The Reverence He Deserves
Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (17:5)
Having accomplished everything according to the predetermined plan of God, Jesus knew that He would be exalted to the place where He had been before His incarnation—at the glorious right hand of His Father (cf. Mark 16:19; Eph. 1:20). With that exaltation in sight, Jesus expressed His desire to return to the glory of heaven. Therefore He asked the Father to glorify Him, together with the Father, with the glory He had shared with the Father before the world was. The apostle John described the eternal fellowship Christ had enjoyed with the Father in the prologue to his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word [the Son], and the Word was with (lit. ‘face-to-face with’) God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1–2). After an earthly life of submission and humiliation during the incarnation, Jesus was ready to return to the full glory that awaited Him at the Father’s right hand. It was time for His coronation, which Paul described in Philippians 2:9–11:
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus looked beyond the humiliation and suffering in obedience, His death on the cross (Phil. 2:5–8), to the glory that awaited Him upon His return to heaven. The glory He would receive was rightfully His, both by His divine title (as the second member of the Trinity) and by His perfect submission (since He had submitted to His Father perfectly). He also knew that His death would bring eternal life to all who would believe in Him, thus causing joy in heaven (Luke 15:7, 10) and adding voices to the eternal choir of those who will praise and worship Him forever. The contemplation of those marvelous realities enabled Him to rejoice in the cross, even though He despised the shame of bearing sin (Heb. 12:2) and the horror of being forsaken by the Father (Matt. 27:46).
As those on the other side of the cross, removed from it by nearly two thousand years, believers must never lose sight of the glory and honor Christ deserves because of His redemptive work. What He endured on the cross is now the anthem of Christian praise and worship. And it will be for all of eternity, as believers forever praise the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:9). Though the Gospels record His earthly life and ministry—including the agony and suffering of His passion—it must always be remembered that He is no longer on the cross or in the tomb. He is even now the glorified Son of God, seated at His Father’s right hand in power and glory (Rev. 1:13–20; cf. Dan. 7:13–14). The joy of seeing and praising Him in triumph awaits all those who love Him, while all who reject Him will be rejected by Him (Matt. 7:23; 25:41).
The glorious truth is that the cross made eternal life possible for all who sincerely believe in Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9–10), and even before the cross all who genuinely repented of sin and trusted the forgiveness and mercy of God as their only hope (cf. Isa. 55:6–7). Were it not for the cross, there would be no salvation from sin for anyone in any age, no gospel of grace, no hope for this life, and no eternal destiny but hell. Without the cross, the eternal plan of salvation that God promised from before the beginning of time would never have come to fruition. The contemplation of those truths should cause everyone who knows and loves the Lord Jesus Christ to say with the apostle Paul, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).
5. The glory which I had with thee. He desires to be glorified with the Father, not that the Father may glorify him secretly, without any witnesses, but that, having been received into heaven, he may give a magnificent display of his greatness and power, that every knee may bow to him, (Philip. 2:10.) Consequently, that phrase in the former clause, with the Father, is contrasted with earthly and fading glory, as Paul describes the blessed immortality of Christ, by saying that he died to sin once, but now he liveth to God, (Rom. 6:10.)
The glory which I had with thee before the world was. He now declares that he desires nothing that does not strictly belong to him, but only that he may appear in the flesh, such as he was before the creation of the world; or, to speak more plainly, that the Divine majesty, which he had always possessed, may now be illustriously displayed in the person of the Mediator, and in the human flesh with which he was clothed. This is a remarkable passage, which teaches us that Christ is not a God who has been newly contrived, or who has existed only for a time; for if his glory was eternal, himself also has always been. Besides, a manifest distinction between the person of Christ and the person of the Father is here expressed; from which we infer, that he is not only the eternal God, but also that he is the eternal Word of God, begotten by the Father before all ages.
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:4–5)
Few satisfactions in life rival that of a job well done. Anyone who follows a task through to completion is rewarded with the approval of others and a personal sense of achievement. It is, of course, true that nothing we do in this life merits true and ultimate satisfaction, since none of our works is perfectly good. Moreover, our work is virtually never finished. An immaculately clean house soon gets dirty. Every workplace is constantly beset with new problems and challenges that must be met. For this reason, our job satisfaction is only partial and fleeting at best.
