“Father, . . . glorify your son, that your son may glorify you.”—JOHN 17:1.
1, 2. Explain what Jesus did for his faithful apostles after they celebrated the Passover in 33 C.E.
IT IS late in the evening of Nisan 14 in the year 33 C.E. Jesus and his companions have enjoyed celebrating the Passover, which reminds them of how God delivered their forefathers from slavery in Egypt. But his faithful disciples are to experience a far grander “everlasting deliverance.” The next day, their sinless Leader will be put to death by his enemies. But this hateful act will be turned into a blessing. Jesus’ shed blood will provide the basis for mankind’s deliverance from sin and death.—Heb. 9:12-14.
2 To make sure that we do not forget this loving provision, Jesus instituted a new annual observance that replaced the Passover. He did this by breaking a loaf of unleavened bread, and passing it to each of his 11 faithful apostles, he said: “This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” He did likewise with a cup of red wine, telling them: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.”—Luke 22:19, 20.
3. (a) What big change followed Jesus’ death? (b) What questions should we consider respecting Jesus’ prayer recorded in John chapter 17?
3 The end was soon coming to the old Law covenant between God and natural-born Israelites. It would be replaced by a new covenant between Jehovah and Jesus’ anointed followers. Jesus was deeply concerned about the welfare of this new spiritual nation. Natural Israel was hopelessly divided religiously and socially, bringing great reproach on God’s holy name. (John 7:45-49; Acts 23:6-9) In contrast, Jesus desired that his followers remain perfectly united so that they could work harmoniously together to bring glory to God’s name. So, what does Jesus do? He offers the most beautiful prayer that any human will ever be privileged to read. (John 17:1-26; see opening illustration.) We are in a position to look back and ask, “Has God answered Jesus’ prayer?” We should also examine ourselves and ask, “Am I acting in harmony with it?”
4, 5. (a) What do we learn from the introduction to Jesus’ prayer? (b) How did Jehovah answer Jesus’ personal request about his future?
4 Jesus talks late into the night, imparting to his disciples precious knowledge from God. Then he raises his eyes to heaven and prays: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, according as you have given him authority over all flesh, that, as regards the whole number whom you have given him, he may give them everlasting life. . . . I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do. So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.”—John 17:1-5.
5 Notice Jesus’ priorities in the introduction to his prayer. His main concern is the glorification of his heavenly Father, and this harmonizes with the first request in Jesus’ model prayer: “Father, let your name be sanctified.” (Luke 11:2) Jesus’ next concern is for the needs of his disciples, that “he may give them everlasting life.” After that, Jesus makes a personal request, saying: “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.” Jehovah rewards his faithful Son with even more than he asks by giving Jesus “a name more excellent than” that of all the angels.—Heb. 1:4.
‘KNOWING THE ONLY TRUE GOD’
6. For the apostles to get eternal life, what did they have to do, and how do we know that they succeeded?
6 Jesus also prays about what we as sinners must do to qualify for the undeserved gift of everlasting life. (Read John 17:3.) He says that we must keep “taking in knowledge” of God and Christ. One way of doing this involves using our eyes and ears to learn more about Jehovah and his Son. Another important way of taking in knowledge of God is by experiencing the joyful feeling that comes from applying what we learn about him. The apostles had followed this life-giving process, for Jesus went on to pray: “The sayings that you gave me I have given to them, and they have received them.” (John 17:8) But to gain everlasting life, they needed to keep meditating on God’s sayings and to apply those sayings in their daily lives. Did the faithful apostles succeed in doing this to the end of their earthly lives? Indeed they did. We know this because each of their individual names is indelibly written upon the 12 foundation stones of the heavenly New Jerusalem.—Rev. 21:14.
7. What does “knowing” God mean, and why is that so important?
7 According to Greek-language scholars, the Greek expression translated “taking in knowledge” can also be translated “should keep on knowing” or “should continue knowing.” The two meanings are complementary, and both are important. The footnote to John 17:3 in the Reference Bible gives the alternative rendering “their knowing you.” Thus, “taking in knowledge” refers to an ongoing process that results in the privileged state of “knowing” God. Knowing the greatest Person in the universe, however, involves much more than having a mental grasp of God’s qualities and purpose. Knowing Jehovah includes having a close bond of love with him and with fellow believers. “He that does not love,” explains the Bible, “has not come to know God.” (1 John 4:8) Thus, knowing God includes being obedient to him. (Read 1 John 2:3-5.) What a great privilege it is to be counted as one knowing Jehovah! But as in the case of Judas Iscariot, this precious relationship can be lost. Let us work hard to maintain it. Then we will eventually qualify for the undeserved gift of everlasting life.—Matt. 24:13.
“ON ACCOUNT OF YOUR OWN NAME”
8, 9. What was Jesus’ primary concern during his earthly ministry, and what religious tradition would he have rejected?
