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.” – John 17:1-2 ESV
Jesus had just told His disciples that He would be leaving. He had warned them that the hour was coming when they would desert him and scatter in fear. He was on the eve of his betrayal and arrest. Jesus knew that the fate for which He had come was near. And in spite of all this, Jesus was able to tell His disciples, “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33 ESV). And after He had spoken these words, He prayed. Jesus was not alone. Even though His most faithful followers would end up denying Him and running in fear at His arrest, His Father would be with Him. And it was to His Father that He turned. The prayer that He prayed is both amazing and inspiring at the same time. It provides us with a glimpse into Jesus’ relationship with His Father and reveals the scope of the divine plan for man’s redemption.
Jesus was well aware of His circumstances. He was not surprised or caught off guard. It was for this very moment that He had come to earth. His incarnation, God becoming man, was in order that He might live a sinless life and die a sinner’s death on man’s behalf. And that hour had come. But Jesus’ response to His impending death was far from fatalistic. His was not a helpless resignation to an event over which He had no control. No, Jesus was facing His circumstances willingly and with a deep desire to see His Father glorified. He prayed, “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus knew that God was going to glorify Him through His own death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Long after the events surrounding Jesus’ death and ascension, Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV). Jesus knew He was going to die, but He also knew that His Father was going to bring Him back to life. Not only that, He knew that He would be restored to His rightful position at the right hand of God. He would be glorified and His Father would be glorified. But at the moment Jesus prayed this prayer, it was all a matter of trust on His part. He would still have to go through a humiliating arrest, a series of sham trials, all kinds of verbal and physical abuse, and the excruciating pain of a Roman crucifixion. But Jesus knew His Father well. He was intimately familiar with His Father’s will and His own role in it. So He rested in the fact that His suffering was an essential part in the redemptive plan of God.
The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to provide eternal life to man. God had given Him authority to do so. After His ascension, Jesus would tell His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18 ESV). Then He would proceed to commission them to go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus had authority over all flesh. He had both the power to save and to judge, to forgive and condemn. His death, burial and resurrection would become the final determiner regarding the eternal fate of all mankind. “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NLT).
Jesus faced His fate with faith, knowing full well that His Father loved Him and that His Father’s will for Him was best. Even in His prayer in the garden, just moments before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus would pray, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV). His human nature did was what was normal and natural – it desired another way. It resisted the idea of the gruesome death ahead. Which is why Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42 ESV). In His humanity, He preferred a different solution. But in His deity, He knew that His Father’s will was best – not only for Him, but for all mankind. What a sobering reminder of our need to trust our heavenly Father. So often, we find ourselves facing difficult circumstances and we pray that God would remove us from it, but we fail to trust His will and rest in the reality that He is ultimately in control and has our good and His glory in mind at all times. We can trust Him. Because Jesus trusted God, we now have a relationship with the Father and the promise of eternal life. So no matter what we might face in this life, we can know that our future glorification is assured, and rest in that unfailing promise from God.