Questions about John 17: The High Priestly Prayer

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ANSWER 1

The High Priestly prayer of Jesus was said on Holy Thursday, the evening of His arrest, after the supper in which He gave His holy body and blood to His disciples, and after Judas had gone out into the night to betray Him.

Before His prayer, Jesus had only just finished a long discourse to His disciples, in which He explained to them about the tribulations they would face, ending His discourse with: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John16:33 St John Chrysostom comments that immediately after this: "... Christ, speaking of the endurance of evil, putteth Himself forth, bidding us take example from Him."HOMILY LXXX, on St John's Gospel, 17:1

The circumstances of that time were dangerous, and ominous. All the disciples were afraid, and Jesus wished to show them the only true way to deal with their fears and desires. Therefore, according to St John: "He betaketh Himself to prayer, teaching us in our temptations to leave all things, and flee to God" Ibid.

May it be that when we are faced with difficult or even overwhelming circumstances, we would follow the example of our Savior and prayer with fervor to God.

ANSWER 2

After beginning His discourse to the Father, which the Evangelist carefully refers to not as prayer, but as "These words spake Jesus...", Jesus indicated His willingness to go to the cross by calling such an action "glory". St John Chrysostom explains His expression with words that the world will not heed, but will warm the hearts of true Christians:

"Again He showeth us, that not unwilling He cometh to the Cross. For how could He be unwilling, who prayed that this might come to pass, and called the action "glory," not only for Himself the Crucified, but also for the Father? Since this was the case, for not the Son only, but the Father also was glorified. For before the Crucifixion, not even the Jews knew Him. "Israel," it saith, "hath not known Me" (Isa. 1:3); but after the Crucifixion, all the world ran to Him." Ibid

The time, or "hour" for our Lord's passion had come, and He was teaching by His discourse to His Father that this passion would glorify the Father and the Son. Because of Christ's crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension and the subsequent giving of the Holy Spirit, the entire world would be exposed to the glory of God. To know of the glory of God, and to have intimate knowledge of Him is salvation for a Christian. Knowledge of this glory is only possible for those who understand the way of the cross and live in its light. To the uninitiated, or those who do not live according to the commandments, "...the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." >"1 Cor 1:18

ANSWER 3

By speaking of "all flesh", according to St John Chrysostom, Jesus was teaching that "... what belongs to the preaching is not confined to the Jews alone, but is extended to all the world, and (He) layeth down beforehand the first invitations to the Gentiles" Ibid

ANSWER 4

"And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." John 17:3

Jesus' simple definition of eternal life contains an abyss of theology. He said "the only true God", so as to make firm in the apostles minds the true dogma, since He was about to send them to the Gentiles, who had false beliefs in many Gods. From this we can see clearly that only the true teaching about the true God leads to salvation. This is the dogmatic aspect of salvation. Only the Church can fulfill the words spoken by Christ to St Photini at the well: "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. {23} But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. {24} God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:22-24 (Concerning the Samaritan woman, see http://www.orthodox.net/questions/samaritan_woman_1.htm)

True Christians who worship the true God understand that knowledge of Him is only possible for those who become like Him. Our Lord told us: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15 The Holy Apostle and Theologian John also tells us: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." (1 John 2:3) the knowledge of God only comes to those who live according to Who He is, and become like Him. Knowledge and dogma are always joined to moral amendment and change.

ANSWER 5

The Symbol of Faith (the Nicene Creed) begins:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and the earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father..."

These words dogmatize the words of our Lord in His high priestly prayer. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ was always true God of true God, and shared in all the glory of the Father, with the Holy Spirit. Only the church can understand this dogma, expressed by the Lord Himself in a wondrous way, and later expounded in the Symbol of our faith.

ANSWER 6

The ancient heresy of Arianism held that Jesus Christ was a creature. Arians held Him to be the highest and most perfect of all creatures, but believed Him to be a creation of God the Father, and therefore, not truly God. Our Lords words directly refute this vile heresy. He was always God, and will always be God, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit shares equally in the glory of the Godhead.

ANSWER 7

In His prayer for His holy apostles and disciples, our Lord mystically refers to the entire church. Later on He said: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; {21} That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:20-21

Blessed Bishop Nicolai explains:

"Christ's prayer [`Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are.'] is not only for the apostles - although it is firstly for them - but is also for all those who have and will come to faith in Christ through their word. This prayer, then, was also for the holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, that we commemorate today. `Keep them!' - the Lord prayed to His Father. And the Father kept them from the errors of Arius , and inspired, illumined and strengthened them by the Holy Spirit to defend and confirm the Orthodox Faith. This prayer is for all of us who are baptized in the apostolic Church and who have from the apostles and their successors, come to know the saving name of Christ the Savior." Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Homilies, V. 1, on the 6th Sunday after Pascha

ANSWER 8

The Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has always understood that a defining criterion of Christianity is unity. This unity must be "of spirit and truth", that is it must be in dogma, and in the way we live, worship and think. Love for one another is not possible unless it abides in truth. The ecumenists gloss over the absolute requirement of unity in truth, and strive for organizational unity, and even worship services (such as those often performed with great pomp in the "World Council of Churches" gatherings) which express for them this unity. These services, which bring together false believers and heretics, under the pretext of "unity", are an abomination before God.

ANSWER 9

Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ, is the "son of perdition" whom Jesus refers to.

ANSWER 10

The High priestly prayer of Jesus Christ to the Father is read for the commemorations of:

  • The Holy Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council.
  • The Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
  • Holy Thursday

The first Ecumenical Council refuted Arianism, which our Lord refutes Himself in His prayer, and all the councils solemnly dogmatized the truth concerning the God-man Jesus Christ. On Holy Thursday, many texts are read which are from our Lord's passion, this prayer being preeminently one of them.





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