I’ve been drawn to Jesus’s prayer recorded in John 17, which has 3 parts. This wonderful prayer of our Lord closes the Upper Room Discourse and precedes His agony in the shadows of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas the traitor, His arrest and the beginning of His trials. He prays for Himself, His disciples, and for all believers. Today, let’s look at the first part of the prayer, where our Lord Jesus prays to glorify the Father. This prayer is an example of humble obedience to the Lord–that the steps we take and prayers that we offer should be for God’s glory. Jesus makes requests of the Father, but the main purpose of the prayer is to glorify the Father.
John never forgot the scene in which this prayer was uttered. Our Lord had left the Upper Room with His disciples and had passed through the vineyards that surrounded Jerusalem. As He paused somewhere along that route, in the bright Passover moonlight He “lifted up His eyes to heaven” and prayed aloud in the hearing of the disciples. He wanted the disciples to hear His prayer, both for their comfort and edification. I pray it gives you the same comfort and guidance.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” (John 17:1-8)
Twice Jesus asks to be glorified, in two different ways, and for two different reasons. First, He asks to be glorified in and by means of the cross, which is what He means by the words “the hour has come”. All through the gospel we have seen Him moving toward this hour which He has long anticipated, the hour of crisis when He confronts, deliberately and personally, the massed powers of darkness. So in the cross, with its agony, blood, grief and loneliness He is asking to be glorified, so that in His death He will glorify the Father.
The word “glorified” means to make manifest hidden values, hidden riches. The sun is a glory because the gases that make it up are being consumed and manifested in brilliant light. Jesus Himself is glorified that way. John began his gospel by saying, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, … and we beheld His glory,” (John 1:14a-b). What glory? “Full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14b). All His inner qualities of grace and truth became visible. Here our Lord is praying that by means of the cross something that is hidden to the world will be manifested. What is manifested is His “authority over all flesh“ — His Lordship, sovereignty, the right to rule over all the nations of the earth by means of the cross.
Paul writes that because Jesus became obedient unto death, God the Father “highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, … and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Phil. 2:9-11). By means of that exaltation following the cross, God the Father is glorified. The apostle says that on the cross Jesus “disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example or them, triumphing over them in it,” (Col 2:15). So this prayer has been fully answered. In the cross Jesus was glorified and His Lordship was revealed.
But more than that, our Lord also states that through the cross He will gain the right to give eternal life to all whom the Father brings to Him. At the close of the gospel of Matthew our Lord stands in resurrection glory beside the Sea of Galilee and says to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). What an encouraging word for all believers! The One we follow holds in His hands the reins of the nations and all the forces at work on the earth, even the powers of darkness.
He defines eternal life as “know[ing]…the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”. Coming to know the Father and Jesus will give us an abundant life, even here on earth (John 10:10); it’s a quality of life that is eternal. The world is filled with empty promises, loneliness, and misery. But when we walk with God, every day is an adventure. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) That is the eternal life for which everyone longs deep in their hearts. Jesus says that’s what He gives — His redemptive life — to those who come to Him. He is the source of life to all who come to Him.
That is Jesus’ first reason for asking to be glorified — not only because it will bring glory to the Father, but, as He goes on to say, it will complete His work on earth: All that He has done finds its completion in the cross.“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.“ This death He awaits is the capstone of that work.
Second, Jesus prays to be glorified by returning to heaven: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.“ Surely this is His creative glory. Before He came to earth He was not the Redeemer, He was the Creator, the One behind the mysteries of nature, the One who invented all the marvels of the universe. Now He is to return to that glory so, as Hebrews tells us, He is “upholding all things by the Word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).
He asks now to take up again the manifestation of His creative glory, because His redemptive work is finished (John 19:28-30). He summarizes it in Verses 6-8: “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world“ and “I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.“ That work is now concluded, so He prays that He may be permitted to resume the glory which He had before, instead of His veiled glory He had here on earth.