Chapter 21: I Desire

In This Chapter

A Quick Dip
Diving Deeper
Expanding the Vision
I Desire
The Purpose Clauses
The Missing Imperative
The Conclusion
An Invitation


Father, those whom you have entrusted to my care, I desire, so that wherever I am, they also may be in my company. The reason I want them in my company is so that they may see my glory which you bestowed upon me because you loved me before you laid the foundation of the world.

Righteous Father, the godless world has not known you, but I know you intimately, and these know in their hearts that you sent me. For I have revealed your name to them, and I will reveal it so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I may be in them.
–John 17:24–26

A Quick Dip1

Desire: To desire or to wish for something means, first of all, to want to have something for one’s own possession. However, we learned in Chapter 7 that this concept describes more than a personal longing; it also includes the idea of a purpose or plan of action that leads to a desired outcome.

See: This verb describes a spectator who is fortunate enough to directly observe an event. If you have ever been a spectator at a truly monumental occurrence — whether a sports event, a sold-out concert, a witness to a natural or human-caused disaster — then you understand that you did more than just see that event. You experienced it with all of your physical, emotional, and spiritual senses. This is the type of seeing that Jesus is describing in this passage when he states that he wants the disciples to see his glory.

Righteous: This is a legal term which provokes an image of an honorable judge who fairly administers deserved punishments and rewards.

Revealed: This word often refers to the revelation of something secret or previously unknown. In John, Jesus is the Revealer who makes God’s power and grace known in a way never before seen. Through Jesus, God reveals his secret plan of salvation.

In: Once again, in denotes a close, personal relationship.


  1. What does Jesus desire in this part of his prayer? What actual request (imperative verb) does he make known to God?
  2. What exactly does Jesus want his disciples to see?
  3. Why does Jesus use the term righteous Father at this point in his prayer?
  4. If you were one of the disciples sitting at the table with Jesus, how would you feel at the conclusion of this prayer? How would you respond?

Diving Deeper

Expanding the Vision

One thing that strikes me in this farewell prayer is Jesus’ stark honesty. If Jesus had been a prizefighter, he would not have pulled any punches. Jesus discloses some harsh realities in this prayer: one disciple among his band is lost as a son of perdition; the rest will be sent out into a hostile world to face hatred, persecution, and death. Somehow these images do not exactly lend comfort to already troubled hearts. And, indeed, Jesus does not want these to be the lingering images in his disciples’ hearts and minds. Although Jesus will not erase the truth concerning the perilous mission which lies ahead, he wants to give his disciples a larger, more comforting vision. He wants to help them see what lies beyond the mission, to ask and answer the question: When all has been said and done, what will happen to us in the end — or more precisely — after the end? So now Jesus concludes his farewell prayer with a vision which embraces the eternal future of his beloved followers.

I Desire

Did you notice that there are no imperative verbs in this last section of Jesus’ prayer? Jesus makes no formal request to God in these last three verses. Instead, he simply states, “Daddy, I desire…” What, ultimately, does Jesus desire for his followers? Once again I found that, in the past, I have misread this passage of Scripture. I had always understood Jesus as saying, “I desire for these in my care to be in my company.” However, when I carefully studied the Greek, I found that Jesus said something rather different. As we noted in “A Quick Dip,” the verb desire can be translated as to want to have something, to desire to possess something for one’s own. So when Jesus prays, “Father, these whom you have entrusted to my care, I desire,” what he is really saying is, “Daddy, I want to have these special disciples as my own possessions.”

Of course, Jesus is not referring to the disciples in a materialistic sense, the way we would when we would state, “I want to have this car or that house for my own.” Here the possessing has to do with — once again — a relationship. A very intimate relationship. This is the same verb one would use when stating, “I desire to have her for my wife,” or, “I want him for my husband.” From beginning to end, the tapestry is about relationships.

The Purpose Clauses

Why does Jesus desire to have these disciples for his own? Does he want them so that they can be his servants? Does he want them so that they can work as his laborers in the harvest or his agents in the field? No. Jesus does not want his followers for these purposes. Instead, he tells his Daddy that he wants them, “so that wherever I am they also may be in my company.” Jesus desires to have his followers not as his servants or emissaries, but as his companions and friends.

This is where Jesus begins to expand his vision and show the disciples what lies beyond the imminent hazards and hardships. When Jesus speaks of wanting the disciples to be “wherever I am,” he echoes both a desire and a promise which he has already spoken. In the first part of this prayer, Jesus had asked his Daddy to “Glorify me in your presence — by your side.” Jesus’ desire for the disciples to be “wherever I am” means that he desires for them to be with him back home — in his Daddy’s house, by his Daddy’s side. Furthermore, this vision reflects the promise Jesus made at the very beginning of this farewell conversation: “In my Father’s house there are many rooms…I am going to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself so that you shall also be wherever I am” (John 14:2-3). The Greek phrase translated “to take someone to oneself”2 is the same phrase used to refer to a husband taking a wife into his home. Again and again, Jesus underlines his wish for an abiding relationship with his followers.

