Insights into the Gospel of John: Chapter 17

By Lloyd Ellefson

This fantastic chapter is the recorded prayer of Jesus Christ before Gethsemane. When we hear what the Spirit is saying in our innermost being, we hear beyond the letter of the scriptures!

"Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, `Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.'" (v.1) Christ was glorifying the Father all the time, but the understanding of how He glorified the Father was not apparent to man until the Spirit came. The natural mind can only praise Jesus Christ for the miracles He did and the good life He manifested; it cannot grasp the spiritual meaning. However, Christ's glorification of the Father had a deep spiritual meaning!

"Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life." (v.2) God shared His authority with the Son because He knew His Son would remain in subjection to Him, and would therefore not misuse it. He gave Him the authority to give the life of the ages (life eonian) to those whom the Father had given Him.

"This is eternal (eonian) life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (v.3) Jesus was sent by the only true God. There are many references in the scriptures to the man, Jesus. God is not a man, and His ways are not man's ways. It is impossible for man to figure out what God thinks and what He does. All his trying only results in total confusion. God does not follow natural patterns! We can only get to know God and Jesus Christ by living in His life. Knowing the Father comes through knowing the Son, and knowing the Son comes through knowing the Father. This reveals their oneness!

Jesus never drew attention to Himself as He manifested the Father's works. His opportunities to draw attention to Himself were endless: He could have talked about the manner of His coming forth from the Father, His glory before He came upon this earth, the miracles surrounding His birth, His great sacrificial love, etc. But He never did this! At the same time that Jesus Christ was manifesting the Father, the Father was manifesting Himself through Jesus Christ. This is the oneness He is talking about in this chapter. Oneness does away with seeing God as a physical being seated in heaven with Christ at His right hand, while we are on earth. That image produces separation - not oneness.

Incidentally, just where is the right hand of God? God is omnipresent, and heaven and earth cannot contain Him, so what does God mean when He speaks about His right hand? Obviously it cannot be a geographical locality, but simply a place of authority in the Spirit.

Knowing about God is a mental exercise; knowing God is a relationship. Since He is spirit, He is in the invisible realm, so we can only know God in Christ. The Spirit teaches us who He is; He is our life in Christ. Without Him we are nothing. He works everything according to the counsel of His will - not ours. This understanding brings a tremendous change in our attitude toward God and our walk with Him! Christ came to bring us oneness with the Father, and to show us that the estrangement from God that we often feel, comes from our false sense of being. It is not from God. We live both in Him and by Him!

"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do." (v.4) Since Jesus Christ accomplished the work He was sent to do, He does not need to come back to finish some unfinished work. Nor will He wield power over the nations by establishing an earthly kingdom! His kingdom is not of the world; it is a spiritual kingdom!

When Jesus cried, "It is finished", He meant that He had finished His plan of redemption and His dealing with sin! Everything was now ready for the coming of the Holy Spirit to establish the whole counsel and program of God! This is what the Holy Spirit is now in the process of doing. In Christ we now have fulfillment! He has accomplished everything (literally and spiritually) necessary to bring us into the oneness with the Father that He prayed for. Naturally, we don't see it all yet; we can only see it as we grow in truth. Those who do not know truth will die in their sins. If we listen to voices other than God's, we'll always be in delusion.

We have been called to enter God's rest! We can rest in the fact that His work is finished. As God rested from His works, so we are to rest from ours. We need to realize that we are not of this world. The lordship of Christ calls for obedience, for submission to the processes of God in our lives, and submission to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. This brings us into His rest!

"Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." (v.5) Here we see the pre-existence of Christ. He existed in glory before the world was. Just as Jesus was rejected and crucified when He was on earth, so He was rejected and slain when Adam and Eve accepted the rule of Satan. This caused Christ's rule in man to be disrupted. This happened spiritually, but when Christ died on the cross, it happened historically. Though He always was and is the anointed Word of God, He was constantly being put to death by man's rejection of Him. Natural man cannot receive His spiritual rule. In the fullness of time He burst upon the scene to remove the delusion which had held man captive.

Christ had a glory before the world was. He laid all this glory down when He came into the world. He came to glorify the Father! The religious systems have elevated themselves to the extent that they think they can crown Him Lord; they think they receive brownie points and favor for their praise and worship. Since Jesus does not receive glory from man, it is useless to try to impress Him. The cleansed leper was not trying to ingratiate himself with Jesus when he came to thank Him. His thankfulness was counted as glorifying God! Jesus passed this glory on to the Father, for He was doing His works through Jesus. All true thankfulness is passed on to the Father!

