translation and commentary on John’s Gospel
Jesus spoke these words, and looking upwards towards heaven, he said, “Father, the hour has come; honour your son so that the son may honour you, as you have given him power over all flesh, to give the life of the coming ages to all whom you have given to him. And this is the life of the coming ages, that they may know you, the one real God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I gave you honour on earth by completing the work you gave me to do; and now, father, give me honour in your own presence with the honour I had with you before the world existed. I have displayed your name to the human beings you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is your own. For I have given them the words that you gave me; and they have received them and have grasped that I came out from you, and they have trusted that you sent me.
I am asking on their behalf. I do not ask on behalf of the world but of those whom you have given me, for they are your own. All my own are yours and your own are mine, and in them I am honoured. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy father, keep them in your name, the name you gave to me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them I kept them in your name, the name you gave to me, and I have watched over them, so that none of them has been destroyed except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.
The author represents Jesus as a priest approaching God for both himself and his people. Like all of the speeches of Jesus in John’s gospel we are not to think that Jesus spoke like this. Rather the author invents a form of speech appropriate for the creative wisdom of God made flesh. He represents Jesus as consciously the One that his church believed him to be. The radical nature of Jesus victory, namely that it looks to worldly eyes as a defeat, means that the world itself is not the focus of salvation, but only those who are drawn out of the world by their trust in Jesus. This is slightly difficult to square with chapter 3 verse 16, “God loved the world so much…”
Jesus’ hour has arrived, the time of his “lifting up” on the execution stake, and into the life of God. Against all the standards of the world, this shameful death will bring honour to God and to Jesus. because through it Jesus will be able to transmit God’s creative life to human beings. This life is a participatory knowledge (remember the Hebrew concept of intimate knowing) of God and his son.
Jesus asserts that his God-given work is complete -indeed he anticipates his dying during which he will shout “It is complete”- and asks for the honour, the splendour he enjoyed as God’s companion before creation. His work is summed up as a communication of the name of God, the “I AM” which Jesus has revealed through his words and deeds, his own “I AM” signs that have shown him as the gate of the sheep, the light of the world, the bread of life, the resurrection and the life. His disciples, who already belonged to God, have been given to Jesus by the father, and they have come to understand that Jesus and the father are one.
The verb used for Jesus’ praying to the father is not used of anyone else’s prayers as it signifies a request amongst equals. This equality is further asserted in the words about what belongs to the father and Jesus being utterly mutual. In this moment of anticipated death Jesus describes himself as being out of the world, on his way to the father, leaving his disciples in the world. Jesus states that he has kept them in the father’s name, that is he has held them in the reality of the I AM, the indestructible life of the father shared by the son. Judas has chosen to depart from this life and is therefore destroyed by this separation. This way of speaking remains radical because although it talks of life, Jesus is walking towards a death that is real enough if blood and broken bones and a corpse are real. To call this indestructible life is a denial of what most people call reality but the voice of Jesus who speaks through this author not so much to his historical disciples as to disciples of the author’s time and place, may be evidence that the crucified one is alive.