A second purpose clause in our current passage expands the vision even further. It raises another why question: Why does Jesus want to have these disciples by his side as his special companions? Jesus gives this answer: “so that they may see my glory which you entrusted to me because you loved me before you laid the foundation of the world.” After the end, Jesus wants his disciples to personally experience what existed before the beginning. With their own eyes, he wants the disciples to see the full weight of his magnificence. In Jesus’ company and in God’s presence, all that God has ever been will be completely revealed. Jesus longs for the disciples to be there to see it for themselves. Who could imagine a greater vision than this?

The Missing Imperative

In each of the three previous sections of this prayer, Jesus used an imperative verb; he made a formal request asking God to do something. As we already noted in this part of his prayer, we find no imperative, no actual request. Why not? Why did Jesus not pray, “Daddy, give [imperative] these disciples to me so that they may be with me”?

For myself, it has been very important to understand why Jesus did not ask God to do this — to give the disciples to him, to place them in his company. When I pondered the meaning of the missing imperative, one insight became clear to me. Jesus’ refusal to make an actual request at this point in his prayer reveals to us both a profound truth and an important lesson. The truth is this: The choice of where the disciples will abide in the end will rest not with Jesus nor his Daddy, but with the disciples themselves. You see, if Jesus were to ask and God were to answer by forcefully placing the disciples in Jesus’ company, that would be enslavement. And Jesus does not want the disciples to reside with him because they are slaves. He wants them to reside with him because that is where they choose to abide. In this prayer, Jesus knocks on the door of his disciples’ hearts. Through the peephole he holds up this glorious picture, this magnificent vision of an eternal life in his company. A wish, a hope is offered up — but that is all. Jesus will not ask God to force his will upon his followers. The choice belongs to them.

From this part of Jesus’ prayer, I have learned this important lesson: Whenever I pray for a loved one, I should ask for no more than what Jesus asks here. Certainly when I pray with my friends, I can offer them a vision — a magnificent vision which encompasses before the beginning and after the end. I can express my desire for them to be with me in Jesus’ company and in God’s presence. I can offer them a room in my Daddy’s house. However, the rest must be up to them. I must not ask God to force my will upon them. None of us should ask God to knock down the door and drag our friends behind us. After all, we do not want them to become slaves; we want them to become our companions. Like Jesus, when we pray, we should do no more than express our hearts’ desire for our loved ones to be with us as our eternal companions in our Daddy’s house.

The Conclusion

Jesus brings his prayer to a close by saying, “Righteous Father, the godless world has not known you, but I know you intimately and these know in their hearts that you sent me.” With the words righteous Father, Jesus concludes his prayer with an abrupt change in images. As we noted in “A Quick Dip,” the term righteous introduces a legalistic element into this prayer. The image of a righteous Judge who fairly administers deserved punishments and rewards contrasts the images of a protective Shepherd and a sheltering Father. Why would Jesus choose to leave his disciples with this image of a judging God?

Let us again put ourselves into the disciples’ places for the moment. At this table, we have heard Jesus ask God to keep us safe and to set us apart. Jesus has also said that he wants us to have a place by his side in his Daddy’s house. Upon hearing these words, I am afraid that I might begin to reason: “I have a special relationship with Jesus. He wants me to see his glory and to be his companion. I must be pretty important. After all, I have been faithful to Jesus. I have tried to live a good life, to do what is right, and to help others. I guess I deserve this seat at this table and a room in that mansion…” and BAM! Jesus starts talking about a righteous Judge. A Judge who is honest and fair. A Judge who hands out rewards and punishments to those who deserve them. It kind of bursts my bubble.

Jesus declares, “The godless world has not known you.” The godless world has turned its back on God, moved toward the darkness of sin and hatred, chosen to live in disobedience and selfishness. To this godless world, there is only one verdict a righteous Judge could hand down: guilty. There is only one punishment a righteous Judge could bestow: death. It is what the godless, sinful world rightfully deserves.

Jesus then declares, “But I have known you intimately.” Known you and perfectly obeyed you. Loved you and served you with my whole being. To this beloved Son there is only one verdict a righteous Judge could hand down: innocent. There is only one reward a righteous Judge could bestow: everlasting praise. It is what Jesus rightfully deserves.

