By Jane Williams

Maundy Thursday

A Reading from John 17:1-11  

1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

11 “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Meditation

In this great high priestly prayer, Jesus intercedes for his disciples, out of the intimacy of his own relationship with the Father. The passage explicitly refers back to the prologue of the gospel, linking Jesus’ coming “glory” with the “glory” that Father and Son share “before the world existed” (v. 5). Jesus speaks as though his earthly ministry is already over, so great is his longing to return to the Father, and he bequeaths that precious relationship to his followers, praying that they may continue to be united with Jesus, as he has been with the Father, all through his earthly ministry, and through all eternity.

John does not show us Jesus teaching his disciples to pray “Our Father,” but this prayer has so many echoes of that defining Christian prayer. Here, Jesus prays to the Father, and invites us into that unity, so we, too, may use that family name (v. 11); Jesus “hallows” God’s name, glorifying it as he goes to the cross, and we, in our turn, glorify God as we follow Jesus (v. 10); Jesus has obediently fulfilled his own mission, and generously says that the disciples, too, are obedient (vv. 6-8), so that God’s will is done “on earth as in heaven”; and Jesus prays for protection for the disciples (v. 11). As Jesus prays on behalf of the disciples and those who will come after them, the logic of John’s Gospel and the logic of the Lord’s Prayer coincide: Jesus comes to share with us the relationship he has with the Father, and so we pray with confidence, as our savior taught us.

Dr. Jane Williams is McDonald Professor in Christian Theology at St Mellitus College. She is also an editor, a sought-after public speaker, and is involved in promoting theological education in the Anglican Communion. She is the author of a number of books, including The Art of Advent (SPCK, 2018).

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Savannah, Ga.
The Diocese of Bath and Wells (Church of England)