There is one person, however, who is completely and eternally satisfied with his work, having perfectly accomplished his mission in life. Jesus Christ prayed out of his own satisfaction and the Father’s approval of the work that he achieved to perfection for our salvation: “I glorified you on earth,” Jesus prayed to the Father, “having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
Christ Received a Work
As Jesus faced his death on the night of his arrest, he looked upon his life with a perfectly clean conscience. Frédéric Godet comments: “He does not perceive in His life, at this supreme moment, either any evil committed, or even any good omitted. The duty of each hour has been perfectly fulfilled. There has been in this human life which He has now behind him, not only no spot, but no deficiency.” The words of Psalm 40:7–8 were the watchword of Jesus’ life: “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’ ”
Not only did Jesus perfectly obey the Father all his life, but he prays about a specific mission that he came into the world to fulfill. He prays to the Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
When did Jesus receive this work from God the Father? There is ample evidence in the Bible that in eternity past the members of the Trinity entered into a pact for the redemption of the elect. This agreement is known by theologians as the covenant of redemption. We see evidence of this precreation covenant in John 17:4, where Jesus speaks of accomplishing a prearranged work, for which he receives a stipulated reward. He had previously told the disciples: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (4:34). The book of Hebrews concludes with a benediction appealing to “the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20). This eternal covenant, fulfilled on the cross, is mentioned by Peter when he speaks of Jesus as the Lamb slain “before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). Isaiah foretold Jesus’ crucifixion in terms of this precreation pact, saying, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring.… Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; … he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors” (Isa. 53:10–12). These verses describe the cross in terms of Christ’s reward for fulfilling his mission of salvation.
Louis Berkhof summarizes the biblical data concerning this precreation pact: “The Father required of the Son, who appeared in this covenant as the Surety and Head of His people, and as the Last Adam, that he should make amends for the sin of Adam and of those whom the Father had given him, and should do what Adam failed to do by keeping the law and thus securing eternal life for all His spiritual progeny.” This mission involved the following particulars:
- God the Son should take up a human nature by being born of a woman, thus experiencing all the weakness and infirmity of our nature, except for sin (Gal. 4:4–5; Heb. 2:10–15; 4:15);
- he, the Son of God, would place himself under the law, making himself liable for his own obedience and for the penalty of his people’s sins (Ps. 40:8; Matt. 5:17–18; John 8:28–29; Phil. 2:6–8); and
- after securing forgiveness and eternal life for his people, he would send the Spirit to apply this salvation through the new birth into saving faith, through which his people would be saved by grace (John 10:16; 16:14–15; Heb. 2:10–13; 7:25).
For his part, God the Father pledged a number of blessings to the Son:
- the Father would give to the Son a people in reward for his accomplished work, “a seed so numerous that it would be a multitude which no man could number” (Pss. 22:27; 72:17);
- the Father “would prepare the Son a body, which would be a fit tabernacle for him” (Luke 1:35; Heb. 10:5);
- the Father would send the Holy Spirit to equip Jesus for his divine work in the flesh, and with the Son would send the Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify the people given to Christ;
- the Father would, upon the Son’s mission accomplishment, “commit to Him all power in heaven and on earth for the government of the world and of His Church (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20–22; Phil. 2:9–11); and would finally reward Him as Mediator with the glory which He as the Son of God had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5).”
Understanding the covenant of redemption shows us how it is that Jesus secured our salvation: he fulfilled the eternal terms by which the Father has bound himself to grant Christ’s people eternal life. Thus, our salvation does not rest on the brittle foundation of our personal faith. We receive salvation through faith alone, because Christ accomplished our salvation by his works, fulfilling a covenant with the Father that was sealed in eternity past.
Lest we think of the covenant of redemption as a matter of academic and abstract theology, the Puritan John Flavel reminds us of how personally this covenant involved each believer in Christ. He imagines a dialogue between the Father and the Son. The Father says, “My Son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls?” Christ replies, “O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than that they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.” “But my Son,” says God, “if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.” And Christ replied, “Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures … yet I am content to undertake it.”