And the disciples? What do they deserve? Jesus declares, “And these know in their hearts that you sent me. For I have revealed your name to them, and I will reveal it.” Before Jesus stepped into their lives, the disciples were part of the godless world, lost in the quagmire of sin and disobedience. They did not know God. They were not superior to nor more important than any other sinner. They deserved nothing better than what the rest of the sinful world deserved. Yet God moved in their lives, sending them the gift of his Son — the Revealer — who made God’s power and grace known to them in a way never before seen. By that grace alone these disciples were moved from darkness to light. It was a gift that they had done nothing to deserve.

And so, because of the love of a righteous Daddy, no one gets what they deserve. The innocent Shepherd becomes the sacrificial Lamb, sentenced to die for sins he did not commit. Through his death, the guilty world is declared innocent. The Father’s secret plan of salvation is revealed. The disciples have the opportunity to become Jesus’ eternal companions, not because it is what they deserve, but because it is a gift that has been bought for them at a tremendous price.

Why? Why does Jesus work to reveal this power and grace to us? Why does he pay this terrible penalty for us? What does his heart long to achieve by his sacrifice? He tells us in the final purpose clause in this farewell prayer: “So that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I may be in them.”

The ultimate goal. The highest hope for each of his disciples. Love. Unconditional love. More than anything else, Jesus wants all who follow him to experience the same great love which the Father has poured out onto his precious Son. But that is not all. Not only does Jesus want his Daddy’s love to dwell in us, he himself desires to live in us — to be in our hearts, minds, and spirits every moment of every day from this moment right now and throughout eternity. When all has been said and done, this is the relationship for which Jesus most intently yearns.

An Invitation

Thus ends a truly incredible prayer. But the lesson has not ended. One thing I have learned by watching Jesus pray is that it is important to pay attention to what happens after his prayer. So many times in my own life, I have prayed beautiful prayers which became hopelessly ineffective because of what I did afterward: nothing. In my own past I have prayed for a loved one to get well, but then did nothing to minister to him in his illness. I have prayed for a hungry beggar, but then failed to give her food. I have prayed for a friend to be comforted, but I did not visit him. I have prayed for a relative who was lost to be found, but I never shared my faith with her. I have prayed for the church’s ministry to be strengthened, but I never chose a cause. Ashamedly, I could go on and on.

Jesus does not pray like this. Always, after every prayer, Jesus acts. We have seen it over and over. Jesus prays privately and then calls twelve apostles into service. He says a blessing and feeds 5000 people. He offers a prayer of thanks and raises a dead man. And here in John’s Gospel, after offering this prayer, what does Jesus do? He leaves this place of safety and goes out to find Judas and the Temple guards. Jesus picks up his cross and drags it to his place of execution. You know, Jesus never prays and then stands back to see what might happen. He always prays and then acts. It is a powerful lesson for us all.

And what about the disciples — the ones for whom this farewell prayer was first spoken? What did they do after hearing this prayer? The very existence of the church is a testimony to their final actions. Not two, not six, but all eleven of these disciples who heard Jesus speak this prayer responded by taking up their own crosses, their own risky missions, their own difficult assignments. Jesus’ last prayer for his friends ultimately led them to a glory which they themselves could never have imagined.

What about you and me? Honestly, as followers of Christ, how many of us today live our lives as though we do not even have an assignment? Or if we do feel as though we have an assignment, it is not a very tough one. Maybe it is just a weekend assignment: show up at church, maybe give some money or teach a class. Maybe some of us even go to the trouble of opening our Bible a few minutes during the week or give a passing nod to God from time to time. Yet if you and I truly listen to Jesus’ farewell prayer, if we gaze into the window of our Master’s heart and see all that he desires — not only for us, but for all of humanity — how can we come away from this prayer and not understand that we have been called to do much, much more? As a disciple of Jesus, what is your assignment, your mission, your purpose? The sinful world needs to hear the truth. They need to see in your life what it means to have a permanent relationship with the Son of God. They need to see an example of how someone can follow the Shepherd, even when the way is dark, difficult, or dangerous. They need to feel the love of God in their everyday lives. So I ask again, what is the Shepherd leading you to do?

Yes, you and I, we are the disciples sitting at this table. This wonderful prayer has been spoken for us. We are safe. We are set apart. We have been sent out into the sinful world on an important, though formidable mission. Yet we have also been given this glorious vision of what lies ahead, beyond everything, including death. To us, God’s name — God’s power and God’s will — has been revealed. Only one question remains, and it is Jesus’ final invitation to us: What are we going to do now, after hearing this prayer? Will we get up and go out, or will we just sit here and do nothing?

Our actions will be our final answer.

Chapter 21 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 This original Greek word can be found in this footnote of the free PDF download.


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