SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
May 4, 2008
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-25 (4)
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
la. CONTEXT: John 17:1-11
The seventeenth chapter of John, from which today's Gospel is taken, is
traditionally described as Jesus' "high-priestly prayer." It is no longer
possible for schlars to regard it, with Archbishop Temple, as "the most
sacred passage even in the four Gospels--the record of the Lord's prayer of
self-dedication as it lived in the memory and imagination of His most
intimate friend, "or, with Archbishop Bernard, as "the substance of sacred
intercessions preserved for half a century in the memory of a disciple."
The prayer is rather an epitome of Johannine thought about the work of
Christ and his relationship to the Father; almost every verse contains
echoes of the Farewell Discourses which precede it.
The eleven verses appointed for today's Gospel include Jesus' address to
the Father and the first part of his prayer for his followers. In vss. 1-5 he
reports to the Father that he has completed the work assigned to him and
asks to be glorified once more with the glory that was his "before the
world was made." In vss. 6-11 he defines his completed work more
exactly: he has made the Father's name known to those whom the Father
has given him "out of the world," and has entrusted them with the words of
truth. He prays for these disciples that they may be protected from "the
world" and that they may live together in a unity similar to and based on
that of the Father and the Son.
The prayers of Jesus are mentioned frequently in the Synoptic Gospels,
but we are only occasionally informed of their contents; the notable
exceptions are the prayers in Gethsemane and those from the Cross. The
prayer in John 17 is a summary of Johannine theology relative to the work
of Christ: almost every verse contains echoes and allusions to what has
lb. TEXT: John 17:1-11
17:1 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, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
1ταυτα ελαλησεν ιησους, και επαρας τους οφθαλμους αυτου εις τον ουρανον ειπεν, πατερ, εληλυθεν η ωρα: δοξασον σου τον υιον, ινα ο υιος δοξαση σε, 2καθως εδωκας αυτω εξουσιαν πασης σαρκος, ινα παν ο δεδωκας αυτω δωση αυτοις ζωην αιωνιον. 3αυτη δε εστιν η αιωνιος ζωη, ινα γινωσκωσιν σε τον μονον αληθινον θεον και ον απεστειλας ιησουν χριστον. 4εγω σε εδοξασα επι της γης, το εργον τελειωσας ο δεδωκας μοι ινα ποιησω: 5και νυν δοξασον με συ, πατερ, παρα σεαυτω τη δοξη η ειχον προ του τον κοσμον ειναι παρα σοι. 6εφανερωσα σου το ονομα τοις ανθρωποις ους εδωκας μοι εκ του κοσμου. σοι ησαν καμοι αυτους εδωκας, και τον λογον σου τετηρηκαν. 7νυν εγνωκαν οτι παντα οσα δεδωκας μοι παρα σου εισιν: 8οτι τα ρηματα α εδωκας μοι δεδωκα αυτοις, και αυτοι ελαβον και εγνωσαν αληθως οτι παρα σου εξηλθον, και επιστευσαν οτι συ με απεστειλας. 9εγω περι αυτων ερωτω: ου περι του κοσμου ερωτω αλλα περι ων δεδωκας μοι, οτι σοι εισιν, 10και τα εμα παντα σα εστιν και τα σα εμα, και δεδοξασμαι εν αυτοις. 11και ουκετι ειμι εν τω κοσμω, και αυτοι εν τω κοσμω εισιν, καγω προς σε ερχομαι. πατερ αγιε, τηρησον αυτους εν τω ονοματι σου ω δεδωκας μοι, ινα ωσιν εν καθως ημεις.
2. ANALYSIS: John 17:1-11
John 17:l - tauta elaleisen Iesous - "These things" refers back to the
discourse of chapters 13-16, and especially to the concluding words: ego
nenikeika ton kosmon.
pater-- "Father" is the most characteristic term for God in the Fourth
Gospel, occurring 115 times, compared with 73 instances of theos and only
one of kurios (in 12:13, quoting Ps. 118:25f. ).
It is striking that neither "Our Father" nor "Father in the heavens" appears.
There can be no doubt that this reflects, at whatever great remove, the
actual practice of Jesus (cf. Mark, 14:36; Luke 11:2; Romans 8:15,
eleluthen he hora - The opening words of the prayer place it in context of
fulfillment; as in 12:23, the hour so long anticipated (2:4; 7:6,8,30;8:20)
has now arrived and is the hour of the Son's glorification. It is also the
hour of his death, in which his work will be consummated by the voluntary
sacrifice of his life for the salvation of the world.
doxason sou ton huion (cf. 12:23;13:l,31). The glory of the Son is the
consequence of his obedience to the Father, but it should not be understood
as a reward for virtue. The glorification of the Son is for the glorification
of the Father.
hina ho huios doxasei se - Jesus does not ask to be glorified BECAUSE he
has glorified the Father, but IN ORDER THAT he may glorify the Father.
17:2 - edokas auto exousian padeis sarkos - Note the striking parallel in
Mt. 28:18 - edothe moi pasa exousia en ourano kai epi teis geis
17:3 - aute de estin he aionios zoe hina ginoskosin se ton monon alethinon
theon kai hon apesteilas Iesoun Christon - John makes the definition of
eternal life an integral part of the prayer by inserting se before ton
monon alethinon theon. "Life" is a major theme of the Gospel (cf. 1:4;
3:15). By zoe aionios John does not mean this earthly life indefinitely
prolonged, but a life which has neither past nor future, but is lived in
"God's eternal To-day" (C.H. Dodd): life WITH God.
