I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. (17:4)
In God’s perfect plan, and in keeping with His perfect justice, the Son had to come to earth in order to save those whom the Father had given Him (Luke 19:10). As was noted earlier, the Father’s gift was so precious to the Son that He was willing to do whatever was necessary to receive it (cf. Phil. 2:1–11).
The Lord Jesus Christ glorified the Father during His time on the earth by having perfectly accomplished the work which the Father gave Him to do (cf. 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 15:10). That work culminated in the cross, which He viewed here in an anticipatory way. Jesus was certain that the eternal promise of God would be perfectly accomplished, and that nothing could prevent the Father’s purposes from being realized. But His statement did more than merely reveal His own confidence in the plans of the Father. It also served as an example to the disciples—reminding them to trust in God’s sovereign working and take comfort in knowing that He was in control.
Additionally, this verse implies the truth of Christ’s impeccability (sinlessness). “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?” Jesus boldly challenged His adversaries (John 8:46). Paul described Him in 2 Corinthians 5:21 as “Him who knew no sin.” The writer of Hebrews declared that though He was “tempted in all things as we are,” Jesus was “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15), and went on to characterize Him as “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). Peter referred to Him as “a lamb unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19) and declared that He “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22). John said simply, “In Him [Christ] there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Most significant of all was the Father’s affirmation, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Only by living a sinless life could Jesus be an acceptable sacrifice for sin.
When John the Baptist hesitated to baptize Him, Jesus told him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). It was imperative for Him to live a life of perfect obedience, fulfilling all of God’s righteous requirements. Only One who was perfectly holy, just as God is holy (Lev. 19:2), could be the final sacrifice for sin (cf. Heb. 10:1–18). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus conquered death and provided eternal life to all who believe in Him. But in addition, His perfect life of obedience, the fullest expression of which was His willingness to die on the cross (Luke 22:42), is imputed to believers at justification (cf. Rom. 5:18–21). Though Jesus was sinless, God treated Him as if He had committed the sins of everyone who would believe in Him, so that believers, though unrighteous, could be treated as if they had lived Christ’s perfect life. Again, 2 Corinthians 5:21 succinctly summarizes that glorious truth: “He [the Father] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Christ’s willingness to be a sin-bearing sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate demonstration of His complete commitment to obey the Father, as well as the ultimate expression of His love for sinners (cf. John 15:13).
MacArthur New Testament Commentary