Flavel concludes from that exchange, which resonates with the biblical record, that we cannot remain ungrateful to One so pure who bore our stain, One so rich who took our poverty, and One so innocent who paid the penalty for our guilt because of love. How can we, he asks, ignore so great a salvation or complain about the duty of obedience to Christ? Flavel writes, “O if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in this his wonderful [compassion] for you, you could not do it.”
Christ Completed His Work
Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus referred constantly to being sent by the Father on a saving mission (John 3:16, etc.), saying that he “must work the works of him who sent me” (9:4). Now, praying on the brink of his arrest, Jesus sees the completion of the work given to him by God, speaking of having “accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (17:4). Jesus includes the cross among his finished works, since, as Augustine asserted, “Christ says He has finished that which He most surely knows He will finish.” Praying in the disciples’ hearing, Jesus looked back on his taking up a human nature, his perfect, lifelong obedience to the letter and spirit of God’s holy law, and his faithful rebuff of Satan’s attempt to dissuade Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness. J. C. Ryle writes: “He did what the first Adam failed to do, and all the saints in every age fail to do: He kept the law perfectly, and by so keeping it brought in everlasting righteousness for all them that believe.”7 Paul explains Jesus’ covenant perfection as the foreordained remedy for Adam’s covenant failure and ours: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).
All that remained was for Jesus to bear the cross, as his sovereign will was committed to do. By his perfect life, lived on our behalf, Jesus provided the righteousness that his people lacked in themselves but need in order to stand in the holy presence of God. Now, Jesus would redeem us from the guilt of our sin. Isaiah foretold: “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.… He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:5, 12).
William Barclay, the often-helpful but sometimes quite liberal commentator on the Bible, compared Jesus’ achievement to that of a courier boy who died delivering his message during the German bombing of Bristol. His dying words were: “I have delivered my message.” Barclay mentions another example from the First World War, when a battlefield engineer was celebrated for sacrificing his life to connect the line that enabled the message to get through. Barclay compares this to what Jesus accomplished: “He had given his life that the message might get through. That is exactly what Jesus did. He had completed His task; He had brought God’s love to men. For Him that meant the Cross.” It is true that Jesus delivered a message of God’s love on the cross. But it is false that this was the sum of what Jesus achieved. Jesus did not die merely so that God’s message of salvation would get through to us: God’s Son died actually to achieve our salvation by laying down his life as an atoning Sacrifice for our sins. Therefore, while Jesus prays now of completing his work, he would not utter the decisive words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), until the moment came for him to die for our sins. Jesus died not merely to send a message but to complete a work, the result of which was salvation for those belonging to him.
We know that Jesus finished his work and accomplished his mission not only because he prayed in this way, but because the Father publicly declared his own satisfaction. I mentioned the satisfaction of a job well done: there has never been any satisfaction so infinitely great as the Father’s satisfaction in the covenant-fulfilling work of his divine Son. The proof of God’s satisfaction was Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Paul writes that Jesus was therefore “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The apostle adds that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (4:25). This means that “by the resurrection God gave notice that Christ’s death was that perfect substitution for sin he entered this world to make and that he, the Father, had accepted it in place of the condemnation of the sinner.” Since the Father has validated Jesus’ mission accomplishment, we rejoice in Paul’s declaration: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1).
Christ’s Work Glorified God
Not only was the Father satisfied by Jesus’ job fulfillment, but Christ was himself satisfied by what he had done. This is why he prays, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). As Isaiah had foretold: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11). Jesus saw that his achievement would save his beloved people while bringing glory to the Father.
It is evident that Jesus has two different kinds of glory in mind in this prayer. In verse 5 he speaks of the divine glory he had before creation, and in verse 4 Jesus speaks of the glory he achieved on earth. The idea of glory in the latter sense is well expressed by the Greek word doxa, which stems from the verb dokeo, meaning “to seem.” Paul uses this verb in Galatians 2:6 to speak of people who “seemed to be influential.” The noun form was used for what one thinks. We have it in our word orthodox, which connotes thinking correctly, and heterodox, which connotes thinking differently. Over time, the word doxa stood for something that was of good repute so as to be especially praiseworthy. In this sense, doxa was used in the Greek translations to speak of God’s glory. Psalm 24:10, for instance, states, “The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!” Today, we sing the Doxology, a hymn praising God’s glory.
