19 January 2015

John 17:1-5

“Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.’” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 82


This passage is the opening section of John 17, which is often known as Jesus' High-Priestly Prayer. Although each of the Gospels records that Jesus prayed to his Father just before his arrest, this prayer is very different from the ones in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

This first part focuses on the Father and Jesus glorifying one another. In the opening chapter of John's Gospel, it says, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). At a wedding in Cana of Galilee, Jesus did "he first of his signs … and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him" (John 2:11). Then, however, his hour had not yet come (John 2:4); now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23) and when Jesus is lifted up from the earth (ie crucified) he will draw all people to himself (John 12:32).

Jesus' request to his Father, "glorify your Son", is not for his sake, but "so that the Son may glorify you". The Father glorifies the Son by graciously revealing himself in the death of Jesus and the Son glorifies the Father in his faithful obedience to death. This mutual glorification also relates to the gift of eternal life to all whom the Father has given to the Son (verse 2). Verse 3 defines "eternal life" as knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ; it is important that in John's Gospel, 'knowing' has both intellectual and relational senses.

The theme of glory returns in verses 4 and 5: Jesus glorified the Father by completing his earthly ministry (verse 4) so now he asks to be glorified with the glory that he had in the Father's presence before the world began (verse 5). This last phrase may bring to mind both John 1:14 (quoted above) and the opening verses of John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2).

To Ponder

  • When do you and other people use the word 'glory'? And what do you and they mean by it? How do these compare with the ways in which it is used in John's Gospel? What insights have you received about this from other Christians, including those of other traditions?
  • In what ways can and do Christians and the Church glorify God today? How do ecumenical relations feature in your thinking about this question


Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Stubbens

Neil Stubbens is a Methodist presbyter who is currently the connexional ecumenical officer. Previously, he has served in the Barnsley, Southport, St Helens and Prescot, and Sankey Valley Circuits.