Father, Glorify Your Son

Tom Groelsema, Speaker

John 17:1-5 | March 28 - Holy Week,

Holy Week,
March 28
Father, Glorify Your Son | John 17:1-5
Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Father, here on this holy sacred night, as we think about Jesus celebrating the supper with His disciples, moving out from the upper room into Gethsemane to be betrayed, to be denied, all of this, Lord, as forerunners for Good Friday. Father, we pray that You would bless our hearts as we now gather around Your Word to think about this prayer of Christ and then again as we celebrate the supper in a few moments. May we be drawn to Jesus. We pray this in His name. Amen.

Let’s read together from our Bibles from John 17, verses 1 through 5. John 17, verses 1 through 5.

Hear now God’s Word.

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.””

Well, people of God, we’ve been making our way over the last Sunday nights through the upper room gathering of Jesus and His disciples. It was the evening before Jesus would be crucified, just hours before His death. It was, as we read in John’s Gospel, I guess we could call it the first Maundy Thursday.

We’ve had the privilege to listen in as Jesus went about teaching His disciples, preparing them for His departure. He washed their feet, setting an example for them of how to love one another. He predicted His betrayal and denial. He pointed to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life and promised that He would be going to prepare a place for them. He spoke about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and taught the disciples that they must abide in Him like a vine and branches.

Then Jesus predicted the hatred His followers would endure after He was gone and He ended all of this teaching with the promises of peace and victory for His disciples as He said “in Me you have peace, in the world you have tribulation, but take heart – for I have overcome the world.”

As we come to John 17 tonight, we move from hearing Jesus talking to His disciples to now Jesus talking to His Father. Just before He leaves the upper room, just before He makes His way into Gethsemane, He prays. You can learn a lot about someone as you listen to them teach.

For example, you might hear in a conversation between parents and a child and a parent is teaching their children something and you can learn something about the parent from what they teach, but you can learn even more from someone when you listen to them pray. Our prayers are a window into our priorities, into our passions, into our struggles, and this prayer in John 17 is an open window into the heart of Christ. It’s called the high priestly prayer. Some will say this really is the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus prays. It is the longest recorded prayer in the New Testament.

Tonight we’re just looking at this very first section of the prayer. We’ll return to the other parts a bit on Easter evening. In this first section there is just one simple yet strong petition that Jesus makes. It’s in these words – Father, glorify Your Son.

I want you to notice four things with me about this prayer, this first part.

First of all, it is a passionate prayer. I don’t mean by that an intense prayer. Yes, it was that, but what I mean by passionate prayer is that this was a prayer that was prompted by the hour of Jesus’s passion, suffering, and death. It was His impending crucifixion that prompted this prayer from Christ. You see this in verse 1. When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and He said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son.”

It was the hour. Eight times in John’s Gospel the Apostle John writes about this thing called “the hour.” The hour is not clock time. What Jesus is talking about here is not like what the Apostle John or the other Gospel writers would say that Jesus breathed His last at the ninth hour. That’s clock time. You can put that on a clock. But this is the hour meaning the appointed, God-ordained time for the death, resurrection, and subsequent ascension and exaltation of Christ. This was the time that God had determined for Christ to die and then to be raised again.

So many times in John’s Gospel John tells us that the hour had not yet come. For example, in John 7:30 – so the Jews were seeking to arrest Jesus but no one laid a hand on Him because His hour had not yet come. When His hour comes, yes, then He can be arrested, but it’s not the hour. So no arrest. But now the hour has come, as John 17 says.

Two times before in the upper room Jesus had spoken about this hour. In chapter 13, verse 1 – now before the feast of the Passover when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who are in the world, He loved them to the end.

Jesus knew the hour had come.

Or in chapter 16, verse 32, just a few verses before our text tonight, Jesus said, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed, it has come when You disciples will be scattered.” So it was the hour, the climax of His sufferings.

In just a matter of minutes Jesus would enter Gethsemane and suffer alone and wrestle with the Father over the cup. From Gethsemane He would move on to Gabbatha to the stone pavement where He would be tried and condemned, then onto Golgotha, the place of the skull where He would be publicly crucified and die.

