The Prayer of Jesus With His Disciples
7th Sunday of Easter Year A
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. John 17: 1 — 11
We have been celebrating the season of Easter, which, as we all know, was the celebration of the Passover by Jesus, who chose to offer Himself as the Pascal Lamb to be sacrificed for the salvation of all mankind. Each Sunday we have read about our Lord’s appearances after His Resurrection. We have also revisited some of the immensely important teaching He gave His chosen Apostles in preparation for His final bodily departure from this world.
The time has arrived for us to reflect on His final teaching. In this case it is the Gospel according to St. John. We will do what the Church has done for 2,000 years: we will go back over the Lord’s teaching and read it in order to embrace it as His personal instruction to us, His disciples. In this way we can better participate in the whole stream of events which took place, leading up to our Lord’s Ascension and the festival of Shavu’ot i.e. of (7) Weeks, which Christians call Pentecost (Greek for 50th).
Our Lord’s choice of Passover and Shavu’ot / Pentecost is full of meaning. In Judaism, of which He was a master teacher:
(1) Torah — sometimes called, the Law, but more aptly the Teaching or Words of God.
Our passage from St. John’s Gospel is the opening section of a long prayer of Jesus to the Father within the hearing of His Apostles. We will take a look at two subsections of His prayer:
Part 1 A Prayer For Glory, (Verses 1 to 8);
Part 2 A Prayer For Intimate Friends (Verses 9 to 11).
Both of these sections assume a Hebrew understanding of “family”. This is very much a family prayer. Our notes will expand our Lord’s comments to help convey this Biblical concept together with that of “belonging”.
Some Reflections on our text
Part 1 A Prayer For Glory
In His magnificent prayer, our Lord makes frequent reference to the term “glory”. It is a key understanding we need to have in order to apprehend what He is talking about. We attach a set of brief notes: “The Glory of God,” for anyone who wishes to do a little revision on the topic.
Verses 1 and 2
When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven
and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to
your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people, so that
he may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Before saying a word in prayer, Jesus, in Jewish tradition, begins with a pronounced ritual action of great significance: “He raised His eyes to Heaven.” This is a fundamental illustration of prayer offered jointly in body and soul. Ritual ceremony preserves this venerable custom, which not only demonstrates a solemn frame of mind, but also helps engender it.
His opening words are bold and courageous: “Father, the hour has come”. This is “the hour” in which the Son of Man will reveal His true glory, and this glory will be accomplished by means of His sacrificial death on the cross. We notice that He opens His prayer by addressing God as, “Father;” the name He gave His disciples to use during their traditional times of prayer: every morning, evening and night time.
What follows can be puzzling without understanding the mutual glory the Son and the Father constantly gift to each other. Thus Jesus declares His deepest heartfelt desire to be the revelation of the true glory shared by them both. As we shall see, in our Lord’s thinking it is in this very glory — unique and powerful beyond all possible imagination — that Jesus wishes His disciples to participate. And, indeed, not just those present, but all who would follow Him as a result of their evangelisation.
Jesus reinforces this request by adding words to the effect: “Let this glory be manifest in the same way that you gave the Son authority over all people, so that He may give eternal life to to everyone of them which you have already given to Him.” There is a hint here that those given to Him will become His means of reaching out to all humanity.
Now what is this “eternal life,” our Lord wishes to pass on to all who have been given to Him by the Father?
Now this is eternal life, that they should know you,
the only true God, and the one whom you sent,
In a Jewish context such as this, “to know” God does not just mean to have heard of Him, or to know some facts about Him. It means to, “be knowing” — to be listening closely to the Divine Word, the teaching of God, or if you prefer, the Law of God. To listen in the Biblical sense is to hear and obey.
This is an unmistakable reference to the most quoted portion of Sacred Scripture, especially in our Lord’s religious culture. It is the Shema, from Deuteronomy 6: 4.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!”
But “eternal life” is also knowing the One whom God sent. St. John had already written of the Son as being the Word of God: the whole of all God wanted to reveal of Himself in the world. Jesus is not just the Word of God, but also the One who obeys God lovingly without reservation. The Apostles listening to this prayer are about to witness just what obedience can require — for our Lord is soon to be arrested, tried and executed.
Verses 4 and 5
I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that
you gave me to do.
Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that
I had with you before the world began.
