The Son’s Prayer In John 17 / Part 2

Meditations On The Son’s Prayer

By David Anderson

We read in John 17:1-3 that the Lord Jesus Christ knew that the hour1 had arrived for Him to leave this world and depart to the Father (see 13:1). Therefore He asked for His own glorification, with the objective that He could then glorify2 the Father by giving eternal life to Christian believers.

Having concluded His talk with His disciples as to His departure, the Lord “lifted up His eyes to heaven” (17:1 ESV). Heaven, His Father’s house, was His destiny out of this world. It is also the promised dwelling place for His disciples, to which He will take them (14:2-3). The phrase “lifted up His eyes to heaven” gives an indication of His equality with the person He addressed in prayer. The very first word of His prayer was “Father” – that hallowed name of God revealed by the Son. As Son in the Godhead, the Lord Jesus can speak with the Father on equal terms. Therefore He appropriately said, “Father,” without an adjective being necessary.

The hour had come for Him, the Son (but now also as Man), to be glorified by the Father. Several times in this gospel John had already used the concept of “His hour” – the time for the Son to depart from this world to the Father. At the outset of His prayer, the hour had arrived for His and the Father’s glorification.

As always, the Son only seeks the glory of His Father in everything. When He raised Lazarus from the dead, God the Father was glorified, as was the Son – “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (11:4). In John 12:23 the Lord said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” in anticipation of His death (vv.27-33). On that occasion He said, “Father, glorify Your name.” The immediate reply from heaven was, “I have glorified it [when Lazarus was raised from the dead], and I will glorify it again” (v.28).

“I will glorify it again” referred to when God raised His Son from among the dead and gave Him glory (1 Pet. 1:21). The Lord Jesus was raised by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6:4) and taken up, or received up, in glory (1 Tim. 3:16). There He is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven (Heb. 8:1), and there the glory of God shines in His face (2 Cor. 4:6). His glory as the Son of Man will be displayed throughout the millennium (see Ps. 8).

The Father answered His Son’s request to be glorified by placing Him at His own right hand (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 8:1). It is from that exalted position that the Son is able, by the Father’s authority, to give eternal life to believers. In doing this work for the Father, the Son glorifies Him in a new way (Jn. 17:2). The message Mary was given to carry to the disciples on the resurrection morning was, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God” (20:17). By the Spirit, they became fully aware of their true relationship with the Father from that time onwards, and they too would be able to bring glory to the Father. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples” (15:8).

John 17:3 defines what eternal life is for believers of our day. With respect to our need, we are relieved to find that eternal life is the opposite of condemnation and of perishing (3:16-18). In John 17:3 it is to know the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the Sent One of the Father. So from His side God wants us to share in His life, that is, in the family, or home, life of God in eternity. Life is not only conscious existence, it is also about living relationships, especially family relationships. Ephesians 3:15 states that the Father is the person from whom every family derives its meaning.3

We have been brought to know the preeminent Father – the true Father. In John’s gospel, the adjective “true” means the ultimate reality of a thing. For example, Jesus is the true Bread from heaven (Jn. 6) and the true Vine (Jn. 15). “The true God” conveys the thought of finality in the progressive process of the revelation of God to mankind over the ages. As the children of God (13:33), believers have a real, living relationship with the true God – the Father – through His Son. This conscious, eternal relationship with the Father and the Son is ultimate reality for us – “the eternal life” (v.3; 1 Jn. 1:2 JND). “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding so we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and [the] eternal life” (5:20 ESV). Believers therefore live in the love of God in the conscious knowledge of divine persons and with the ability to respond to divine love.

The Lord Jesus continued His prayer to the Father in John 17:4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.” 4 He was anticipating the next day when He triumphantly said, “It is finished” (19:30). The Lord had already said something like this in John 13:31-32, when He announced that God had been glorified in Himself as the Son of Man. That is, His subjection to the Father’s will, His love for His Father, His personal holiness and all of His perfections shone out at the cross. God was also glorified at the cross in that His holiness, justice and love were manifested in the one completed sacrifice made for sin. Yes, the Father was glorified in every aspect of Christ’s life on earth – and supremely in His death, resurrection and ascension.

In John 17:6, 8 and 14, the Lord Jesus outlined the ways in which He had glorified His Father:

  • He had explained the meaning of the name Father to the disciples, and
  • He had given the Father’s word(s) to them.

In verse 6, the Father’s word is the truth, for the Lord said, “Your word is truth” (v.17). The Father’s words are also “the divine communications” and “the word of God in testimony” (JND footnotes, vv.8,14).

The Lord expanded in verse 5 upon His initial request to be glorified as the Son of God: “And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.” As God the Son, He rightly requested to be invested with the uncreated glory of Deity, which He had along with the Father in eternity past. At His incarnation, that glory had been veiled, but not divested (consider Phil. 2:5-8). He received this glory as He is now – the risen, ascended Man in the presence of the Father.

Notice that Jesus spoke in the first person – “Me” and “I” – as an equal. The phrases “in Your own presence” and “with You” mean “together with Yourself” or “alongside You [along with Thee, JND]” in a shared position of equal status and in that unoriginated relationship in which He ever exists, or lives, with the Father. The expression “before the world existed” confirms Jesus is the eternal Son from before the incarnation – even before the ages began! 5

1. His hour, or His time, is referred to several times in John’s gospel (2:4, 7:6,8,30, 8:20, 12:23,27, 13:1, 16:32, 17:1). Although each occurrence differs slightly in emphasis, the overall meaning is the time for the Lord’s glorification, specifically by means of His death, followed by His resurrection and departure from this world to return to His Father (His ascension). Consider John 16:28, which says, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
2. As stated in Part 1, “to glorify” is to cause the excellences of a person to be displayed so they can be seen, understood and appreciated by others.
3. See the ESV footnote on all fatherhood. More accurately, every father reflects the meaning, in some measure, of the name “the Father.”
4. Note the repeated use – ten times – of the expression “I have” (NKJV). In verse 4, the Son referred to the fact that He had glorified the Father throughout His life on earth, and finally through His death, resurrection and ascension. In verses 6, 8, 12, 14, 18, 22 and 26, He referred to all that He had done for the Father with respect to the disciples.
5. “Before times eternal” is the literal translation of 2 Timothy 1:9.

Look for Part 3 next month.


He is speaking to His Father, tasting deep that bitter cup,
Yet He takes it, willing rather for our sakes to drink it up.

Oh what love! He loved me! Gave Himself, my soul, for me.

Lord, we joy, Thy toils are ended, Glad Thy suffering time is o’er,
To Thy Father’s throne ascended, there Thou liv’st to die no more.

Yes, my soul! He lives for thee, He who gave Himself for me.
—Josiah J. Hopkins (1786-1862)