November 17 – John 17:1-19
In John 13-17, as Jesus concludes his time with the disciples, it’s easy to read into the text a sense of gloom or loss. We certainly see that earlier in the section, when Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him (13:21). But here in Jesus’ final prayer over his friends we don’t see sadness, loss, or defeat. As much as Jesus is bidding farewell and entrusting the disciples into the care of his Father upon his death, the whole prayer has a tone of triumph. Jesus says his hour has come (v.1), he has accomplished the work given to him (v.4), made God’s name known (v.6), given his disciples God’s word (v.8), guarded them (v.12), and sent them out into the world (v.18). This is almost like a seal on Jesus’ 33 years on earth, confirming that he has lived a consecrated life and is now preparing to die a consecrated death. It foreshadows Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished.”
Looking at the first chunk, verses 1-5 focus on Jesus’ coming glorification, namely his death on the cross. That being said, Jesus still packs in more diverse material here; he departs for a minute to give a brief overview of how salvation works in verses 2-3, but then returns to the theme of glorification in verses 4-5 while also confirming his pre-existent deity for good measure.
Looking at the second chunk, verses 6-19 shift gears to being primarily about his disciples, but just like verses 1-5 there’s a lot of theological content stuffed into the petition. Two that are quite relevant for us, which you’ll see called out in the questions below, are 1. what it means to be “sanctified in truth” and 2. what it means that we are sent into the world. Taking them in order, being “sanctified in truth” is a loaded phrase (FYI, some Bibles will read “by truth” instead of “in truth,” but “in” gives us the better sense). We typically use sanctification to talk about the progressive growth of holiness in our lives (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18). But to sanctify means to set apart or make something holy, and since Jesus uses “consecrate” in verse 19 he’s likely using “sanctify” in a similar manner. And everything that is consecrated or sanctified is set apart for something. So our sanctification doesn’t destine us to sit on a shelf and be a holy; sanctification involves being an instrument in God’s work in the world. That’s why I think being sent into the world (v.18) is such a crucial part of this passage for us. God has no intention to sanctify us for our good alone; God intends to utilize us for others’ benefit, and he sends us out to continue the work Jesus started. For most of us, fully accepting this reality would evoke massive changes in the way we go about our lives.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read John 17:1-19 for us?
• What stood out to you from this passage?
• This is shortly before Jesus’ betrayal and death. What does it sound like he’s trying to leave his disciples with?
• What do you think it means to be “sanctified in truth”? (v.17-19)
• How do you personally connect with Jesus’ prayer here?
• How does Jesus say his followers will relate to the world around them? How do you think that applies to your life right now?