Our Lord is saying, “I have revealed your glory on earth by completing, finishing the work you gave me to do”. What is this “work”? We will find out in verse 6. But at this moment Jesus declares formally that the Father gave Him a task and He has carried it out faithfully to completion. This is the very special moment Jesus chooses to ask the Father to bestow upon Him the glorious state which He had before He became man at the visit of Archangel Gabriel to His Mother Mary. He does not just assume the right to do so. He models humble petition before the Most High.
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out
of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them
to me, and they have kept your word.
In this beautiful prayer, our Lord talks a lot about His Father’s “giving”:
• Verse 2 — God gave Jesus authority;
— God gives eternal life;
— God gives His Son disciples;
• Verse 4 — God gave a work to Jesus;
• Verse 7 — God gave Jesus everything;
• Verse 8 — God gave Jesus words for His disciples;
• Verse 11 — God gives Jesus His own Name.
For Jesus, this super-abundance of the Father’s giving manifests, in fact, the super-abundance of His loving. In response, Jesus has therefore revealed God’s name to these disciples. That has been His special task, and He has so performed it that they will be empowered to pass it on, down through the ages. By “name” Jesus means the holiness of God and intense love for those who belong to Him — greater than anyone could imagine. These are the treasures awaiting all believers.
Our Lord responds to this thought with an expression of endearment regarding the Apostles and declaring that they are worthy of everything the Father wishes to give them. He is affirming the Apostles for obeying God’s teaching. Even more, He is declaring them to be worthy of on-going membership of God’s Household as family members. The Messiah cannot offer to His Father who sent Him, any higher word of praise and endearment for these loyal followers: “They have kept your word.”
Verses 7 and 8
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that
I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
Our Lord is emphatic: “Now!” they know that everything God gave His Son is entirely from God. This may sound a little awkward to us, but this is the way Jesus chose always to show His dependence on His Father. He is modelling what it means to belong to God, and how to act accordingly.
Then Jesus reports to His Father that “the words” the Father gave Him for the disciples have been dutifully passed on to them. And further, they received them with warmly and those words reside within them.
Interestingly the Greek word for “the words” (remata) and singular word for “word” — logos — mean virtually the same and refer to the revelation that comes through Jesus Messiah. Both are linked spiritually to the Hebrew “Torah” which also means ‘word’ or ‘message’ — a title given to God’s teaching to His people gathered at Sinai. Here, Jesus, the Anointed One is the Word made flesh: He is the Message from God — He is Christ, the Torah! — whom the disciples have listened to and warmly received — and who thus remain close to the Word.
In this loving acceptance of the words of Jesus by His disciples, (especially these Apostles in His presence), both Jesus and the Father are glorified. This has special meaning for those who would become children of God, down through the ages.
Part 2 A Prayer For Intimate Friends (Verses 9 to 11).
Verses 9 — 11
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the
ones you have given me, because they are yours,
and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours
is mine, and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are
in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father,
keep them in your name that you have given me, so
that they may be one just as we are.
These three verses actually begin a major focus on the Apostles. Later Jesus will pray also for future disciples. But here He emphasises three reasons for this focus on those present:
First, they belong to the Father, and everything that belongs to the
Father belongs to Jesus also. Besides, the disciples are the
Father’s personal gift and so they are precious to Jesus.
Secondly, they are precious for personal reasons also.
Through faith they acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah.
Thus they share in His life and love. Jesus goes so far as to say,
“I am glorified in them.” Some tribute indeed.
Thirdly, since He is leaving them behind, He chooses to show
His concern for their welfare when He goes.
[Based on James McPolin, S.J.]
When Jesus says, “I do not pray for the world,” we need to remember that this is a Hebraic way of emphasising how intensely He is praying for the Apostles and those who they bring to Him. We know He prays elsewhere for the world, but for now His concern is for those given to Him by the Father.
Our passage closes with the most beautiful prayer for His disciples: the continuing life of intimacy and communion with Himself and the Father.”
• “Keep them in your name,” — enfolded in your own holiness
and love, no matter what happens;
• “May they be one, just as we are,” — they in us and we in them.
• May they treasure being members of our Household above all else.
• May they take great care never do anything deliberately to
dishonour our Family Name, with which we now endow them,
and appoint them to pass it on to all who will receive it gratefully.
It will help us “take in,” the full import of this passage, to recall some of our earlier reflections:
When Jesus “called” His disciples (Mark 1: 20), He thereby
invited them to be His “followers” (Matthew 4: 19).
