Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 17

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John 17

Supplemental Commentary:


1.  The Last Supper  13, 1 -- 17, 26 (continued)

17, 1-26:  Christ's Priestly Prayer for Unity.  The following prayer is called "priestly" as being a prelude to that sacrifice in which Christ was both priest and victim.  Even though a prayer, it is partly instructive in purpose.  The association of the passage with the Last Supper is generally conceded.

1-5:  Christ prays for Himself.    1.  These things: the discourse in the cenacle, therefore at least 13-14.  Raising his eyes: a formal attitude of prayer; cf. Luke 18, 13; Acts 7, 55.  The hour: of the Passion.  Glorify: the sacrifice of our Lord restored due glory to God, and its accomplishment is the glory of the Son; cf. 7, 39; 12, 16; 13, 31.    2.  The motive of the prayer.  Jesus is the divine agent of grace to men.  Cf. Rom. 4, 25.  Power over all flesh: i.e., over all men.  Cf. Pss. 2, 7 f; 71, 8 f; Isa. 49, 6; etc.  To all who accept the offer, cf. 3, 35 f; 6, 44; Matt. 22, 2 ff.    3.  That they know, etc.: cf. 8, 55; 10, 15; 16, 3; 1 John 2, 3 f; 3, 1; 4, 8.  The knowledge is a practical acquaintance, acceptance and service.  This is a divine gift, effective through faith and love.  Cf. 3, 16; 1 John 5, 20.  Eternal life is the glorification of God, in which man can share even on earth by "knowing" Him.  Only true God: in opposition to the false gods whom man serves.  Cf. 5, 24; 6, 40.55.    4.  Cf. 3, 16; 4, 34; 10, 17 f; 14, 31.  Christ here includes the accomplishment of all His mission.    5.  Cf. 1, 1 ff; 2 Cor. 8, 9; Phil. 2, 5 ff.  Our Lord is speaking as God-Man.  As God, He had never ceased to be present in the bosom of the Father: as man He had "emptied Himself."  Now He prays that His human nature be elevate to the right hand of the Father, the position eternally natural to the Son.

6-19:  Christ prays for the Apostles.    6.  Given me: by calling them; cf. 6, 37.44.66.  They were thine: men ready to please God and to establish His kingdom; cf. 3, 21; 8, 47.  Thy word: Christ's message; cf. 5, 30; 7, 16; 8, 38.    7.  Cf. 10, 25; 12, 49 f; 14, 10.    8.  The object of faith is Christ, sent by the Father and originating in him.  This preliminary praise of the Apostles is the basis of the prayer.    Vv.9-11a reveal the reasons for this special prayer.    9.  I pray for them who have thus shown themselves worthy; the reasons will follow.  Not for the world: He does pray for the world in due time (18, 21), but now His petition is for the Apostles.  Because they are thine: the first reason.    10.  The parenthesis, all things mine are thine, could be uttered only by Christ as the divine Son.  I am glorified in them: this is the second reason, their faith, and their spreading of Christ's name.    11a.  The third reason: He is about to leave them in the world.    11b.  The prayer itself begins.  Those whom: the Greek reads "which," referring it to thy name "which thou hast given me" to be revealed, and which is to be the bond of their union.  Holy: separated from the world.  The model of the unity for which Christ prays is the unity of the Father and the Son: supernatural, perfect, founded on faith and love.  Cf. Acts 2, 42-47; 4, 32; Eph. 4, 4.12.13.  While our Lord is with them He can foster this union, but His departure will expose them to danger.    12 f.  No one of them perished: cf. 10, 28; 18, 9.  The fall of Judas was foreseen in Pss. 40, 10; 108, 4 ff.  Son of perdition: cf. Matt. 26, 24; it were better he had not been born.  I speak in the world: now, in the presence and hearing of the Apostles.    14-16.  A new petition for protection against the world.  I have given them thy word, to which the world is opposed.  World: humanity that is hostile to God.    15.  From evil in the Greek can also be read "from the evil one" (as in 1 John 2, 13; 3, 12; 5, 18) and is so understood by many recent interpreters.  More generally, however, with Sts. Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyril, Thomas, the impersonal reading is maintained.    17-19.  The climax of the petition.    17.  Sanctify them: set them aside from the world, as devoted to the work of God.  Or, more significantly: as their mission partakes in that of Christ, they need His holiness.  In truth: in the service of this truth, and as transformed thereby.  The "truth" in question is the word of God, the source of all truth.    18.  Their mission is analogous to that of the Son; cf. 4, 38; 10, 36; 20, 21; Matt. 10, 16 f.    19.  I sanctify myself, devote myself as victim in this sacrifice; cf. Ex. 13, 2; 28, 38; Deut. 15, 19.  That they may be sanctified, as above.  In truth also as above, although some take it here adverbially, "veritably," and not in an external way.