17:4 - ego se edoxasa epi teis geis to ergon teleiosas ho dedokas moi hina
poieso - The participle telesiosas is circumstantial; the context demands
the translation BY HAVING COMPLETED. C.K. Barrett notes that teleiosas
not only "looks back upon the completed life of Jesus," but probably also
looks forward to his death (cf. 19:30-tetelestai).
17:5 - kai nun doxasan me su, pater, para seauto tei doxe he eichon pro tou
ton kosmon sinai para soi - The glory for which Jesus prays is that which
is proper to the place and authoriety he held before the Incarnation.
17:6 - Ephanerosa sou to onoma - Revealing the "name" of God means
revealing God's nature and character .
soi eisan kamoi autous edokas - The disciples belonged to the Father
from the beginning: he predestined them to be his children. John makes it
very clear that the right to become a child of God can be given only by God;
it has nothing to do with human virtue (1:12). Sonship is a gift from God,
made possible by his Son Jesus. Rebirth as a child of God is not earned; it
comes by water and the Spirit (3:5). No one can come to Jesus unless the
Father draws him (6:44); here should be noticed especially 14:6 --oudeis
erchetai pros ton patera ei me di emou - Those who choose Christ have in
fact already been chosen by him (15:16). This predestinarian language is
somewhat mitigated by the belief that Jesus came to take away the sin of
"the world" (1:29), and that he will not reject anyone who comes to him
17:8 - hoti ta remata a edokas moi dedoka autois, kai autoi elabon kai
egnosan alethos hoti para sou exelthon, kai episteusan hoti su me
apesteilas - The disciples know the truth only because Jesus has revealed
it to them. The logos (vs. 6) which they have kept was delivered to them
by Jesus in numerous sayings (remata) during his incarnate life among
them. In these sayings they have also found knowledge (egnosan alethos
hoti para sou exelthon) and faith (episteusan hoti su me apesteilas) that
the one who has come was indeed sent by the Father.
17:9 - Ego peri auton eroto, ou peri tou kosmou eroto--The word order
indicates the emphasis: Jesus prays for the disciples, not for the world.
The only hope for the "world" (kosmos) is to be transformed into the
Church, the community of Jesus.
17:10 - ta ema panta sa estin kai ta sa ema - It is not only the disciples
who belong to both the Father and the Son: the Father and the Son have ALL
THINGS in common; they are therefore equal (cf. 10:30).
17:11 - kai ouketi eimi en to kosmo, kai autoi en to kosmo eisin, kago pros
se erchomai. pater agie, tereson autous en to onomati sou ho dedokas moi,
hina osin en kathos hemeis - Jesus refers to his approaching passion as
"coming to the Father;" the disciples are to be left in the world in the
position Jesus once occupied: it is now their task to be God's witnesses in
the world and to endure the world's enmity. They will be enabled to do so
by the aid of the Holy Spirit (14:16; 15:26); by the mediation of the Son
they too will at last "come to the Father" (14:6).
3. STRATEGY: John 17:1-11
Although the end of the Easter is near, it is appropriate to stress this
Gospel lesson's treatment of Eternal Life, which, as we have noted, is of
central interest to the Fourth Evangelist.
Eternal Life, as we read in vs. 3 means knowing God and his Son, Jesus
Christ. The sort of "knowing referred to here is not theological
knowledlge of mystical wisdom, it is PERSONAL ACQUAINTANCE. We all
know how personal acquaintance with loving, caring people can enrich our
lives: personal acquaintance with God, who is infinitely caring and
infinitely loving, will enrich our lives infinitely. Eternal life is life LIVED
with God ;and his Son; as the Son is united to the Father, so the disciples
are united to the Son and to each other in order that they may continue his
work---now that he has "gone to the Father." The work of the Son is, to be
sure, complete, but the revelation of this fact is the task of the disciples.
They can accomplish this task because they do not (and must not) depend
on their own strength alone, but on the might of the Father who sends them
the new Comforter or Strengthener, the Holy Spirit.
4. REFERENCES: John 17:1-11
Barrett, C.K. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN. London: SPCK, 1955.
Bernard, J.H. A CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL
ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1928, repr. 1949,v.II.
Dodd, C.H. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL. Cambridge:
University Press, 1953.
_________. HISTORICAL TRADITION IN THE FOURTH GOSPEL. Cambridge:
University Press, 1963.
Hoskyns, E.D. THE FOURTH GOSPEL, ed. by F.N. Davey. London: Faber and
Howard, W.F. and Gossip, A.J. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN, in THE
INTERPRETER'S BIBLE, vol. 8. New York: Abingdon Press, 1952.
Howard, W.F. THE FOURTH GOSPEL IN RECENT CRITICISM. 4th ed. London:
Lightfoot, R.H. ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL: A COMMENTARY . Oxford: Clarendon
Temple, William. READINGS IN ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL. London: MacMillan,
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: John 17:1-11
In the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 a number of hymns have emphases
consonant with those of John 17:1-11. GIVE PRAISE AND GLORY UNTO GOD
(HB375) echoes vss. l and 4; AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW
(HB 435, LBW 179) reminds us of the adoration due to Jesus because of his
glorification by the Father; SPREAD O SPREAD THOU MIGHTY WORD (HB
530, LBW 379) recalls the disciples' duty committed to them by the Risen
Lord; O SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD (HB 531,LBW 388) asks for strength to
fulfill the disciples' duty; ETERNAL RULER OF THE CEASELESS ROUND (HB
617,LBW 373) speaks of life with God in Christ.
Exegete: Eugene V.N. Goetchius, Ph.D., Th.D. was Professor Emeritus of the New Testament and Biblical Languages, and Lecturer in Greek at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His publications include: The Language of the New Testament. New York: Charles Schribner's Sons, 1965.
LEXEGETE © 2008