Having taught extensively on the way of salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, the opposition of the world to the church, and the coming failure of the disciples, Jesus concludes His Farewell Discourse (John 14–17) with a prayer. Today we begin our study of this prayer, which is commonly called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, because in it He intercedes for His people. Such intercession was vital to the work of the old covenant priests, and under the new covenant, priestly intercession continues, for Jesus, our Great High Priest, ever lives to intercede for us in heaven (Num. 14; 2 Chron. 30:27; Heb. 7:25).
Jesus begins His prayer by interceding for Himself, as we see in today’s passage. First, He states that “the hour has come” (John 17:1). This refers to the time appointed for our Lord’s death on the cross, which was yet in the future during most of Jesus’ earthly ministry but has been at hand since His entry into Jerusalem (7:30; 8:20; 12:23). But as Jesus is praying on the night He is betrayed to the authorities (18:1–11), He can say that the hour of His death has come, because things are in motion that will culminate in His crucifixion.
Before we look more at the content of Jesus’ prayer, let us note that Jesus is not being a fatalist when He sees things unfolding as God has planned. He does not stand around and do nothing. He does not “let go and let God,” but He goes to His Father in prayer. He sees no contradiction between God’s certain fulfillment of His plan and His own need and responsibility to commune with the Father.
In this vital hour, Jesus prays for His own glorification so that He can in turn glorify His Father (17:1). Jesus refers to His upcoming death, resurrection, and ascension, but His death is particularly in view. The cross, though shameful from the world’s perspective, is, paradoxically, a moment of great glory for the Father and the Son (3:14; 8:28; 12:32). On the cross, the Savior is lifted up physically, but for those with eyes to see, He is also exalted as the Lord of glory. He is revealed as the One who will endure even an ignoble form of execution for the sake of His people, so much does He love us. And the Father, in turn, is glorified because in the Son’s giving Himself we see the Father’s willingness to give up His Son out of His love for us. We see also in the cross the magnification of the justice of the Father and the Son, as together they work to satisfy God’s righteous judgment against sin so that we can be forgiven.