Jesus has consecrated his disciples to God so that by their participation in the oneness of the Father and the Son, the Church may give him glory, trust in his protection and plan, share in his joy, and facilitate his mission in the world.
This pericope functions as the conclusion to the Farewell Discourse (13:1–17:26). The inclusion of a prayer is not uncommon at the end of farewell speech in the OT. For example, Deuteronomy concludes with the song of Moses in the form of a psalm (ch. 32) and with Moses’ blessing of the tribes in the form of a prophetic prayer (ch. 33).
This prayer is unique, however, because of the person who offers the prayer - the Son of God; and because of the aim of the prayer - Jesus prays that the purposes of God may be perfectly fulfilled through the work he is about to accomplish and later through the work of his disciples.
This prayer is called “the High Priestly Prayer”. But it could also be called ‘the prayer of consecration’ in which Jesus consecrates himself for the sacrifice in which he is at the same time both priest and victim. At the same time it is a prayer of consecration on behalf of those for whom the sacrifice is offered - the disciples who were present in the upper room and those who would subsequently come to faith through their testimony.
The praying posture of Jesus was depicted before (11:41). Jesus begins his prayer by addressing the Father - the primary addressee in the entire prayer (six times - 17:1,5,11,21,24,25).
“The hour has come” - this is the last occurrence of the term “hour”. The entire ministry of Jesus has been directed to this moment in time. Now in this prayer just before the events of the “hour” to begin, Jesus places this “hour” before the Father, from whom the Son was sent and for whom all the work of the Son was intended.
Jesus prays that the Father provide the ultimate purpose of Christ’s mission - glory of the Son and the Father (cf. 12:23, 28; see also 5:44).
Jesus will glorify his Father by doing his will, even enduring the cross, and fulfilling the Father’s purpose of blessing for many by means of the cross.
The purpose of the manifestation of God’s glory obtained and received by the Father and the Son includes also the children of God, the disciples.
God always intended to bring many sons and daughters to glory (Heb 2:10).
The Father gave to Jesus “authority over all flesh ” - people or humanity. There seems to be an intentional comparison between Jesus’ soon-to-be-broken “flesh” with “all flesh” of the world.
The death of Christ is for the purpose of life - “might give eternal life … ” - his “flesh” for “all flesh”. But, here we have a qualification - for those “given to him” (cf. 6:37, 39, 44). Some interpret it as predestination and election of some. Others indicate that Jesus stresses that everything is rooted in the Father - the authority given to Him and those to whom he will give eternal life.
We indeed face here difficulties. There is no doubt that Jesus’ death on the cross was for all (6:51) but the gift of eternal life has to be accepted through faith in the Son (6:40 but tragically it can also be rejected (17:12).
Having authority over all flesh given from the Father, Jesus will draw all to himself (12:32) and offer the gift of eternal life to humanity - that is the glory of God (both the Father and the Son).
Jesus describes the “gift” of eternal life that is provided by the Son. So what is eternal life? The knowledge of God, both the Father and the Son. The Father is described as “the only true God” and Jesus Christ as “the one whom” the Father sent.
Thus, this knowledge involves a personal relationship with the Father through the deep knowledge of the Son who alone reveals the Father.
To know God is to participate in his life and his mission.
Jesus speaks of the sacrifice of the cross as already accomplished. It will be in few hours. Jesus has glorified the Father on earth by obediently carrying out his will up to the death on the cross (Phil 2:6–8).
“Glorify me” is in imperative which we also find in “Our Father” (Mt 6:9–13). Thus, it is not a command but a request. However, in this case the Son speaks to the Father.
The glory Jesus prays for is the glory which he enjoyed in the Father’s presence before creation (1:2). Yet, many commentators indicate that the resumption of that glory - through the cross - would have a new dimension.
Perhaps Paul’s statement in Phil 2:6–11 can help us with this.
