Summary: Jesus' prayer affirms his obedience to the Father; the father's glorification; the revelation of God in Jesus Christ; the choosing of the disciples; their unity; and the promise that their final destiny is to share in the glory of the Father
The Prayer of Jesus audio (5MB)
The moment of Jesus arrest, trial and execution is fast approaching. Jesus has finished his teaching of the disciples. The hour has come. His work on earth is complete. So complete in fact that he can say with confidence at the end of ch16: "33Take courage; I have conquered the world!" And then he turns to prayer.
Notice that John chooses to bring us a report of this prayer, given in the upper room before they go to Gethsemane, rather than the prayer of anguish in the garden that we find in the other gospels. Why does he do that? Well, it may be that this prayer acts in some way as a summary of all that's gone before in this gospel. Here we find Jesus' obedience to the Father; the glorification of his father through his death and resurrection; the revelation of God in Jesus Christ; the choosing of the disciples out of the world; their unity modelled on the unity of the Father and the Son; and the promise that their final destiny is to share in the glory of the Father and the Son in eternity. It's as though this is the final crescendo, the final movement in a gospel that shows us Christ dwelling among us as one of us but returning to God and taking us with him, a crescendo that climaxes in chs 18-20 with the passion and triumph of Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus can say with confidence that he has overcome the world, yet he turns in the next breath to prayer, to ask God to bring him the victory. In fact the prayer he prays is divided into three parts. First he prays for himself, then he prays for the disciples, then he prays for all those who will come to believe in him through their testimony.
Now, as we go through this prayer I want you to notice two things. First of all, notice how Jesus' priorities are reflected in the things he prays for. You may have found this true for you. When you find yourself under stress, do you find yourself concentrating on are the things that really matter. So it is with Jesus as he prays, knowing that the end is near. But notice also how the way Jesus prays can be a model for us in our prayer life. We'll see in a moment how he prays for himself, then how he prays for those he's been ministering to, and finally, how he has a long term view in mind as well as he prays.
Jesus Prays for Himself
Jesus has just finished saying that he’s overcome the world, and now he stops to pray. And the first thing he prays is that God would glorify him. Now at first sight this sounds like a fairly self-serving prayer. But to understand what he's asking we need to think about what's involved in Jesus being glorified. In fact he's already talked about being glorified back in John 12. You may remember how when some Greeks came to see him, Jesus recognised it as a sign that the end had come. So he says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:23-24 NRSV) Then he says ""Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say -- 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."" (John 12:27-28 NRSV)
Jesus glorification will first involve his death on the cross, with all its agony and shame. Jesus is to be hung on a cross, as a sign that he's cursed by God. As Phil 2 puts it, "though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross." Jesus asks God to glorify him, first of all, because only God is able to do it. Jesus has given up everything that might have enabled him to do it himself, and now is turning to God, to restore to him that which is rightly his.
But he's also asking God to vindicate him, to show that his claims are true. He says God has given him authority to give eternal life to all whom God has given him, but before that can happen, he needs to be shown to be righteous. He needs to be restored to the glory he had before the world began. Even as he's asking for God to glorify him, notice, his mind is on God's plan to bring salvation to those God has given him. His request for glory is simply to fulfil God's eternal plan to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, Jesus Christ (Eph 1:10).