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John 17: A Prayer for Glory Print E-mail
Easter Season
Sunday, 19 March 2017

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The prayer of Jesus found in John 17 has rightly been called “the most important prayer offered in the entire history of the world.”1 It is often referred to as ‘The High Priestly Prayer’ because of Jesus’ intercession on behalf of the apostles and all those who would come to believe in Him through their witness. It can be broken up into three sections: Jesus’ prayer for Himself (v. 1-5), for the apostles (v. 6-19), and for the Church (v. 20-26). Since the last section involves a specific prayer of Jesus for us, we might be tempted to skip all that comes before it. But that would be a mistake. So for the next four weeks we will be walking through these three sections (spending two weeks on the second section) and asking the Lord to teach us from this most important prayer.

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We are studying this prayer at this time for a couple of reasons. First, since we have just finished the book of Hebrews where the author so clearly demonstrates that Jesus is our Great High Priest, it is good to see how He prayes for us as our priest. His prayer will help us to see and appreciate His great love for His people and His great service to them as priest and sacrifice. Second, we will be celebrating the Lord’s death and resurrection during Passion Week, which will begin in four weeks. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was prayed the night before He went to the cross, the Thursday night of Passion Week. John spends a considerable amount of his Gospel on Jesus’ final week. It begins in chapter 13 and runs throughout the rest of the book. So as we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ as the Lamb who was slain for us, I want us to slowly walk through the prayer that He prayed the night before His death.

He begins that prayer by asking for glory. Look at verse 1. The words that Jesus had just finished speaking are called His final discourse to the disciples. They were words that prepared them for His death and departure. After speaking those words, Jesus lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed. And how does He begin? ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son…’ The ‘hour’ that Jesus mentions is a reference to His death and resurrection. That hour has finally come. And what does Jesus ask before facing that hour? Glorify your Son. That might seem like a strange request. In order to understand it, I want to consider three questions about glory that are answered in this text. By answering these we can better understand Jesus’ prayer for glory.

How does the Father glorify the Son?

To glorify someone is to recognize and draw attention and praise to their value and worth. It is to honor them as they deserve. So how does the Father glorify the Son? The Father glorifies Jesus by giving Him authority over eternal life and bringing Him back into His presence. Let’s consider each of these ideas in the text.

First, the Father glorifies the Son by giving Him authority over eternal life. Look at verses 1-2. The word ‘since’ it verse 2 could be translated ‘just as’ or ‘in the same way.’ So we know that the basis for Jesus’ request for glory is found in the second verse. And what is that basis? God has glorified Jesus by giving Him authority to grant eternal life. What does this mean? God has given and is giving and will give Jesus glory as the Savior of the world. The Father’s plan from before the foundation of the world was to send His Son to save all who would believe in Him. As we saw in Hebrews, the whole history of Israel was preparing for this coming Savior. And as we see in Revelation, all of history will culminate in praise of this Savior, when the multitudes cry out to Jesus: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ (Revelation 5:12). So then Jesus’ prayer for the Father to glorify the Son is prayer for God to complete His plan for salvation which will result in the praise of our Savior.

Second, the Father glorifies the Son by bringing Him back into His presence. Before Jesus took on flesh, He was exalted with the Father and enjoyed His presence. Yet, when He became a man, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6). Jesus did not become less God when He took on flesh, but He did sacrifice glory in that He became a man and left His exalted state with the Father. The author of Hebrews speaks of Jesus as Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9a). So we talk of Jesus leaving glory in the incarnation. And what He is asking the Father to do here is to restore Him to that glory. Look at verse 5. Jesus longs to be back with the Father and to enjoy the glory that he had with Him before the world existed. Jesus knows that the path to that glory will lead to the cross, but as we see in the other Gospels, He is willing to face that to be returned to the Father’s presence. We know that Jesus’ prayer is answered because Paul goes on to write: Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9). And the author of Hebrews describes Jesus as crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death (2:9b). This fulfillment of the Father’s plan to glorify the Son and bring Him back into His presence is what Jesus is asking for here in John 17.