Jesus who will go back to the Father through the way of the cross is ‘different’ from the one who came into the world. The Word became flesh and brings that human flesh into his own glory (13:32).
By revealing the name of the Father, Jesus fulfilled what the prologue announced the Son would do (1:18). Jesus acts here as the new Moses.
It is worth pointing out that in Exodus the name of God is “I AM”; but here the name of God is “Abba”.
Those to whom Jesus revealed the Father were taken “from the world” and “given” by the Father to the Son and the Son ministered to them (6:37–38). Moreover, they “have kept your word”. They recognised that Jesus’ teaching came from God and that He came from God.
The word “knowledge” (17:3) appears here again. The disciples have come to a personal knowledge of God the Father through the Son.
The mission and the message of the Father through the Son has achieved its purpose in the case of the disciples.
Notice that the Father is still the true subject matter of Jesus’ mission and message: “the words YOU gave”; “I came from YOU”; “they believed that YOU sent me”.
The intention of the Son was for the Father to be “revealed” (1:18), and that is exactly what the Son accomplished.
The disciples have received Jesus’ message - the words - τὰ ῥήματα - from the Father. And they also believed in Jesus’ mission - that he came from the Father.
The intimate connection between knowledge/understanding and belief/faith (17:3) here reminds the reader that God cannot be known without faith, but also that in faith there is such certainty that it can be properly called knowledge.
In this second part (17:9–19), Jesus prays for his present disciples to whom he had disclosed the name of and words from the Father.
Why does Jesus not pray for the world? It seems that the reason is their future mission. The proclamation of the Gospel depends on the witness of those whom the Father has given to Jesus “out of the world” (17:21, 23). And so they need his intercession.
What belongs to the Father also belongs to the Son and vice versa.
Just as the disciples approach and have access to the Father only through the Son, so the Father approaches us only through the Son (14:6).
“And I have been glorified in them”. They accepted Jesus’ message and believed in him. But there is more to that. The honour and reputation of Jesus is displayed in the life of the disciples, in the life of the Church.
What Jesus accomplishes in us brings him glory.
17:11 - see Ps 20:1, 54:1; Prov 18:10 for the power of God’s name
Jesus addresses his Father as “Holy Father” a unique title for God in the NT (cf. 1 Pet 1:15–16; Rev 4:8; 6:10).
In this Gospel the Spirit is called “holy” three times (1:33; 14:26; 20:22), Jesus is called “holy” once (6:69) and now for the only time the Father is called “holy” here.
The holiness of God in the OT creates a distance between God and his people (see Is 6:1–5), but here - through the Son - it reflects the closeness between the Father and the disciples. Jesus is asking that the disciples be protected “in the name” of the Father.
This can be a beautiful insight of an intercessory prayer of Christ being at the right hand of the Father (cf. Rom 8:34).
Jesus says “I am no longer in the world” but on the way to the Father. He already begins to intercede for us, and so the more when he will reach his destination.
He is asking the Father to keep the disciples unharmed, because “they are in the world”, and the world hates them (15:18–21; 17:14–15).
The means of this preservation is the name of the Father. This powerful name reveals the character of God.
The purpose of this prayer is the unity of the disciples. They should reflect the unity that is in the Trinitarian God.
By the power of the Father imparted to Jesus, Jesus himself guarded them as a treasure entrusted to him by the Father, and now he gives an account of his stewardship.
“I guarded” them - a military term, stronger than “I kept”. The phrase emphasises the saving work of the Son.
All of them were safe but one (cf. John 13:18–30). There is play on words in Greek - “not one of them was ‘destroyed’ except the son of ‘destruction’”.
The reference to “the son of perdition” is paralleled in 2 Thess 2:3. In the Gospel the term could refer to Judas’ character or to his destiny; in the 2 Thess it is used to depict eschatological damnation.
Jesus does not name Judas by his personal name but by a name of eschatological judgement: “the son of perdition”. In this case the phrase would refer to the character of his person.
