John 17 stands alone. It is the language of the Son as He addresses the Father on His own behalf and on that of the apostles and those who should believe on Him through their word. None but He, the Son of God, and both Shepherd and Advocate, could have breathed such a prayer. It was in no sense a pattern or model for the use of others, as was that which He gave to His disciples on an earlier day when He said to them, “After this manner pray ye.”
There is no such injunction here, nor could be. It is the language of a faithful steward who recounts His work as done and well done. “I have finished,” He says, “the work which Thou gavest me to do,” speaking in anticipation of the moment, so near at hand, when He should loudly and triumphantly cry, “It is finished.” On this ground He claims restoration to the glory which He had with the Father before the world was—a glory which He had never forfeited, a place which He had left in order to glorify God on earth in perfect manhood. He justly claims reinstatement in that place and in that glory which He had never dishonoured during His period of suffering here below. The defilement of earth had not affected Him. The water rises pure as ever to its level in the heavens.
Who but He could speak after this fashion? The prayer is therefore peculiarly His own. How worthy of our deepest meditation! What a privilege that we should be permitted to hear its sacred accents and to listen to the intercourse which passed between the Son and the Father at such a moment. Of the twenty-six verses of our chapter He spends but five on Himself; then follows eighteen which are occupied with the good of others, expressing as they do the most intense solicitude for their preservation from the evil of that world which He was about to leave, but wherein they were purposely left to fill His place in testimony and to exhibit the very unity of life and nature that existed between Himself and the Father. These verses, too, should be our constant and prayerful study. They will greatly enhance our appreciation of the Father—the holiness of His name, the sense of His preserving care, the blessedness of our relation to Him as children, and also the character of the world through which we are passing, its essential evil, its hatred of the Son, its ignorance of the Father, its absolute and hopeless alienation, even though grace may work in it, from all that is of the Father. How a clear sense of all this would, and should, draw together in holy separation from it those who love the Father and belong to the Son as given Him of that Father! Oh! for a deep realization of this new life, its meaning, the blessedness of the links that bind all the precious children of God together in relation with each other and the Father and the Son! What a conception! What a fact, and what a testimony! All will be gloriously accomplished ere long; and in the visible and indefectible display of this divine unity the world, so incredulous today, shall yet know that the Father sent the Son, and that, wondrous to say, He loved us (even us) as He loved the Son!
These eighteen verses—with all their wealth of interest, and their more than prayers for the preservation and unity of all His believing people—over, the blessed Lord, the Son loved of the Father—observe, “before the foundation of the world,” and able, assuredly, on the ground of such a love so strong, so eternal—may well assert, in verse 24, His will as to those very people. Given of the Father, and purchased by His own precious blood, He may surely affirm His title to them. He may demand His personal gratification as to first, their being with Him, where He is; and, second, that they should behold His glory—the glory given Him of the Father.
Just as a bridegroom would find pleasure in conducting his bride through their common home and in pointing out to her his varied possessions, so now the desire of the Lord is that those who had seen and shared His sorrows and who had, like Himself, been refused by the world should behold His glory. How great the difference! We have seen His cross, now we are to behold His crown!
That they may behold my glory! Not now the “moral glory” of chapter 1—that of an only-begotten Son with a Father, for this had been beheld, as we know; not now that of the Mount when He received from the Father honour and glory, for this, too, had been witnessed, but the glory given to Him as the result of His atoning death and suffering, a glory millennial indeed, but surely more extended than that, just as the effects of Calvary extend infinitely beyond the confines of time or the sceptre of the Messiah.
Nay, He seeks, and how rightly, His own gratification in the full and unreserved exhibition to “His own” of the glory which for ever shall be His God-given compensation for His anguish and agony, His obedience unto death, the death of the cross, here below. How richly deserved! “Father, I will,” He says—it is no prayer, but the assertion of the same will which, in a few moments, was to be set aside for that of the Father and the necessity of the cross, when He prayed in the shades of the garden: “Not My will but Thine be done”—here He wills that those given Him of the Father may be with Him where He is, and why? “That they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me.” Yes, His gratification indeed, and as truly ours—mutual, eternal! It is His longed-for prospect and ours! And so soon, please God, to be realized! The “will” of verse 24 exceeds prayer, or petition, or demand. It is a claim. Demands had preceded; this, fully in accordance with the good pleasure of the Father, is a righteous title to those who are “His own” on the basis of everlasting love. The result is sure.
Verse 24 stands by itself. The two which follow are a beautiful summing up of the whole; the world is seen in its awful moral distance; the Father and Son are viewed in fullest intimacy, and the Father’s name revealed perfectly to the highly favoured company which knows and possesses the love of the Father and the indwelling of the Son. Wondrous grace indeed. Oh for hearts to worship and adore!