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John 17:1-5

1. These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he may give eternal life to all whom thou hast given to him. 3. And this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ. 4. I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thyself, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

 

1. These words spake Jesus. After having preached to the disciples about bearing the cross, the Lord exhibited to them those consolations, by relying on which they would be enabled to persevere. Having promised the coming of the Spirit, he raised them to a better hope, and discoursed to them about the splendor and glory of his reign. Now he most properly betakes himself to prayer; for doctrine has no power, if efficacy be not imparted to it from above. He, therefore, holds out an example to teachers, not to employ themselves only in sowing the word, but, by mingling their prayers with it, to implore the assistance of God, that his blessing may render their labor fruitful. In short, this passage of the Lord Jesus 107107     “Du Seigneur Jesus.” Christ might be said to be the seal of the preceding doctrine, both that it might be ratified in itself, and that it might obtain full credit with the disciples.

And lifted up his eyes to heaven. This circumstance related by John, that Christ prayed, lifting up his eyes to heaven, was an indication of uncommon ardor and vehemence; for by this attitude Christ testified that, in the affections of his mind, he was rather in heaven than in earth, so that, leaving men behind him, he converted familiarly with God. He looked towards heaven, not as if God’s presence were confined to heaven, for He filleth also the earth, (Jeremiah 23:24,) but because it is there chiefly that his majesty is displayed. Another reason was, that, by looking towards heaven, we are reminded that the majesty of God is far exalted above all creatures. It is with the same view that the hands are lifted up in prayer; for men, being by nature indolent and slow, and drawn downwards by their earthly disposition, need such excitements, or I should rather say, chariots, to raise them to heaven

Yet if we desire actually to imitate Christ, we must take care that outward gestures do not express more than is in our mind, but that the inward feeling shall direct the eyes, the hands, the tongue, and every thing about us. We are told, indeed, that the publican, with downcast eyes, prayed aright to God, (Luke 18:13,) but that is not inconsistent with what has now been stated; for, though he was confused and humbled on account of his sins, still this self-abasement did not prevent him from seeking pardon with full confidence. But it was proper that Christ should pray in a different manner, for he had nothing about him of which he ought to be ashamed; and it is certain that David himself prayed sometimes in one attitude, and sometimes in another, according to the circumstances in which he was placed.

Father, the hour is come. Christ asks that his kingdom may be glorified, in order that he also may advance the glory of the Father. He says that the hour is come, because though, by miracles and by every kind of supernatural events, he had been manifested to be the Son of God, yet his spiritual kingdom was still in obscurity, but soon afterwards shone with full brightness. If it be objected, that never was there any thing less glorious than the death of Christ, which was then at hand, I reply, that in that death we behold a magnificent triumph which is concealed from wicked men; for there we perceive that, atonement having been made for sins, the world has been reconciled to God, the curse has been blotted out, and Satan has been vanquished.

It is also the object of Christ’s prayer, that his death may produce, through the power of the Heavenly Spirit, such fruit as had been decreed by the eternal purpose of God; for he says that the hour is come, not an hour which is determined by the fancy of men, but an hour which God had appointed. And yet the prayer is not superfluous, because, while Christ depends on the good pleasure of God, he knows that he ought to desire what God promised would certainly take place. True, God will do whatever he has decreed, not only though the whole world were asleep, but though it were opposed to him; but it is our duty to ask from him whatever he has promised, because the end and use 108108     “La fin et l’usage.” of promises is to excite us to prayer.

That thy Son also may glorify thee. He means that there is a mutual connection between the advancement of his glory and of the glory of his Father; for why is Christ manifested, but that he may lead us to the Father? Hence it follows, that all the honor which is bestowed on Christ is so far from diminishing the honor of the Father, that it confirms it the more. We ought always to remember under what character Christ speaks in this passage; for we must not look only at his eternal Divinity, because he speaks as God manifested in the flesh, and according to the office of Mediator.

2. As thou hast given him. He again confirms the statement, that he asks nothing but what is agreeable to the will of the Father; as it is a constant rule o prayer not to ask more than God would freely bestow; for nothing is more contrary to reason, than to bring forward in the presence of God whatever we choose.

Power over all flesh means the authority which was given to Christ, when the Father appointed him to be King and Head; but we must observe the end, which is, to give eternal life to all his people. Christ receives authority, not so much for himself as for the sake of our salvation; and, therefore, we ought to submit to Christ, not only that we may obey God, but because nothing is more lovely than that subjection, since it brings to us eternal life.

To all whom thou hast given me. Christ does not say that he has been made Governor over the whole world, in order to bestow life on all without any distinction; but he limits this grace to those who have been given to him But how were they given to him? For the Father has subjected to him the reprobate. I reply, it is only the elect who belong to his peculiar flock, which he has undertaken to guard as a Shepherd. So then, the kingdom of Christ extends, no doubt, to all men; but it brings salvation to none but the elect, who with voluntary obedience follow the voice of the Shepherd; for the others are compelled by violence to obey him, till at length he utterly bruise them with his iron scepter.

