John 17: 1 – 5 Jesus prays to be glorified
After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed:
‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.’
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The first thing that strikes me about this passage is that it is different from the synoptic gospels. St Matthew and St Mark don’t mention it at all, while St Luke says, ‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ (Luke 22: 28 – 30)
I don’t want to consider the detail of St Luke’s version until the next blog post on Monday, as it is more relevant to the next passage for study. However, it has relevance to today’s study in that St Luke and St John agree that at the last supper Jesus spoke about the nature of his kingdom and the place the disciples would hold in it.
‘Father, the hour has come.’
Jesus knows that the forces ruling the temporal world are now going to take their course, and he is going to be crucified, and raised from the dead. Up until this moment Jesus has always been active in the world, and avoided death on several occasions. Now, he is deliberately and formally relinquishing control of his earthly life.
‘Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.’
The synoptic gospels describe Jesus as being deeply troubled in spirit but nevertheless submitting to the will of the Father. St John presents a different view in which Jesus sees beyond the ordeal he faces to the glory that is to come.
‘For you granted him authority over all people’
How gently he has exercised that authority! Think of the wedding at Cana, the way he spoke to the Samaritan woman, the patience he showed to Nicodemus, the way he washed his disciples’ feet. Such gentleness, such love can give us hope for our own lives.
‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’
This is a great mystery; one might almost say, the great mystery. I certainly can’t explain it. My personal view of what St John means here is something like “We don’t know the exact nature of heaven, but that’s not really important. If we know the Father, and Jesus, we’re in safe hands. They want the very best for us.”
‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.’
We might suppose, on the basis of a human timeline, that Jesus’ work is not yet finished, but in one sense it is. Jesus has always surrendered all control of his life to the Father. Everything he has taught, everything he has done, has been in accordance with the will of the Father. And now, for the benefit of the disciples who were listening to the human Jesus, and for us as we read St John’s gospel, Jesus prays and emphasises his total obedience.
We, too, must make that commitment to follow Jesus without reservation – and there will be more about that in Tuesday’s blog.
Thank you that you glorified Jesus. I give you my life to use as you will; please help me to keep that promise.
In Jesus name, Amen