Here is, I. A petition for the glorifying of all those that were given to Christ (John 17:24), not only these apostles, but all believers: Father, I will that they may be with me. Observe,
1. The connection of this request with those foregoing. He had prayed that God would preserve, sanctify, and unite them; and now he prays that he would crown all his gifts with their glorification. In this method we must pray, first for grace, and then for glory (Ps. 84:11); for in this method God gives. Far be it from the only wise God to come under the imputation either of that foolish builder who without a foundation built upon the sand, as he would if he should glorify any whom he has not first sanctified; or of that foolish builder who began to build and was not able to finish, as he would if he should sanctify any, and not glorify them.
2. The manner of the request: Father, I will. Here, as before, he addresses himself to God as a Father, and therein we must do likewise; but when he says, thelo—I will, he speaks a language peculiar to himself, and such as does not become ordinary petitioners, but very well became him who paid for what he prayed for. (1.) This intimates the authority of his intercession in general; his word was with power in heaven, as well as on earth. He entering with his own blood into the holy place, his intercession there has an uncontrollable efficacy. He intercedes as a king, for he is a priest upon his throne (like Melchizedek), a king-priest. (2.) It intimates his particular authority in this matter; he had a power to give eternal life (John 17:2), and, pursuant to that power, he says, Father, I will. Though now he took upon him the form of a servant, yet that power being to be most illustriously exerted when he shall come the second time in the glory of a judge, to say, Come ye blessed, having that in his eye, he might well say, Father, I will.
3. The request itself—that all the elect might come to be with him in heaven at last, to see his glory, and to share in it. Now observe here,
(1.) Under what notion we are to hope for heaven? wherein does that happiness consist? three things make heaven:—[1.] It is to be where Christ is: Where I am; in the paradise whither Christ’s soul went at death; in the third heavens whither his soul and body went at his ascension:—Where I am, am to be shortly, am to be eternally. In this world we are but in transitu—on our passage; there we truly are where we are to be for ever; so Christ reckoned, and so must we. [2.] It is to be with him where he is; this is not tautology, but intimates that we shall not only be in the same happy place where Christ is, but that the happiness of the place will consist in his presence; this is the fulness of its joy. The very heaven of heaven is to be with Christ, there in company with him, and communion with him, Phil. 1:23. [3.] It is to behold his glory, which the Father has given him. Observe, First, The glory of the Redeemer is the brightness of heaven. That glory before which angels cover their faces was his glory, John 12:41. The Lamb is the light of the new Jerusalem, Rev. 21:23. Christ will come in the glory of his Father, for he is the brightness of his glory. God shows his glory there, as he does his grace here, through Christ. “The Father has given me this glory,” though he was as yet in his low estate; but it was very true, and very near. Secondly, The felicity of the redeemed consists very much in the beholding of this glory; they will have the immediate view of his glorious person. I shall see God in my flesh, Job 19:26, 27. They will have a clear insight into his glorious undertaking, as it will be then accomplished; they will see into those springs of love from which flow all the streams of grace; they shall have an appropriating sight of Christ’s glory (Uxor fulget radiis mariti—The wife shines with the radiance of her husband), and an assimilating sight: they shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.
(2.) Upon what ground we are to hope for heaven; no other than purely the mediation and intercession of Christ, because he hath said, Father, I will. Our sanctification is our evidence, for he that has this hope in him purifies himself; but it is the will of Christ that is our title, by which will we are sanctified, Heb. 10:10. Christ speaks here as if he did not count his own happiness complete unless he had his elect to share with him in it, for it is the bringing of many sons to glory that makes the captain of our salvation perfect, Heb. 2:10.
4. The argument to back this request: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. This is a reason, (1.) Why he expected this glory himself. Thou wilt give it to me, for thou lovedst me. The honour and power given to the Son as Mediator were founded in the Father’s love to him (John 5:20): the Father loves the Son, is infinitely well pleased in his undertaking, and therefore has given all things into his hands; and, the matter being concerted in the divine counsels from eternity, he is said to love him as Mediator before the foundation of the world. Or, (2.) Why he expected that those who were given to him should be with him to share in his glory: “Thou lovedst me, and them in me, and canst deny me nothing I ask for them.”
II. The conclusion of the prayer, which is designed to enforce all the petitions for the disciples, especially the last, that they may be glorified. Two things he insists upon, and pleads:—
1. The respect he had to his Father, John 17:25. Observe,
(1.) The title he gives to God: O righteous Father. When he prayed that they might be sanctified, he called him holy Father; when he prays that they may be glorified, he calls him righteous Father; for it is a crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge shall give. God’s righteousness was engaged for the giving out of all that good which the Father had promised and the Son had purchased.
(2.) The character he gives of the world that lay in wickedness: The world has not known thee. Note, Ignorance of God overspreads the world of mankind; this is the darkness they sit in. Now this is urged here, [1.] To show that these disciples need the aids of special grace, both because of the necessity of their work—they were to bring a world that knew not God to the knowledge of him; and also, because of the difficulty of their work—they must bring light to those that rebelled against the light; therefore keep them. [2.] To show that they were qualified for further peculiar favours, for they had that knowledge of God which the world had not.
