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: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:1-5)
It was the night of the Last Passover. Supper had ended. Judas Iscariot had left the table to go out into the dark night to do the black beckoning of hell. When he was gone, Jesus began to speak. He had many things He wanted to say to His beloved disciples, and He had a final prayer He wanted them to hear. Some have called it, “The Lord’s Last High Priestly Prayer”.
Of this prayer, Martin Luther wrote, “This is truly, beyond measure, a warm and hearty prayer.” The Scottish Reformer John Knox had this chapter read to him every day during his last illness and in the closing moments of his life. The verses from this chapter brought comfort to him.
What we have before us is a prayer of Jesus for His people. There is something very special and tender about the Lord Jesus Christ praying. The Bible tells us that Jesus was a man of prayer. Sometimes He arose a great while before dawn to pray. Sometimes He spent whole nights in prayer. We can listen afresh to Jesus as He opened His lips and said, “Father, the hour is coming; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee.”
The ‘hour’ referred to was the hour of death. Seven times in the gospels Jesus referred to this special time. Unlike other men, Jesus entered into the world to die a violent death. Jesus came to die in such a way as to spill His blood as atonement for sin, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. For Christ, the Cross was not only the object of His destiny, but also the means of being glorified.
Dr. William Barclay notes, “It is one of the facts of history that again and again it was in death that great ones found their glory. Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton once called him, ‘the original gorilla.’ But in the hour of Lincoln’s death, he realized the greatness of the president and said, ‘Now he belongs to the ages.’” Since the hour of Lincoln’s death at the hands of a single assassin, he has found greater glory than he received in life.
Despite the attempts of the Catholic Church to break her, Joan of Arc stood firm, and in the end she became a martyr for a great cause. Today, the 19-year-old peasant girl who heard voices from heaven, and led French armies to victory is respected worldwide. Meeting death with dignity she achieved a measure of immortality in the minds of millions. Joan of Arch found glory in death. In the hour of the Cross, Jesus Christ found glory. He delivered His message of triumph shouting, “It is finished.”
During the days of World War I, there was a famous painting made of a workman in rural America who was stringing wires across the open prairies in order to advance communication. As the final connection was made, the workman listened in on the line. The painting had a one word caption, “Through!” That said it all. Jesus cried, “Telelesti!” “Through!” “Finished!” “Completed!” The work of redemption had been accomplished. The Lord gave His life that the message might get through that God is love. God does love. God will love all that repent and come to Him.
As the Lord was concerned that He be glorified, so He was anxious to glorify the Father. The way to glorify the Father is to obey Him. A child brings honor to his parents by obedience. A soldier brings honor to his uniform and his country by obeying superiors, especially in time of war. Jesus brought honor to the Father by obeying Him, even when that obedience meant death by crucifixion.
The Father was glorified and, in turn, He glorified His Son by raising Christ from the dead. It is as if God pointed to the Cross and said, “That is what men think of my Son.” Then God pointed to the empty tomb and said, “That is what I think of my Son.”
There is something else to be noted, and that is, for Christ the way of the Cross was the way back to His home in heaven. “Glorify me,” Jesus prayed, “with the glory which I had before the world began.” (John 17:5) The eternal existence of the Son is one of the great mysteries and great revelations of the Bible. Jesus was like a solider, or a knight, who had left the king’s court to perform a noble and dangerous deed. Jesus had to fight the Old Dragon called Diabolos. He had to conquer the fear of death. Jesus had to brave the scorn of the Sadducees, the insults of the Pharisees, and the skepticism of the Scribes. There were many battles for the Lord to engage in, but He fought the good fight. He finished the course, and He was able to return home with all of His foes defeated.
When Jesus returned to His heavenly home, He was given a royal welcome. All the souls of the saints and all the host of heaven stood up to honor His return. Another way that God the Father honored His Son was to give Him power over all flesh that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given to Him.
How many souls the Father has decreed to give to the Son is unknown, but it is a vast multitude that no man can count. And to each soul, Jesus has promised the grace gift of eternal life. (John 17:2) The word for eternal is aionis. This word has as a main meaning: the quality of life. Simply to have duration or longevity of life is not enough.
There are many people who exist for years, but they are not happy for one reason or another such as poor health, unhappy homes, etc. Life is endured, but it is without any quality. Jesus has promised the very life of God to His own. The Lord promised that the Creatures of time can possess eternal life of the everlasting Father and experience something of the splendor and the majesty, the joy, and the peace, and the holiness which characterizes the life of God. “This is life eternal,” said Jesus, “that they might know thee, the only true God.”
Do we want to know God? Then let us learn about Jesus, and listen in on His prayer for His people.