In This Chapter
Jesus spoke these things then lifted up his eyes in prayer to heaven and said, “Father, the hour of salvation has come; glorify* your Son — clothe your Son in radiance and splendor — so that your Son may then expose the magnitude of your significance. You granted him absolute power over all humanity so that he might grant the gift of eternal life to all those whom you entrusted permanently into his care. Indeed, this hour of sacrifice and salvation is the gift of eternal life, given so that these people may intimately know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one whom you sent out on this divine mission. On earth, I revealed your wealth, your weight, and your magnificence; I completed the mission which you have entrusted me to do; and now glorify* me — clothe me in radiance and splendor — Father, in your presence with the same magnificent splendor which I had in your presence before the world existed.
A Quick Dip1
Glorify — clothe in radiance and splendor/expose the magnitude of your significance/reveal your wealth, your weight, and your magnificence: All three of these phrases are translations of the same Greek verb that we discussed extensively in Chapter 9. In the Greek, glorify means to bring praise and honor to someone in a way that reveals his or her importance to others. In Hebrew, it means to reveal one’s weight, wealth, power, and significance.
Absolute power: Often translated as authority, this word represents the right to do something — including the right to rule over something or someone. This right is granted by another in a higher position, as when a king grants authority to a governor. The authority given is backed by this higher power (here, God). Furthermore, the freedom to use this power as one sees necessary is included in this authority.
Eternal life: In Scripture, life is more than the ability to move and breathe; life is viewed as a gift — the greatest gift — which we possess. Life comes from God and is sustained by God. In order to continue our existence, our lives must be nourished and protected. We must be fed, clothed, and sheltered. In contrast, God does not need to do anything to nurture his own life because the source of life itself is found within God’s own being. God is life, and as God’s creatures, we are completely dependent upon him for every breath we take. The opposite of life is death. In much of the Old Testament, death is seen as the natural end of one’s existence. Throughout the New Testament, however, death is seen as the ultimate consequence of sin. Sin — separation from God, the source of life — leads to death. Yet true life cannot die. It is eternal. When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” it is this eternal life of which he speaks: a life that ultimately can never be destroyed, a life that has conquered death itself, a life which is offered to all those who will believe and trust in him.
Entrusted permanently into his care: To give something to another’s care and keeping; to spiritually entrust someone to another’s care. This verb form, used eight times in this prayer, serves as another signal flag for John’s readers and it stresses the enduring effects of this action. Here John is emphasizing that Jesus’ care is permanent.
- What does Jesus want God to do when he prays, “clothe your Son in radiance and splendor”?
- What is your understanding of life and death? How does your understanding compare with the definitions above?
- According to this prayer, God has entrusted our spiritual well-being to Jesus’ care. What has Jesus done to care for you? How does it make you feel to know that his care is permanent?
The First Request
Jesus opens his farewell prayer with the most comforting word he can offer his anxious disciples: Father. Abba. Daddy. Into this moment of darkness, doubt, and despair, Jesus invites his Daddy to join the conversation, to take the seat at the head of the table, to come into troubled hearts and minds. Then, in his Daddy’s presence, Jesus pours out his heart, revealing the intense desires which pulse within its every beat.
Jesus’ first request is a petition for himself: “Father, the hour of salvation has come. Glorify your Son. Clothe me in radiance and splendor. Reveal my weight, my power, my magnificence to the world.” It sounds as if Jesus is praying for a dazzling display of his own power and authority as God’s Son: “Give me a golden crown and a royal robe and let’s show these people just how important I really am.”
But of course, this is not what Jesus is requesting. When Jesus says, “Father, the hour has come,” we recall that in John’s Gospel the hour of God’s glorious victory is the same hour of Jesus’ terrible suffering. Jesus knows that his own weight — his own importance — can only be revealed through his own sacrifice. So when Jesus prays, “Glorify your Son,” he is really saying, “Crucify me.” He is praying for his own horrible, ugly, brutal death. Jesus knows that his glory will come not with a kingly crown of power, but with a gnarled cross of pain. Why would Jesus pray for such a thing?