In order to make clear that the loss of Judas was not based upon incompetent protection, Jesus adds that the ‘loss’ of Judas took place “so that Scripture might be fulfilled” (cf. Ps 41:9).
Despite the predestination flavour of the language, Judas was not lost against his will but with his consent.
17:13 - 15:11
Jesus mentions again his impending departure (17:11) and reveals the reason for speaking (praying) in the presence of his disciples: Christ’s joy.
“Joy” is the fruit of God’s presence and His reign (Rom 14:17; Gal 5:22).
In the Gospel the fulfilment of joy is a common theme (3:29; 16:24) and it is always the result of a life participating in God through Christ.
Here Christ prays that the disciples would receive the joy of Christ that can only come from God by the Spirit.
“I say these things”. As the eternal Son in perpetual communion with the Father, Jesus has no need of prayer. His prayer to the Father is for the benefit of the disciples.
17:14 - 17:6–8
The phrase “your word” is in reference to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mk 1:1).
This message from God and about God is so antithetical to the world that the world “hates them” just as it hates God (cf. 15:18–25; 15:19,21). The disciples are so incorporated into God through Christ that they are as foreign to the world as Jesus is foreign to it.
This remarkable statements indicates that the place to which the disciples are assigned is the world. While this is not their eternal home (14:1–6) it is the location of their mission, the place where God is still at work through them.
The Church is neither to withdraw from the world nor to accommodate to it.
While the Son and the disciples are not “from the world”, they have both been “sent” to the world (17:18; 20:21).
What Jesus is concerned with is the protection from the evil [one] (cf. Mt 6:13).
“Evil” can refer to impersonal evil, but it is understood that Jesus refers to a personal evil - the Evil One, probably to be identified in this case with the “ruler of this world” (cf. 12:31; 14:30–31; 16:8–11).
The disciples are in the world and they are facing spiritual battle (1 John 5:18–20; 2:13). Thus, only the Father can protect them from this enemies canny temptations.
17:16 - 17:14
The verb “sanctify” can mean “to separate, make holy”; in this context it refers to the act of dedicating a person for a holy task. The same term was used in 10:36 where Jesus was consecrated by God for his mission to the world. As 17:18 is about to explain, the disciples are consecrated here and “set apart” for God’s (continuing) mission to the world.
“In the truth”. By this Jesus requests that the Father sanctifies them by sending the Paraclete to them to guide them into all truth (15:13).
The disciples are set apart not by their own sanctity or holiness but by the holiness given to them by God through Jesus Christ (17:19).
“Word” probably refers to the message from the Father that Jesus had given to the disciples (cf. 17:8, 14).
The reason for the disciples being set apart is to participate in the mission of God in a manner similar to the Son (“just as”). But, the sender is different -the Father sent the Son while the Son sends his disciples.
The mission finds its origin in the Father (3:16) and has been handed to the Son (cf. 5:22, 26–27).
Both the unique Son (1:14) and the children of God (1:12) participate in the mission of the Father that consists in expressing God’s love and offer of salvation to the world (3:16).
The disciples participate in what is ultimately the work of the Son.
The mission of the Church cannot begin before Jesus’ death, His resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus ends his prayer for the disciples by consecrating himself, so that the mission of God may be fulfilled through his person and then be continued by the Church.
“I sanctify myself on their behalf” - this statement points to the cross (cf. John 6:51) - where the Church is born. Thus, the self-consecration of Jesus is the ground upon which the Church is “sanctified in truth”.
Jesus concludes his prayer for his disciples in a manner that portrays him as the High Priest consecrating the temple (the Church) by the power of his Spirit.
But in this case the priest and the victim are one!
In the third and final section of the pericope (17:20–26) Jesus prays for his future disciples, for the future Church.
The disciples are sent by Jesus to the world (17:18) to draw others to Jesus. The “word” from the Father was given to the present disciples by the Son (17:14), and through the “word” of the disciples others have come to faith in Jesus (cf. 1 Cor 3:5).