In this sense, to glorify God is to display his praiseworthy qualities or attributes. This is, of course, what Jesus did in the world, showing in himself the glory of what God is like. Jesus’ life did not embrace worldly glory, but instead, through his life of humble obedience and ministry, Jesus displayed the infinitely praiseworthy character of God: his holiness, power, goodness, sovereignty, justice, truth, and mercy.
It would especially be in his self-sacrifice of the cross that Jesus would display the Father to the world. He began his prayer by asking the Father to enable him to do this: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). On the cross, Jesus displayed the glory of God’s love and grace for sinners. At the same time, Jesus displayed as never before the perfect justice of God as the Father poured out the whole of his wrath upon sin, even when borne by his beloved Son. The cross displays the sovereignty of God as reams of biblical prophecy are brought into focus and fulfillment. In like manner, Jesus displayed the perfections of the glory of all the attributes of God when he bore the cross to free us from our sins.
Just as Jesus glorified the Father on the earth by completing the work given him to do, we, too, will glorify God by doing the work that he has given us to do. We glorify the Father by believing the gospel of the Son whom he has sent. We glorify God by pursuing lives of holiness in obedience to his Word. We display God’s glory by laboring together to build up the church and obey the Great Commission, making disciples of all kinds of people through our witness to the gospel. It is one thing to praise God with our lips, but quite another to praise God with our lives! J. C. Ryle comments: “To sing ‘Glory, glory,’ on a death-bed, after living an inconsistent life, is, to say the least, a proof that a man is a very ignorant Christian.”
Christ Was Glorified for His Work
Christ received a work from the Father, he completed the work, and he brought glory to the Father by his work. Finally, Jesus prays to be glorified for his work with the glory he had with the Father in eternity past: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).
Matthew Henry points out four truths grounded in this request. First, Jesus asserts his full deity, coequal and coeternal with the Father. This is the truth expressed in the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1–2). Second, Christ was eternally full of glory, as was the Father. Henry writes: “He was from eternity the brightness of his Father’s glory.… Christ undertook the work of redemption, not because he needed glory, for he had a glory with the Father before the world, but because we needed glory.” Third, Jesus makes it clear that he divested himself of his outward glory in taking up a human nature. “He laid down this glory for a time, as a pledge that he would go through with this undertaking, according to the appointment of the Father.” Fourth, having performed and fulfilled God’s appointed work, Christ ascended into heaven and resumed his former outward glory, now glorified as both God and man. Henry urges us to seek after the glory of Christ rather than the tarnished glory of this world. “Let the same mind be in us,” he writes; “Lord, give the glories of this world to whom thou wilt give them, but let me have my portion of glory in the world to come.”
Jesus’ petition in verse 5 employs a second idea of glory. He speaks of a kind of glory that he temporarily laid down during his life on earth, even while he glorified the Father during his life and ministry. This second idea of glory is frequently seen in the Old Testament: glory as the radiance of the splendor of the light of God. Psalm 104:1–2 exclaims: “You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment.” When Moses descended from meeting with God on Mount Sinai, the people asked him to cover his face because of the brightness of the glory reflected on it. When Solomon dedicated the temple on Mount Zion, the glory cloud “filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10). In many Jewish writings, this glory was called the shekinah glory, the outshining of the brilliance of the light of God. It is this visible glory, the splendor of divine radiance, that Jesus prays to resume as the reward for fulfilling God’s work.
We know from the Bible that Jesus did take up this radiant glory upon his ascension into heaven. John himself would see it when Jesus appeared to him on the Isle of Patmos. In the book of Revelation, John tells us that he saw Jesus in glory,
clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.… His face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Rev. 1:13–18)
This vision was given to encourage John and his friends in their great trials. It shows that Jesus has entered into the glory for which he prayed on the night of his arrest. He has ascended to the right hand of God, reigning with divine, sovereign power over heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20–22). It is this glory of Christ that is heaven’s great song and the joy of Christ’s people forever: “Worthy are you …, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.… Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Rev. 5:9–12).
Are We Satisfied?
