In the scriptures we have a prayer that is commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer.” When someone speaks about “The Lord’s Prayer” they are typically referring to the prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13. However, this is not the prayer of Jesus but a model prayer given to his disciples to teach them how to pray to the Father. John 17 is a unique paragraph for us to read because it records the Lord’s own prayer. This is not a record of Jesus teaching how his disciples ought to pray. Rather, this is our Lord’s own prayer to the Father. Jesus is talking to the Father in prayer and we need to listen to every word and every phrase he says. We do not get to read the prayers of Jesus in the scriptures. So this chapter is an important and precious chapter as we are allowed to hear how the Son spoke to the Father.
There is another aspect about this prayer that is important and exciting. Jesus prays for you in this prayer. While you are not stated by name, Jesus will pray for each of you. In the presence of his eleven disciples Jesus speaks this prayer so they can hear, learn, and be encouraged by this prayer. Moments before Jesus is betrayed and arrested to be handed over to his death, Jesus is in prayer and he is praying for his disciples.
The Hour Has Come (17:1)
Jesus begins by calling on the Lord as his Father and stating that the hour has come. The Gospel of John has been pointing to this moment in history. The first miracle that John records notes that it was not Jesus’ hour yet when his earthly mother came to him about the lack of wine at the wedding (John 2:4). Jesus did not go to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles when everyone else was going because it was not his time yet (John 7:6). Jesus could not be arrested when he was in Jerusalem, even though the leaders were trying to arrest him, because it was not his hour yet (John 7:30; 8:20). But now the hour has come. The hour of crisis has come. The hour of his suffering has come. The hour of his departure from this world has come. The hour of glorification has come.
The Father Glorified (17:1)
Please notice that as Jesus’ hour is has now come and the time of his suffering and death has arrived, Jesus’ concern is the glory of the Father. Jesus asks that he will be glorified in this hour so that the Father will be glorified. The events that are about to happen are to be for the Father’s glory. But it is amazing how Jesus is going to be glorified. Jesus’ glory was not something personal or selfish. The cross is going to be the glorification of the Son (13:31). His “lifting up” is going to be his body being lifted up on the cross! Jesus is not praying that he would have some kind of selfish attention or glory, which he most certainly deserved. Jesus is praying to be sustained through the events of this day, the crucifixion, so that the glory goes to the Father. The “glory” of Jesus is humble, sacrificial service (12:23,32).
I want us to see that the Father being glorified was everything to Jesus. If God’s glory was Jesus’ life and his goal, then as disciples of Jesus our life and our goal must also be God’s glory. Consider that the prayer of Jesus centers squarely on the Father’s glory in the midst of the suffering to come for Jesus. This is a radical picture of how we ought to pray. We must add to our prayers and make prominent in our prayers the desire for God’s glory to be displayed. As we approach life, deal with trials, endure difficulties, and experience suffering and loss we must look for these things to be an opportunity for God to be glorified. Jesus leaves us the example of life for God’s glory.
Eternal Life (17:2-3)
Part of the way the Father was to be glorified through the Son was that the Son had authority over all flesh and to give eternal life to all who have been given to him. Jesus has the authority from the Father to give eternal life. Jesus has declared this truth repeatedly in the Gospel of John (4:14; 5:21, 26; 6:33, 54; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6). Salvation would not be given to all people. There is no such thing as every person being saved from their sins. Only those who are have been given to the Son will receive eternal life. We will look at this more in verse 3 in just a moment. But consider an amazing truth that is being declared here. When God seeks his glory and receives glory it is always for our good. What brings God glory brings us the good that we need. Jesus seeking the glory of the Father resulted in our salvation from sins and our ability to be given eternal life. His glory is always for our benefit. Is this not amazing that God accomplishing his plans and purposes are always for our good and benefit? Yet this is what we see from our glorious God. God’s glory is for our benefit and when we see God’s glory there is also a great benefit for us. In this context, the benefit Jesus wants us to see that we have is eternal life.
Jesus wants to explain eternal life to us. What do you think of when the scriptures speak of eternal life? What are you expecting to have when God promises to disciples of Jesus that they will receive eternal life? Jesus clearly describes what eternal life is in verse 3.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)
Eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus the Christ. This is real life. This is true life. Knowing God is life. Knowing God is the cause of eternal life. He is life. Jeremiah recorded the words of God which taught this truth:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24 ESV)
This is life: that we understand and know the Lord. We were made to know God. We were made to glory in the knowledge of the Lord. This is the truth that we must grasp. Eternal life is about knowing God. If we are not interested in knowing God then we certainly will not have eternal life. Sometimes we may falsely think that all we need to do is come on Sunday morning. Everything else is supposedly optional. So then we will turn to Hebrews 10 and tell people not to forsake the assembling of ourselves. But this thinking is totally flawed. It is not about if we have to come on Sunday night. It is not about if we must come on Wednesday night. It is not about if we have to meet for Bible studies in our homes on Fridays that we have set up. This is what it is all about: do we want to know God more than anything else? Knowing God is life. If we do not want to know God then we do not want eternal life because eternal life is knowing God. This why we want textual, expository preaching: because we want to know God. This is why we go to people’s homes for Bible study: because we want to know God. This is why we do not cancel services: because we want to know God. This is why we come on time and come every time we possibly can: because want to know as much of God as we can because it is life. Friends, everything we do is optional. There is not some minimum checklist of works required to have eternal life. Eternal life is simple: do you want to know God? Knowing God is all we will be doing for eternity. If I don’t want to know God now and I do not desire knowing God now, then why would I suppose that I am going to have eternity with God where all we will do is be with God? We were made to know God because knowing God is life.
A Life That Glorifies God (17:4-5)
Jesus leaves us the example that our lives are to be lived for glorifying God. Jesus says in verse 4 that he accomplished his mission: to glorify God on earth. “I have brought you glory” (NIV). When we do the works that God has given us to do, then we are also glorifying God in our lives. The life of Jesus was a permanent monument to God’s glory. This is the goal of our lives. We are to behave and speak so that God is glorified. This is why we sacrifice our lives. This is why we forgive others even when we have been wronged. This is why we speak kindly to those who speak evil against us. This is why we do not retaliate evil for evil. This is why we do not exert our anger or our will. This is why we turn the other cheek. Our lives are to be monuments for God’s glory. We are supposed to be the lights shining in this dark, crooked world (Philippians 2:15). A life that glorifies God is a life that sacrifices self for the good of others, even if they are our enemies for this is what Jesus did.
Listen to verse 5. “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5 ESV)
It is hard to imagine the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Not only the sacrifice Jesus made at the cross, but the sacrifice Jesus made to come to earth. Jesus asks to be glorified with the glory he had with the Father before the creation of the world. This reminds us of the glory that was divested when the Son took on the form of a human to come to this earth for us. When we saw Jesus, we did not see all of who he truly is. That glory had to be sacrificed for him to come to this earth, to be a human, live among us, and die for the sins of the world. Jesus sacrificed from beginning to end. Sacrificing, giving of ourselves, putting away our pride, rejecting glory for ourselves, and living for the glory of the Father is true life that brings the Father glory. This is the life that God delights in. Jesus gave it all. All to him I owe.