8 After reading Jesus’ prayer recorded in John chapter 17, who can doubt Jesus’ deep love not only for his apostles there present but also for his future disciples? (John 17:20) At the same time, we need to understand that our salvation is not Jesus’ primary concern. His main purpose from the beginning to the end of his earthly ministry was to work for the sanctification and glory of his Father’s name. For example, when announcing his commission in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor.” Without question, Jesus would have pronounced God’s name clearly when he read this commission.—Luke 4:16-21.
9 According to Jewish tradition, long before Jesus came to earth, the religious leaders discouraged people from using God’s name. We can be sure that Jesus firmly rejected such an unscriptural tradition. He said to his opposers: “I have come in the name of my Father, but you do not receive me; if someone else arrived in his own name, you would receive that one.” (John 5:43) Then, a few days before his death, Jesus expressed his main concern in life by praying: “Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:28) So we should not be surprised that Jesus weaves this concern for his Father’s name throughout the prayer that we are now examining.
10, 11. (a) What was involved in Jesus’ making known his Father’s name? (b) Jesus’ disciples should work toward what goal?
10 “I have made your name manifest,” Jesus prayed, “to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have observed your word. Also, I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are.”—John 17:6, 11.
11 Making his Father’s name known to his disciples involved much more than verbally pronouncing that name. Jesus also helped them to know what God’s name represented, namely, God’s wonderful qualities and his way of dealing with us. (Ex. 34:5-7) Moreover, from Jesus’ glorified position in heaven, he continues to help his disciples to make known Jehovah’s name throughout the earth. With what goal in mind? That more disciples might be gathered before the end comes to this wicked system of things. Then, what a marvelous name Jehovah will make for himself as he acts to deliver his loyal witnesses!—Ezek. 36:23.
“THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE”
12. What three things are necessary for us to succeed in our lifesaving work?
12 While on earth, Jesus worked hard to help his disciples to overcome their weaknesses. This was essential for them to complete the work that Jesus had started. “Just as you sent me forth into the world,” prays Jesus, “I also sent them forth into the world.” For them to succeed in this lifesaving work, Jesus emphasizes three vital needs. First, he prays that his disciples be no part of Satan’s unholy world. Second, he prays that they may be sanctified, or kept holy, by applying to themselves the truth of God’s Word. Third, Jesus repeatedly begs that his disciples may be united in the same bond of love that exists between him and his Father. This calls for self-examination. Each of us should ask, ‘Am I acting in harmony with Jesus’ three requests?’ By giving attention to these things, Jesus expresses optimism “that the world may believe that you sent me forth.”—Read John 17:15-21.
13. How was Jesus’ prayer answered in the first century C.E.?
13 That Jesus’ prayer was answered can be seen by studying the Bible book that follows the four Gospels, Acts of Apostles. Think of the potential there was for division among the early Christians, who were made up of Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, slaves and slave owners. Yet, all became so closely united that they could be likened to different parts of a human body with Jesus as their head. (Eph. 4:15, 16) What a miraculous accomplishment amid Satan’s divided world! All credit for this must go to Jehovah, who made it possible by the operation of his powerful holy spirit.—1 Cor. 3:5-7.
14. How has Jesus’ prayer been answered in modern times?
14 Sadly, this miraculous unity did not survive the death of the apostles. Instead, as foretold, a great apostasy set in, which resulted in Christendom’s divided sects. (Acts 20:29, 30) But in the year 1919, Jesus released his anointed followers from their captivity to false religion and gathered them together in “a perfect bond of union.” (Col. 3:14) What effect has their preaching work had on the rest of the world? Over seven million “other sheep” companions from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” have been drawn into one united flock with God’s anointed. (John 10:16; Rev. 7:9) What a spectacular answer to Jesus’ prayer, “that the world may have the knowledge that you [Jehovah] sent me forth and that you loved them just as you loved me”!—John 17:23.
AN ENDEARING CONCLUSION
15. Jesus made what special request in behalf of his anointed disciples?
15 Earlier on the evening of Nisan 14, Jesus gave glory, or honor, to his apostles by making a covenant with them to rule with him in his Kingdom. (Luke 22:28-30; John 17:22) So concerning all who would become his anointed followers, Jesus now prays: “Father, as to what you have given me, I wish that, where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the founding of the world.” (John 17:24) This causes rejoicing, not envy, on the part of Jesus’ other sheep and is further proof of the unity that exists among all true Christians on earth today.
16, 17. (a) What determination did Jesus express in the conclusion of his prayer? (b) What should we be determined to do?
16 Under the influence of their religious leaders, the majority of people in the world choose to ignore the clear evidence that Jehovah has a united people who truly know him. The same was true respecting Jesus’ day. So he concludes with these endearing words: “Righteous Father, the world has, indeed, not come to know you; but I have come to know you, and these have come to know that you sent me forth. And I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.”—John 17:25, 26.
17 Who can deny that Jesus has acted in harmony with his prayer? As Head of the congregation, he continues to help us make known his Father’s name and purpose. May we keep on submitting to his headship by zealously obeying his command to preach and make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 10:42) May we also work hard at preserving our precious unity. By doing these things, we will be acting in harmony with Jesus’ prayer, to the glory of Jehovah’s name and to our eternal happiness.