This call to “fellowship with Christ” (1 Corinthians 1: 9) was
obviously intended for life and “eternity” (John 12: 26), and
therefore implied that there was “room” for them in heaven
by the side of Christ (John 12: 26). (Kleist and Lilly)
These chosen Apostles had been assured they would dwell with Jesus Messiah forever and that He with His Father and the Holy Spirit would dwell within them forever. In fact, so at-one would they be with God and with one another, they could ask anything of the Father, in the name of Jesus, and it would be granted.
Now in this passage, even more is to be granted to them: they are to share in the glory of the Father and the Son: such has been the loyalty and faith each of them has shown.
Our Lord’s words reflect His total confidence in these men. Eleven of the original twelve have “made it”. Without knowing about it beforehand, their loving Rabbi now delivers their “graduation” speech:
“Father, I present them to you as worthy of re-affirmation as
members of our Household. There is no greater honour
I can bestow on them while they labour in our vineyard.
They have my total blessing and I request you to give them yours.
No one had ever been witness to a prayer such as this. The disciples of Jesus had heard Him pray aloud on occasions, but this experience is beyond all others in solemnity, majestic pronouncements and intense love, pride and humility displayed by their beloved Rabbi. If they understood nothing else, Jesus demonstrated to them that they are now members of God’s family and are rightly present at such moments, even if much of it goes “over their heads,” (at the time).
The great joy for us is that, in our Lord’s own words throughout the Gospels, we too share this privilege.
Baruch HaShem Adonai.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
Baruch Haba HaShem Adonai.
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.
For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:
If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.
To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:
This website is highly recommended:
Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature
(Mark 16: 15)
The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
The Prayer of Jesus With His Disciples
7th Sunday of Easter Year A St. John 17: 1 — 11
1. The Holy Spirit’s very special function is to bring understanding of the words of Jesus
2. The “Glory of God” is manifested in Jesus’s disciples in all ages, giving witness to
3. Our Lord does not pray that the Apostles will be famous preachers, missionaries and
Let us be especially faithful in praying for one another and doing what we can to obey our Lord’s commission: to be living examples of His teaching, and thus making it accessible to all who wish to engage with Him through it.
John 17: 1 — 11
7th Sunday of Easter Year A
1 (1)(2) When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and
2 (3) just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may
3 (4) Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true
4 I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave
5 Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you
6 “I revealed your name (5) to those whom you gave me out of the
7 Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
8 because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they
9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have
10 and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine,
11 And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world,
1 [1-26] Climax of the last discourse(s). Since the sixteenth century, this chapter has been called the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus. He speaks as intercessor, with words addressed directly to the Father and not to the disciples, who supposedly only overhear. Yet the prayer is one of petition, for immediate (⇒ John 17:6-19) and future (⇒ John 17:20-21) disciples. Many phrases reminiscent of the Lord’s Prayer occur. Although still in the world (⇒ John 17:13), Jesus looks on his earthly ministry as a thing of the past (⇒ John 17:4, ⇒ 12). Whereas Jesus has up to this time stated that the disciples could follow him (⇒ John 13:33, ⇒ 36), now he wishes them to be with him in union with the Father (⇒ John 17:12-14).
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition
The Glory of God
1. The earliest descriptions in the Bible are connected with the pillar of cloud and the
They are the visible manifestations of God’s Presence with and protection of His
2. Later, in the writings of the prophets the glory of the Lord appears as a brilliant
3. Later still the glory of the Lord is seen in the witnessing of His saving acts, (Isaiah).
4. God’s people are created for the glory of God, so, that the nations can thus see
5. In New Testament writings, Jesus shares the glory of God. For instance, at His
6. St. Stephen and St. Paul both had manifestations of the glory of God, for God is
7. St. Paul spoke often of God’s glory. Christians have a hope of sharing in the
8. In the teaching of St. Paul, the manifest holiness of God is the Church itself,
9. In the writings of St. John, when he talks of the glory of Jesus, it is the mutual
10. Of particular note is our Lord’s talk of glory in His final address to His chosen
11. Jesus Himself promises that the disciples will see His glory (John 17: 24).
12. In fact, the disciples will, in due course, behold the glorification of Jesus in
13. The Holy Spirit was seen to share in the glorification of Jesus by giving the
14. In the Book of Revelation the traditional modes of the manifestation of God’s
Notes taken from, Dictionary of the Bible, by John L. McKenzie, S. J. (1965).