John 17:1-11

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This prayer is the climax of Jesus' last discourse, which began in chapter 13 of John.This is the Gethsemane scene in John, however, it doesn't take place in the garden nor is it a prayer of agony. Rather it is a prayer of intimacy and an expression of the relationship between the Father and Jesus, between those who are present at this prayer and Jesus. It is wholly distinctive in the Gospel tradition as well as the whole of the biblical tradition. In the traditions of Israel, Jesus' prayer would traditionally be known as the high priestly prayer, which is the prayer of the high priest on the day of atonement when the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the temple and pray for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. This tradition is in the background of this prayer.

One of the ways of understanding this prayer is that it stands in contrast to the shame of Jesus' death. Throughout John's gospel, there is talk about Jesus being glorified. The climax of this theme of glorification is his death on the cross, which was in its actual character, a supremely shameful death. Jesus’ prayer for those who have been given to him is a prayer for their protection from the evil one, a prayer that they may be one, and a prayer that they may know Jesus' identity.

The content of the prayer is less important than its dynamic. The love, the honor, the glory that Jesus expresses to God is important in conveying the meaning of the story. It is a somewhat extraordinary experience to have Jesus praying for you. This is a prayer that you can return to and experience Jesus' praying for you when you are facing difficult things in your life and when you feel separated from God.

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