Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. – John 17:24 ESV
If taken out of context, this prayer would appear to have been prayed by Jesus from heaven, long after His death, resurrection and ascension. He makes mention of His desire that the disciples be able to join Him where He is. At the point Jesus prayed this prayer, the disciples were right there with Him. He was still earth-bound and facing His coming trials and crucifixion. But He prayed with a sense of accomplishment and finality, as if He was already back in heaven with His Father. He had full confidence that His death would result in His glorification. He would have to die, but He would also be raised back to life by the Father and restored to His original position of power and authority at His Father’s side. He longed for His disciples to be able to see His coming glory. The three, Peter, James and John, had gotten a slight glimpse of what it might be like when they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. But Jesus was looking forward to the day when all His followers would see Him for who He truly is – the sovereign, all-powerful Son of God. On earth, while Jesus could perform incredible miracles, He had limitations. He suffered from hunger. He grew tired. He was susceptible to pain. He could calm the storm, walk on water, even raise the dead, but He would be brutally put to death at the hands of men. But there is a day coming when we will see Him like He really is. His appearance on earth as a man, His incarnation, was a necessary, but temporary condition. Paul reminds us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV). Jesus willingly humbled Himself and took on human flesh. He became a servant to sinful men. He even submitted Himself to death at the hands of men in order to pay for their sins and make it possible for them to be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. But Paul goes on to say, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV). This was what Jesus was praying about. He longed for the day when His followers would witness His true glory. The apostle John wrote about that very event. “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). There is a day coming, when we will see Jesus in all His glory, but we will also see ourselves in our glorified state as well. “And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory” (Colossians 3:4 NLT).
In essence, Jesus was praying for and longing for the culmination of all things. He knew that He was going to have to die. He also knew that His disciples were going to be left behind, which is why He promised them the coming of the Holy Spirit. He was also fully aware that no one, Himself included, knew the day of His own return. In the meantime, His followers would have to continue to live on this earth, facing the attacks of the enemy, enduring the hatred of the world, and wrestling with their own sin natures. So Jesus prayed for the day when all His followers would be with Him and able to see Him in His glorified state. That day would signify the completion of God’s redemptive work on earth. Sin would be eradicated, death would be defeated, Satan would be destroyed, and God’s Kingdom would be established over all the earth. God’s Kingdom would have come and His will done on earth as it is in heaven. This prayer reminds us that God’s plan is not yet complete and that Jesus’ work is not yet done. So like Jesus, we should live with a sense of eager anticipation. We should long for our glorification so that we can enjoy the thrill of seeing Him as He truly is. This world is temporary. Our place here is not intended to be permanent. God has something far greater in store for all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us, “For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die…” (1 Corinthians 15:53-54 NLT).
All of this will take place because God loves His Son and that love is timeless and limitless. He has loved Him from eternity past and the extend of His love for Him will be revealed to all of us when we see Jesus in all His glory. We will witness the culmination of God’s great redemptive plan and be able to see with our own eyes, the incredible love that the Father has for His Son. Right now, we know in part, but the day is coming when we will have full knowledge and understanding of just how great God’s love really is. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NLT).