Summary: Jesus prays for glorification that he might have power over all flesh and give life to all God’s children.
We’re still in the upper room where Jesus comforts his disciples before his crucifixion and their own persecution. They will face trouble in this world, but they can also take heart because he has overcome it. Now we come to chapter 17 and read more comfort in what has been called his High Priestly Prayer:
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
The time has come for Christ’s glorification, and by that he means his death and resurrection. Earlier in John he said, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (Jn. 12:23-24). The time of his death has now come, and he prays that the Father will glorify the Son so that the Son may glorify the Father.
I’m reminded of something Paul wrote after his conversion in his letter to the Philippians:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:5-11).
John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God” (1:1-2). Jesus existed in the beginning, and he was in the form of God (compare John 17:5), but when the time was right he changed in form and was made in the likeness of a man. It’s important to note that he did not change in nature or essence but only in form. God became flesh, John says, and dwelt among us (1:14), and Paul says in Philippians that he humbled himself in doing it.
The effect of this, of course, was that “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (Jn. 1:10-11). In other words, when the creator came into the world, his glory was hidden within human flesh and neither the world nor the expectant Jews recognized him.
There were, however, a number of men and women who were given to him (Jn. 17:2), and these recognized him for who he was. Jesus spent his entire earthly ministry seeking these people and telling them about himself and the Father so that they might believe and have eternal life (Jn. 1:12-14). There’s even one instance that we call the Mount of Transfiguration in which he briefly reveals his hidden glory to a few of his disciples: “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Mt. 17:1-2).
Shortly after that he was crucified and resurrected, and this prayer in John 17:1 was answered to the glory of the Father. He, in fact, did not leave Christ’s soul in the underworld nor let his body see decay (Ps. 16:10). The comfort this must have brought to the disciples and brings to us even today is enormous, and Paul teaches on it in his letter to the church at Corinth. Someone said there is no resurrection, and this was Paul’s response:
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [...] 39All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (1 Cor. 15:13-20; 39-49).