“Jesus Prays for Himself” John 17:1-5
John 17 records our Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer at the end of the “upper room” discourse. Through the pen of the Apostle John, we have shared the hours between the Last Supper and the betrayal with the disciples and the Lord Jesus. Now Jesus ends this discourse by praying to the Father. “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’” (John 17:1).
In the first five verses of this prayer Jesus prays for Himself, but He does not pray a selfish prayer. He prays that the Father’s plan be carried through despite the fact that it will cost Him His life. He prays about glory. First He thinks about glorifying the Father in what He is about to do. Second, He thinks about glorifying the Father by returning to His Heavenly glory.
As He opens His prayer the Lord Jesus is very aware that the time of His crucifixion is at hand. “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’” We cannot pass by this opening statement without noting that the hour is come. God told us in the beginning that He had a plan of redemption. In Galatians 4:4-5 the Apostle Paul looked back at this moment and said, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Just as God’s timing was perfect for the Son’s birth, and it was perfect when Jesus died, it will be perfect when Jesus will come. He will not be one second late.
Because the cross is coming, Jesus prays that the Father’s plan is completed. “‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’” It is not wrong to pray for something that the Father has already said will take place. God has promised He will be with us, give us wisdom that we lack, and peace that we need. It is not wrong still to pray that the Father will do all these things for us. Follow our Lord’s example and glorify the Father in asking for His will to be done.
Now, let us look at the cross. Frequently when we think of the cross, we think of the shame, but Jesus saw the glory. Jesus called the cross the moment in which the Father glorified the Son so that the Son could glorify the Father.
How is the Son glorified in the cross? First, the Father glorified the Lord Jesus because the cross demonstrated the holiness of the Father. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Second, the Father glorified the Son because the love of God demonstrated His love for us in the death of Christ. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
The Father and the Son were glorified in Calvary because the cross is the central focus of God’s plan of redemption. (Revelation 5:9-10) “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
How does this glory happen? “As You have given Him authority over all flesh, in order that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:2-3). The Father receives glory because the death of Christ allowed the Lord Jesus to give eternal life to all those given to Him.
When we think of eternal life, we often think of life that will last forever. Eternal life is a life that will never end. Yet, there is another dimension of eternal life the Apostle John emphasizes over and over again in his gospel and epistles.
Eternal life is a life that lasts forever, and that is filled full with the presence of the eternal God. Eternal life is a life of a real, growing relationship with the living God. “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3). We can fellowship with God, the Father, and with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the last two verses of the paragraph the Lord’s attention is drawn to the heavenly consequences of His accomplishing the work the Father gave Him to do. “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:4–5).
First, the Lord Jesus reminds the Father that He had accomplished all that the Father gave Him to do. This anticipates the end of the story, the death on Calvary just hours away, the resurrection three days later, and finally His ascension to the right hand of the Father.
When Jesus came to earth, He did not come just because God wanted to know what it was like to live as a human. He came to begin a mission that now He had finished. He came to put away sin and defeat Satan. Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
The second part of that mission was to open a door of fellowship so that we who are sinners may walk in fellowship with the Holy God, so we can “walk in the light as He is in the light and have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7).
Second, the Lord Jesus asks that the Father would restore His original glory. When Jesus condescended to become incarnate, He did not set aside His deity, but He did set aside some part of His glory. This is not a request that He become non-man again. We know that because we see Him in Revelation like a man. Also because of Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
What should we learn from this? First, we need to realize that believing God’s promises does not mean that we do not pray about what God has promised. God wants us to pray about everything, even the things He promised to do for us. Pray the promises, Jesus did.
Second, how much does Jesus love us? He loved us enough to die for us. He still loves us enough to live for us. He loves us enough to forever be the incarnate Son of God. We need to think about what that means. What kind of love is this?
Finally, we must remember that Jesus came to fulfill a mission. He came to save us from our sins, and He came to open the opportunity of fellowship with God. Our salvation and living fellowship with God is supremely important to the Father and the Lord Jesus, His Son. How vital is it to us? Do we make walking with God a primary focus of our lives?