The Purpose Clauses
Why? This is an important question. Throughout this prayer, Jesus encourages us to ask why and to look for the reasons behind his requests. In order to do this, we must be able to identify a very important grammatical construction: the purpose clause. In our language, a purpose clause usually begins with the phrase “in order that” or “so that.” A purpose clause always answers the question why. Let me give you an example. When my children were young, I constantly told them, “Eat your vegetables.” Upon reaching the age of two, they would ask (two or three times every day at every meal), “Why?” And I would repeat my answer, “So that you will grow up to be strong and healthy.” The purpose clause explained the reason behind my request.
I find it extremely interesting to note that there are eighteen purpose clauses in Jesus’ farewell prayer. Each purpose clause raises these questions: Why does Jesus ask for this? What is Jesus’ ultimate goal? What does Jesus seek to accomplish when God grants this request? However, more than just raising the questions, the purpose clauses underline the answers to these questions. And, oh, Jesus wants us to understand these answers. Jesus takes great care in this prayer to explain the reasons behind each of his requests. The fact is, it is within these purpose clauses that we actually encounter Jesus’ deepest desires and greatest goals.
So we are encouraged to ask: Why does Jesus pray for his own execution? Let’s examine the three purpose clauses in this passage and find out.
Purpose #1: Glory. Jesus prays, “Glorify your Son so that your Son may then expose the magnitude of your significance — your glory.” Here Jesus plainly states that he is praying for his own crucifixion because he wants his Daddy’s glory — his Daddy’s weight and power — to be revealed. Jesus’ goal here is to point to something even greater than himself. When his disciples gaze at the cross, Jesus wants them to look beyond the pain, beyond the grave, and to behold God’s glorious victory over death. He wants the cross to point not to himself but to God.
Purpose #2: Eternal life. The second purpose clause is found within this statement: “You granted him absolute power over all humanity so that he might grant the gift of eternal life to all those whom you entrusted to his care.” Here Jesus explains how, like a governor who is granted authority by a king, he was granted absolute power and free reign over all people by God. Why did God grant this authority? Unlike the king who sends a governor to rule over and tax his people, God sent Jesus in order to offer his people a free gift: the gift of eternal life.
This second purpose clause is unique because in it Jesus reveals to us not only what he wants, but also what God wants. And clearly what God wants is for all people to receive the gift of eternal life through his Son. All people. Eternal life. With these words, the Son discloses the Father’s ultimate desire.
Purpose #3: Knowing intimately. A third purpose clause pops up in the next statement: “Indeed, this hour of sacrifice and salvation2 is the gift of eternal life, given so that these people may intimately know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one whom you sent.” This purpose clause raises more questions: Why does Jesus bestow upon us the gift of eternal life? What is the purpose behind his sacrifice? These particular questions muddle some of my long-held beliefs. You see, I had always thought that the gift of eternal life was God’s highest purpose. I thought that Jesus died on the cross so that we could have eternal life. Period. I mean, wasn’t that Jesus’ ultimate goal?
Apparently not. This purpose clause points us to something even more important. Jesus states that eternal life was given “so that they may intimately know you…” Jesus did not sacrifice himself just so that we will not die, just so that we can keep on moving and breathing. Eternal life is given so that we can know in our hearts who God truly is. Eternal life is given so that we can meet the real God face-to-face, heart-to-heart. Eternal life is given so that we can experience a deep, emotional connection with the one and only Creator and Master of the universe. Furthermore, eternal life is given so that we can also become the personal companions and close friends of his perfect Son.
Let us underscore this important truth: the gift of eternal life was not granted so that we can gain a new life after we have died. Contrary to popular belief, eternal life is not about life after death. Instead, eternal life is about having life right now. It is about experiencing a deep understanding of and a passionate relationship with the Source of Life today. We do not have to wait until we die; Jesus says that God wants us to know him today, tomorrow, and for the rest of all eternity.
So you see in this passage, the purpose clauses show us that Jesus makes his request, “Glorify your Son,” not only because Jesus wants to reveal God’s glory to us, not only because God wants Jesus to bestow upon us the gift of eternal life, but ultimately because Jesus’ most passionate hope is for all of humanity to enter into a never-ending relationship with our Father and his beloved Son. The final goal is not glory. The final goal is not even the defeat of death. The final goal is the relationship. And the tapestry continues to unfold.
