John 17:1-26—Jesus’s Prayer in Behalf of His Apostles

Much of Jesus’s great Intercessory Prayer focuses on his concern for his apostles, but it is about our needs as well, for he said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; hat they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” These are the words of his prayer:

6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

That last phrase, “I am glorified in them,” reads like a remembrance of God’s words to Moses.

39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).

We find it echoed again in the very last words of the Savior’s prayer.

26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26).

Earlier in John’s gospel, he introduced Jesus’s conversation with his apostles with these words:

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end (John 13:1).

Thereafter, throughout their conversation as John recorded it, Jesus repeatedly reminded the apostles of their eternal relationships with each other, with himself, and with his Father. Here are just two examples:

20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:20-22).

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (John 15:7-11).

Jesus’s prayer continues:

11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:11-13)

That last phrase asks, “How and why?” At first glance it appears to say that they are a source of his joy. That would be consistent with many of the things he told them. However, with a more careful reading we discover that it is about their fulfillment as a extension of his joy. Now we must ask, as did Nicodemus, “How can these things be? (John 3:9).” Jesus answered the Jewish scholar’s question by explaining his own eternal identity and the power of his Atonement. If we are to answer it here, we must approach it the same way. We must begin by asking “Who is Jesus?” His revelation to the Prophet Joseph that is Section 93 in the Doctrine and Covenaants gives the answer we seek. It tells of his eternal nature and contains a key by which we can discover how his Atonement works so “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers (D&C 93:36-39).

“Innocent before God” in verse 38 is the key.
My best friend at BYU read this verse to me and observed, “Innocence is a relationship.” Ultimately, our innocence is the quality of our being “before God.” We cannot be innocent unless it is within the trust of that comradery. That same principle is also true in this world. Showing how it works in our society may be an effective way of showing how it works with the Atonement, and how the apostles could have Jesus’s “joy fulfilled in themselves.” Here is a parable.
Johnny is an intelligent, healthy child who is inquisitive and rambunctious. While he is at grandma’s house he does something he shouldn’t and breaks one of her favorite dishes. Johnny is terrified. Grandma told him to be careful but he wasn’t paying attention and it got broken. He knows he has to tell her, so in his fear he finds her and shows her the broken dish. Grandma loves Johnny and understands about little boys. She puts her arms around him, tells him thanks for showing her, and explains that he is more important to her than the dish. Everything is OK. Johnny is innocent in grandma’s eyes because she has forgiven him. She is concerned about Johnny and to her the dish is not the issue. Because it is her dish, she, and only she, can make him innocent through her love.
But that is only half the story. Johnny is still afraid and embarrassed. He is not at all sure grandma is not just pretending she is not angry. In a strange but real turnabout, grandma is not innocent in Johnny’s eyes. The dish is still a factor in his thinking even if not in hers. Until he is sure he can trust her, he will not be completely comfortable where she is.

For each of them, innocence is defined by their individual perceptions of their relationship. One’s innocence is only real when it is reflected from the eyes of the other person.
The Savior’s Atonement is something like that. Just as grandma is the only one who can make Johnny innocent of the broken dish, so the Savior is the only one who can make us fully innocent of our sins. He has suffered more than we can suffer so only he can truly say “I understand and it is OK.” His love can take all the burden of guilt from us. However, like Johnny, until we are able to recognize and accept his total love, we still struggle under the burden of not trusting him. That trust is one of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. When we are worthy of the constant companionship of the Spirit, the trust will be an integral part of who we are, and we can accept our own innocence in the Savior’s eyes.
There are several veils that separate us from God. One is the veil of forgetfulness that takes from our memory the trust and motives we had in the premortal world that enabled us to dare to enter this difficult time and place. Another is the sense of guilt that we have accumulated while we have been here. It cripples our ability and even our willingness to believe the Savior will ever think of us as being innocent as little Johnny.
This veil of guilt that separates us from God is of our own making. Therefore, it places upon us the responsibility to go behind that veil so we may be where God is. He provides a way and the instructions so we may do that. It is a strange veil, for we can not see it at all. We must recognize that it is there before we can open it to him, as he has already opened it from his side to us.
We are confined to remain outside that veil until we acknowledge that it is real, and are willing to open it, and to let him see us as we really are.
The Atonement has already established the terms of Jesus’s part of our relationship. On his part, those terms have already been met. He has accomplished them in his agony in this world and our being in this world gives us the opportunity to establish ours. Our part is keeping the covenants and honoring the ordinances that we seal in charity in our relationship to him and others.
Charity is the final step. In this world we learn sorrow, disappointment, and hurt. They either make us hard and angry, or enable us to have empathy and compassion for others. The latter enables each of us to play the part of grandma to other people. Until we can acknowledge the innocence of others, the veil that separates us from the Savior’s love remains a wall we are unable to breach. Their innocence, like ours can only be defined in trusting relationships.
For us to achieve that end, sin has to be defined differently from cultural “right and wrong.” For example, breaking the dish was culturally wrong but if it were an accident then there would be no fault except foolishness. To be a real sin it would have to be the product of a still earlier sin. The first and perhaps the greater sin would be the anger or contempt by which we justified our attack on grandma’s dish. The attitude that initiated the deed is often a greater sin than the deed itself because such attitudes are always contemptuous, self aggrandizing, and blind to other people’s needs.
Sin is first the thought then the action which is the consequence of the thought. The dish is broken. Innocence comes through grandma’s love. But if breaking it was deliberate, then the premeditation must be repented of before Johnny can acknowledge and accept the innocence grandma offers. That principle is much of the burden of the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount.

21 Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you, that thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of God;
22 But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment.
23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—
24 Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.
27 Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;
28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.
29 Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;
30 For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.
43 And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy;
44 But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.
14 For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (3 Nephi 12:21 through 13:15).

As Johnny must accept grandma’s love with the same genuineness that she gives it to him, so he must give it to others so that each may be innocent in the friendship they share.
I believe it was that principle the Savior was expressing in his prayer when he said, “…that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” A way of describing the celestial society is that it is a perfect comradery that is born of mutual understanding, mutual acceptance, and mutual love. This is the way the Prophet Joseph described it:

92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;
93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.
94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.
96 And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.

the criteria for that kind of salvation as it is listed in Moroni 7:23-24. Comparing that with the similar list in 2 Peter 1:5-7, we find a one-to-one coloration with all the ideas except “hope” and “brotherly kindness.” However, thoughtful analysis shows that they are each used the same way, as the entrance into charity. Therefore, it follows that in those passages hope must mean the same as philadelphia.
Then, to check its correctness, I compared that conclusion with hope in Moroni 7: 39-48. It is apparent that in all three contexts. Peter’s philadelphia, and Mormon’s hope, each is equivalent to hesed. Because with each, as with hesed , it is the necessary prerequisite to charity.
As an entree to charity, the hesed relationship must be with one’s own true Self, with God, and with those individuals who share one’s personal hesed environment. (One’s Self, like a temple, is too sacred to be entrusted to just anyone.)
I have previously defined hope as “living as though the covenants are already fulfilled.” That remains true, except it is now apparent that one cannot live to the eternal covenants without an honest hesed relationship with Self, God, and the people we love. Hesed & hope & ultimately charity are equivalents

The Savior’s prayer in behalf of his apostles continued.

14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:14-26)


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