LIVING CORAM DEO
Thursday, 23 November, 2017

The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

John 17: 1 – 26

This prayer is not free-standing; it is intimately connected by themes and link-words with the discourse that precedes it (chs. 14–16), as even the first words of 17:1 (‘After Jesus said this …’) intimate. Indeed, there is ample evidence that prayers of one sort or another were frequently connected with ‘farewell discourses’ in the ancient world, both in Jewish and in hellenistic literature (e.g. Gn. 49; Dt. 32–33; Jubilees 22:7–23). What is unique about this prayer rests neither on form nor on literary associations but on him who offers it, and when. He is the incarnate Son of God, and he is returning to his Father by the route of a desperately shameful and painful death. He prays that the course on which he is embarked will bring glory to his Father, and that his followers, in consequence of his own death and exaltation, will be preserved from evil and for the priceless privilege of seeing Jesus’ glory, all the while imitating in their own relationship the reciprocity of love displayed by the Father and the Son.

jesus-mosaic-from-hagia-sophiaIn some respects the prayer is a summary of the entire Fourth Gospel to this point. Its principal themes include Jesus’ obedience to his Father, the glorification of his Father through his death/exaltation, the revelation of God in Christ Jesus, the choosing of the disciples out of the world, their mission to the world, their unity modelled on the unity of the Father and the Son, and their final destiny in the presence of the Father and the Son. To cast this summary in the form of a prayer is not only to anticipate Jesus’ being ‘lifted up’ on the cross, but to contribute to the climax of the movement that brings Christ back to God—one of the central themes of the farewell discourse.

Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (pp. 550–551). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.

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