How does the Son glorify the Father?

Look again at the purpose for Jesus’ prayer for glory in verse 1. Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him so that He can glorify the Father. This is how the Persons of the Trinity relate. The Father glorifies the Son and the Son glorifies the Father. They bring honor and praise to one another. So how does the Son glorify the Father? The Son glorifies the Father by His obedience to Him in His life and death. Look at verse 4. Jesus glorified the Father by doing all the work that the Father gave Him to do. What was that work? Jesus came to reveal the perfection of the Father by living a sinless life while on the earth. All men fail to bring God glory in this way: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But Jesus was perfect. The author of Hebrews tells us that He was tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus displayed the perfection of God in His life. But it did not stop with just His life. Jesus glorifies the Father through His death as well. Christ was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Jesus longs for the Father’s glory and He knows that will mean His crucifixion. The Father will glorify the Son as the Suffering Savior. And the Son will glorify the Father as the Suffering Savior. On the eve of His death, Jesus prays for both.

How does this mean glory for us?

All of this talk of glory might leave us wondering: ‘What does any of this have to do with me?’ I think it is good for us to begin by seeing that ultimately the cross was for the glory of God, the glory of Father, Son, and Spirit. Lest we make the gospel completely man-centered, we need to see from Jesus’ prayer that His death and resurrection were for the glory of God. Yet, we also need to see how the glory of God is connected with our great good. So look at the prayer once more in verses 1-2. Jesus longs for glory and for the Father to be glorified. He prays for God’s plan to come about. And what is that plan? How is Jesus glorified and the Father glorified? They are glorified by giving eternal life to the followers of Jesus. Your salvation brings great glory to Jesus as your Savior, the One who paid the price for your sins at the cross. And your salvation brings great glory to the Father, the Just Justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. Thus, God’s glory and our good are intricately woven together at the cross. Jesus died for the glory of God. And that glory is found in the redemption of a people to Himself. He gets glory and we get eternal life.

And speaking of eternal life, what exactly is that? Jesus gives us the definition in verse 3. Look at that with me. The focus of eternal life is not time or distance or length of life. It is knowledge of God. Carson writes: “Eternal life turns on nothing more and nothing less than knowledge of the true God. Eternal life is not so much everlasting life as personal knowledge of the Everlasting One.”2 Knowledge of the Father and the Son and the Spirit is the greatest treasure of all. If you are going to spend your life and then spend your eternity on something, why not spend it on the greatest of all things, namely God! Jesus died to not just get back to God’s presence, but to bring us with Him. He is willing to share that glory with us if we will repent and believe in what He did for us at the cross. How glorious is that!?

Jesus values what is most valuable in His priestly prayer. His prayer for Himself is simple: ‘Father, glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you.’ The purpose of the cross is the glory of God. And the outworking of God’s glory on the earth is the salvation of sinners through belief in Jesus. By saving us, Jesus reconciles us to the Father so that we can dwell with Him forever. The story of the Bible is God bringing people into His presence. We see that throughout Israel’s history with Abraham and Moses and the tabernacle and the Temple. God is glorified when His people draw near to Him and enjoy His presence. Of course the problem in the Bible is man’s sin. Our sin has driven us away from the presence of God, from our greatest good. But Jesus came to deal with that problem. He came to die on a cross for our sins and be raised victoriously from the grave. He came to bring the Father glory by saving a people who will enjoy His presence forever. Why would you not believe in such good news? Why not follow the Savior today? May we value what is most valuable in our lives, namely the presence of God which we can have through faith in Christ. May we see that for the glory that it is! Amen.

1 Mark Johnston, Let’s Study John (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), p. 222.
2 D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), p. 556.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Saturday, 08 April 2017 )

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