3. And this is eternal life He now describes the manner of bestowing life, namely, when he enlightens the elect in the true knowledge of God; for he does not now speak of the enjoyment of life which we hope for, but only of the manner in which men obtain life And that this verse may be fully understood, we ought first to know that we are all in death, till we are enlightened by God, who alone is life Where he has shone, we possess him by faith, and, therefore, we also enter into the possession of life; and this is the reason why the knowledge of him is truly and justly called saving, or bringing salvation. 109109     “Salutaire, ou apportant salut.” Almost every one of the words has its weight; for it is not every kind of knowledge that is here described, but that knowledge which forms us anew into the image of God from faith to faith, or rather, which is the same with faith, by which, having been engrafted into the body of Christ, we are made partakers of the Divine adoption, and heirs of heaven. 110110     “Nous sommes fkits participans de l’adoption Divine, qui nous fait enfans et heritiers du royaume des cieux;” — “we are made partakers of the Divine adoption, which makes us children and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.”

To know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. The reason why he says this is, that there is no other way in which God is known but in the face of Jesus Christ, who is the bright and lively image of Him. As to his placing the Father first, this does not refer to the order of faith, as if our minds, after having known God, afterwards descend to Christ; but the meaning is, that it is by the intervention of a Mediator that God is known.

The only true God. Two epithets are added, true and only; because, in the first place, faith must distinguish God from the vain inventions of men, and embracing him with firm conviction, must never change or hesitate; and, secondly, believing that there is nothing defective or imperfect in God, faith must be satisfied with him alone. Some explain it, That they may know thee, who alone art God; but this is a poor interpretation. The meaning therefore is, That they may know thee alone to be the true God

But it may be thought that Christ disclaims for himself the right and title of Divinity. Were it replied, that the name of God is quite as applicable to Christ as to the Father, the same question might be raised about the Holy Spirit; for if only the Father and the Son are God, the Holy Spirit is excluded from that rank, which is as absurd as the former. The answer is easy, if we attend to that manner of speaking which Christ uniformly employs throughout the Gospel of John, of which I have already reminded my readers so frequently, that they must have become quite accustomed to it. Christ, appearing in the form of a man, describes, under the person of the Father, the power, essence, and majesty of God. So then the Father of Christ is the only true God; that is, he is the one God, who formerly promised a Redeemer to the world; but in Christ the oneness and truth of Godhead will be found, because Christ was humbled, in order that he might raise us on high. When we have arrived at this point, then his Divine majesty displays itself; then we perceive that he is wholly in the Father, and that the Father is wholly in him. In short, he who separates Christ from the Divinity of the Father, does not yet acknowledge Him who is the only true God, but rather invents for himself a strange god. This is the reason why we are enjoined to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, by whom, as it were, with outstretched hand, he invites us to himself.

As to the opinion entertained by some, that it would be unjust, if men were to perish solely on account of their ignorance of God, it arises from their not considering that there is no fountain of life but in God alone, and that all who are alienated from him are deprived of life. Now, if there be no approach to God but by faith, we are forced to conclude, that unbelief keeps us in a state of death. If it be objected, that persons otherwise righteous and innocent are unjustly treated, if they are condemned, the answer is obvious, that nothing right or sincere is found in men, so long as they remain in their natural state. Now, Paul informs us that

we are renewed in the image of God by the knowledge of him,
(Colossians 3:10.)

It will be of importance for us now to bring into one view those three articles of faith; first, that the kingdom of Christ brings life, and salvation; secondly, that all do not receive life from him, and it is not the office of Christ to give life to all, but only to the elect whom the Father has committed to his protection; and, thirdly, that this life consists in faith, and Christ bestow, it on those whom he enlightens in the faith of the Gospel. Hence we infer that the gift of illumination and heavenly wisdom is not common to all, but peculiar to the elect. It is unquestionably true that the Gospel is offered to all, but Christ speaks here of that secret and efficacious manner of teaching by which the children of God only are drawn to faith.

4. I have glorified thee. His reason for saying this is, that God had been made known to the world both by the doctrine of Christ, and by his miracles; and the glory of God is, when we know what he is. When he adds, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, he means that he has completed the whole course of his calling; for the full time was come when he ought to be received into the heavenly glory Nor does he speak only of the office of teaching, but includes also the other parts of his ministry; for, though the chief part of it still remained to be accomplished, namely, the sacrifice of death, by which he was to take away the iniquities of us all, yet, as the hour of his death was already at hand, he speaks as if he had already endured it. The amount of his request, therefore, is that the Father would put him in possession of the kingdom; since, having completed his course, nothing more remained for him to do, than to display, by the power of the Spirit, the fruit and efficacy of all that he had done on earth by the command of his Father, according to the saying of Paul,

He humbled and annihilated himself, 111111     “It s’est humilie et antanti soy-mesme.” by taking the form of a servant. Therefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,
(Philippians 2:7, 10.)

5. The glory which I had with thee. He desires to be glorified with the Father, not that the Father may glorify him secretly, without any witnesses, but that, having been received into heaven, he may give a magnificent display of his greatness and power, that every knee may bow to him, (Philippians 2:10.) Consequently, that phrase in the former clause, with the Father, is contrasted with earthly and fading glory, as Paul describes the blessed immortality of Christ, by saying that

he died to sin once, but now he liveth to God, (Romans 6:10.)

The glory which I had with thee before the world was. He now declares that he desires nothing that does not strictly belong to him, but only that he may appear in the flesh, such as he was before the creation of the world; or, to speak more plainly, that the Divine majesty, which he had always possessed, may now be illustriously displayed in the person of the Mediator, and in the human flesh with which he was clothed. This is a remarkable passage, which teaches us that Christ is not a God who has been newly contrived, or who has existed only for a time; for if his glory was eternal, himself also has always been. Besides, a manifest distinction between the person of Christ and the person of the rather is here expressed; from which we infer, that he is not only the eternal God, but also that he is the eternal Word of God, begotten by the rather before all ages.


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