The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:21-23 (3)


John 17:21 – 23 “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

We are still looking at the first of the two specific requests Jesus makes in this part of the prayer, where he is praying for all believers of all time; “those who will believe in me through their word.” (17:20

This prayer – 17:21-23 – is for SPIRITUAL UNITY, and I have pointed out that there is the PRAYER itself, in v21 and repeated in vv22-23.  Then there is the PURPOSE of the prayer, again stated in both v21 and v23.  And, sandwiched in the middle, in v22, we have the POWER of the prayer, and it’s to that POWER of the prayer that we turn in this study.  Jesus prays, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.”  Notice the word “that”.   Having prayed that we might be one, Jesus prays for that which will help bring that unity about.

If the last thing we looked at – the supernatural unity for which Jesus prayed, that unity that means we actually, somehow partake in the very unity experienced and enjoyed by the Father and the Spirit – if that is hard to get our heads round, this sentence we are looking at now is equally mysterious. 

This is probably the one sentence in this whole prayer that has tested me more than any other.   What is the “glory” that the Father gave the Son and which the Son has given – past tense – to those who come to faith through the testimony of the early apostles?

 It cannot be, as a surprising number of commentators believe, the future glory of heaven, for how would something in the future empower and enable believers living here and now to become one?

We have to understand the word glory here as it is used elsewhere in this chapter and, as we have seen, it, or the related words “glorify” or “glorified” come 8 times in Jesus’ prayer.  

In a previous study we saw that the idea behind the word glory is that of the weightiness, the splendour, all the excellencies of God.  God’s glory is, as one writer puts it, ‘the Godness of God’.  It is the sum of all the attributes and qualities of God.  When, in Exodus 33:18. Moses prays that outrageous prayer, “Please show me your glory”, God answers by saying, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’ ”.  Then he says, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while m glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock.” 

And then we read in Exodus 34 how this plays out.  “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger….” (34:6).   God’s glory passes by Moses in the form of a listing of the attributes and qualities of God because that is who God is.

So, the glory of God is the very nature and essence of God and right at the beginning of his gospel, John tells us that by his incarnation, by his coming into the world in the flesh, Jesus revealed the glory of God (John 1:14).  So, Christ himself is the visible expression of the glory of God; all the excellencies of God, all that makes him worthy of praise and honour and worship, is personified and displayed in the person of his Son.

Now, back in 17:22, the glory the Father gave Jesus is the revelation of himself that Jesus was to, and did, communicate to his disciples.   So, we could put it like this – the glory of Jesus is that he is one with the Father, and the glory that he has given to us is that we are one in him as he is one with, and in, the Father, and that oneness in Christ is revealed in the oneness we share with one another in the body of Christ.

Do you grasp that?  Now, perhaps, you appreciate why I have been so stretched by this one sentence.   Christ has shared with us this glory, this revelation of who God really is, of his weightiness, his honour, his excellencies and he has given it to us so that, v22, we may be one even as the Father and the Son are one; which is defined in v23 as Jesus in us just as the Father is in Jesus.  

Now let’s get very practical here.   Jesus prays that this glory he has given to us will not just result in us being truly united, but is the means of our being truly united.   It is the means to the end for which he prays.

Well how does that work?  I think that after all the depth of what we have been thinking, about the answer to this is wonderfully and refreshingly simple and straightforward.

The more Christians are taken up with the glory of Christ and the glory that Christ has given us, the less prone we will be to be taken up with disputes and quarrels and factions and all the other things that so mark so much of the Church of Jesus Christ.

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