Gospel: John 17:1-11a

Showing Glory

How do you show your pride in your country? In your church?

The American flag has a nickname. It's called "Old Glory." When someone wants to show their patriotism, they wave "Old Glory."

Salvation, like patriotism, was a demonstration of glory. But this was not the glory of parades or waving dignitaries or confetti-filled streets. It was a demonstration of power from powerlessness. It was glory shown on the cross. It was a glory that showed the love of the Father for Son.

Popular Translation

1 After Jesus said all this to his followers, he looked up to heaven and prayed, "Father, the time has come! Show your Son glory so your Son might show you glory. 2 You gave your Son power over everyone. Show his glory, then, so he can give eternal life to everyone you gave to your Son as his followers. 3 This is what eternal life means. The Son's followers can be close to you, the only true God, and they can be close to the One you sent, Jesus Christ. 4 I showed your glory here on earth since I finished the work you gave me to do. 5 I am with you, Father. Now show my glory, with the same glory you showed when you first created the universe.

6 I revealed you to the people you gave me that came from the world. They believed in you and you gave them to me as my followers. They have been faithful to your message. 7 Now they know that everything you gave me is from you. 8 Since I gave them the message you entrusted to me, they accepted it. They really know that I came from you and they believe you sent me. 9 So, I don't pray for the world. I pray for those that believe in you, Father. You gave them to me as my followers. 10 All that I have is yours and that which is yours is mine. What my followers do shows my glory.

11 I am no longer in the world but my followers are still in the world. So, I come to you, holy Father, with this request: Be with the followers you gave me so that they might be united just like we are."

This prayer of Jesus can be divided into two sections: a prayer for glory and prayer for the unity of his followers.

Literal Translation

1 JESUS spoke these things and, having lifted his eyes to heaven, said, "Father, the hour has come. Glorify your SON so that the SON might glorify you, 2 just as you gave HIM authority (over) all flesh, so that HE might give eternal life to them, everyone whom you gave to HIM. 3 This is eternal life: that they might know you, the only true God, and (the ONE) whom you sent, JESUS CHRIST. 4 I gave you glory on earth, having completed the work that you have given to ME that I might do (it). 5 Now You give ME glory, Father, along side you, (with) the glory that I had from you before the world (came) to be.

17:1 "Glorify your SON so that the SON might glorify you..." Since the hour of glory is the death of Jesus, "glorify" has the meaning of "showing glory." So, the sentence can be translated: "Show the glory of your Son so that the Son can show your glory." This sense of "glory" is reflected in 17:4-5.

17:3 John equated knowledge with eternal life. In Judaism, knowledge of God came through the revelation of God found in the Law and obedience to that Law. Jews believed they could realize the presence of God in daily life by keeping the Torah. And in keeping the Torah, they could look into the mind of God. John followed that line of reasoning, but replaced the Law with the person of Jesus Christ. For John, eternal life was not simply obeying God's Law, but having a relationship with his Son. Love of the Son superseded a lifestyle of religious duty.

17:5 "along side you" has the meaning of "in your presence."

John the Evangelist was fond of using an "A-B-A" or step-up and step down structure to his writing. While 17:1-6 does not match that structure explicitly, it does follow the general pattern.

A: Glorify your Son

B: so the Son might glorify you ...he gave eternal life to...everyone you gave him.

C: This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and the One whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

B: I gave you glory on earth having completed the work you gave me to do.

A: Now you give me glory...

The structure begins and ends with the prayer for glory. In the theology of John and the context of the statement, the glory Jesus prayed for was the cross. On the cross, Jesus would reveal himself as the Christ; on the cross, his followers would understand what sort of God they worshiped: a God of love. Through the cross, God would offer his faithful the gift of his very life, the gift of eternal life.

The second and fourth statements are thematically the same: the work of the Christ was to give his followers eternal life. The core of the passages lay in the definition of eternal life: an intimate knowledge of God and the one he sent, Jesus Christ. This knowledge could only be gained in a growing faith relationship with the Father and the Son. John seemed to imply that eternal life was not only a knowledge of, but a partaking with, the relationship between the Father and the Son. Indeed, one can only gain knowledge of the Father and the Son by somehow being a part of that relationship.

6 I (visibly) showed your name to the men you gave to ME from the world. They were toward you and you gave them to ME, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything, as much as you have given ME, is from you. 8 Because I have given them the words that you gave to ME, and they accepted (them) and truly know that I came from you, and they believe that you sent ME. 9 I ask concerning them, not concerning the world do I ask but concerning (those) whom you have given ME, that they are toward you, 10 and everything mine is yours and the (things) yours (are) mine, and I have been given glory in them. 11 I am no longer in the world but they are in the world, and I come to you holy Father, (so) keep them in your name which you have given to ME, so that they might be one just as we (are one).

17:6 "I (visibly) showed your name to the men you gave to ME from the world." Since ancient people believed the name of someone revealed their inner character and power, invoking the name of a deity invoked the deity himself. When Jesus made the name of the Father manifest to his followers, this was a point of revelation, for he made God himself visible.

17:6, 9 "They were toward you" can also be translated "they were yours." By definition, the faithful swore allegiance to their God through their faith; so they belonged to God, as much as a commoner swore allegiance to a king and the regent controlled the destiny of his servant.

17:9-11 Jesus prayed for his followers, but there is some debate how the phrase "that they are toward you" relates to the prayer. Some translate 17:9: "I pray for them...those you have given me, so they might be yours." But most translate 17:9: "I pray for them...those you have given me because they are yours." In the first sense, Jesus prays for this followers to initiate or strengthen their allegiance to God. In the second sense, he prays because they already belong to God. In either case, the followers were now part of the relationship between the Father and the Son (17:10) and the followers now revealed the glory of the Son through their witness. 17:11 revealed the content of the prayer: "Keep them in your name (i.e., in your presence), so that they might be united."

Jesus gave his followers eternal life when he revealed the name of the Father. As the note above indicated, this was more than speaking a name; Jesus revealed the presence of the Father. These followers had already pledged a faith allegiance to God, so they "belonged" to the Father. Now, Jesus would reveal the presence of the Father through his presence and his message. His followers accepted both and would "glorify" the Son by their witness in the world.

"Everything I have is yours and the things you have are mine." (17:10a) This is the most explicit statement about position of the disciples in the relationship between the Father and the Son. We are part of the love between the Father and the Son; we have been "caught up" in the life of the Trinity. Even though the Son is no longer in the world, he implores his Father to grant his followers the intimate unity that the Trinity shares. This is more than coexistence within the Church. This is a bond of love that is a far greater witness than the individual Christian can make alone. It is a prayer for community on the supernatural level; it is a prayer that all of us might share in the life that the Father and the Son share in. This is eternal life! This shows the Lord's true glory.

How can you be "caught up" in the life of the Trinity? How can you realize your place in the love between the Father and the Son?

To show patriotism, we wave "Old Glory." To show faith, we wave the cross. But, more to the point, we live the cross. As the cross revealed the love of the Father for the Son, it shows us our place in the love. It is an invitation to eternal life. And it is a realization of that life. When we live the cross, we participate in the love between the Father and the Son. This is true glory.

Reflect on your place in the life of God this week. Where do you find the cross in your life? How have you lived that cross? How does that cross show you the love of God?