Translation and commentary on John’s Gospel
JOHN 17: 13
“But now I am coming to you, and I say all this in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, as I do not belong. I am not asking you to take them out of the world but to guard them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, as I do not belong. Make them holy in reality; your word is reality. Just as you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. For their sakes I make my self holy, so that they may be made holy in reality.
I am not asking for these only but for those who will put their trust in me through their word, that they may all be one, as you father are in me and I in you; that they too may be in us so that the world may trust that you have sent me. I have given to them the splendour that you have given to me, that they may be one just as we are one – I in them and you in me so that they may be made completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them just as you have loved me.
Father, I want those whom you have given me, to be with me where I AM, so that they may see my splendour, the splendour you have given me because you loved me before the founding of the world. Father of justice, the world does not known you, but I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them and I will make it known, so that the love you have for me may be in them, and I myself in them.”
This prayer in which Jesus consecrates himself, that is, in which he wraps himself in the nature of God, is a spectacular example of the “symmetrical language” which is typical of this gospel. On God’s side the facts are:
1 Out of love the father has
2. Sent Jesus into the world
3 to call human beings into his life
4 which is the I AM, the unveiled reality or name of God
5 which is also called splendour
6 which the father shared with the son before the world began
7 and now shares with human beings by dwelling in them
On the human side, the facts are:
1 Human beings hear the call
2 which is God’s word given by Jesus
3 whom they trust as having been sent by the father
4 whose love and splendour they share
5 because through Jesus they know the name of God as I AM, reality
6 And have opened themselves to God’s life shared with each other
7 and with those in the world to whom they are sent by Jesus
In this passage these facts are related to each other in different ways to repeat the fundamental truth that God in Jesus has come to share the life of human beings so that they may share the life of God. But the reader must not forget that God’s sharing of human life in Jesus means the hatred of the “world” which humans have built to exclude God. Because of this hatred, the life of God in the world means suffering and death. Nevertheless, Jesus feels joy at sharing the father’s life and makes his witness that this joy is possible in the world as well as beyond it. This shared life is characterised as “being one”, that is, by the unity which Israel had always ascribed to her God: God’s oneness includes the father the son and the believing community inspired by the spirit of reality.
Like a high priest Jesus clothes himself with God’s holiness; he stands in for the father in order to make a sacrifice that will bring about at-one-ment between God and his people. This sacrifice will be an act of love which conquers the world. It will also clothe human believers with the same holy splendour they see in Jesus. Indeed they will be with Jesus and see him where reality is unveiled and splendour is visible.
The purpose of all of this work of God is the sharing of love, from father to son to believers. This “sharing of love” is called the spirit of reality.
The passage offers a profound and fruitful theology. In my opinion however it emphasises explicit trust in Jesus, and the enmity between father/son/ believers and the “world” in a manner which opens the way to sectarian interpretation of the gospel. Indeed maybe it asks me if my opposition to that sectarian gospel is really justifiable.