20-23:  Christ prays for future believers.  Some take this as merely an extension of the above prayer, and applicable to the Apostles only.    20.  Cf. Acts 1, 8; Rom. 10, 14.17.    21.  The unity petitioned for the Apostles: one among themselves, one with God, united in faith and love.  That the world may believe: the visible unity of Christians is a motive of faith in Christ.  This supposes an external manifestation of such unity, e.g., in the Church.    22.  Glory: either divine power, or the divine sonship.  Cf. 1, 12; Rom. 8, 9-16; 2 Cor. 13, 5; Gal. 2, 20.  Union with Christ permits us even here to enjoy eternal life (cf. 3, 15.36; 5, 24), and hence it can be spoken of as "glory."  Others stress more the gifts which this union confers.  Thus St. Augustine speaks of immortality; St. Thomas, of the glory of the resurrection; Maldonatus, of love.    23.  Cf. Eph. 3, 17.  A fuller statement of the manner and effect of this union.  Christ is in the faithful, He is also in the Father; thus through Him unity is perfected.  Cf. 2 Pet. 1, 4; 1 John 3, 9; 4, 12 f.

24-26:  The conclusion of the entire prayer.    24.  Whom thou hast given me: some restrict this to the Apostles; but the reward seems rather destined for all whom the Father draws to the Son.  My glory: His glory as the Son, enjoyed from all eternity.  That they may behold: in the full force of seeing, appreciating, enjoying.    25.  Just Father: who decides the cause of faithful and unbeliever.  The discrimination is based on their "knowing" or not "knowing" God.    26.  The full significance of this knowledge: it is the knowledge of the Father.  Its practical effect is the enjoyment of God's love.  Faith makes this possible.  St. Augustine: we are Christ's members, and in Him we are loved, since He is loved in entirety.

Confraternity Bible:

Christ's Prayer for Unity  1 These things Jesus spoke; and raising his eyes to heaven, he said, "Father, the hour has come!  Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee, 2 even as thou hast given him power over all flesh, in order that to all thou has given him he may give everlasting life.  3 Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.  4 I have glorified thee on earth; I have accomplished the work that thou hast given me to do.  5 And now do thou, Father, glorify me with thyself, with the glory that I had with thee before the world existed.

6 "I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou hast given me out of the world.  They were thine, and thou hast given them to me, and they have kept thy word.  7 Now they have learnt that whatever thou hast given me is from thee; 8 because the words that thou hast given me I have given to them.  And they have received them, and have known of a truth that I came forth from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

9 "I pray for them; not for the world do I pray, but for those whom thou hast given me, because they are thine; 10 and all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.  11 And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to thee.  Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one even as we are.  12 While I was with them, I kept them in thy name.  Those whom thou hast given me I guarded; and not one of them perished except the son of perdition, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  13 But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, in order that they may have my joy made full in themselves.  14 I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  15 I do not pray that thou take them out of the world, but that thou keep them from evil.  16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  17 Sanctify them in the truth.  Thy word is truth.  18 Even as thou hast sent me into the world, so I also have sent them into the world.  19* And for them I sanctify myself, that they may also be sanctified in truth.

20 "Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, 21 that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  22* And the glory that thou hast given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them and thou in me; that they may be perfected in unity, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

24 "Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; in order that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world.  25 Just Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.  26 And I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known, in order that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.


19: Sanctify myself: by offering Himself as a victim to be immolated.  That they also may be sanctified: i.e., be set aside for God's work.  In truth: i.e., "in contrast to all human purpose"; or for that truth which is to be the object of their mission, as it is of Christ's.

22: Glory: What Christ conferred upon His disciples was something of the divine nature, a further aspect of the principle of unity.