17:1 spake Jesus. The words of Christ in John 14–16 are often called “the discourse in the upper room,” but over half of it was delivered as He and the disciples were walking toward Gethsemane (note the final clause in John 14:31—”Arise, let us go hence”). Likewise the Lord’s “high priestly prayer,” recorded in John 17, was offered outdoors, at night, as He raised His eyes toward the stars of heaven. His hour had finally come—the very hour for which He had come into the world (John 12:27; 13:1). This was the last time He would refer to this appointed hour (the first time was at Cana; see John 2:4).
17:4 finished the work. Jesus had finished His work of teaching and witness (John 12:46-50; 17:8,14; Revelation 1:5), but His great work of redemption and salvation had yet to be accomplished on the cross. Then, He would shout the great victory cry: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
17:5 before the world was. Jesus was the eternal Word by whom God created the world (John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:1-3), but Jesus laid aside His glory for a time (Philippians 2:6-8) to finish God’s work (John 17:4) with His creation.
17:6 manifested. Jesus “manifested”—that is, “openly declared”—God’s name as “Father” to all who would become His children through faith in the Lord Jesus. Compare John 1:18.
17:11 keep. Beginning in this verse, the Lord makes five wonderful petitions for His disciples. These are: (1) security in salvation (John 17:11); (2) victory over Satan’s temptations (John 17:15); (3) sanctification through the Word (John 17:17); (4) unity with God and each other (John 17:21); and (5) ultimate glorification with God in heaven (John 17:24). The Father had already promised the Son that not one whom He had given the Son would be lost (John 6:37-39), and we are now given still further assurance through this prayer. The Father will certainly answer the prayer of the Son!
17:15 from the evil. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. “The evil” is “the evil one”—that is, “the prince of this world,” Satan. Because of this prayer of Christ, no doubt, “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (I John 5:18).
17:16 not of the world. We are now, because of Christ, citizens of His world, rather than this world (note Philippians 3:20). We now serve in this world as “ambassadors for Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20).
17:17 Sanctify them. The process of sanctification (that is, of being set apart from this world for His service) is accomplished through the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26), by “the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:13).
17:18 sent them. Jesus frequently spoke of being sent into the world by His Father (e.g., John 10:36). He was sent for one main purpose—“that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). In the same way, and for the same purpose, His disciples are now sent into the world (John 20:21).
17:20 for them also. This petition assures us that the Lord was praying for every one who would ever believe on Him, not just for the eleven who were with Him at the time. In fact, “He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Note the many assurances that He continually prays for us (e.g., Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34; Romans 8:26,34; I John 2:1; Hebrews 9:24). Thus, the wonderful requests He made in this prayer (see note on John 17:11) are for all true believers, and surely will be granted.
17:21 one in us. The prayer for unity is repeated five times (John 17:11,21-23) and is thus very important. However, it has been misused by ecumenicists to try to amalgamate true Christians and pseudo-Christians. True unity must be both unity of the Spirit and “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:4, 13).
17:24 may behold my glory. God will surely answer this prayer of His beloved Son. Thus we can be absolutely sure that, if we truly belong to Christ through faith in him, we shall one day “see the king in His beauty,” and “shall behold the land that is very far off” (Isaiah 33:17). And then, “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).
17:24 lovedst me before. The Father loved the Son long before there was ever any other kind of love, for this eternal love in the bosom of the Father existed before He created the universe. All other loves—marital love, parental love, filial love, brotherly love, love of country, any kind of love—have their source in the love of the Father for the Son (and, indeed, the love within all the Persons of the Godhead). It is significant in this connection that the Gospel of John uses the word “love” more than any other book of the Bible, and the first Epistle of John has its second most frequent usage. The first one of all these, significantly, is John 3:16, telling us that the Father gave the Son because of His love for those He had created! See also the notes on Genesis 22:2.