"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word." (v.6) In the Old Testament God had revealed Himself to humanity by various names, but they did not know Him as Father. The Jews believed Jesus was blaspheming God when He called Him "Father". God's greatest revelation to us is that He has given us a new nature! Now we can identify with Him and call Him Father. That is why Jesus said not to call anyone on earth our father, for it has nothing to do with our natural birth. This revelation was only given to His chosen ones. Jesus Christ has already established a oneness with us so that we can say, "Our Father" and receive a new realization of Him. Many who repeat the Lord's prayer do not have this understanding, for only the Holy Spirit can bring us knowledge of this relationship. He causes us to cry, "Abba! Father!" - not "Jesus, Jesus". He gives us an understanding of our oneness and our sonship, and our right to call God our Father.

Jesus chose all of His disciples, even Judas! None of them were volunteers. Jesus knew they were the Father's will for Him, for He said, "No man comes to Me unless the Father gives him to Me. He who has heard and learned of the Father comes to Me."

Before Jesus came, people were only taught by the law. The law teaches us that we are unable to keep it, so we need to come to Christ. Christ brought us a new teacher. In chapters 14-17 Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit, their new teacher, to the disciples. He brings us into a new place of living - into a new relationship with the Father! He is the anointing of the word, and has begun to bring us into all truth. We still haven't learned all truth, because we are not yet mature, and need more nurturing in the Holy Spirit!

"Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You." (v.7) Truth comes from the Father! In Gal. 4:16 Paul says, "So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?" Truth is spiritual, so it will offend natural thinking. The things Jesus said always came out of hearing the Holy Spirit, so He offended those who were strong in the law.

"For the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me." (v.8) Jesus knew that His words would not be comprehended at that time. Words are seeds, and they have to sprout and develop before they bear fruit. The words Jesus spoke did not bear fruit before His death and resurrection. After the Holy Spirit was poured out abundant fruit came forth!

The word "disciple" means "learner"; the disciples were given to Christ by the Father, to be taught about their spiritual relationship with the Father. During Christ's earthly walk, His followers became fewer and fewer, and at the end He had to bear the cross alone, because the disciples did not understand His words. They could not understand that in Christ they could be united with the Father.

"I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours." (v.9) He was not praying for the world because His kingdom is not of this world. He is calling people out of the world and teaching them not to love the things of the world. We belong to God - not to the world! Since the world has the law as its teacher, it rejects Christ's teaching even as the Jews rejected it.

"And all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are." (vv.10-11) We are in the world, but not of the world! Jesus is praying for us to have the same oneness with one another that He had with the Father! This is incredible!

"While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled." (v.12) Jesus was speaking of future events as though they had already happened, but they had only happened spiritually.

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, long before it actually happened - yet He chose him! He knew Judas was the son of perdition, i.e. the son of destruction. Destruction tears down, but life produces growth. Since he was not of life, he was the opposite of Jesus Christ. Judas was the son of perdition, not a son of God, so he could not call God his Father. The question comes to us whether there is reconciliation or restitution for the son of perdition. Christ's prayer, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," includes Judas. Ignorance produces sons of destruction. The Holy Spirit came to teach us truth, and it delivers us from our ignorance of who God is and who we are.

"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (vv.13-14)

Christians are living in various levels of realization, and we cannot lump everyone into one lump. Many Christians have been in government offices and have tried to be influential in making better laws. This has not changed the world, but it did bring them persecution. Just as the world hated Jesus, it will hate His disciples! It will not listen to us and pass our programs. God is not implementing His righteousness through legalism.

God is the ruler of everything, but His rule in the kingdom of God is in relationship. Those who submit to Him as King of kings and Lord of lords, desire to do His will. They listen to the Spirit and are ruled by the Spirit! However, He is the ruler of everything in the sense that He causes His purpose to come into being! No one can hinder Him from performing His will!

In Hebrews 1 it says that in the past God spoke in many ways. Now He has narrowed it down to one way, and that way is Jesus Christ. Before we heard the voice of the Son of God we were dead in Adam. Hearing His voice brings us out of the death in Adam and makes us alive in Christ! Passing from death to life is coming into resurrection, because Christ is the resurrection!

