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Jesus now comes to the climax of His prayer for the disciples. His prayer summarizes the purpose for His entire ministry, the reason why He came to earth, and the successful result of that ministry in depositing His glory in the hearts of the disciples.
John 17:22, 23 says,
22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
Moses asked God to show him His “glory,” and God showed him His “goodness” (Exodus 33:18, 19). The goodness of God is the manifestation of His glory in the divine plan from creation to the reconciliation of all things.
Jesus Christ embodied that glory and goodness. When He was sent to earth, it was to make the earth “good” again, which, in God’s view, meant that the earth would reflect His own nature. The physical universe was created for that purpose.
When God finished creating the universe, He was satisfied, and thus He pronounced it “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Later, because sin had entered the world, making it less than “very good,” a second creation was necessary to create a new heaven and a new earth. This new creation began with Christ’s mission on earth, specifically, with His death and resurrection.
The promise was for His glory to cover the earth. This promise was first given to Moses (Num. 14:21) and repeated in Isaiah 6:3, 11:9, Psalm 72:19, and Hab. 2:14. The promise is given five times in all to suggest that it was a New Covenant promise based on grace. Five is the biblical number of grace. In other words, it was based on the sovereignty of God, not only making the promise unconditional but making God alone responsible for its fulfillment.
To the extent that the earth aligns with the nature of God, the earth is good. Hence, all things must become Love, for “God is love” and love defines good. The New Covenant plan makes love the cement of unity. All inferior plans, including any plan based on the Old Covenant, makes fear the cement of unity. Fear may force unity, but only love is a fearless bond that can succeed in the end. Fear binds; love frees.
Jesus stated in His prayer that the goal was to “be perfected in unity.” The word “perfected” is from teleioo, “to be made complete, lacking nothing.” The disciples—and, indeed, the whole universe—will ultimately “be perfected in unity,” for that is the meaning of the reconciliation of all things. To reconcile means to regain unity, enemies becoming friends, going from a state of disagreement and conflict to a state of agreement and peace (shalom).
When men attempt to unify the world through force and fear, it is because they do not understand the nature of God, His love. They see their duty as servants to force others to submit to God, and this, they think, is the type of unity that is pleasing to God. Such men have zeal but it is zeal without knowledge. Paul had such zeal in his early years while persecuting the church, attempting to stamp out the disunity within Judaism, caused by the “heresy” of Christianity. Later he wrote of such Jewish zeal in Rom. 10:1, 2,
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.
Zeal gives the appearance of love and devotion, but it is usually a man-made attempt to bring unity by a threat of punishment. It was done in first-century Judaism, it was done again in fourth-century Christianity, and later the same tactic was done in wars with Islam. None of these religions as a whole have understood the love nature of God, in spite of protests to the contrary.
Threats coerce behavior; love changes the heart. When love rules the earth, there is true unity, the only unity that satisfies the nature of God and causes Him to pronounce it “very good.” Jesus provided the world with the example of love, the type of love that would die for an enemy and not threaten the enemy with death.
When Jesus prayed in John 17, His example of divine love was about to be manifested to the world at the cross. This was to be the greatest love-show on earth.
Without His example to follow, the mortal world could not know the love of God. Death caused all men to fall short of the glory of God, making them incapable of achieving unity in love. Mortal men could only conceive of unity through fear. But the love of God was in Christ, and His purpose was to manifest that love to the world. By depositing love into the disciples through the Holy Spirit, the glory of God could begin to spread until His glory covered the whole earth.
Jesus continued His prayer in John 17:24,
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
What does it mean to “be with me where I am”? He does not speak of the future, as if to request that the disciples might ascend to heaven to be with Him there. Instead, He speaks of a present condition. “I am” is a continuous state of being.
This is directly related to the word “abide” that we see earlier in John 14:2,
2 In My Father’s house are many dwellings [mone, “abodes, abiding places”] … I go to prepare a place for you.
Again, Jesus said in John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you.” When the disciples could learn to abide in Christ, then they could be where He is in His “place” with the Father. The “house” that is prepared for us is the house of love, for Jesus said in John 15:9 and 10, “abide in My love.”
In other words, Jesus was not talking about the disciples going to heaven to some mansion in the sky. He was talking about abiding in the house of love, a state of being that reflects the glory and goodness of God that Christ injected into the earth. It is not about us leaving the earth and going to heaven but about heaven coming to earth and indwelling us. The ultimate goal is to reconcile all of creation so that creation (including physical matter) may fulfill its heavenly calling and destiny as an expression of God’s goodness.
So the glory that Christ enjoyed when He was “with God” (John 1:1) was injected into the earth when He was born here. This began a new cycle of creation, or re-creation, to restore all the glory that was lost through Adam’s sin and to infuse love into every dark place in the universe.
This new creation cycle was a rebirth. So Jesus used a birthing term in John 17:24, saying, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” The word translated “foundation” is katabole, which means “a throwing or laying down, a founding, or the injection or depositing of virile semen in the womb.”
The “foundation of the world,” then, is pictured as God begetting the world by planting seeds of life. However, because all died in Adam shortly after childbirth, it was necessary to beget life a second time. Christ was that holy Seed that was begotten by the Father in the Virgin Mary. God’s love-making is the word picture presented to us through the word katabole.
It was the nature of God that was injected in the womb of the earth and in the first New Creation Man, Jesus Christ, in the womb of Mary. He was and is the embodiment of love, and from this one Man, “the only begotten God” (John 1:18), life was to spread until it covered the earth as the waters cover the sea.
John 17:25, 26 concludes Jesus’ prayer, saying,
25 O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
Even as the first creation took place over a period of six “days,” so also does the second creation take place over a period of time. While it only takes a moment to beget a New Creation, it takes time for that embryo to grow and mature and to come to full birth or manifestation.
The world has not known God, but Jesus does know His Father. To “know” is to have an intimate relationship that comes only with full agreement and unity. It is a word that was supposed to describe love-making, as we see in places like Gen. 4:1 (KJV), “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived.” Unfortunately, ungodly people who do not know the love of God have engaged in sexual relations without really “making love” as God defines it.
Jesus “knows” His Father, because He has the Father’s nature in Him. It is God’s nature that is being passed down from generation to generation, first to Jesus and then to the disciples, and then to more disciples, and ultimately to the whole world. When Jesus says, “I have made Your name known to them,” He was talking about the love-nature of God being revealed and implanted in their hearts.
Every revelation of God’s “name” is a revelation of His nature. To know His name does not mean knowing how to pronounce the letters. No one knows His “name” without knowing His nature. Hence, the climax of Jesus’ prayer showed that He had “made known Your name to them,” which He then interpreted in terms of a revelation of love.
In other words, the same love that is in the Father and in the Son was to be in the disciples as well. So ends Jesus’ prayer, and the final saga then begins as Jesus meets His destiny.