Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Hour Has Come (John 17:1-5)

Well, this is my 200th post. You may congratulate me if you wish! As you have noticed, the pace of my blogging has slowed down quite a bit. My bishop (+BASIL) has been in town this week, and although this is a rare and blessed occasion, it of course means more services, more events, later nights, etc. So, I haven't had much time for writing. And, I'm tired. Please forgive me if the quality of this post isn't up to my usual standards.

The Hour Has Come (17:1-5)

1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Jesus begins by praying for himself, lifting up his eyes (and presumably his hands) to heaven. “Lifting up the eyes (and the hands) to heaven was the normal posture for prayer. John specifically mentions this here to stress that this was Christ’s sole focus in this hour. Although facing his own torture and death, He is not frightened or concerned with His own well-being, but only with doing the Father’s will. His focus is on heaven, since He is soon to return there” (Farley, 287).

As was his custom, Jesus addresses God as “Father” (Aramaic Abba, which is a familiar form of address for a father, kind of like saying “Daddy” in English, showing his close and intimate relationship with God the Father.

He continues by acknowledging that “the hour has come.” There is not much time left until Jesus’ passion. He will soon fulfill the mission that he was sent to do. He is about to go through an excruciatingly trying time, full of physical and emotional torture. For this, he will need strength and. So, as Fr. Farley says, “Jesus prays for strength to carry out the Father’s will by dying on the Cross, for this death is the way in which the Son will be glorified. In the Son’s glorification, the Father will be glorified too, since the Father and the Son are one” (287).

The disciples could not have had any idea what Jesus was talking about here. For to be hung upon a cross was a sign of disgrace for the Romans, and for the Jews it was more than that: it was a curse (Deut. 21:22-23). But God turned this symbol of disgrace into a symbol of glory by using it to destroy death and by triumphing over it through Christ’s Resurrection.

In verse 2, we see that God the Father has given Jesus authority over all people, with the purpose that he might give eternal life to all who will follow him. As usual, Fr. Farley’s comment is worthy of quoting: “God has given Him authority as life-giver throughout His ministry; let Him now give Him power not to shrink from His work of self-offering, that He might finish His work of giving life. For it is only in this way that men can truly know God and experience the eternal life which He alone can give to men” (288).

In verse 3, Jesus gives a very concise definition of eternal life: Knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ his son. And this knowledge is not “head knowledge” or “book knowledge,” but rather personal knowledge through a relationship, through experience. We obtain this knowledge of God through prayer, reading the Scriptures, partaking of the Sacraments, and by simply being obedient to his will. Reading and reasoning are helpful in knowing God, but they alone are not sufficient.

Jesus states in verse 4 that he has finished the work that the Father gave him on earth; now it is time for him to leave the world. Now he asks again that the Father would glorify him. As Fr. Farley states, “The humiliation and weakness he endured throughout His earthly sojourn were not to last forever, but were always meant to give way to the restoration of the glory proper to Him as the eternal Word” (288).

Note finally that the glory that Jesus prays for is not something new. It is not something that will be given to Jesus as a reward for his faithful service on earth. Rather, the glory that Jesus speaks of is “the glory which I had with You before the world was” (v. 5). This is one of many biblical proofs for the pre-existence of Christ. As St. John had previously written in 1:2, “He was with God in the beginning.” Contrary to what many people believed in the early days of Christianity (and some still believe today), Jesus was not a mere man that God the Father chose, adopted, and anointed for his service. Rather, he was God from all ages who became incarnate.


November In My Soul said...

Congratulations on your 200th posting. I know how hard it can be sometimes finding the time and energy to write something to post.

Fr. Gregory Jensen said...

Congratulations on number 200!

Clint said...

Congrats on #200!

All good posts, too.

Fr. James Early said...

Thank you for the kind words, gentlemen!