May 19, 2020


Jesus is prophet, priest and king.  So noted the early Christian historian and scholar Eusebius (d. 340) 

We have also received the tradition that some of the prophets themselves had by anointing already become Christs in type, seeing that they all refer to the true Christ, the divine and heavenly Logos, of the world the only High Priest, of all creation the only king, of the prophets the only archprophet of the Father. The proof of this is that no one of those symbolically anointed of old, whether priests or kings or prophets, obtained such power of divine virtue as our Saviour and Lord, Jesus, the only real Christ, has exhibited … that until this present day he is honoured by his worshippers throughout the world as king, wondered at more than a prophet, and glorified as the true and only High Priest of God …” (Historia Ecclesiastica, I.3).

Jesus is prophet, as he speaks for the Father.  King, of the house of David, now ascended to the throne of grace.  And priest, offering himself as a sacrifice for the sake of creation.  Lofty titles, and lofty concepts.  This week’s Gospel text brings that loftiness down to something much more relational and community building.  Jesus offers a priestly prayer to the Father in three distinct sections, in the following verses:

1-5 Jesus work is complete: he reveled the Father.

6-8 The disciples are proof that Jesus revelation was received.

9-11 Jesus asks the Father to protect the disciples.

Here are a few points which give clarity to this rather dense passage of scripture:

●Jesus’ mission was to give people an opportunity to know God: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world” (vs. 6).

●Eternal life is defined: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent: (vs. 3).  And so that life is not a future promise, but a present reality.  

●Jesus’ mission is universal: “…glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people [literally, all flesh] to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (vs. 1-2).

● “The world” (ho kosmos) has two meanings for John.  It is creation, and worth saving; but it is also the powers that reject the truth.  In this latter sense, Jesus says “I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me…” (vs. 9).

●Yet, the disciples function as the model for all Christians.  And so, Jesus prays for us!

● The motto of the Jesuits could serve as the heading or title of this passage in John: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam/For the Greater Glory of God.  Contrary to the modern understanding of “glory,” the Greek word doxa has a more nuanced meaning: reputation, honor, brightness.  In this sense, glory is akin to allowing God to be God.

And so, we see Jesus as priest, making intercession to God the Father on behalf of humanity.  At a time of global pandemic, with the world under such stress economically, socially, and medically, this prayer of Jesus has wonderful relevance.  God the Son intercedes for us, holds us in his heart, pleads for us, is concerned for our wellbeing.  And, notice where in Jesus’ ministry this prayer comes.  It runs through Chapter 17, ending with these words which lie beyond this week’s assignment:  “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).  And then, Jesus’ passion begins, for Chapter 18 starts with Jesus’ arrest.  

In his final moments of freedom, Jesus thinks about the wellbeing of those whom he loves.  His prayer is not for himself, but for us.  We, it seems, are all he cares about.  And that, my dear sisters and brothers in Christ, is true love.
John 17:1-11 (Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11)