In accomplishing the Father’s mission, Jesus was satisfied, and he asked to receive the glory promised to him as the Son of Man. God the Father was satisfied, declaring in the resurrection his acceptance of Christ’s saving work. The only remaining question is whether we are satisfied in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Are you looking for Jesus to do something more than living a perfect life on your behalf and shedding his life’s blood for your sins? Do you desire the lesser, fleeting glory of the world, sin, and the flesh? If you realize your urgent need to be forgiven of your sins and for a righteousness to stand in the presence of God’s glory, then you will be satisfied in the finished work of Christ. Realizing what Jesus has accomplished for us, we sing:
Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
If we realize that Jesus finished his work, that his mission is accomplished, then we will cease trying to do something more for our salvation. Our great need now is not to add our works to Christ’s finished work but for the glorious Christ to reign in us with his power. Seeing Jesus robed in the splendor of his heavenly glory becomes our hope and joy. We sing:
He ever lives above, for me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love, his precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for ev’ry race, his blood atoned for ev’ry race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
God is satisfied in Jesus and has glorified his Son in heaven. The only thing that he desires even more is for Jesus to be glorified in our hearts. This is the goal of our salvation, which we receive by believing in him, so that God would shine in our hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
5 A second stage in revealing the glory of God will be the glorification of the Son when he returns to the place he enjoyed before the world began. The preexistence of the Son is clearly taught throughout the fourth gospel. John’s prologue begins with the assertion that “when all things began, the Word already was” (NEB). In 8:58 Jesus exclaimed, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (see also 12:28 and Paul’s word in Php 2:6).
Jesus anticipates his return to the presence of the Father because it sets the stage for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (16:7) and the founding and expansion of the early church (Ac 1:4; 2:1–4). It is by bringing men and women to faith in Jesus that the redemptive mission of the Son is carried out in time. When the church is obedient to its mandate to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), glory and praise is brought to God.
5 Now Jesus prays God to glorify him. He looks for glory in the last place that people would look for it, namely in the cross. And he sees this glory for which he prays as linked with his preincarnate glory with the Father.22 There is a clear assertion of Christ’s pre-existence here (we have already seen such a claim, 1:1; 8:58; 16:28). There is also the claim that he had enjoyed a unique glory with the Father in that preexistent state. And now, as evil men are about to do their worst to him, he looks for the Father to glorify him again in the same way.24 It is the Father who will glorify him with true glory in the cross, and in what follows. Paul tells us that Christ “was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father” (Rom. 6:4). In the passion and all that was associated with it Jesus would be glorified with the true glory, a glory continuous with, and indeed identical with, the glory he had “before the world began.” For “the world” see Additional Note B, pp. 111–13. The noun occurs eighteen times in this prayer, which is considerably more than in any section of comparable length anywhere else in this Gospel. Clearly the right relationship of the disciples to the world was of great moment to our Lord as he contemplated leaving them.
4–5 Jesus now reverses the order of his opening petition (“Glorify your Son, so that the Son might glorify you,” v. 1) in such a way that the Son’s glorification of the Father comes first: “I glorified you on the earth. … And now you, Father, glorify me in your own presence, with the glory I had in your presence before the world was” (vv. 4–5, italics added). More specifically, he has glorified the Father on earth by “having completed the work12 you have given me that I should do” (v. 4). Long before, and in a very different setting, he has said, “My food is that I might do the will of the One who sent me and complete his work” (4:34). The nature of that “work” he will spell out shortly (vv. 6–8), but for the moment he mentions it only briefly, as the basis for the twin petitions, “Glorify your Son” (v. 1) and “glorify me in your own presence” (v. 5). The result is a kind of chiasm:
a “Glorify your Son” (v. 1a)
b “So that the Son might glorify you” (v. 1b)
b′ “I have glorified you” (v. 4)
a′ “And now glorify me” (v. 5)
Jesus is asking the Father for “glorification” (a and a′) on the basis of having glorified the Father already on earth (b′), and with the promise of continuing to do so (b). This continuing glorification of the Father by the Son is probably best understood as the continuing gift of eternal life to all those whom the Father has given him (see v. 2), with life understood as knowledge of “the only True God” (v. 3). This will take place through the testimony of the Advocate among those who are disciples already, and in the end through the written Gospel itself (see 20:31).
