This chapter is the most extensive and detailed example of Christs prayers, and therefore exceptionally precious. By immediately following an important teaching session it reminds us that saints need prayer as well as teaching. The fact that this prayer directly preceded the Saviours departure from this world (v.11) suggests that its content is of a similar nature to the Lords present intercession for His saints (Heb 7.25). It sheds further light on the eternal relationship between Father and Son, as well as revealing the inner thoughts and aspirations of Christ. The upper room ministry began with Christs love for His own (13.1). Appropriately, it now ends with the Fathers love (v.26).
The Son (vv.1-5)
With complete confidence, and utter dependence upon the Father, He "lifted up his eyes to heaven" (v.1; Ps 25.15; 121.1,2; 123.1,2; 141.8). Fully familiar with Gods timetable, the Lord Jesus now said that, although previously "his hour [of suffering] was not yet come" (Jn 7.30; 8.20), it had now finally arrived (v.1). Despite the fact that in it He would be glorified (Jn 12.23), and return to the Father (Jn 13.1), the prospect of such immense suffering deeply troubled Him (Jn 12.27). His prayer "glorify thy Son" (17.1) was not an ambitious attempt at self-exaltation (Is 14.13,14), but rather a humble request for what He eternally possessed: "the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (v.5). The language implies equality. He had "glorified [the Father] on the earth" (v.4). He now wished for reciprocation, not for selfish ends, but so that the Father should be further glorified: "that thy Son also may glorify thee" (v.1). His later statement, "all thine are mine" (v.10), was also an expression of equality with the Father. Mere men can but say "all mine are thine" (v.10). Universal authority has been granted to the Son, not in this case to rule the nations though this will be so during the kingdom but to give eternal life "to as many as [the Father] hast given him" (vv.2,3).
The phrase, "I have", occurs ten times. It does two things. First, it conveys the satisfaction of having completed several incredibly important tasks. For example, the Lord Jesus had glorified the Father (v.4), manifested His name (vv.6,26), and communicated His words (vv.8,14). In addition, He had kept His saints in the Fathers name (v.12) and sent them into the world (v.18).
Second, the phrase, "I have", gives the assurance that future events are as good as done. For instance, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (v.4) must surely have embraced the work of redemption. "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them" (v.22) anticipates with certainty the future glorification of saints. Sanctification (hagiasmos) means separation. The Lord Jesus sanctified Himself to do the Fathers will (v.19; Jn 4.34; 5.19; 6.38; 7.16; 9.4) and is presently set apart in heaven as the object of His peoples affections (Col 3.1).
The Saints (vv.6-26)
Even though the Lords intercession was specifically for His apostles, it embraced every subsequent generation of Christians (v.20) who would not only believe the apostles spoken word, but also their written words of the New Testament. The Lord Jesus was deeply concerned for His own (vv.9,11,15,17,20-24). Therefore, the main thrust of this particular prayer was that His people be united (vv.11,21,23), preserved from evil (v.15), sanctified through the truth (v.17), and ultimately join Him in glory (v.24). The world system, fundamentally opposed to God and a cesspit beyond reformation, was excluded from the Saviours prayers (v.9). Nevertheless, during His life-time He did pray for His enemies (Lk 23.34), and taught His disciples to do the same (Mt 5.44), for individuals can by the grace of God be saved out of this world.
Various characteristics of believers are mentioned. The first is that they possess eternal life (vv.2,3). This is not mere existence, but rather the "enjoyed possession of capacities and activities, of affection and devoted energy" (Vine). This life is found in an ongoing, progressive and experiential knowledge of God the Father and His beloved Son (1 Jn 5.20). It is has never been possible to know the Father apart from the Son: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (Jn 1.18).
Second, Christians are jointly owned by Father (e.g. Eph 1.3-6; Jn 15.16,19; Acts 13.48; Rom 8.29-33; 2 Thess 2.13; Tit 1.1; 1 Pet 1.2; Acts 18.10) and Son (Jn 17.6,9,10,11,12). While the Father has entrusted them to His Son (Jn 6.37) "for His care, protection and instruction" (Vine) they still remain the Fathers. The relationship between a father and his daughter illustrates this well. He may give her away in marriage, but she still remains his daughter. Is it therefore any wonder that believers are loved by the Father as Christ is (v.26)?
Third, this privileged company has also received in Christ, who alone is competent for the task, a revelation of the Fathers name (vv.6,26; Ps 22.22) "all that God is, His nature, counsels and ways and works" (Vine) and words (vv.8,14). For this reason believers are, in contrast to the world, privy to the relations and activities of the Godhead. The know that the Father, who is described as holy (v.11), righteous (v.25), and the only true God (v.3), sent the Son, and is the source of everything given to Him (vv.7,8,25). It was in the sphere of the Fathers name that Christ had kept, "guarded, taught and trained these men" (Vine) so "none of them perished but the son of perishing" (Vincent). This He did so "the scripture might be fulfilled" (vv.11,12). The Lord Jesus prayed for their continued protection from the evil one who "is still loose and orchestrating his evil system against believers" (Macarthur Study Bible) (v.15). By receiving and keeping the Fathers words, Christians are sanctified by them (vv.6,8,17,19), for although sent into the world, and hated by it, they are at the same time separate from it (vv.6,9,11,13,14,16,18). A diver can remain dry in his diving suit while surrounded by water and submerged deep beneath the surface. Similarly, with Gods help, believers can "be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom [they] shine as lights in the world" (Phil 2.15). Gods Word separates Christians from the world in which they live. Simply reading it fills up time that could otherwise be used for sinful pleasure. Obedience to its commandments results in practical holiness and a clear distinction between them and the ungodly. Furthermore, as a supernatural book, the Bible cleanses us (Eph 5.26) and moulds Christian character, altering our values, attitudes and interests.
Fourth, not only will believers be with Christ and see Him in glory, but Christ is glorified in them and has promised them eternal glory (vv.10,22,24). Somehow this glory, connected to the unity between saints, is comparable to that unity within the Godhead (vv.11,21,22,23; Acts 2.4; 4.32; 1 Cor 12.13). For example, Christ has removed the enmity between Jew and Gentile (Gal 3.28; Eph 2.15; Col 3.11). Such unity bears witness to the Father having sent the Son and also the fact that He loves the saints as He does His beloved Son (Jn 17.21,23).
Fifth, since Christians are indwelt by divine love and divine persons (v.26) they must surely experience fullness of joy (v.13).