In the parable of the landowner in Matt. 21:33-44 Jesus said that the kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jews, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. The nation of Israel had not borne any fruit. Because of its infidelity, ten of its tribes were lost. Only Judah and Benjamin were left: Judah, because he was the progenitor of Jesus, and Benjamin because Jerusalem belonged to him. The Messiah could not come through the old priesthood and its law. The natural priesthood flowed through the tribe of Levi. God was instituting a new priesthood - a spiritual priesthood which had nothing to do with the Levitical priesthood. So all the natural had to be cut off!

A kingdom that operates in the natural can never bear spiritual fruit! Therefore we need spiritual people for spiritual fruit-bearing. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession! At one time we were not a people, but now we are the people of God! This is the nation which reproduces the truth of Christ! The body of Christ is not a conglomeration of physical bodies; it is that portion of life and truth that has been reproduced in each of us. That is why none of us can claim to be a certain part of the body of Christ. We are all individually members one of Christ's body; we all have our own special relationship with the Lord! (1 Cor.12:27)

"I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." (v.15) Let's remember that the world is not creation, but the rule that is in creation. Peter speaks of three world systems: the first one ruled man through the natural and was destroyed by water, the second is being destroyed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, and the third one is the rule of Christ in His kingdom. His kingdom is not of the world. It has a different nature and understanding; it can hear and receive what the Spirit is saying! But to the natural man it is foolishness.

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (v.16) This speaks about our origin, and origin is very important! The world is not our origin or source of our being. We have been birthed into the kingdom of God! He is our origin! That is why we do not need to look for our roots in our natural ancestry. In the process of redemption we are redeemed from the rule of this world. We have been changed inwardly, so we have a new consciousness of God and who we are in Him. We are not of the world with its materialistic concepts. Our new consciousness clashes with the world system.

This is illustrated in the life of Christ. He came to God's chosen people, yet they contrived His crucifixion. The Jews pressured the Romans (who represent the world system) to achieve their desire. Today the world system runs most of the churches, and puts people into bondage. For example, people won't make donations unless they receive an income tax receipt, instead of being led by the Spirit in their giving. We have come out of the world system that we may be the sons and daughters of God.

"As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." (v.18) Isn't it strange that we are sent into the world system the same as He was? We have received spiritual understanding even while we are living in our physical bodies. Good ground bears fruit. Words are seeds, and as they come to those who are under the rule of the kingdom of God, their fruit can be brought to the world system.

People are so intent on living the lifestyle they desire, that they often get into serious trouble. This results in bondage to alcohol, drugs, unhappy marriage relationships, etc. In their extremity they call on God to deliver them, and He does wonderful things, for He is the answer to our every dilemma! However, if we do not continue to grow, we miss out on the very crux of Christianity! Our relationship to the Lord is a living and continuing relationship! It is not dependent upon things going well or not; neither is it based on getting what we think we need!

When Christ, who is the wisdom and revelation of God, has united Himself with us, we have a relationship with God. As we walk in this relationship we are overcoming. Jesus said, "Take courage, I have overcome the world." How could He say that when the world is still in a terrible mess and becoming worse? Although the world was trying to make inroads into Him, He overcame it by living and demonstrating the oneness He had with the Father. Because the world could not make any inroads into Him, He overcame even when the world system crucified Him! This is also how we overcome the world!

The overcomers are given promises in Revelation 2 and 3. "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne." This is a throne of authority. Overcoming the world as Christ overcame, has nothing to do with changing the laws of the country and instituting morality. That does not work! The law of sowing and reaping remains in effect, and that which is natural cannot pass over into righteousness and spirituality. Revivals and the preaching of the coming of Jesus and all the wonderful things which are supposed to happen, will not change the world. Overcoming the world can only happen as we live in Christ - living in union and in unity with the Father as Christ did! That is the only place where we can overcome as He overcame!

"For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth." (v.19) Sanctification simply means to be set apart. When someone is assigned to a certain duty, he is set apart for that. As Christ was set apart from the world, so we are set apart from the world that we might be joined to Christ. We cannot have the world and God; we cannot serve two masters!