Friends, you see Jesus’s prayer and the hour go together. His prayer was shaped by the hour. To pray “glorify Your Son” is not a prayer that God would whisk Him away to glory. It was not a prayer for rapture. But this is a prayer that was connected to His suffering, to the hour. No glorification aside from this hour of humiliation that was to come. So it’s a passionate prayer.

Second, it’s a personal prayer. Because in this prayer Jesus prays for Himself. As we’ll see in the other sections of the high priestly prayer, Jesus will go on to pray for His disciples, then He will go on to pray for us, for those who have yet to believe, at least in Jesus’s day, but here He prays for Himself and He prays as the Son, the only Son of God.

Yes, some of us are sons, but we are adopted sons. We are adopted sons and daughters. Adopted children of God. Jesus is the only begotten Son. The Son who is one in substance, power, and eternity with the Father. That’s important to think about as we move into this petition of Jesus praying for His own glorification. He says it there in verse 1 – glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You.

The glory of the Son leads to the glorification of the Father. Jesus is not glory hog, just saying, “I want all the glory.” This is not a self-centered prayer. He prays for Himself but His prayer is that as the Son is glorified, the Father ultimately will be glorified.

This is what Jesus was always about. Bringing glory to the Father, more glory, more glory to the Father.

His petition is repeated at the end of our text, verse 5. So verse 1 and verse 5 – Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.

You see in that verse, don’t you, the implication, the truth of the eternal existence of the Son with the Father for all time, in glorious splendor. That’s what Jesus prays here, to be restored to Him.

When we think about the glory of God, we read it, of course, all throughout the Bible, sometimes it’s kind of hard to think about. What is this glory? The glory of God is the visible expression of His being and His perfections. Another way of putting it, it is the outward display of God’s worth.

We could think, for example, about the glory of the presidency. What is the glory of the presidency? It’s all the trappings that are around the President that say this is a one-of-a-kind kind of person. Secret Service personnel, black motorcades, bands, parades, Air Force 1. All of that stuff reveals his worth. It’s his glory.

So in the Bible God manifests His glory. We see His worth through things that are displayed around Him. Light, there’s a pillar of fire that led Israel through the wilderness. Or Psalm 29, a thunderstorm and the psalmist can say the voice of the Lord breaks the cedars and all cry glory. Or Mount Sinai as God came down in smoke and fire.

Jesus prays here that the full glory of God that He had with the Father before creation would be given back to Him.

Why did He have to pray for that? It’s because in His condescension, in His incarnation, He had given up the full display of splendor as He became a man.

You see parts of it. Right? At His birth the angels singing “glory to God in the highest.” Then you look down at this little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Not much glory.

In John’s Gospel there are glimpses of it. Seven signs that John holds out that point to Jesus as the Christ. Little pictures of glory. The very first one, the wedding at Cana. John tells us this was the first of Jesus’s signs where He manifested His glory. But what Jesus asks for here is not these little pictures but the full radiance of God’s glory, the splendor of the Godhead, the worship of angels and saints, His kingly privileges, His royal majesty.

Remember how Paul says it, in Philippians chapter 2, that Christ emptied Himself and He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. Jesus says, “Father, glorify Me. Bring the glory that I had with You before the creation of the world.” He prays for the veil to be removed, His glory to be restored and to be revealed.

Third. This is also a priestly prayer. It may seem that Jesus’s prayer is utterly selfish, but of course that’s not the case if you are the Lord of the universe. Because all glory goes to You. But it’s also not the case because His glory is for our good. We call this a priestly prayer because what do priests do? What’s in the job description of a priest?

Well, a couple of things. It’s to pray. It’s to intercede and that’s what we see Jesus doing throughout this chapter, this entire chapter, praying, interceding for us as a priest intercedes. But priests also offer sacrifices to atone for sin. An atonement and redemption is embedded in this first petition in the very beginning of this prayer that Jesus is praying because you see it’s His glory that leads to our life.

Jesus paints that picture for us in the first couple of verses. Glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You. But then you go on, since, or on the basis of, You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all You have given Him.

The path of glory for Jesus rests on Him giving life to us. Then he picks it up in verses 4 and 5 – I glorified You on earth having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, because of that, now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence.

Jesus’s glory comes only because He finished the work that the Father had given him to do.

