17 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.
(John 17:1-5 NIV)
The entire chapter of John 17 is Jesus’ final prayer. In His prayer, Jesus has two themes: glory and unity. Some scholars have referred to this as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, where Jesus intercedes for all who are under His care, just as the Jewish high priest would pray on behalf of the entire nation of Israel.
In verse 1, John links the end of Chapter 16 with the beginning of Chapter 17. Jesus has just finished telling His disciples that they will have much trouble in the world, but He has overcome the world. And having overcome the world, Jesus offers the peace that passes all human understanding. And with that ending of Chapter 16, Jesus immediately goes to prayer.
Notice that John records Jesus’ posture when He prayed this prayer. John says that Jesus naturally looked toward heaven. Jesus did not bow down, face to the ground, as a slave before a master. Instead, Jesus looked up as if to look the Father in the eye and communicate with Him as a friend.
Notice that Jesus addresses God directly, calling Him “Father.” There was no implied address where Jesus just started praying – He calls the Father by title, as a child would speak to their parent.
In these first five verses, Jesus begins His prayer by praying for Himself. This prayer is not a selfish “it’s all about me” prayer. This prayer is about Jesus and the Father being one again. The Father has sent His Son to accomplish a mission; the Son is now reporting that the mission is complete, and the Son is now coming home.
Jesus specifically mentions “glory” five times in these first five verses. Jesus came from His heavenly home to earth and is now returning to His heavenly abode to be with the Father. In your mind’s eye, can you see Jesus taking off His royal robes with all their splendor and majesty, and putting on a servant’s humble robe to go outside Heaven’s city gates and work in the fields? The work was now complete, and Jesus was ready to return to His Father’s palace and change back into His royal attire.
Verse 3 is the work the Father told the Son to accomplish: give humanity eternal life by allowing them to know God through His Son Jesus. This word “know” implies more than intellectual familiarity (as in, “I know about this person”). The idea of the word “know” (Greek, “ginōskō“) requires not only intellectual awareness but also deep relationship (as in, “I know this person by observation and experience; we are friends, and I can vouch for their character”).
Notice Jesus’ request in verse 5: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Notice the similarity between Jesus’ reference to time (“before the world began”) and place (“glorify me in your presence”) and John’s introduction to His Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
(John 1:1-2 NIV)
Jesus was longing for His home – He looked forward to seeing His Father face-to-face and having His glory restored. But first, Jesus must face the cross and endure its suffering and shame.
Do we have the same longing for our “home” in heaven? Are we homesick, desiring to spend time face-to-face with the Father and the Son, and have our relational glory with God restored to what it was before the fall of humanity and sin’s rule?
May we never be too comfortable here in our temporary quarters. May we finish our work well and receive the Master’s call, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21,23 NIV).