As Jesus completes his final words to his disciples, he begins to pray. Intentionally, Jesus prayed within hearing distance, for the disciples to eavesdrop. It wasn’t that Jesus’ prayer was just an extension of the talk he had just given his disciples, because, it was probably the most sincere and passionate prayer that Jesus had ever said to God. Like so much of the responses, reactions, and even actions that the disciples had witnessed while watching Jesus for the past three years, this prayer was real, and, it was a lesson.
Jesus was praying for his disciples, as well as praying for himself, and even for us. The enormity of this teaching moment, however, is that they were witnessing a intimate moment between the father and son, an intense moment of a human with God. It was truly an existential moment for everyone able to eavesdrop (this includes those that were there as well as us over 2,000 years later.
Our passage and the entirety of John chapter 17, often referred to as The High Priestly Prayer, is introduced by John in the first verse with the words:
‘After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven’
‘These Words’, the words we see in the dialogue detailed in chapter 16, in the midst of a tragically heavy moment, are actually a bit humorous. In many ways it reminds me of our Tuesday Bible Project as we ask questions and often end up with even more frustrating and continuing questions.
Listen to a few of ‘These Words’ of Jesus and his followers:
‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’
‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’
‘When a woman is in labor, she has pain’
And his disciples honestly asking each other,
‘What does he mean?’
To which Jesus replied,
‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant?’
And then, as we get closer to the prayer, Jesus begins to speak in a clear manner,
‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’
The disciples said,
Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.”
Jesus answered them,
‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
In words we have questions, In words we find answers.
Now we know – The disciples were ready to eavesdrop on the existential prayer..
And….Jesus prays, ‘Father, the hour has come…..’
It had been almost three years since Jesus told his mother that ‘it is not yet my time’ and now, almost three years time, it is time. It was time to return to the place and position he had held since before creation, it was time for Jesus to complete his mission and purpose on earth, it was time for Jesus to glorify God.
It is time
Jesus prays for himself, for all that is about to happen on earth and in heaven.
Jesus prays for those who have walked with him as they face the coming hours and days of horror and confusion, but even more for the remainder of their earthly lives as they approach the world with the unacceptable truth.
Jesus prays for us, followers who did not experience first hand moments with the Jesus, God in the flesh, but nonetheless, have stepped onto, and into, the Way that is Jesus.
This morning we focus on two words that are prominent features or this intense prayer uttered by Jesus, and overheard by his followers.
Glory and Unity
‘This is Eternal Life’
Let’s begin with the word Glory, or as a verb glorify or glorified
Praying for himself, Jesus said, ‘glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you’
Praying for those who had a first hand experience with Jesus and would become the leaders of the followers, he said, ‘I have been glorified in them’
Praying for us, he said, ‘The glory that you have given me I have given them’
As the apostle Paul sought to explain Jesus to the Hebrews he used the word Glory this way:
Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being
Glory is on of those words that we are free to use but not so easy to define.
In Medieval times artists would depict the holy glory of biblical character, especially Jesus, with a halo around the head immersed in light, or sometimes there would be a light over the person.
As we look at this prayer of Jesus, we see that this word glory is used most often as a verb, an action word….something was done.
So, What are these glory actions?
Jesus explains the glory that he has already given the father by saying,
‘I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do’ and ‘I have made your name known’
Also, in the context of this moment, in the shadow of the cross, we hear him say to the Father, ‘glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you’
In making these three ‘glory’ comments, Jesus defines what it is to glorify God, it is to show God, it is to point to God, it is to speak the truth of God. As we see in the apostle Paul’s statement, Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being – everything Jesus did, every embrace he gave, every acceptance that he offered, every truth he shared, every concern he addressed, every time he brought peace in the midst of chaos, in everything, he gave glory to God by revealing and showing, and living out, the truth of God. In his very presence there was glory, not because of a light over his head or a voice coming down from heaven, but in the life he lived. In life he gave glory.
Now, as he prays, he asks God to continue to show and reveal God’s glory in Jesus through the cross and the return to his holy seat.
His disciples glorified Jesus, by seeking, and striving, to live as he lived. To accept the challenge to show Jesus to the world. In how they lived amongst people as well as how they lived when they were apart from people, the hospitality and love by which they encountered people, the compassion and mercy they showed in the moments with people, the truth they sought and shared with all people.
And us, the people that came after the prayer, those who were not with Jesus in the flesh but, nevertheless, have been blessed, thousands of years later by those who were with him. To us, Jesus says that he has already given us his glory.
Jesus’ glory is that he has revealed God to us through the glory that he gave to God, the glory of living and showing God. Through his life in the flesh, giving a exact portrayal of God, Jesus has now given that same glory to us. He has shown us God and shown us how to reflect God in our life.
This understanding of glory, and therefore our mission, is of such importance that it is part of his final prayer prior to his arrest and death.
Our mission is to glorify Jesus, our mission is therefore to glorify God. This is not usually done due to an emotional moment, it is not usually done with our hands lifted in the air, it is not even necessarily done when we are on our knees – Our glorification of God most usually happens when our hands are reaching out, when we cease to see the labels that keep us from embracing others, when we have spent the time seeking truth so living it flows naturally from our life.
It is of immense importance, also, in this prayer we see one other element that gabbed Jesus attention at this existential moment between Jesus and the Father. That element is….
We see the correlation of glory and unity as we look at Jesus’ words after he said he had given us his glory…
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Our oneness, our unity, comes from our oneness and unity, with God.
Faith living and Faith practice are an individual journey and a community journey. When the followers returned to Jerusalem we see that ‘All the followers, men and women, were constantly devoting themselves to prayer,’
Oneness and unity, are not a passive, opinionless existence. Disagreement, disputes, and alternative views among any group of people who have free choice will always call for hard and difficult work, as well as personal humility, grace, mercy, sacrifice, and love.
Unity and oneness cannot coexist together with selfishness and personal agendas.
If we look closely at Christ life, we see two surprises to Jesus, God in the flesh. The first was the depth of the experience of the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one, or probably any type of loss. This revelation was a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus.
The second surprise was the experience of anger that at the eye witness of abuse, especially spiritual abuse. The human response of Jesus at witnessing individuals using the sincere faith of others in order for personal gain and advancement revealed the passionate perspective, and protectiveness of God for us (as a father). God was not a stranger to dealing with abusive people, or groups, but to see abuse from a human perspective was shocking.
Jesus, however, was not surprised by the human response to disagreement, division, arguments, and even contention – they were all met with Love by Christ – multi sided love was always the answer and always the path to the solution – or at least the way to co-exist admit disagreement.
Disagreement was always an opportunity for love.
Finally, the stated purpose for this prayer and the purpose of Jesus’ life, as he said…..
This is Eternal Life
In verse 3, even as Jesus had just begun the prayer that had the disciples’ ear, he interrupts his prayer for himself to speak for his current followers and us. He states his reason for the plea to the Father, he states his mission of his relationships with humans. He says,….
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent
As he closes the prayer he completes this thought as he adds,
‘I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves’
This is eternal life, now, Zoe. Glory and Unity, Life lived and Oneness pursued, individuals who live lives reflecting God as taught through the life of Jesus and as community – seen through a true collective human oneness.
Glory • Unity • Life
It is a purposeful and passionate prayer, a prayer that we are meant to eavesdrop on, a prayer that is an instruction for the lasting pursuit of life.