July 30 – John 17:6-12
Main Focus: The community of Jesus bears credible witness to the Triune God by being one as God is one.
Towards the end of this passage we’ll see a concept that our whole John 17 series is building to: Jesus has staked his entire mission of the public glorification of God on the unification of his people. That the people of God would be one as the Triune God is one. As we saw last week, the glory of the Triune God is wrapped up in saving a people for himself (17:2-4). Here we see an intended outcome of that salvation—Jesus prays that we may be one just as he is one with the Father.
This is a big heady concept, but we’ll keep looking at bite-sized pieces of it in the series: through Jesus, Christian unity connects us to the blessed unity and goodness that exists within the Trinity. Keep in mind, this presupposes that our unity with other Christians reflects on our unity with Jesus; just because a group of Christians are unified in their love for the same football team, or Eastern BBQ, or whatever, doesn’t mean that they’re communing with the Triune God. Jesus is the doorway to this unity (John 10:7; Eph 4:15), so if a group of Christians agrees among themselves but disagrees with Jesus then they ultimately lack unity with the Trinity. And unity with Jesus doesn’t stop at our individual lives. As we grow in closer agreement and relationship with him, we grow closer with his people, who also help us understand what it means to be united with Jesus. Unity with him is simply something you can’t do on your own.
Jesus builds to the unity he wants for us in verse 11, but leading up to it he prays about a number of different, related things. To be quite honest, Jesus’s prayer in John 17 is a little hard to follow. Skim the whole thing and you’ll see it almost has a circling sort of rhythm to it, with a constant back and forth about Jesus and his Father and God’s people and himself, like in verse 21 “you in me and I in you and they in us.” When you read the section for this week, 17:6-12, you might finish wondering, “what was Jesus praying about?” In discussion we’ll open with a tried and true tactic for navigating confusing passages: look for repeated words or concepts.
A couple themes will likely jump out to you when you do that, like Jesus’s faithfulness to his people (v.6, 8, 12), the name of God (v.6, 11, 12), or all the giving between Jesus and his disciples and between God and Jesus (every verse but v.10). In discussion we’ll focus on how God’s people belong to him (v. 6, 9-12). That’s not to say the other examples are less important, but the nature of God’s people belonging to him connects back to the work Jesus talks about in v.1-5 and looks ahead towards our sanctification in v.7 and unification in v.12 and v.20-23. Through our faith in Jesus—as the passage says, through hearing ad believing God’s word(v.8)—we are made alive with Christ and adopted by God to be apart of his family (Eph 1:5, 2:5). That action of regeneration is a Copernican revolution for how we understand our identity; our lives go from revolving around ourselves and the hodgepodge of things we stick together to form an identity and begins to revolve around God and the new identity we have in Jesus. It’s such a reordering of our lives that Paul can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
You can see how that new identity in Christ brings monumental freedom. No longer am I a slave to earning my place in the world, to winning people’s good perception of me, to the record of my successes and failures, or to how put together my life seems. Our identity, particularly what makes us enough, is secure in Christ. From there, as we hope to follow Jesus and ideally become more familiar with him and more like him in our inner and outer lives, we have to keep in front of us this fact, that Jesus died for us to claim us. We are ransomed beings. “For you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19b-20). We no longer belong to ourselves but to God.
Because of this, Jesus sets the standard to which we align. We don’t become more like the version of him that we’re comfortable with, nor do we become like him in one respect but get a pass in another. The work of God’s sanctification in our lives is to make us holy like him (1 Pet 1:16), with no reservations. That’s not easy by any means. But the passage also assures us of another repeated theme that we’ll turn to in our last two questions: all the work that Christ does on behalf of his people. Here we see him praying for them, giving them God’s word, keeping and guarding them. If we ever shudder at all that Jesus might ask of us in our life, even in our reticence we can take heart by remembering all that he gave to us and all that he continually gives in order to draw us closer to himself and closer together as his people.
Finally, in case this comes up in group, verse 12 ends with an unsettling reference to the “Son of Destruction” who seemingly is a part of God’s people but is, in the end, lost. Most agree that this is a reference Judas, who was just sent out towards the beginning of Jesus’s final night with his disciples and whose role in the betrayal and death of Jesus would lead him to destruction. When thinking about this, three things may be helpful. 1. When Jesus prays this, he has already confronted Judas about his intentions to betray him and Judas has already made the deal. (John 13:26-30) 2. Judas’ actions are necessary for the redemptive work of God and the fulfillment of Scripture. (John 17:12) and 3. The term Son of Destruction is singular, meaning Judas, and Judas alone, is him. Along with Jesus’s reassurances in John 10:28 (“no one will snatch them out of my hand”), we can be confident that if we are in Christ, we will not be lost.
• What words or phrases occur most often in this passage, and how can that help us understand what Jesus is talking about?
• Why do you think Jesus talks so much about his people belonging to God? (Ex. 17:6)
• How can that idea of belonging to God help you think about yourself?
• As you think about belonging to God, what might that change about your daily life?
• What does this passage say about all that Jesus does for God’s people?
• How can that give you hope for following him?