Reader: “And this is the way to have eternal life—”
Response: “to know you, the only true God.”
Scripture: John 17:1-11
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.
“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
We often read of Jesus going away alone to pray to his Father. Like me, I’m guessing you might wonder what he prayed for and how he prayed. John seventeen gives us some insight. This is the longest of Jesus’ recorded prayers, also known as his “high priestly prayer.” This chapter is the conclusion of his farewell address as chapter eighteen moves the Easter story ahead. There are several different things to note. As we look at the text, it begins with Jesus looking up to heaven, a traditional Jewish posture for prayer. It is likely his hands were lifted to heaven as well. In the majority of his prayer, Jesus is addressing his own concerns with the Father. A prayer like this was normally said aloud so his followers could hear what he was praying. While Jesus’ addressing God as Father was usual for him, such an address of God would be unusual in Judaism, so you see new insight created for the disciples in their request of Jesus to teach them how to pray when Jesus prayed “Our Father, . . .” On a different note, when Jesus said, “The hour has come. . .”, it reflected his understanding that the betrayal, arrest, torture, death, and resurrection was underway. For Jesus, his realization of the imminent coming sacrifice must have been a powerful moment, never before done, something that had been unfolding in God’s plan since the Fall of man in the Garden, and now was coming to completion, never ever to be repeated in time. These next hours were monumental for all of creation. Jesus had come from heaven, sharing the glory of God with the Father from before the creation of the world, and was now returning to heaven with his earthly mission accomplished! I’ve often wondered how Jesus processed his mission over his thirty-three years, knowing the end was going to be awful. What immediately hits me as I typed that last sentence was his love for his people. He looked through the anguish to the other side of the cross, the joy of “bringing many sons and daughters to glory.” A few minutes later they all left for the Garden of Gethsemane. Now a word concerning the Trinity, “Jesus’ oneness with the Father means that if the Son is glorified, the Father will also be glorified.” (NLT notes, p.1806) The fact that the Father gave the Son authority further affirms the unity of the Godhead as only God can give eternal life. Jesus uses the phrase “to know you” in reference to God. Again, “to know” means not only experiencing one another, but intimacy of the relationship. Loving and obedience are unbreakably connected to each other. Jesus prayed specifically for his children, not for the world, which might surprise us. Do not doubt that his prayers for you are specific. Because he is God, he knows everything, remembers everything―except sins repented of, and knows the depths of your heart. He prays, “Make them holy by your truth, teach them your word, which is truth.” Friends, we have a Savior who is very much alive and intercedes for you every moment of your life. What a glorious God we have and thank you to John for recording this prayer of Jesus and for the insights gained in our own prayer life as a result.
Music: “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” Fernando Ortega
O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Word and Revelation of the Eternal Father, come, we pray Thee, take possession of our hearts, and reign where Thou hast right to reign. So fill our minds with the thought and our imaginations with the picture of Thy love, that there may be in us no room for any desire that is discordant with Thy holy will. Cleanse us, we pray Thee from all that may make us deaf to Thy call or slow to obey it, Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, art one God, blessed for ever. Amen.
―WIlliam Temple, 1881-1944, from The Oxford Book of Prayer, p.55