17:2 just as you have given him authority over all humanity, 1 so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. 2 17:3 Now this 3 is eternal life 4 – that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, 5 whom you sent.
17:17 Set them apart 6 in the truth; your word is truth.
17:19 And I set myself apart 7 on their behalf, 8 so that they too may be truly set apart. 9
[17:3] 4 sn This is eternal life. The author here defines eternal life for the readers, although it is worked into the prayer in such a way that many interpreters do not regard it as another of the author’s parenthetical comments. It is not just unending life in the sense of prolonged duration. Rather it is a quality of life, with its quality derived from a relationship with God. Having eternal life is here defined as being in relationship with the Father, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Christ (Χριστός, Cristos) is not characteristically attached to Jesus’ name in John’s Gospel; it occurs elsewhere primarily as a title and is used with Jesus’ name only in 1:17. But that is connected to its use here: The statement here in 17:3 enables us to correlate the statement made in 1:18 of the prologue, that Jesus has fully revealed what God is like, with Jesus’ statement in 10:10 that he has come that people might have life, and have it abundantly. These two purposes are really one, according to 17:3, because (abundant) eternal life is defined as knowing (being in relationship with) the Father and the Son. The only way to gain this eternal life, that is, to obtain this knowledge of the Father, is through the Son (cf. 14:6). Although some have pointed to the use of know (γινώσκω, ginwskw) here as evidence of Gnostic influence in the Fourth Gospel, there is a crucial difference: For John this knowledge is not intellectual, but relational. It involves being in relationship.
[17:17] sn The Greek word translated set…apart (ἁγιάζω, Jagiazw) is used here in its normal sense of being dedicated, consecrated, or set apart. The sphere in which the disciples are to be set apart is in the truth. In 3:21 the idea of “practicing” (Grk “doing”) the truth was introduced; in 8:32 Jesus told some of his hearers that if they continued in his word they would truly be his disciples, and would know the truth, and the truth would make them free. These disciples who are with Jesus now for the Farewell Discourse have continued in his word (except for Judas Iscariot, who has departed), and they do know the truth about who Jesus is and why he has come into the world (17:8). Thus Jesus can ask the Father to set them apart in this truth as he himself is set apart, so that they might carry on his mission in the world after his departure (note the following verse).
[17:19] sn In what sense does Jesus refer to his own ‘sanctification’ with the phrase I set myself apart? In 10:36 Jesus referred to himself as “the one whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world,” which seems to look at something already accomplished. Here, however, it is something he does on behalf of the disciples (on their behalf) and this suggests a reference to his impending death on the cross. There is in fact a Johannine wordplay here based on slightly different meanings for the Greek verb translated set apart (ἁγιάζω, Jagiazw). In the sense it was used in 10:36 of Jesus and in 17:17 and here to refer to the disciples, it means to set apart in the sense that prophets (cf. Jer 1:5) and priests (Exod 40:13, Lev 8:30, and 2 Chr 5:11) were consecrated (or set apart) to perform their tasks. But when Jesus speaks of setting himself apart (consecrating or dedicating himself) on behalf of the disciples here in 17:19 the meaning is closer to the consecration of a sacrificial animal (Deut 15:19). Jesus is “setting himself apart,” i.e., dedicating himself, to do the will of the Father, that is, to go to the cross on the disciples’ behalf (and of course on behalf of their successors as well).