“Father, . . . glorify your son, that your son may glorify you.”
1, 2. What did Jesus do after he celebrated the Passover with his apostles in the year 33?
IT WAS late in the evening of Nisan 14 in the year 33. Jesus and his closest friends had just celebrated the Passover. This celebration reminded them of how God had saved the Israelites from Egypt. But Jesus’ faithful disciples would be saved in a much greater way. The next day, Jesus would be put to death by his enemies. The sacrifice of his perfect life would make it possible for all humans to be freed from sin and death.
2 To make sure that we do not forget this loving gift from God, Jesus started a new observance that replaced the annual Passover. He took a loaf of unleavened bread, broke it, and passed it to each of his 11 faithful apostles. He told them: “This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” He also passed a cup of red wine to them and said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.”
3. (a) What big change happened after Jesus’ death? (b) What questions should we think about as we examine Jesus’ prayer?
3 The Law covenant between God and the nation of Israel was soon going to end. There would be a new covenant between Jehovah and Jesus’ anointed followers. Jesus did not want his followers to become like the nation of Israel. The Israelites were not united in their worship of God, and this dishonored God’s name. (John 7:45-49; Acts 23:6-9) Jesus wanted his followers to work together unitedly so that they could bring honor to God’s name. So, what did Jesus do? He asked for his Father’s help in the most beautiful prayer that any human will ever have the honor to read. (See opening picture.) This prayer is recorded at John 17:1-26. As we examine this prayer, let us think about these questions: “Has God answered Jesus’ prayer? Am I acting in harmony with it?”
WHAT WAS MOST IMPORTANT TO JESUS
4, 5. (a) What do we learn from the first part of Jesus’ prayer? (b) How did Jehovah answer the request that Jesus made for himself?
4 Jesus taught his disciples many wonderful things until late at night. Then he looked up to heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, according as you have given him authority over all flesh, that, as regards the whole number whom you have given him, he may give them everlasting life.” He added: “I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do. So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.”
5 Jesus began his prayer by mentioning the things that were most important to him. First, he prayed that his Father be glorified. Jesus had started his model prayer by asking for the same thing. (Luke 11:2) Second, he prayed for the needs of his disciples. He asked that “he may give them everlasting life.” Finally, Jesus asked for something for himself. He asked: “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.” Jehovah heard his Son’s prayer and gave him even more than he asked for. God gave him “a name more excellent than” that of all the angels.
“TAKING IN KNOWLEDGE” OF THE ONLY TRUE GOD
6. What did the apostles need to do to receive everlasting life? How do we know that the apostles did this?
6 In his prayer, Jesus also mentioned what we must do to receive the gift of everlasting life. (Read John 17:3.) He said that we must keep “taking in knowledge” of God and Christ. How can we do this? First, we must do all we can to learn more about Jehovah and his Son. Second, we need to use what we have learned in our life. The apostles had already done these two things, as Jesus said in his prayer: “The sayings that you gave me I have given to them, and they have received them.” (John 17:8) But to receive everlasting life, they needed to keep meditating on God’s Word and to use what they had learned in their daily lives. Did the apostles keep doing this for the rest of their lives on earth? Yes, they did. We know this because each of their names is forever written on the 12 foundation stones of the New Jerusalem.
Knowing Jehovah means having a close friendship with him and loving our brothers and sisters
7. What does “taking in knowledge” of God mean? Why is taking in knowledge of God so important?
7 If we want to live forever, we must keep “taking in knowledge” of God. What does this mean? The Greek word used here can also be translated “should keep on knowing” or “should continue knowing.” So “taking in knowledge” of God means to keep learning more and more about him. But this means much more than just knowing his qualities and purpose. We must love him deeply and have a close friendship with him. And we must show love for our brothers and sisters. The Bible explains: “He that does not love has not come to know God.” (1 John 4:8) Knowing God also includes being obedient to him. (Read 1 John 2:3-5.) It is a great honor to be among those who know Jehovah! But we must be careful not to lose our precious friendship with him, as Judas Iscariot did. So let us work hard to strengthen our friendship with Jehovah. If we do, Jehovah will give us the wonderful gift of everlasting life.
“ON ACCOUNT OF YOUR OWN NAME”
8, 9. What was the most important thing to Jesus while he was on earth? What teaching must Jesus have hated?
8 As we read Jesus’ prayer in John chapter 17, we can see Jesus’ deep love not only for his apostles but also for us. (John 17:20) The most important thing to Jesus, though, is not our salvation. During the whole time he was on earth, the most important thing to him was to glorify his Father’s name. For example, when Jesus first explained why he had come to earth, he read from the scroll of Isaiah: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor.” We can be sure that when Jesus read this, he pronounced God’s name clearly.
