, 2 as You gave Him authority over all flesh that all You have given Him, He may give them eternal life. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God and He whom You sent, Jesus Christ. 4 I glorified You on the earth, having finished the work which you have given me that I should do 5 and now You glorify Me Father along with Yourself with the glory I had with You before the world existed.” John 17:1-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

What hour has come? It is time for culmination of our Lord’s earthly ministry. We know that this is the voluntary laying down of His life on the Cross. Notice that in and through this our Lord asks that the Father glorify Him so He may glorify the Father. Also, the Father, because of the Son’s obedience through all of this, has given the Son all authority and all those to whom He will give eternal life. In v2 the adjective “eternal” translates αἰώνιον the Accusative, Singular of αἰώνιος (aiōnios), “This adjective typically functions in three settings; the eternity of God and the divine realm; the blessings of salvation; and everlasting conditions that have neither beginning nor end.” When it is linked with “life” as it is in v2 and v3 we are reading of the great blessings of salvation. It is the gift of God for anyone who believes in Jesus (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:16; 6:12; Romans 2:7; 5:21). This eternal life originates with God and we receive it only by His grace.

Jesus completed His work that He had been sent by the Father to do. All that remained as He prayed here was to go to the Cross and endure becoming sin so that those He came to save could be saved. The sins of those He came to save were imputed to His account on that cross. When God saves His people by Grace through faith, they are justified. That means He imputes Christ’s perfect Righteousness to their account and also imputes Christ’s perfect obedience to the Law as He walked this earth to them as well. Therefore, when the Father looks upon one who is in Christ, He sees both the righteousness of the Son and His perfect obedience. What a blessing!

6 Ἐφανέρωσά σου τὸ ὄνομα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις οὓς ἔδωκάς μοι ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου. σοὶ ἦσαν κἀμοὶ αὐτοὺς ἔδωκας καὶ τὸν λόγον σου τετήρηκαν. 7 νῦν ἔγνωκαν ὅτι πάντα ὅσα δέδωκάς μοι παρὰ σοῦ εἰσιν· 8 ὅτι τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἔδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔλαβον καὶ ἔγνωσαν ἀληθῶς ὅτι παρὰ σοῦ ἐξῆλθον, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας.
9 Ἐγὼ περὶ αὐτῶν ἐρωτῶ, οὐ περὶ τοῦ κόσμου ἐρωτῶ ἀλλὰ περὶ ὧν δέδωκάς μοι, ὅτι σοί εἰσιν, 10 καὶ τὰ ἐμὰ πάντα σά ἐστιν καὶ τὰ σὰ ἐμά, καὶ δεδόξασμαι ἐν αὐτοῖς. 11 καὶ οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ εἰσίν, κἀγὼ πρὸς σὲ ἔρχομαι. πάτερ ἅγιε, τήρησον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ᾧ δέδωκάς μοι, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς. 12 ὅτε ἤμην μετʼ αὐτῶν ἐγὼ ἐτήρουν αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ᾧ δέδωκάς μοι, καὶ ἐφύλαξα, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀπώλετο εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας, ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ. 13 νῦν δὲ πρὸς σὲ ἔρχομαι καὶ ταῦτα λαλῶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἵνα ἔχωσιν τὴν χαρὰν τὴν ἐμὴν πεπληρωμένην ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. 14 ἐγὼ δέδωκα αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον σου καὶ ὁ κόσμος ἐμίσησεν αὐτούς, ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου καθὼς ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου. 15 οὐκ ἐρωτῶ ἵνα ἄρῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, ἀλλʼ ἵνα τηρήσῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ. 16 ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου οὐκ εἰσὶν καθὼς ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου. 17 ἁγίασον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ· ὁ λόγος ὁ σὸς ἀλήθειά ἐστιν. 18 καθὼς ἐμὲ ἀπέστειλας εἰς τὸν κόσμον, κἀγὼ ἀπέστειλα αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν κόσμον· 19 καὶ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἐγὼ ἁγιάζω ἐμαυτόν, ἵνα ὦσιν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἡγιασμένοι ἐν ἀληθείᾳ. John 17:6-19 (NA28)

6 “I manifested your name to the men whom you gave to Me out of the world. They were yours and you gave them to me and your Word they have kept. 7 Now they have known that everything you have given to Me is from You. 8 For the Words which You gave Me, I have given to them, and they received and knew truly that I came forth from You and they believed that You sent Me.
9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those whom You have given me because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and all yours are mine and I have been glorified in them. 11 And I am no long in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they be as one as we are. 12 When I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name, which you have given Me, and I kept watch, and none of them perished except the son of perdition that The Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now to You I am coming and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in them. 14 I have given to them Your Word and the world hated them because they are not of the world just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that You take out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As you sent Me into the world so I also send them into the world. 19 For their sake, I sanctify Myself that they also may be Sanctified in truth.” John 17:6-19 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In vv6-10 our Lord repeats the familiar phrase that all those who are “in Him” were given to Him by the Father. All who believe the Gospel are given to the Son by the Father (John 6:37). They were chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4.) Another good example is seen in Acts 18:10 where God says to Paul that He has many people in Corinth who belong to Him, but are not yet believers. Mediate on that my brethren. In v8 our Lord reiterates that genuine believers are those who have believed, which is the only way to have genuine saving faith. Notice that all who believe were of the Father, given to the Son, but they must also believe the Gospel.

