The Lord’s Prayer: The Son and Glory
We each know individuals whom we would call real men and women of prayer. Often times when we hear such men pray publicly, we feel our collective thoughts elevate to a new level during corporate prayer. The prayer in John 17 was not made corporately, but it was made audibly for the purpose of teaching the disciples. He did this to elevate their thoughts of both Christ and God, and that John might record the words for our benefit. To sit and listen to Jesus Christ communicate with His Father is a privilege since we can listen to lengthy prayer from one person of deity to another. It is a prayer that deepens our insights into divine things and spurs our hearts to worship.
V1-5 – The Son and Glory
V6-19 – The Apostles and the World
V20-26 – The Believers of the Apostolic Word
V1 – New Glory
This prayer is truly “the Lord’s Prayer” and is high priestly in character. It opens with the Lord lifting up His gaze to heaven. Contrast this with the publican from Luke 18:13 who “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven”. The publican knew that nothing in himself deserved an audience with God, while the perfect Son of God boldly lifted His eyes into heaven to address His Father.
The theme of the first verse is the glory which the Son would acquire because of the cross. The Son knows that hour of this glorification has come, and therefore requests His own glorification for the glory of the Father. The glory in this verse is one that He never had prior to His ascension. It would be a glory that the Son would be given by the Father as a man. This glory is the same as in v22; a glory that the Son will even share with His own.
V2 – Authority and Sovereignty
The Son had glorified the Father on earth and would continue to do so while glorified in heaven. This is displayed in the reality of the bestowal of Christ’s authority over all flesh. This endowment of authority is not merely over believers, but unbelievers as well. The purpose of this authority is that eternal life would be given by the Son to as many as the Father has given Him; contrariwise, and not expanded here, His authority is in judgment over unbelievers.
This verse has strong sovereign tones within it. When it comes to this prayer from one divine person to another divine person, the sovereignty of God in salvation is the focus. There is never a suggestion that the Father looked on to see who might believe and then gave those to the Son, neither does the Son imply that an impersonal group would be given to the Son, but rather it is those individuals (“as many as” - πᾶν) that the Father has given the Son that receive eternal life.
V3 – Life Eternal
What is this eternal life that the Son gives? It is knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. This is not a theoretical or acquired knowledge about God and Jesus, but it is knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent. Eternal life is not merely something to be enjoyed from death through eternity, but at the moment of conversion eternal life is given upon the condition of faith. We can enjoy eternal life now through a conscious knowledge of an unhindered relationship with the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.
V4 – Finished Work
The two separate thoughts separated by a colon in the Authorized Version are likely best viewed as the second thought explaining the first. Some manuscripts, instead of “finished” being an aorist verb, have it as an aorist participle. Therefore the force of the verse would be viewed as follows: “I glorified Thee on the earth: having finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” The excellence of the Father was manifested by the Son through completing the work which He was sent to do. The Son in Himself is most excellent, yet He demonstrated the excellence of the Father through His servant character and accomplishing the will of God in the work that He was sent to do.
The finished work that the Son is thinking of is the work of the cross. Though it had yet to be accomplished, the Son is anticipating the work as complete, even as the Father has anticipated it as complete even from before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8 KJV, 1 Pe 1:19-20). John writes again in 19:27 and 19:30 using this same verb in the same tense, “finished,” to draw out attention back to the thought of eternal life.
V5 – Renewed Place of Glory
In the final verse where the Son is focused on glory, a different glory than v1 is the focus – His essential glory. This glory is that which the Son always had and never relinquished, as the co-equal Son of God. The verse also demonstrates that the Son is pre-existent in the phrase, “before the world was.”
What the Son is asking in this verse is for the resumption of the position which is consistent with the glory that He has always possessed – to be with the Father. It is not the glory that He is asking to be resumed, but the place of glory – to be with the Father.
We can look on to a glorious day when we will behold Him in His glory in this place of glory. To a greater degree than we desire to be with Him, as v24 says, the Son desires that we should “be with Me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which Thou hast given Me.”