A Personal Appeal
At the end of this passage, Jesus repeats his request: “And now glorify me — clothe me in radiance and splendor — Father, in your presence.” If we look carefully, we will notice a subtle change here from the original request found at the beginning of the prayer. There Jesus referred to himself in the third person, “Glorify your Son.” But here Jesus speaks in the first person, “Glorify me.” What is so significant about this difference? When Jesus speaks in the third person, “Glorify your Son,” he is making a formal request. This is the prayer uttered for the benefit of those gathered around, a prayer spoken to uplift troubled hearts and minds. However, when Jesus shifts to the first person, “Glorify me,” his request becomes personal. This is a heart-to-heart prayer, a private appeal from a Son to his beloved Daddy.
The request begins with a backward glance: “On earth, I revealed your wealth, your weight, and your magnificence; I completed the mission which you have entrusted me to do.” God had sent Jesus to earth with a specific task in mind. The mission was clearly defined. Through his preaching, teaching, and miracles, Jesus revealed God’s glory. Now the mission has been successfully completed. Only one task remains, and Jesus prays, “Glorify me in your presence with the same magnificent splendor which I had in your presence before the world existed.”
The backward glance lengthens. Before the world began, Jesus lived in his Daddy’s house, by his Daddy’s side. It was the only home he had ever known. Yet for the last thirty-three years, he has been away, living instead in a filthy, broken, fallen world. It has been a long time; it has been an exhausting mission. So now when Jesus prays, “Glorify me, Daddy, in your presence — at your house,” what he is really asking is to come home.
Throughout this study as we have examined Jesus’ prayers, we have always asked the question, “How can understanding this prayer change the way we pray?” However, Jesus’ farewell prayer calls into question not only how we pray, but why we pray. Personally, this prayer has challenged me to ask myself some very tough questions, especially about my prayers of petition: Why am I asking God for this? What is the goal of my prayer? What is the ultimate purpose behind this request? What does this prayer reveal about my strongest desires? If prayer really is a window to one’s heart, what do people see when I pray? Sometimes the answers to these questions are very unsettling, especially when I compare my prayers to Jesus’.
When I look into the window of my own prayers of petition, I am often ashamed of what I see — a whiny, selfish, spoiled brat who is totally focused on her own shallow desires. Most often, I find myself praying for Band-Aids: quick fixes for some physical or emotional discomfort. For example, when I am sick, I pray for healing; when my friend’s husband walks out on her, I ask God to bring him back; when a neighbor loses a loved one, I pray for God to console him. The purpose behind all of these prayers is the same: for God to take away the pain — physical or emotional — and make us all feel better. Even my prayers for things such as a better job for a relative, a new home for victims of a house fire, my children’s success at school — even in those prayers, my predominant goal is to achieve a certain level of physical and emotional comfort for someone. In the end I find myself praying from crisis to crisis, the purpose always being to squelch the crisis. What a sad way to pray. What a sad way to live a life. What a sad substitute for a meaningful relationship with God.
I look into Jesus’ window and I see a heart that yearns for something deeper. Jesus is not focused on physical or emotional concerns. Jesus does not pray for Band-Aids. Instead, Jesus directs his prayers toward things that are spiritual and eternal. Jesus does not pray in order for someone to have good health; Jesus prays so that this person will have eternal life. Jesus does not pray in order for someone to earn more money or to have a nicer house; Jesus prays so that this person will have a permanent home in God’s mansion. Jesus does not pray in order for a child to receive a better education; Jesus prays so that all children — and adults as well — will gain a more intimate knowledge of who their Daddy really is.
What about you? What are the purposes behind your prayers? What do you see when you look into your own window? Perhaps, like me, you may find that you need to aim higher.
Chapter 18 Footnotes
* Imperative verb = Jesus’ actual request to God; this is what Jesus is asking God to do.
1 The original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic words referred to in this section are listed in the Appendix.
2 For Greek students: See this footnote of the free PDF download for a complete explanation of the original Greek.