Gospel:  John 17:20-26

A Prayer For Followers

Who is a good example for our young? Why is he or she a good example?

A hero provides more than a good example for others, he or she provides a standard of virtue. Some heroes are authentic, others prove to be two-dimensional, not because of their actions, but because of their intent. The authentic hero is transparent; that person practices what he or she preaches.

Jesus was a hero. That might ring strange in our ears, but it is true. His example was the cross, his virtue was love through self-giving. Of course, he is more than a hero, for he shares that love with us, the love he had with his Father. When he prayed for us, he wanted us to be part of his example and his virtue. He wanted us to share in the glory of the cross and the love God had for the world.

This segment can be divided into two parts: unity and divine intimacy (17:20-24), and divine knowledge (17:25-26).

Literal Translation

20 Not (only) about these alone do I ask, but also about the (ones) believing in ME because of their word, 21 so that all might be one, just as you, Father, (are) in ME, and I (am) in you, so that they might be in us, so that the world might believe you sent ME. 22 The glory you have given ME, I have given them, so that they might be one, just as we (are) one. 23 I in them and you in ME, so that (they) might be made completely into one, so that the world might know that you sent ME and you loved them just as you loved ME. 24 Father, what you have given to me, I desire, so that where I am, those, too, might be with me, so that they might see my glory, which you gave to ME, that you loved ME, before the foundation of the world.

17:20 “...believing in me because of their word...” While the participle “believing” is in the present tense, it extends into the future. In other words, Jesus prayed for those who would evangelize and would be evangelized in the future.

17:20-21 This long sentence explained the prayer of Jesus for present and future evangelization. 17:21 has three resulting clauses: unity of believers, divine intimacy, and witness. In other words, Jesus prayed for evangelization so that believers might be close to each other, they might be close to God, and their words and example might help others to believe in Christ.

17:22 “The glory you have given ME, I have given them...” The term glory has a visual and an auditory component. Glory can be seen and heard; both produce a sense of awe. Visually, glory has been described as light; in an auditory sense, glory has been described as inspiring witness. In the context of 17:20, “glory” was the word spoken by evangelists. The word Jesus heard from the Father was glory; this was the word is gave to his followers. 

17:24 “Father, what you have given to me, I desire” The term “what” can refer to the disciples of Jesus (in the context of 17:23) or glory (in the context of 17:22). In the first sense, the sentence would be translated:

Father, I want those you have given to me, so that they might be with me wherever I am and they might see my glory, the one you gave to me out of love from the beginning of creation.

In the second sense, the sentence would be translated:

Father, I want the glory you have given me, so that when my followers are with me wherever I am, they might see my glory, the one you gave to me out of love from the beginning of creation.

Notice when “what” refers to glory, the sentence forms a quasi “A-B-A” format. When the Father gave glory to the Son (the “A” section), it had two results (the “B” section): the followers would be with Jesus and they would see his glory. Notice that glory took on a visual aspect. In the theology of John, the glory moment for Jesus, his “hour,” was the crucifixion. In other words, the breaking point of persecution (represented by Jesus on the cross) brought unity and divine intimacy. Since the “B” section was more important than the “A” section in this construction, our focus should not be on the gift of the Father, but on the result. Whatever John meant by the gift of the Father to the Son, the result was a bonding of believers with the Lord and a strengthening of the community.

How do people come to know about Jesus? They hear about Jesus from his followers and they see the results of the Good News in the lives of believers. In other words, evangelization is based upon word and example (no surprise). Example, however, is not only a sense of ethical behavior and charitable outreach, it is a sense of communal sharing. The community shares a sense of purpose and a unity of faith; both are a result of God’s peace. So, word and example are invitations to the Kingdom.

The sign of the Kingdom is the glory of Christ. In John’s theology, the crucifixion is his glory. Evangelization about the crucifixion was an extension of Christ’s glory. The Father gave Jesus glory with the cross; the cross is the sign used for spreading the Good News. Faith in the One crucified brings unity and divine intimacy. Faith in the One crucified shows the world what sort of God we believe in. He is love! No wonder Jesus desired the glory that the Father gave him. The cross, his glory, would bring all followers close to him and would allow them to see the Lord as he truly was.

25 Righteous Father, the world did not (ever) know you, but I (always) know you, and these know that you sent ME. 26 I have made your name know to them, and I will make it known (to them), so that the love that you loved ME with might be in them, and (so that) I (might be) in them.

17:25 “the world did not (ever) know you, but I (always) know you” The tense of the verb “know” indicated continual activity from the past into the present.

17:26 “I have made your name know to them, and I will make it known (to them)” Since ancient people believed a name revealed the presence and the power of the person, the clause could be translated: “I have made You known to them, and will continue to do so.” The result of Jesus action is the indwelling love between Father and Son, and the indwelling presence of the Son in the believer.

At 17:25, the emphasis of the prayer shifted from the results of evangelization to divine knowledge; the thread between the two is divine intimacy. Indeed, Jesus did not stress the knowledge of facts, but the knowledge of a person, the Father. Culture does not know God (some parts of culture reject God), but the Son always knew the Father. That knowledge, that intimacy, was the proof to the followers that Jesus was sent by the Father. To know Jesus is to know his relationship with the Father and his mission. To know Jesus is to know the Father, now and in the future. To know Jesus is to know the love he shared with the Father and to know that love in our lives.

Who introduced you to Christ? Who have you helped to get to know Christ? What example showed you his love?

Christ is our example of life for the Father and our means to live that life. As an example, he is the paradigm of the hero; his example and his intent were perfectly in tune. As our means, he gives us the power (the Spirit) to do what we cannot do on our own.

As Christ is our example and means, we are to be for others. He prayed that we could be such. Shouldn’t we join in his prayer, so others might join in the gifts we have?

Reread John 17:20-26. How can you make this your prayer to the Father? How can you join with Christ in his prayer?