Scripture: John 17:1-5; 20-24
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
This portion of Scripture is often referred to as the Lord’s prayer or the High Priestly Prayer, for here is the extended prayer he prayed prior to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. We have included the beginning and the ending portions of the prayer in our reading for today.
Jesus’ prayer contains the basic elements of an Old Testament priest’s prayer just before he offers a sacrifice. Verses three to five refer to the glorification of Father and Son. Then there is the reference to the work Christ came to do. (v.6-8) Intercession on behalf of others follows. (9, 11, 15, 20, 21, 24) A final element of a priest’s prayer is found in verse one and five, that statement declaring the offering.
Verse one affirms that Jesus is the Lord of time itself. Throughout the previous months and years, he often stated, “My time is not yet come.” Now as time’s Creator, his words here carry greatest authority and power, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Out of great love, he volunteered to ascend to the cross to complete the work he came to do, being the only possible bridge between heaven and earth. Participation in the life of Christ and communion with God is again possible as the ultimate sacrifice is paid in full.
In the latter portion of the passage, we find Jesus praying specifically for you and for me, for we are the people who have believed in Jesus based on the truth of the disciples’ message being passed down through the centuries. 2,000 years ago Jesus prayed for us, even as he has continued to pray for his people through the centuries.
On a side note, Jehovah Witnesses claim that Jesus did not always exist, but that God the Father created him. John’s words here decisively destroy their claim as verse five can only be understood in terms of Christ’s pre-existence. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, have never not existed as the only uncreated Being.
There is so much in this prayer, considerably more than this space allows. Take some time and go slowly through the whole prayer (chapter 17) noting how the different sentences relate to each other. Observe for what and for whom Jesus prays. What are the relationships? Don’t you wonder what Jesus prayed when he went alone to the mountains to pray? This passage is a treasure trove into the prayer life of our Savior.
Music: “O Children Come” Kristin Getty and Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Prayer: May God support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done! Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen
–John Henry Newman 1801