I remember, once, listening to a lecture on this chapter of John, John 17, the Prayer of Christ, and being struck by the speaker’s claim, “This is the only place in all four gospels where Jesus asked for something for himself.”

Really? Could that really be true?

I imagine some of you, at least, immediately thought of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. But that supplication from Jesus was modified by, “Not my will but yours be done.” This request was very different from the one Jesus made in the prayer John recorded in John 17.

After carefully combing through all four gospels, I had to agree. This is it, this is the one thing Jesus asked for himself with confidence of the Father. I think of all the things I have asked God for, for myself. Just right now I hesitated, because I was going to try to make some sort of list of everything. It is simply too long to even try.

So what was it? What was the one thing Jesus asked for?

Below, I imagine what it might have been like for John to listen to Jesus’s pray and hear his unique request.

Jesus had begun to lift his prayer shawl from his shoulders as he said,

“In the world you will have -thlipsis-.”

It was a word that sounded like what it meant, burdens and affliction, anguish under great pressure, the persecution and tribulation their folk had long suffered as the people of God. They all looked at each other nodding, this was a true saying. In this world there were troubles aplenty for those of God’s own.

“But,” and Jesus’ eyes had flashed with supernatural intensity, his voice flowing over them in a great wave of power, “Courage! Be confident!”

The impact was physical, they sat straighter, their skin tingled, their hearts surged, their hands and faces suddenly began to sweat.

Jesus had now settled his prayer shawl on his head then thrust his own hands out, saying, “I myself have conquered the world, I have the victory!” Then he had lifted his face to heaven, his voice sonorous and deep, “Father!”

Rustling of prayer shawls had filled the room as each hastily pulled his over his head, adjusting them to stay in place, even as they also all lifted themselves to their feet, quietly jostling each other, they too raising their faces, with some their hands reaching heavenward to pray with their rabbi. Jesus was now swaying, his prayer sibilant and musical, the themes of glory and communion, consecration and love repeating in refrain.

Holy Father, righteous Father, Jesus would sing, and those in the room murmured each time, “Hallelu Jah, Hallelu Jah,” also swaying, tears streaming as the sense of Almighty God’s presence and grace spread all around them, even through them.

The pungent aroma of cardamom, cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh, the temple’s incense, the prayers of the people, poured in rich swells through the window, swept in by the brimming wind.

His eyes closed, John breathed in deep, then slowly let his breath out, again and again, his mind growing clear and wide as the horizon. Then his eyes grew wide when he opened them, watching the lips of Jesus pray, listening to the melody of his words. For though it was night, with only the lamps and braziers to illuminate the room, a gleam of radiance had once again settled upon Jesus, a luminescence whose afterglow seemed to cascade over them all, giving burnish to each of their own faces.

And now it seemed as though heaven itself were parting, and their room were transported, time slowing, the earth indeed receding, for the world was overcome by the greater power, the more magnificent glory of Almighty God. No rays of the sun could shine so brightly, nor the thrones of emperors impress so palpably as their own rabbi, now wearing a crown of pure light, robed in shimmering splendor.

How he had loved to hear of himself, of all of them, in Jesus’ voice.

“They have received and kept your words, holy Father.”

John’s throat had tightened momentarily, for there was still much they had not understood. Yet Jesus had prayed with surety,

“They know you have sent me, they know the truth, I have protected them, I have been glorified in them, I have kept them.”

Each phrase of Jesus’ prayer sank deep into John’s soul, each word a treasure, lustrous pearls of great beauty. John found his own lips saying the words after Jesus, and he touched them as he whispered, “that my joy may be filled up in them, that they may be made holy, that they may be guarded from evil.”

Then, a sudden, sharp clarity had shaken John from his reverie as he heard the Master begin to prophecy,

“But not concerning these, do I only entreat you, but rather also concerning those after me who believe through their -logos-.”

Jesus and the others had seemed also to recede as the room had brightened all the more. John blinked, his eyes aching from the light’s magnitude and strength, his ears straining to hear the sound of Jesus’ prayer as it dimmed, ever fainter,

“In order that all would be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, in order that also they in us would be, in order that the world would believe that you sent me.”

Voices! Crashing, thundering voices, singing in chords that grew from every note of music John had ever heard, so loud he was deafened, and through the blinding coruscation of resplendence came words of a hymn,

“Salvation is to our God who is seated upon the throne and to the lamb!”

And then he saw, in a flash of brilliance, a sea of people in every possible color of skin and of hair, their hands raised, their mouths open. A visible stream of words poured forth from their lips, each word marvelous in form, rising up in graceful arcs as a sublime fountain, devotion and acclaim, a living tribute to Almighty God.

John realized—knew with settled and complete confidence—the truth of God, the truth they were being consecrated in this very night, would overcome evil. For though there would be anguish and pressure, though there would be continued persecution and affliction, underneath it would remain the enduring, sustaining Logos, Word of God.

As this thought took shape in his mind, the vision faded, and John’s focus coalesced onto Jesus. In that moment, as Jesus prayed, John knew with an even greater certainty, the Word had been with God since before creation,

“Father, of those you sent to me, I desire that where I myself am they also may be with me, so that they may behold my glory that you have given to me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

John whispered, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. This One was in the beginning with God.”

A shudder passed through his body and as his arms dropped, so did his jaw. It was as though his breath had stopped, and his heart had stopped, and his eyes could no longer blink, for his mind was swirling and bucking with knowledge too large for his frame to hold. Then he heard the Word say,

“For I made known to these your name, and I will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me would be in them, likewise I in them.”

And John knew, in his mind, heart, soul, and strength he knew Jesus’ name.

{Adoration of the Lamb | By Michiel Coxie – Own work; Photo by Szilas in the Bode-Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11859387%5D

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