You remember Jesus will bring this up again just a couple of hours as He’s hanging on the cross and He cries out, what? It is finished. Right? It’s finished. It’s accomplished. This is not a cry of defeat. It’s finished. I have no more breath, I have no more energy, I have no more strength. That’s not what Jesus is saying. When He says “it’s finished” what He’s saying is redemption is finished, salvation is accomplished, all that was given the Son to do, He has done.

I find it interesting in this text that there are two sets of repeated words. I’ve been thinking a lot about the first set, glorify and glory, that’s the substance of Jesus’s petition or prayer. But the other set of words are the words give and gave. That is the substance not of Jesus’s petition but the substance of His mission.

The Father has given authority to Jesus, He says. That authority is to give eternal life, to give eternal life to all those whom the Father has given to Christ. Jesus can do this because He has accomplished the work that was given to Him.

People of God, don’t you love how Jesus describes the eternal life that He brings in this text? You can think about eternal life in a few different ways. We might think about it as a realm or as a place. A lot of us a lot of times we’re thinking about it that way, and Jesus talked about it that way – in My Father’s house there are many rooms and I’m going to prepare a place for you there. So eternal life we might think about it as heaven, a realm.

But here Jesus doesn’t describe it as a realm, He describes it as a relationship. This is eternal life that we may know God, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

Eternal life is to know God. Not just intellectually, of course, not informationally. I might know how to fix a car (I actually don’t, but I might know that). I might know a foreign language. That’s not the kind of knowledge Jesus is referring to here. This knowing is like what a married couple has for each other. They know one another, they know one another intimately, deeply. Jesus says eternal life is to know the only true God and Jesus whom He has sent.

A few of you know that this past fall one of my good friends, somebody that I worked for at the church in Byron Center, passed away, just a little bit under my age, low 50s, died of cancer. This was a man who grew up in a Christian home. He had actually grown up in a context where he had been catechized thoroughly, loved doctrine, knew doctrine, but I saw something happen in him as he moved through the last months of his life and eventually died. That was his depth of knowing God and knowing Christ grew. He kept going to the Word, and God’s Word it just became clearer and clearer to him and God spoke to Him more and more. I could see this fellowship that he had with the Lord.

He spoke to God and his prayer life grew more fervent and fervent. His worship was more frequent. He found more peace with God, more contentment, more strength, more joy. I was able to observe, even from a distance, that here was a man who was living close to God and to Christ. It’s not as if he didn’t have eternal life before. He knew God. But in those last months he knew God and he knew Christ.

The God we know is not a God who is determined by our experience, of course. He is the one true God and His son the Lord Jesus, the God who’s revealed in the Scriptures. What a privilege to know Him.

This is why Christ suffered and died. So that you can know God, that I can know God, say I really know Him, I walk with Him, I’m in fellowship with Him, I’ve intimacy with Him. You see, this is what Jesus came and died to give us, this is why we can say that His prayer for His glory was also a prayer for our good, for our eternal joy and gladness in God.

Finally, very briefly, this is also an answered prayer. His prayer was answered for Himself because from the upper room Jesus would go on to the garden, from the garden to Pilate’s chambers, from Pilate’s chambers He gave Himself to Calvary, and from Calvary to a tomb. But from a tomb to resurrection life, and from resurrection life to ascended glory. Where is He today? Seated at the right hand of God, highly exalted. He reigns, countless knees bowing, countless tongues confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is glorified, the very thing that He prayed for.

His prayer is also answered for us because His glory means ours. Isn’t this one of the things that we celebrate and cherish so much when you read about that golden chain of salvation, as some call it in Romans 8:30, that those He predestined He called, and those that He called He justified, and those that He justified He also glorified. Past tense. Why? Because Paul is absolutely certain that this is what is going to be true for us because the Lord Jesus Christ was glorified through His suffering and through His death.

So we sing on this night. I believe it’s in our liturgy, but you know it – Man of sorrows, what a name, for the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah, what a Savior.

But friends, we’re going to sing one day this verse – When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransom home to bring, then anew, we’ll sing it again, in other words, we’ll sing it fresh, we’ll sing it forever, we’ll sing anew this song one more time, Hallelujah, what a Savior.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we thank You for Your prayer. We thank You, Lord, for Your humility, for Your suffering, for Your death, and now ultimately for Your glorification and for the life You give us, life to know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. We praise for all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.