John 17:9, Jesus and the World

John 17:9 (KJV, literal) John 17:9 (Greek, transliteration)
I pray for them:
I pray not for the world,
but for them which thou hast given me;
for they are thine.
ΔEvc rroi o¡:c◊v r˙oc:c◊.
o¡ rroi :o¡ xooµo¡ r˙oc:c◊
oiio rroi c—v orocxo¸ µoi.
o:i ooi ri˙oiv.
I for them I-ask
Not for the word I-ask
but for those-whom you-gave to-me
for to-you they-are
Egō peri autōn erōtō
ou peri tou kosmou erōtō
alla peri hōn dedōkas moi,
hoti soi eisin,
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those you have given me,
because they are yours.
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those you have given me,
because they are yours.
17.9a: I pray for them.
What is the meaning of the term “pray” here? The Greek term is erōtaō (r˙oc:oc), which
means literally to ask a question, or to make a request (BDAG 395). It is generally used in the
New Testament for ordinary questions, and is typically translated “ask.” The standard New
Testament term for prayer is proseuchomai (rooor¡,oµoi), which means to petition deity
(BDAG 879). In John, Jesus is never described as praying (proseuchomai) to the Father.
1
This
may be because John wants to emphasis Jesus’ special relation to the Father as the divine Son,
who communicates with the Father, but does not approach him in petitionary prayer as ordinary
Hamblin, John 17:9, Jesus and the World 1 Dec 17, 2010
1
Jesus is frequently described as praying (proseuchomai) in the synoptic gospels: Mt 14.13,
19.13, 26.36-44; Mk 1.35, 6.46, 14.32-38; Lk 3.21, 5.16, 6.12, 9.28-29, 11.1, 22.40-44. These
gospels, on the other hand, never have Jesus “ask” (erōtaō) the Father for things.
humans do. But although the technical New Testament term for prayer is not used by John, Jesus
repeatedly asks or requests (erōtaō) things from the Father in John.
2
However that may be, this
verse begins a long prayer that contains a sequence of requests from the Father for the disciples
(17.9-19).
17.9b: I do not pray for the world,
In the commentary to 17.5b I discussed several different ways the concept of world/kosmos
is used in the New Testament. The Greek term kosmos (xooµo¸), generally translated as
“world” in most modern translations, means both the material or physical world in which we
live, and the inhabitants or even the natural and social order of that world. John, however, has a
more technical sense in which he uses the term kosmos. In this special sense the kosmos is
something that stands in antithesis to Jesus and the disciples. On the other hand, paradoxically,
the kosmos was created and loved by God, and is something that God wants to save. Let’s look
at this second idea first.
To understand the concept of the kosmos, it is important to recognized that the Father
created and loves the kosmos, and that Christ has been sent to enlighten and save the kosmos. A
number of passages in John reflect this idea:
• The kosmos was made by the Word/logos (Jn 1.9).
• Jesus is “the light of the kosmos” (Jn 8.12, 9.5, 11.9. 12.46).
• God “loved the kosmos” and sent his Son so that the kosmos “should not perish, but have
eternal life” (Jn 3.16).
Hamblin, John 17:9, Jesus and the World 2 Dec 17, 2010
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Jn 14.16, 16.26, 17.9, 15, 20.
• Jesus has “come into the kosmos to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18.37).
• Jesus “takes away the sins of the kosmos” (Jn 1.29).
• Jesus is “the Savior of the kosmos” (Jn 4.42, 12.47).
• Jesus “gives life to the kosmos” (Jn 6.33).
• Jesus gives his flesh “for the life of the kosmos” (Jn 6.51).
If God created and loves the kosmos, why is there such a strong antipathy between the the
kosmos and Christ and his disciples? The fundamental problem is that Satan is now the “ruler of
this world/kosmos” (archōn tou kosmou, o‡o,cv :o¡ xooµo¡); he has usurped God’s place as
its true ruler.
3
The idea of Satan’s dominion over the kosmos will be discussed in detail in
chapter 15, but for now it is important to note that Satan controls the kingdoms of the kosmos,
and Christ has come replace them with the kingdom of God (Jn 3.3-5); when Christ emphasizes
that “my kingdom is not of the kosmos” (Jn 18.36), he is in part engaging the fact that the kosmos
is Satan’s kingdom.
This antipathy between the kosmos and the disciples is described in many ways in John.
• Jesus is “not of this kosmos” (Jn 8.23, 17.14-16).
• The kosmos does not know the Word/logos (Jn 1.10, 17.25).
• The kosmos “loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (Jn
3.19).
• The kosmos therefore “cannot receive the spirit of truth” (Jn 14.17).
• The kosmos “hates [Jesus] because I testify about it that its works are evil” (Jn 7.7).
Hamblin, John 17:9, Jesus and the World 3 Dec 17, 2010
3
Jn 12.31, 14.30, 16.11.
• Likewise, “the world hates you [disciples]; ... it has hated me [Jesus] before it hated
you.” (Jn 15.18).
• Therefore, the disciples have been given to Jesus “out of the kosmos” (Jn 17.6).
• Jesus came to judge the kosmos (Jn 9.39, 12.31, 16.8, 11; but 12.46).
• Jesus has come to “cast out” “the ruler of this kosmos” (Jn 12.31).
• Jesus has “overcome the kosmos” (Jn 16.33).
The kosmos is thus characterized by ignorance, rejection of the spirit of truth, lovers of
darkness, workers of evil, and haters of Jesus and the disciples. The ruler of the kosmos is Satan,
who has been engaged in an ongoing cosmic struggle with Christ since Eden for control both of
the inhabitants of the kosmos, and the kosmos itself. The Logos/Word has come down from
heaven to “cast out” Satan from the kosmos and bring those who will accept Jesus as the
Messiah--thereby accepting his grace, truth, love, and knowledge--back into the light, the
presence of the Father, and the unity and love of the Father and Son.
Notice that in 17.9b Jesus explicitly says that he does not pray for the world/kosmos. Why,
if he loves the kosmos and has come to save it? In fact, beginning in 17.21 Jesus does begin to
pray for the kosmos. But he gives two different prayers in John 17 because of the different
spiritual states of the disciples and the kosmos. Because the disciples have already accepted and
kept Jesus’ words (17.6), Jesus prays that the disciples might be glorified and unified with the
Father (17.22-23). On the other hand, since the kosmos has not yet accepted Jesus as the
Messiah, Jesus prays that the kosmos may come to believe in Christ (17.21)--in other words, that
the kosmos may thus be transformed into Disciples. The specifics of Jesus’ prayer is thus
dependent on the needs of the groups being prayed for.
Hamblin, John 17:9, Jesus and the World 4 Dec 17, 2010
17.9c: but for those you have given me, because they are yours.
Throughout his Gospel, John speaks of the disciples as belonging to the Father, and having
been given to Jesus by the Father (17.2, 6-7, 9-10). This concept will be discussed in the
commentary to 17.10, in the next chapter.
Hamblin, John 17:9, Jesus and the World 5 Dec 17, 2010

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