9 Long before Jesus came to earth, Jewish religious leaders taught people not to use God’s name. Imagine how much Jesus must have hated that tradition. He said to those religious leaders: “I have come in the name of my Father, but you do not receive me; if someone else arrived in his own name, you would receive that one.” (John 5:43) Then, a few days before his death, Jesus again mentioned what was most important to him when he prayed: “Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:28) And in the prayer that we are discussing, it is also clear that the most important thing in Jesus’ life was to give glory to his Father’s name.
10, 11. (a) How did Jesus make his Father’s name known? (b) Why are Jesus’ disciples making Jehovah’s name known?
10 Jesus prayed: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have observed your word. Also, I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are.”
11 When Jesus made his Father’s name “manifest,” or known, to his disciples, he did much more than just use the name Jehovah. Jesus helped them to understand who Jehovah is. He taught them about God’s wonderful qualities and the loving way he treats us. (Exodus 34:5-7) Jesus is now King in heaven, and he continues to help his disciples to make Jehovah’s name known in all the earth. Why is this work being done? To help more people learn about Jehovah before the end of this wicked system. And when that time comes, he will save his loyal witnesses and everyone will know Jehovah’s great name!
“THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE”
12. What three things do we need to do to finish the work that Jesus started?
12 Jesus commanded his disciples to finish the work that he had started. He prayed: “Just as you sent me forth into the world, I also sent them forth into the world.” But Jesus knew that they needed help to do this work. While he was with them, Jesus worked hard to help his disciples overcome their weaknesses. And in his prayer, he asked Jehovah to help his disciples to do three important things. First, he prayed that his disciples would be no part of Satan’s world. Second, he prayed that his disciples would obey God’s Word and be kept holy. Third, Jesus begged that his disciples would be united, just as he and his Father are united. Each of us needs to ask, ‘Am I doing the three things that Jesus mentioned in his prayer?’ Jesus had confidence that if his disciples did those things, many people would accept their message.
13. How did Jehovah answer Jesus’ prayer in the first century?
13 When we study the book of Acts, we can see that Jehovah answered Jesus’ prayer. The Christians in the first century were made up of Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, slaves and slave owners. Think of the divisions there could have been among them! But they were so closely united that the apostle Paul compared them to different parts of a human body with Jesus as their head. (Ephesians 4:15, 16) In Satan’s divided world, this kind of unity was possible only because of Jehovah’s powerful holy spirit.
In answer to Jesus’ prayer, more than seven million people around the world are now worshipping Jehovah unitedly
14. How has Jesus’ prayer been answered in our time?
14 Sadly, things changed after the death of the apostles. There was a great apostasy. False teachings entered the congregation, and this resulted in disunity. (Acts 20:29, 30) But in the year 1919, Jesus released anointed Christians from the power of false religion and gathered them together in “a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) What has been the result of their united preaching work? More than seven million people from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” are now worshipping Jehovah unitedly with the anointed. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) This is an amazing answer to Jesus’ prayer to Jehovah, “that the world may have the knowledge that you sent me forth and that you loved them just as you loved me.”
AN ENDEARING CONCLUSION
15. What special request did Jesus make for his anointed followers?
15 Earlier on the evening of Nisan 14, Jesus gave “glory,” or honor, to his apostles by making a covenant with them to rule with him in his Kingdom. (John 17:22; Luke 22:28-30) So Jesus now prayed for all who would become his anointed followers: “Father, as to what you have given me, I wish that, where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the founding of the world.” (John 17:24) The other sheep are happy about the reward that the anointed will have, not envious. This is also proof that true Christians today really are united.
16, 17. (a) At the end of his prayer, what did Jesus say that he would continue to do? (b) What should we continue to do?
16 Most in the world choose to ignore that Jehovah has a people who are united and who truly know him. This often happens because of the lies taught by religious leaders. This happened in Jesus’ day too. So he ended his prayer with these words: “Righteous Father, the world has, indeed, not come to know you; but I have come to know you, and these have come to know that you sent me forth. And I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.”
17 Jesus has truly made his Father’s name known. And now, as Head of the congregation, he continues to help us make his Father’s name and purpose known to others. Let us obey Jesus’ direction and zealously preach and make disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 10:42) Let us also work hard to stay united as God’s people. We will then be acting in harmony with Jesus’ prayer. This will result in glory to Jehovah’s name and in our everlasting happiness.