Their voices filled the upper room into the corners and down to the rugs. Throaty chants, deep pitched and even, all in unison…“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice, he heard my cry for mercy… The cords of death entangled me, The anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome with trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: O LORD, save me!”
They had sung the ancient words so many times, they could wander with their minds and still not miss a word, pause or inflection. Then one voice – His voice – began a slow, smooth climb in volume and depth of sincerity. If anyone’s mind had been wandering, it wasn’t anymore.“You are my God, and I will give you thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
He held out the last strain longer than the others, arms out-stretched, faced turned up. The hymn was over, but His posture never changed. Surrounded by his disciples, yet alone with His God, He prayed:
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
He closed eyes and saw Home. Then he saw every face standing among Him. Men who had dropped their nets, laid down their livelihoods at the calling of One they barely knew. Worn faces, lined with life, feet calloused from the miles of following Him. Feet He’d washed just that night, while reminding them: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.”
His prayer continued.
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”
The eyes of betrayal stung the back of His head. Even Judas’ feet He had washed. He paused, stretched His arms further and strained his face harder toward heaven.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one…”
Oh, My Simon Peter! He cried inwardly, still heavy with Peter’s rash insistence of perfect loyalty. You, my passionate one, a leader in the making with still so much to learn. Though I have warned you, it will not be undone. Your passion will lead you tonight into utter fear turned denial. But, just as I told you, so it will be: I have prayed for you, and when you have turned back you will be the leader of your passions and strength for your brothers.
With Peter’s face especially before Him, He continued.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth…”
He paused, but was not yet done. His view swept from “in the beginning” to “Amen,” and into the souls from every nation. He pictured clearly each face: those who have, who do, and who will believe in Him and live in Hope. He pulled his arms up even higher as if lifting them toward Home. Then He prayed as though oneness had already been accomplished and all that was left was to give its declaration.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself my be in them.”
When He had finished praying, He turned to his disciples and led them out of the city across the Kidron Valley to an olive grove – a garden called Gethsemane.
Some things of Interest:
- The hymn the disciples and Jesus sung was Psalms 115-118, the traditional hymn sung after eating the Passover Meal. Psalms 113-114 was sung before the meal.
- Today’s story is primarily taken from John 17. It is my favorite chapter of the Bible (that was for free). I encourage you to read it in many different versions, in its entirety.
- The other two “Last Supper” accounts: Jesus predicting Peter’s denial and Jesus washing his disciples’ feet have been woven into Jesus’ prayer by studying the accounts in Luke 22 and John 13.
On the very night He was betrayed and arrested, leading to his ultimate crucifixion, Christ prayed for me. For you.