There are a few references to Jesus praying in the Gospels but we don’t often ‘hear’ his words – until now. You are about to eavesdrop on Jesus praying on the night of his betrayal and arrest. Pause and wait and ‘join in’ as you listen to Jesus, a man with a price on his head, a man awaiting trial and execution, an accused man in his final hours, but innocent of all accusations. ‘Listen’ for Jesus’ prayer as you read John 17: 1 – 11
John has remembered Jesus’ prayer and, I suspect, rehearsed it over and again in his mind. Perhaps John has intentionally made Jesus’ words ‘prayable’ by the growing Christian community.
This prayer of Jesus’ draws together everything that the gospel story has been about so far. Here is a picture of that intimate, interdependent relationship and union of Jesus with his Father from creation to contemporary.
Through this prayer we can be drenched us in God’s love for us today through Jesus, who interceded, made petition, on behalf of his disciples.
When you make this prayer your own, you are being invited into the heart of that intimate relationship between Jesus and the Father and to experience it all around you – like ‘surround sound’ rather than ‘mono’ – like standing in amongst the choir, or the orchestra. We become immersed in that dynamic relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son. That lively relationship is the central subject matter of Jesus’ prayer.
This prayer is both a celebration and a request. Despite the huge and awful task awaiting him the next day, Jesus is celebrating the fact that his work is done, he has done the deeds and said the words which the Father sent him to do. He has set before his disciples all that the Father has given him, set a pattern for their work from now on, and that’s a reason for celebration, and it’s also the grounds for the request Jesus makes. He asks the Father that he may now be glorified, lifted up to that position alongside the Father which Jewish Scripture tells us the Messiah would attain. When the ‘Son of Man’ takes this seat, exalted over the world, the ‘age to come’ will truly have begun, the age that the Jewish prophets longed for.
Now, a time of new life will become known about – life with a new, deeper and richer quality to it (not just quantity). It will be ‘eternal life’ – starting now in human, embodied life on earth, not just after death. Eternal life is not just for some future state that will go on for ever and ever, rather we are a part of it now. And this new sort of life has come to birth through Jesus and all that he will have accomplished, once and for all – once he completes the final victory over death itself.
All who trust and believe that Jesus has come from the Father, and revealed the Father’s loving purpose, will enjoy God’s gift of eternal life, starting here and now. Abundant life is the hope of God’s love for us, God’s peace and deep joy, stretched out behind us and before us into eternity.
This relationship between Jesus and the Father seems unfathomably close and trusting. Yet, it’s not intended to be exclusive to Jesus – we are all invited to join in with the work and the rewards of this intimate relationship of discipleship – here and now as Jesus’ hands, feet, ears and eyes of love.