The “glory” for which Jesus is asking is here defined as “the glory that I had in your presence before the world was” (v. 5). This is consistent with the notion that this “glory” is understood as the Son’s reunion with the Father, but more specifically it revisits the Gospel’s opening affirmation that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). While the allusion to the Gospel’s beginning is indirect rather than direct, the reader is expected to know that Jesus was “with God in the beginning” (1:2), and that he shared in the Father’s glory (see 1:14b). He alluded occasionally to his preexistence, in such expressions as “I came down from heaven” (6:38), or “[what] if you see the Son of man going up where he was at first?” (6:62), or “The things I have seen in the Father’s presence I speak” (8:38), or “before Abraham came to be, I am” (8:58). But more often he spoke ambiguously of having “come into the world,” or being “sent” from the Father, expressions consistent with preexistence while not quite demanding it (see 1:6, where John too is a man “sent from God”). Jesus’ language here in prayer to the Father, accenting where he came from and where he is going, recalls his “plain” revelation to the disciples just a few verses earlier, “I came forth from the Father, and I have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going off to the Father” (16:28). Turning his face now toward the Father, he asks that his journey back to the Father might begin. At the same time, the disciples are very much on his mind (see vv. 2–3), and the future glorification for which Jesus prays is, as we will see (v. 24), as much for their sakes as for his.
It is about future glory (v. 5)
Before coming to this world of ours and sharing our humanity, Jesus fully experienced the glory that was his by right as God’s eternal Son. But in taking our humanity, that glory was veiled. On the Mount of Transfiguration it peeped through briefly, but when Jesus ascended to his Father forty days after his resurrection, he was once again fully revealed in all his glory. But have you realized that something had changed? When Jesus returned to his Father’s presence it was with a glorified body—a body he did not possess before his incarnation. And today, in that glorified body he is as fully revealed as God’s one and only precious Son as he was before the world began. Little wonder that John struggles to find appropriate words when he is given a sight of the glorified Saviour in heaven in Revelation 1:12–18.
5. And now—in return.
glorify thou me—The “I Thee” and “Thou Me” are so placed in the original, each beside its fellow, as to show that a perfect reciprocity of services of the Son to the Father first, and then of the Father to the Son in return, is what our Lord means here to express.
with the glory which I had with thee before the world was—when “in the beginning the Word was with God” (Jn 1:1), “the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:18). With this pre-existent glory, which He veiled on earth, He asks to be reinvested, the design of the veiling being accomplished—not, however, simply as before, but now in our nature.
Ver. 5.—And now (νῦν)—the very point of time has come—glorify thou me, O Father, explaining the opening of the prayer, “Glorify thy Son.” He identifies his own Personality—“me”—with that of “the Son,” and “thy Son.” With thy own self (παρὰ σεαυτῷ); in closest connection and fellowship with thyself—a relation which has been arrested or suspended since I have been “Jesus Christ,” and glorifying thee amid the toil and sorrow of this earthly pilgrimage. This immediate glorification of the Son embraces the glory of vicarious death, the triumphant resurrection, the mystery of ascension in the strength of his human memories to the right hand of God (ch. 13:31, 32). He still further defines this wondrous prospect, as with the glory which I had with thee before the world was—before the being of the κόσμος παρὰ σεαντῷ … παρὰ σοι. Παρὰ in John represents local relationships (see ch. 1:40; 4:40; 14:25; Rev. 2:13) or intimate spiritual associations (ch. 14:23). So our Lord remembers and anticipates a “glory with the Father.” That which he refers to as before the existence of the world has been softened down by Grotius, Weltstein, Schleiermacher, and some moderns to mean the glory of the Divine thought and destination concerning him; but the expression παρὰ σοι is far from being exhausted by such a rendering. He who wrote the prologue (ch. 1:2, 18) meant that, as the Logos had been πρὸς τὸν Θέον and εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Πατρός, and at a special epoch “became flesh,” the beamings forth of his glory on earth were those which belonged to human life, to the form of a servant, and were profoundly different from that μορφὴ Θεοῦ in which his innermost self-consciousness, the centre of his Personality, originally dwelt. And now he seeks to carry this new appanage of his Sonship, this God-glorifying humanity, up into the glory of the pre-existent majesty (cf. Phil. