The Gospel writers reveal that Jesus had continual communion with His Father in prayer. Jesus made it the habit of His life to pray early in the morning (Mark 1:35). He would often retreat to the mountain top or the wilderness and pray alone to His heavenly Father for extended times (Mark 4:46, Lk 5:16, 6:11-12). While we know that Jesus prayed often, the content of those prayers is largely unknown. We only have limited snippets of His prayers (Jn 11:41-42, Luke 22:42). Furthermore, we shouldn’t be mistaken that the prayer of Matthew 6:9-15 was a prayer that Jesus prayed. Customarily, that prayer is called “The Lord’s Prayer” but it is really the “The Disciple’s Prayer.” Jesus used it to teach His disciples how they should pray. Certainly, it’s a prayer Jesus never prayed, being that it includes asking for forgiveness of sin. While most of the prayer life of Jesus is hidden from us, we do however, have the last prayer that Jesus made to His heavenly Father recorded for us only in John 17. The prayer of John 17 should actually be known to us as the real Lord’s prayer. In this prayer, in the last hours of His life, Jesus prays intently for Himself (17:1-5), for His disciples (v. 6-19), and for believers throughout the ages (v. 20-26).
Glorifying the Father
Jesus opens His prayer by praying for Himself, and the supreme passion of His opening words to His heavenly father is all about glory. Five times Jesus mentions the word glory, and the one petition that Jesus has is simple, “Glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you” (Jn 17:1). To glorify someone means to praise them to the highest degree, or to make their glory known to the fullest. The Psalmist said that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1), that is the heavens make God’s glory known in the universe. The heart of Jesus was to make the glory of His Father known, and He knew that the only way to do that was to go to the cross.
The cross was the plan of the Father from eternity past (Rev 13:8). Peter was clear when He preached his first sermon (Acts 2:23) that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” So, the death of Christ on the cross was not a mistake, nor the simple outworking of bad circumstances. In fact, as Jesus entered into Passion Week (the last week of His life), He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24). The hour that had come was the hour that all of history had been moving toward. It was the hour that the Father had planned in eternity past, and the hour which Jesus agreed to accomplish. Jesus knew clearly that the plan for His Father to be glorified was for Him to go to the cross and die for sinners. This is why He had come (Mark 10:45).
The Cross Magnifies God’s Glory
Certainly, the cross of Jesus is foolishness to the world (1 Cor 1:18). They don’t understand how the shame of such a horrible death could have been planned by God. But for us who have been saved, we see the glory of God in the cross. The cross of Christ supremely puts on display God’s glory by magnifying every attribute of God to its fullest. Consider the following attributes that are magnified by the cross of Christ.
- Holiness of God: The cross shows us that there is an infinite chasm between a holy God and unholy man. The cross is the testimony that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all, and that no sinner can come into the presence of a holy God.
- Righteousness of God: In the cross we see the righteousness that is required by God for anyone to enter into His presence. No one can be righteous enough by keeping God’s Law. We have all broken the Laws of God and need a righteousness outside of us. The righteousness of God is made available through the cross that sinners might come into His presence faultless to stand (2 Cor 5:21). The righteousness of God is given to us by faith in the work of the cross (Rom 3:21-26).
- Love of God: It is easy to see the love of God at the cross. God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). God loved sinners enough to send His Son to die for them in their place as a substitutionary atonement (1 Cor 15:3, 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18, Is 53:5).
- Grace of God: The cross is the undeserved payment need to cover the debt sinners owe to God. That debt is forgiven as a “gift” given to those who receive it by faith (Eph 2:8). No one deserves salvation, but it comes to sinners by grace.
- Eternality of God: Scripture is clear that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 5:9, 12, 13:8). The cross was not an afterthought or plan B, but was devised in eternity past in the purpose and plan of God.
- Immutability of God: Immutability means “unchangeableness.” God never changed His plan, but for centuries worked out his plan of salvation for all humanity. Down through the centuries the one plan of God was to provide a sacrifice for sin, someone who would destroy sin. God’s plan began in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15) when God promised to provide the “seed of a woman” who would crush the head of Satan.
- Wrath of God: The cross supremely displays God’s wrath against sin. The Father poured out His vengeance on His own Son and crushed Him as Jesus bore our sins (Is 53:4-5, Matt 27:46). In that moment, Christ took God’s wrath for sinners, and therefore we will never experience it.
- Sovereignty of God: The cross displays the sovereign work of the Father from eternity past, in which His plan of redemption was fully worked out as the second member of the Trinity, and He became a substitute for all who would believe in Him.
The Glorification of the Son
Not only did the cross glorify the Father, but it also ultimately ended in glorification for Jesus. Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him through the cross. This is more clearly seen when Jesus simply prayed, “glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (Jn 17:5). Jesus longed for the glory of his eternal origin (see Proverbs 8:22-31). When Jesus entered the world, He stooped with humiliation and took on human flesh (Phil 2:6-8) and, in a sense, lost glory by being made a human! Now as He plans to go to the cross, He knows that these days of humiliation are over! Once Jesus fully obeyed His heavenly Father by going to the cross, His prayer was that He would once again return to the glory that He had before He came. And this is exactly what happened. After providing a sacrifice for sin, being buried and raised from the dead, Jesus ascended back into heaven where He once existed (Acts 1:6-11). The Father has now “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” (Phil 2:9-11).
Our New Passion
Since the glory of God was the passion of Jesus, it should also be our number one passion. When we become children of God by faith in Christ, we should have new passions. Having been given a new heart, and becoming a new creation we should no longer desire to exalt ourselves. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:14-15). Our new passion is to exalt Christ in this world. Our focus must change! Our mission must be for Christ to be glorified (1 Cor 10:31). Just as Jesus prayed for Himself that the Father might be glorified in His work, so we must also intensely pray that our work and lives would also bring glory to God (Col 3:17, 23).