After teaching his disciples about humility, love, prayer, and the Holy Spirit, Jesus lifted his eyes to heaven and began to pray. Jesus was communing openly with the Father that his disciples might learn more deeply, more fully, what he had taught them about prayer in his sermon on the mount.
For you and me today, we can see key concepts in how Jesus prayed, and what he prayed.
Jesus spoke of glory all throughout this prayer, beginning in verse one and returning to this concept five times.
Merriam Webster’s defines glory like this:
- a. Praise, honor, or distinction extended by common consent: renown
b: Worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving <giving glory to God>.
Think of Jesus as the manifestation of God’s character, of God’s exaltation in heaven.
- a. Something that secures praise or renown <the glory of a brilliant career>
b. A distinguished quality or asset.
Think of Jesus finished work at the cross, and now, because of his resurrection and ascension, the manifestation of Jesus’ presence in every believer.
- a. Great beauty and splendor: magnificence <the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome — E. A. Poe>
b. Something marked by beauty or resplendence <a perfect glory of a day>
c: The splendor and beatific happiness of heaven; broadly: eternity.
Think of the glory Jesus had before the world began as Son of God in heaven, and of the eternal life God offers through Jesus.
- a. A state of great gratification or exaltation <when she’s acting she’s in her glory>
b: A height of prosperity or achievement.
Think of Jesus receiving the faith of his disciples, acclaiming him as Savior.
The Glory of God
The glory of God is linked to God’s attributes, beginning with God’s infinite, eternal being. All that God is, is infinite and eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, all-loving. Thinking of it this way:
God’s glory is God’s intrinsic worth, and Jesus is the display of God’s glory.
The Hebrew Scriptures speak of God’s Shekinah, a brilliant radiance that signaled God’s presence.
- God’s Shekinah led the Israelites through the desert, a pillar of fiery light at night, and a pillar of cloud by day.
- God’s Shekinah filled the tabernacle when it was built, and filled Solomon’s temple when it was inaugurated.
The Christian Testament makes reference to that brilliant radiance as being the Lord Jesus himself, the radiance of God’s glory.
Before Jesus emptied himself and took on a body, he possessed the fullness of God’s attributes—eternality, infinity, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present—and the fullness of God’s outward, visible glory. As John explained at the beginning of his Gospel, Jesus, the Word, was with God and he was God. After Jesus rose from the dead, he was glorified in a new way, in a physical, glorified body, in which Jesus ascended to heaven.
Jesus is now glorified as fully God and glorified as fully man.
The People You Have Given Me
By the second verse we find out this prayer is not given for everyone, but is reserved for certain, particular people, those whom the Father has given to the Son. Jesus returned to this theme all throughout his prayer, speaking of his ministry to his own.
The underlying concept concerns the word “election,” which both the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul spent time writing about. It is the thought that before the world was, the Lord knew who God’s beloved people would be, and the Lord always intended that God would give these faithful to the Lord as a gift of love.
The concept of God’s election, as it is described both in the Hebrew scriptures and in the Christian testament, is made complex by the concept of human choice and responsibility. These basic thoughts seem to rise up in the millennia long conversation among theologians about how to understand what this means.
1) Our salvation is intentional, for God loved you and me long before we loved God.
2) God chose each of us as people of such worth that Jesus gave his life as ransom for our lives.
3) The Lord offers fellowship within God-Three-In-One to each of us, freely.
4) God leaves it to us to receive the Lord or reject the Lord.
Both of these concepts must rest side by side.
Jesus said, throughout the gospels, that he would never turn anyone away who came to him. Relationship with God is offered equally to all people, and you and I must have that same attitude. No one is exempt from this invitation. At the same time, Jesus said that all who come to him are drawn by the Father. He chooses us and you and I must also choose him, for God first loved us and the only reasonable response is to return God’s love.
The Gifts Jesus Has Given His Own
The whole of Jesus’ ministry is wrapped up in his prayer, all that Jesus gave to his own, and continues to give to every believer, his
- Separation from this world
- Commission to the world
- Sanctification, being set apart for God
- Life, eternal life
- Name, his very nature
- Glory which God has given him
- Love, the same love with which Jesus’ Father loves him
Remember that there were only hours left before Jesus was going to be arrested. This time in prayer was costly, so Jesus spoke of the things that meant the most to him. Think of all the good things that Jesus could have asked for you and me, and for all believers.
What about doctrinal purity and correctness? With all the conflicting ideas out there, does that not sound really helpful?
What about power? Think of all the things you and I could do if we could all work miracles and have fabulous powers like the apostles did.
He could have prayed for spiritual maturity,
or for the world’s resources to be at our command, for the work.
But instead, Jesus prayed for unity – oneness of every believer with each other,
So that they all one would be, just as you, Father, [are] in me and I also [am] in you, in order that then they in us would be.
Jesus’ prayer, John 17:21
and the oneness of every believer with God,
I in them, and you in me, so that they will have been made consecrated, fulfilled, perfected, and completed into one.
Jesus’ prayer, John 17:23
Through that unity, God’s love would be received and shared, God’s nature would dwell in each believer as well as in every gathering of believers.
Only in proportion as believers are made perfect in oneness with God through Jesus, and therefore with each other, will the world recognize that God did send Jesus.
. . . in order that the world would believe that you sent me.
. . . in order that the world would know that you sent me, and you loved them just as you loved me.
Jesus’ prayer, 17:21, 23
[Fractal | By I, Jonathan Zander, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2605482%5D