We are to be sanctified in truth! Jesus is the truth, so we are to be sanctified in Him! We are set apart to live in truth! Spiritual truth is far beyond natural truth. The Spirit of truth sanctifies us and gives us a spiritual relationship with the Lord. This cannot be attained in any other way. The testimony of the scriptures cannot do that. Keeping many laws and setting ourselves apart by not dancing, drinking, smoking, etc., does not bring relationship; it just brings condemnation. To be set apart spiritually is to walk in an inward separation that produces all other separations. This is being sanctified by the truth! Christ is the truth, and He is spiritual; He is higher than natural truth. Since He is truth, all truth has its source in Him!

"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word." (v.20) There are two areas of fruitfulness. One takes place within us; the other takes place when people believe through the word we speak. Words are seeds, as illustrated by the parable of the sower and the seed. If truth is aborted, the word will not bear fruit. The birds of the air (Satan) can take them away, the cares of the world can choke them out, or the lack of good ground may prevent them from taking proper root. These seeds are not people; they are the word of God which brings us conception and realization.

Christ is the Word of God. In the beginning everything came out of the Word. The Word has the power to bring into existence. It is out of the Word or seed that we grow up and bear fruit. In John 8 the Jews argued with Jesus because their thoughts were bearing fruit from seed or a word from the devil. That is why Jesus said, "You are of your father the devil." Ever since Adam, the natural mind has been in delusion and always opposes Christ! All thoughts fathered by the devil are anti Christ.

"That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (v.21) What a wonderful prayer! "That they may all be Us!" Not BY Us, nor FOR Us, but IN Us. The Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit make their abode in us in spirit and in truth!

In Corinthians we read that when this tabernacle is dissolved, we are not naked, because we already have a place of God within us! This house has already been built. We need to recognize that we have a more secure dwelling place than the consciousness of this physical body - the one we have been living in. This realization comes to us gradually. We build upon the foundation of forgiveness and repentance.

We need to know our union with the Father, even as Jesus did. For the world to believe that Christ was sent by God, it has to see this oneness in us. All the natural ideas of a future hope pale in comparison with the fact that we are one with God now! Our preaching and knowledge will not convince the world, but when it sees this union demonstrated in daily living, it will desire what we have. This union cannot be taken away from us! It will keep us from being drawn back into the world. It gives us the same consciousness Christ had; it takes away our anxiety and fears, just as it did in Jesus. As we allow the mind of Christ to operate in us, we will grow spiritually and lose our fear of what can happen to us.

"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one." (v.22) What a tremendous unity! This is not only our hope, but an actuality! We came out of God, but we have travelled into delusion and darkness, causing us to be lost and helpless. Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, is bringing us back into a oneness with the Father. Our Shepherd has to take us all the way, for He is the only one who knows the way back to the Father! And He prays that we may be one just as He is one with the Father!

"I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see (behold) My glory, which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." (vv.23-24)

Our perfection is in our unity with the Father. Self only brings separation. Jesus Christ resided in unity with the Father! This is where He always is! As we learn that our relationship does not depend on keeping moral laws and refraining from sin, we grow into a new sense of being in God! This will affect what we do, but it is not accomplished through self-effort. We are drawn into this oneness through the Holy Spirit's teaching. The resulting testimony will affect the world!

The One who is the same yesterday, today and forever, was given an earthly form in His birth through Mary. But this did not change Him! He was the same on the cross and in the grave. Coming again in the Spirit has not changed Him from who He was before the foundation of the world.

There is no condemnation in Christ. He was continually denied by men and He continually forgave them. He is bringing us back to the Father. Everything in Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the goodness of God. All the promises of God have their "Yes" in Him, and by Him is our Amen to the glory of God! (2 Cor.1:20) As we live in the promises of God, we add our Amen to the promises! There is no "No" in Him when we pray according to the promises. The calling to come into union with Christ brings us into a union with the Father. This does not take place in our carnal mind; it is a oneness in our sense of being.

"O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me." (v.25) Although Israel was a called-out nation, it did not know God. No one knew Him except the Son. Man could only learn to know God after Jesus Christ unveiled Him. And it is the Father who unveils the Son to us!

"And I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (v.26) His name is the nature of our relationship with God.

The seed has to take root in us, then grow and produce fruit. For it to reproduce, the seeds need to be planted again, take root, grow and mature. Every time this takes place in us, we are ascended in our understanding. A child's first comprehension of "Daddy" or "Mummy", is not as great as that of a grown-up. Our comprehension of those words has grown! So our comprehension of spiritual things has to grow - and there is no end to growth! What a blessed thought! This growth will constantly take place as we listen to the Spirit of truth and obey Him.

God bless you! Amen.

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