Reading for Tuesday, Jan. 24: John 17
In this chapter, John records a powerful prayer Jesus prays in these final moments with His closest followers. It’s interesting that the prayer moves out in concentric circles:
1. Jesus prays for Himself
2. Jesus prays for His current disciples
3. Jesus prays for all who will follow Him
Jesus prays in v1, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You.” My paraphrase: “The time has come for glory, Father.” On various occasions in John’s Gospel, Jesus has dispelled the crowd with a statement like “My time has not yet come.” But now, in the closed quarters of this Passover observance with His disciples, He acknowledges the moment. The hour is at hand.
In v3, He speaks once more of eternal life — a prescient theme given what is about to unfold. He clarifies the relational nature of eternal life by defining it as knowing God and knowing Jesus. Several scholars have observed that to speak of eternal life is to make both a quantitative AND a qualitative statement. That is, eternal life is not just eternal in the sense of unending time; eternal life also carries with it a depth of content, a richness of experience as well. It’s not just that eternal life goes on and on forever and ever; it also goes deeper and deeper, getting better and better as time passes. This is the dynamic element of relationship with God.
In v21, Jesus prays for our unity as His followers. “That they may be one as we are one.” The unity that God experiences in Trinity — Father, Son, Spirit, three in one, eternally bound in love — is the same sort of unity He wants for His followers. Each member of the Godhead is differentiated from the other two; and yet, each member constitutes a part of a greater whole. So too, do we exist in the body of Christ — unique individuals who through our common experience of Jesus have become one in mind, body, and spirit. The incredible part of this prayer is that it’s really up to us whether or not Jesus prayer is answered. That’s because unity is something I willingly choose or reject each day. Will I choose unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, choosing to acknowledge our differences and our particularities without allowing them to serve as artificial barriers to fellowship? Or will I be a divisive spirit, breeding contempt and enmity among believers? In the final hours before His death, Jesus had us in mind as He prayed. And His prayer for us was that we would be unified.
V15 – Jesus doesn’t pray for us to be taken out of the world, but rather to be a sanctifying presence against the power of evil. As v17 says, this sanctifying (being made holy) process is rooted in the truthfulness of God’s word.
Other thoughts on John 17? As you look at these past 3-4 chapters, this material is pretty much unique to John’s Gospel. Anything else grab your attention?