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:8, 13). The δόξα which was visible to the disciples on earth (ch. 1:14) was glory limited, coloured, conditioned, by human life and death; but so complete was the Lord’s union with the Logos, that it did not quench his memory of the glory of his omnipresent, eternal Being, nor his remembrance of absolute coexistence with the Father before all worlds. He would lift humanity to the very throne of God by its union with his Person. This stupendous claim both as to the past and future would be utterly bewildering if it stood alone; but the Old Testament has prepared the mind of the disciples for this great mystery (Prov. 8.; Isa. 6.). The theophanies generally, and ch. 8:25 and Heb. 1, with numerous other passages, sustain and corroborate the conception that the Logos of God was throughout all human history on the verge of manifestation in the flesh. The record of the extraordinary God-consciousness of Jesus does transcend all human experience, and baffles us at every turn; but the human consciousness of Jesus appears gradually to have come into such communion with the Logos who had become flesh in him, that he thought the veritable thoughts and felt the emotions of the eternal God as though they were absolutely his own. In addition to this idea of his resumption of his own eternal state, Lange and Moulton, in opposition to Meyer, lay emphasis on the answer to this prayer, consisting in such a manifestation of the premundane glory in his flesh, that it should perfectly establish the relation between the glory of the Father before all worlds, and the glory of utter and complete self-sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The glory of omnipotence and omnipresence is lost in the greater glory of infinite love. Thus the glory which he had with the Father would be best seen in the completion of his agony, the τετέλεσται of the cross.
5 The prayer for glory, accordingly, is for a restoration of that which the Son enjoyed with the Father prior to creation (cf. 1:1–5). Haenchen points out that this prayer assumes that the incarnation entailed a forfeiture of the glory that the Son once possessed; it calls into question therefore Käsemann’s contention that the Evangelist’s representation of the glory of Jesus in his ministry undermines the reality of the incarnation, and made of Jesus a “god walking about the earth” (see Käsemann’s Testament of Jesus, 8–26, and Haenchen, 502). Perhaps we should heed Schnackenburg’s observation, that the glory of Jesus “before the world was made” characterizes not the pre-mundane but the supra-mundane existence of the Logos, and therefore ultimately the superiority of the Revealer to and his transcendence over the world (3:174). Such an interpretation of the Son in relation to the Father in no way cancels out the fundamental utterance of 1:14, “The Word became flesh.”
5. And now Father, glorify thou me in thine own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world existed.
Here the thought of verse 2 is resumed. Jesus is again requesting that the Father glorify him. This time he is thinking especially of the reward upon his mediatorial work. He yearns to go home to his Father. The erstwhile glory which had been his delight before the foundation of the world (orderly universe; see Vol. I, p. 79, footnote , meaning 1) had never been absent from his mind. Throughout his ministry of suffering he, the Man of Sorrows, longed to regain that which he, in the interest of sinners, had voluntarily surrendered (the serene enjoyment of the Father’s presence, unmixed with suffering; cf. Phil. 2:7). “To return again to the very presence of the Father so as to be face to face with him” is what he now requests. See on 1:1. In this connection Heb. 12:2 immediately occurs to the mind: “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.” The meaning is that he endured the cross in order that he might exchange it for the crown. For the meaning of the preposition παρά in the phrase “in thine own presence” see on 14:23, footnote . It is hardly necessary to add that in this yearning for future glory (17:5) or for future joy (Heb. 12:2) there was not even a trace of vulgar selfishness (cf. 17:1). To be sure, whatever God does he does for his own glory, and Jesus is God! Even in his mediatorial capacity it is the divine person who is speaking his words and performing his deeds. Nevertheless, when we remember that “God is love,” that (according to the Fourth Gospel) the persons in the Holy Trinity glorify one another, and that the glory and the joy of the exalted Mediator includes also this element that “he ever lives to make intercession for those who draw near unto God through him” (Heb. 7:25), the problem has been solved. Here in 17:5 the Son is looking forward to the glory of rejoicing in the joy of his saved people, the very people whose salvation he (together with the Father and the Spirit) had planned from eternity, before the world existed. God ever delights in his own works. The Son glories in the Father’s glory, and rejoices in the joy of all the redeemed. When they sing, he sings! (cf. Zeph. 3:17).
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