John (Part 64): Unity (ch 17)
As Jesus continues in his prayer, he starts to expand the relationship that he has enjoyed with the Father to include the disciples also. Again, we must hold tightly to the understanding that Jesus is praying from the perspective of the perfect man—not as God of the Trinity. Here he is the only begotten Son—born into this world to be our representative. In this role he prays in verses 6 through 8 about their initiation into fellowship. Some people may balk at that statement I just made. Initiation into fellowship is through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and these verses don’t mention a thing about Jesus’s death. I am not denying the absolute necessity for the death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation. I am merely looking at the other side of the same coin. We are under death sentence as humanity (our common essence) because we (through Adam) removed faith from God and placed it in ourselves. Death (separation) is the result. Jesus, unblemished by this evil of removing faith, maintained his righteousness (faithfulness to the covenant). By that he qualified to be a sin offering. And that would necessarily occur so that our necessary separation from God—death—could be settled in Jesus’s death. But not everyone will be saved. The reason is not because God chose only so many, and Jesus then died for only so many. The reason is that those to whom Jesus’s death would be applied are those who, when again faced with God’s revealed truth, goodness, and beauty, trust him for that care-giving truth, goodness, and beauty. That’s what Jesus is talking about in verses 6 through 8. Jesus had revealed God to the disciples. They believed the revelation. Therefore, they would join in the same kind of embrace that Jesus had spoken of in the first five verses of his prayer.
Jesus recognizes in the disciples’ faith that he has been glorified in them. There are actually two perspectives in which Jesus has been glorified in the disciples’ faith. Remember that glorifying means making manifest truth, goodness, and beauty. Thus, Jesus’s truth, goodness, and beauty (his by faithful relation to God) is made manifest in following God, but also his truth, goodness, and beauty is declared by the disciples themselves as they say, “Yes, it’s true—he is from God.” Gathered round this divine essence of truth, goodness, and beauty, God and Jesus and the disciples become one (17:11).
Jesus then mentions protection. This is not mere physical protection. Their physical makeup (essence) as humans cannot be destroyed. Rather, Jesus speaks of the covenant essence—dependent on the divine essence of truth, goodness, and beauty—that God, the righteous Caregiver continues to provide forever as the everlasting love relationship is realized.
Just as Jesus expanded the circle of intimate relationship from the first five verses speaking only of himself and God to the next several, speaking of himself, God, and the disciples, in verse 20, he expands the circle even more by speaking of all those who would believe by the testimony of the disciples. Here we see the purpose for the disciples. They are metaphorical Israel (12 to represent the 12 tribes). Israel’s job (given at Mt. Sinai) was to be a priest to the world, glorifying God (making God manifest to the world). While the actual, physical nation did not really do that, here we see the actual fulfillment—through these twelve.
Verses 24 through 26 ends Jesus specific teaching ministry as to his purpose. It sums up everything in the righteousness (faithful caregiving) of God by which he has provided, the glory of God (God’s essence of truth, goodness, and beauty being made manifest) for the benefit of all who believe, and the love of God, which was both the fuel—the motivation—for it all and the result forever and ever.