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The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:4

In our last study we spent some time considering and weighing up the meaning and significance of the word glory that is, in so many ways, at the heart of much of this prayer. That’s certainly true as we move into verse 4 and then 5.

“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

In other words, Jesus is saying that in doing all that the Father gave him to do he has heaped honour and praise on the Father, and implicit in that statement is the fact that in heaping honour and praise on the Father many others have been drawn to honour and praise God as well.

So Jesus testifies, “I glorified you on earth” and he did so, initially at least, simply by coming into the world.

But he claims much more than that – “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”  Coming in the incarnation was just part of the work the Father gave him to do.

Now there is some disagreement over exactly what Jesus is referring to when he claims to have accomplished the work he was given to do.  Some commentators limit it to what Jesus had done up to that point in time, i.e. the evening on which he is meeting with the disciples in the Upper Room. 

Others, I believe more correctly, insist that it makes best sense if Jesus’ statement includes all the work Jesus came to accomplish and by which he would bring glory to his Father, and that includes his own death, resurrection and exaltation which is, at the moment of speaking, still in the future, albeit very near future. 

He is speaking in anticipation – proleptically – something he does elsewhere in this prayer.  Look at v12 where he speaks of his time with his disciples in the past tense, as if he had already left them.

This shouldn’t cause us any problems, because although Jesus had yet to actually die physically, his sacrificial death was ordained and in principle effected even before time itself began (see Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8).

Even now, Jesus can effectively say, “It is finished”, and in accomplishing his given work he has already brought immense glory and honour and praise and worship to the Father.

What is the ‘take away’ for us from this verse. 

Well, apart from anything else, just as Jesus’ mission on earth was to bring glory to the Father, so is ours.  As the Westminster Confession of Faith famously and correctly says,

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” 

We exist not for our own pleasure and agenda but so that by our lives we might bring glory and honour and praise to God.  We exist so that others might see our good works and also glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

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