(3.) The plea he insists upon for himself: But I have known thee. Christ knew the Father as no one else ever did; knew upon what grounds he went in his undertaking, knew his Father’s mind in every thing, and therefore, in this prayer, came to him with confidence, as we do to one we know. Christ is here suing out blessings for those that were his; pursuing this petition, when he had said, The world has not known thee, one would expect it should follow, but they have known thee; no, their knowledge was not to be boasted of, but I have known thee, which intimates that there is nothing in us to recommend us to God’s favour, but all our interest in him, and intercourse with him, result from, and depend upon, Christ’s interest and intercourse. We are unworthy, but he is worthy.
(4.) The plea he insists upon for his disciples: And they have known that thou hast sent me; and, [1.] Hereby they are distinguished from the unbelieving world. When multitudes to whom Christ was sent, and his grace offered, would not believe that God had sent him, these knew it, and believed it, and were not ashamed to own it. Note, To know and believe in Jesus Christ, in the midst of a world that persists in ignorance and infidelity, is highly pleasing to God, and shall certainly be crowned with distinguishing glory. Singular faith qualifies for singular favours. [2.] Hereby they are interested in the mediation of Christ, and partake of the benefit of his acquaintance with the Father: “I have known thee, immediately and perfectly; and these, though they have not so known thee, nor were capable of knowing thee so, yet have known that thou hast sent me, have known that which was required of them to know, have known the Creator in the Redeemer.” Knowing Christ as sent of God, they have, in him, known the Father, and are introduced to an acquaintance with him; therefore, “Father, look after them for my sake.”
2. The respect he had to his disciples (John 17:26): “I have led them into the knowledge of thee, and will do it yet more and more; with this great and kind intention, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Observe here,
(1.) What Christ had done for them: I have declared unto them thy name. [1.] This he had done for those that were his immediate followers. All the time that he went in and out among them, he made it his business to declare his Father’s name to them, and to beget in them a veneration for it. The tendency of all his sermons and miracles was to advance his Father’s honours, and to spread the knowledge of him, John 1:18. [2.] This he had done for all that believe on him; for they had not been brought to believe if Christ had not made known to them his Father’s name. Note, First, We are indebted to Christ for all the knowledge we have of the Father’s name; he declares it, and he opens the understanding to receive that revelation. Secondly, Those whom Christ recommends to the favour of God he first leads into an acquaintance with God.
(2.) What he intended to do yet further for them: I will declare it. To the disciples he designed to give further instructions after his resurrection (Acts 1:3), and to bring them into a much more intimate acquaintance with divine things by the pouring out of the Spirit after his ascension; and to all believers, into whose hearts he hath shined, he shines more and more. Where Christ has declared his Father’s name, he will declare it; for to him that hath shall be given; and those that know God both need and desire to know more of him. This is fitly pleaded for them: “Father, own and favour them, for they will own and honour thee.”
(3.) What he aimed at in all this; not to fill their heads with curious speculations, and furnish them with something to talk of among the learned, but to secure and advance their real happiness in two things:—
[1.] Communion with God: “Therefore I have given them the knowledge of thy name, of all that whereby thou hast made thyself known, that thy love, even that wherewith thou hast loved me, may be, not only towards them, but in them;” that is, First, “Let them have the fruits of that love for their sanctification; let the Spirit of love, with which thou hast filled me, be in them.” Christ declares his Father’s name to believers, that with that divine light darted into their minds a divine love may be shed abroad in their hearts, to be in them a commanding constraining principle of holiness, that they may partake of a divine nature. When God’s love to us comes to be in us, it is like the virtue which the loadstone gives the needle, inclining it to move towards the pole; it draws out the soul towards God in pious and devout affections, which are as the spirits of the divine life in the soul. Secondly, “Let them have the taste and relish of that love for their consolation; let them not only be interested in the love of God, by having God’s name declared to them, but, by a further declaration of it, let them have the comfort of that interest; that they may not only know God, but know that they know him,” 1 John 2:3. It is the love of God thus shed abroad in the heart that fills it with joy, Rom. 5:3, 5. This God has provided for, that we may not only be satisfied with his loving kindness, but be satisfied of it; and so may live a life of complacency in God and communion with him; this we must pray for, this we must press after; if we have it, we must thank Christ for it; if we want it, we may thank ourselves.
[2.] Union with Christ in order hereunto: And I in them. There is no getting into the love of God but through Christ, nor can we keep ourselves in that love but by abiding in Christ, that is, having him to abide in us; nor can we have the sense and apprehension of that love but by our experience of the indwelling of Christ, that is, the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. It is Christ in us that is the only hope of glory that will not make us ashamed, Col. 1:27. All our communion with God, the reception of his love to us with our return of love to him again, passes through the hands of the Lord Jesus, and the comfort of it is owing purely to him. Christ had said but a little before, I in them (John 17:23), and here it is repeated (though the sense was complete without it), and the prayer closed with it, to show how much the heart of Christ was sent upon it; all his petitions centre in this, and with this the prayers of Jesus, the Son of David, are ended: “I in them; let me have this, and I desire no more.” It is the glory of the Redeemer to dwell in the redeemed: it is his rest for ever, and he has desired it. Let us therefore make sure our union with Christ, and then take the comfort of his intercession. This prayer had an end, but that he ever lives to make.