In v11 our Lord makes it clear by saying that He is no longer in the world that He knew perfectly well what was coming. His arrest and death on the cross was no surprise. In this prayer, He treats these facts as if they are already accomplished. Notice the loving prayer for God the Father to hold and protect those who are His from the world’s temptations and hatred. He prays right here for the eternal security for all who are His and that all in Him will have the same unity as the Holy Trinity.

Our enemy is defeated, but he is still loose and his evil system against all believers is still in force. He seeks our destruction. Therefore, our Lord prayed for our protection from him and his forces. We need to pray for that as well. Our Lord prays that He be set apart (sanctified) for the Father’s will in order that all believers be set apart (sanctified) to God by the truth our Lord bought. What a blessing!

20 Οὐ περὶ τούτων δὲ ἐρωτῶ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τῶν πιστευόντων διὰ τοῦ λόγου αὐτῶν εἰς ἐμέ, 21 ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσιν, καθὼς σύ, πάτερ, ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν σοί, ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἡμῖν ὦσιν, ἵνα ὁ κόσμος πιστεύῃ ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας. 22 κἀγὼ τὴν δόξαν ἣν δέδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς ἕν· 23 ἐγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σὺ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα ὦσιν τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν, ἵνα γινώσκῃ ὁ κόσμος ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας καὶ ἠγάπησας αὐτοὺς καθὼς ἐμὲ ἠγάπησας.
24 Πάτερ, ὃ δέδωκάς μοι, θέλω ἵνα ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ κἀκεῖνοι ὦσιν μετʼ ἐμοῦ, ἵνα θεωρῶσιν τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἐμήν, ἣν δέδωκάς μοι ὅτι ἠγάπησάς με πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου. 25 πάτερ δίκαιε, καὶ ὁ κόσμος σε οὐκ ἔγνω, ἐγὼ δέ σε ἔγνων, * καὶ οὗτοι ἔγνωσαν ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας· 26 καὶ ἐγνώρισα αὐτοῖς τὸ ὄνομά σου καὶ γνωρίσω, ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ἣν ἠγάπησάς με ἐν αὐτοῖς ᾖ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς. John 17:20-26 (NA28)

20 “I do not pray concerning these only, but also concerning those who will believe in Me through their word, 21 that all may be one as You, Father, are in Me, and I in you, that they also may be in us that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory, which You have given Me I have given them that they be one just We are one. 23 I in them and You in Me, that they me perfected into one that the world my know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me.
24 Father, as to that which You have given Me, I desire that where I am they also may be with Me that they may see My glory which you have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 Righteous Father, indeed the world did not know you, but I knew You, and these knew that you sent Me. 26 I made known to them Your Name, and will continue to make it known, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them.” John 17:20-26 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

How often do we hear of the lack of unity in the visible church in our time? It is lamented as if we should compromise and come together at all costs. However, that is unbiblical. The basis of true Christian unity centers in adherence to the revelation the Father mediated to our Lord’s first disciples through Him. Believers are also to be united in the common belief of the truth that was received in the Word of God (Philippians 2:2). This became a reality when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4; 1 Corinthians 12:13). True Christian unity is not based on fleshly, temporal, or experiential things. No! It is based upon the common eternal life shared by all who believe the truth. These come together in the Body of Christ all sharing His life.

As we learn to walk according to the Spirit with our flesh denied and sins mortified more and more, we become increasing participants in the attributes and essence of God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. That is what our Lord was referring to in v22 with Him giving us the glory that the Father gave Him.

I for one do not like to witness Christians being in constant contention with one another. It is grieving. However, we must stand firm against heresies and warn the Body against apostate so-called “Christian leaders.” However, for the rest of the Body of Christ, we should seek to come together as Christ prayed in v23. That is, that we be brought together in the same spiritual life around the truth that saves.

In v24 our Lord prays for us to be with Him forever. I deeply desire for the fulfillment of this.  This will be in Heaven where we can see the full glory that is our Lord’s. There, we will not only see His glory, but share it. Until then, we participate in it spiritually (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In vv25-26 we have our Lord’s summary and closing of His prayer. Notice the promises of the continuing indwelling Christ and His love. What a wonderful Saviour we have!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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