The mission of the Church is a unity that shares in the unity of God.
It is a unity in purpose, in love, in action, and in communion.
The very existence of the Church is a testimony to God’s great act of unification (see 2 Cor 5:19).
This unity of the Church testifies to the truth that God sent the Son to save the world.
The shared unity between God (Trinity) and the Church in purpose, in love, in action, and in communion, now also included “glory”.
This “glory” like the “word” was given from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the disciples (cf 17:1, 4–5).
The “glory” is the manifestation of God’s being, nature and presence in a manner accessible to human experience (cf. Ex 40:34–35).
Jesus manifested this “glory” in the events of his life, his death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
This “glory” - the entire Gospel - he has given to the Church.
This “glory” is the bases for the unity of the Church.
Jesus completes his prayer for unity of the Church by restating the same points: (1) the unity between God and the Church; and (2) the testimony of this unity to the world.
This unity has to be visible - otherwise cannot be seen.
Here, the testimony to the world includes the fact that the Father sent the Son (17:21), and also the love of the Father for the Son and for the Church.
The great act of unification - the reconciliation of the world to God in Christ made visible in the Church - has been made possible by the person and work of the Son, but it is driven by the love of the Father (3:16).
“That they may be brought into completion” perhaps is best explained in 1 John 4:13. God abides in us through His Spirit and the Spirit of God makes us “one” with God and with one another.
If the Father is in Christ and Christ is in his people by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the people share in eternal love which the Father has for the Son.
Here Jesus expresses his desire for his disciples - so they can be where he is.
Jesus is not praying as we pray, but as the Son of God, the Creator of every created thing (1:3), and the one who himself prepared the place “where” he and the disciples will be together (14:2–3).
Jesus here expresses the will of God - God’s desire to be in the presence of his people forever.
Jesus’ “will” is not only to dwell with his people but to share with them the glory given to him by the Father (17:1–5, 22).
In 17:22, we have the glory of God revealed by Christ in his life and ministry (1:14). The glory of God mentioned here probably refers to the glory to be revealed in the life to come.
The glory of God revealed by Jesus during his life on earth will be consummated in the full presence of God in the age-to-come.
Jesus addresses his Father as “Righteous Father” (see 17:11 as parellel).
This term can emphasis the righteous judgements of God made manifest in the conviction of the world (16:8–11) and in the blessing of those who believe (17:24; cf. 1 John 1:9).
Such a title declares God victorious and supreme. It serves to situate all people - the world, the disciples - in relation to the knowledge of God, specifically the mission of God: “that you sent me”.
Jesus here declares the state of the knowledge of God: the world does not know God; it refused the knowledge which he offered to them. But at least the disciples know that Jesus was sent by the Father - Jesus revealed it to them (1:18; see also 17:3, 6–8, 14).
The Gospel stresses again that apart from Christ there can be no true knowledge of God. Only the Son can say regarding the Father, “I know you”.
17:26 - 17:6, 24
“The name” of the Father and the “love” of the Father was already mentioned in this prayer (17:6, 24).
Jesus prays for the disciples to participate in the inner love of the Trinity that is communicated only through Christ (and the Holy Spirit). Thus, it is “love” that can be depicted as “Love / I in them” (see 1 John 4:8).
To know God is to participate in his love, and to receive his love is to share in his person.
This love motivates the Christian life, rules the life of the Church, and inspires its ministry in the world. It is the essential inward love of God, the love with which the Father eternally loves the Son (cf. 13:34–35; 15:12–17; 1 John 4:10).
But there is here an important addition - the continues activity of making the Father’s name known to the disciples.
The prologue declared that Jesus has made God known (1:18). Here Jesus explains that he will always be the “revealer”. Again, without Christ, God cannot be truly known.
Final note. Matthew ends with “I am with you” (28:20), Jesus’ prayer ends with ‘I am in you’ (cf. John 17:26).