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Context. It’s Important.

In John 17, Jesus prays for us and all those who believe(d) in Him. Usually, I’m not a fan of preaching prayers, where the person praying gives a sermon on a topic mid-prayer, but in this case, I’m totally okay with it. It’s Jesus, He can pray what He wants, no complaints from me. The third sentence of the prayer is interesting:

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
John 17:4

What makes this interesting to me is that He hasn’t gone to the cross yet, this prayer was given at the Last Supper. It’s assumed by commentators, and I believe they’re correct, that the plans of His death were already in motion (at the beginning of the sermon that precedes the prayer, it’s revealed that Judas had already gotten the idea to betray Jesus), and so He was including it in the “work you gave me to do”. Is this verse saying that all that Jesus did up to His death was Him glorifying the Father, but nothing afterward? I don’t think so. If you look at what all He said at the Supper before the prayer, He hit many different subjects. He:

  • Showed His humility and servant-leadership (John 13:5-20)
  • Gave the love commandment (John 13:34)
  • Tells them He’s leaving to prepare a place for them, and promises the Holy Spirit (John 14:1-31)
  • Tells them He’s coming back (John 14:18)
  • Directs them to abide in love and how to do that (John 15:1-17)
  • Prepares them for the coming persecution (John 15:18-16:11)
  • Prepares them for His death, and hints at His resurrection. (John 16:20-33)

With all that being said, it seems that John 17:4 is more like, “Okay Father, I told them all about it and there’s no turning back now. You might as well say I’ve done it all already!”

out of contextWhen I started writing this post, I hadn’t really looked closely at that line, which brings me to another point. In actually considering and pondering the line, I actually went back and read the monologue leading up to it. It happens all the time; I’ll read something in the Bible, think it’s confusing, and simply move on. That rarely pays off (and by rarely I mean practically never). What does pay off is taking a minute, and searching the verses around it. Most of the time it’s more than a minute, and sometimes I’m still confused afterward, but in my searching, I usually come across something pretty cool anyway, so it all works out in the end.


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