Jesus' Prayer by the Cedron
This last text, a very rich prayer of Jesus to God Father,
is a logical
follow-up to the previous talks. It builds on them. Could it have been said
on the way to meet Judas, let us say, on the side of
the road, as Jesus stopped for a few minutes to pray
aloud with His disciples close by?
After all, the Gospel writer clearly stated that Jesus left
the hall with His disciples after His first talk. And he
added, at the very end of this prayer:
«When Jesus had spoken these words, he went
forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron,
where was a garden, into the which he entered,
and his disciples.»1
So it seems to me to make a certain sense to
assume that this prayer was said just before
crossing the brook in question.
How would Jesus have prayed this prayer? We
know that today's Jews tend to pray standing
up with a rapid to and fro movement of the
upper body. Would He have prayed like that?
I do not know. But it is highly possible that He
would have been standing rather than squatting,
kneeling or lying down. The last position does
not permit the people around Him to hear Him
properly. Squatting does not sound respectful
Jesus had made clear that the goal of prayer is
not to tell God Father something He does not already know about
our needs or our wants; it is to work out
for ourselves what we need to know and to do. Jesus
is here praying loud enough so that His disciples
hear His words to God
Father and so figure out what they need to know and do.
So Jesus is still basically
teaching His disciples through His prayer to God
Again I will examine the prayer verse by
verse, in the order of appearance.
A. Jesus' final report to His Father
This prayer starts by: «These
words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven,
and said, Father, the hour is
come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify
We have already examined this kind of phraseology
before, and we have seen that this could be translated
as: «Father, this is the
time when you will attest to and make known Who I
am, so that I can now attest to and make known
Who You are.» Jesus' next few days,
not to say hours, are crucial to understand both Him and
His Father. Never before and never again will
God be manifested so clearly.
This is a statement that we found in both Jesus'
talks. It is the basic starting point of everything
He said that evening.
We can notice that Jesus does seem to imply
that the time of His arrest is very close indeed;
this fits well with the idea that Jesus and His
disciples were indeed arriving at the garden.
Jesus follows this first statement with:
«As thou hast given
him power over all flesh, that he should give
eternal life to as many as thou hast given
This is a rather odd statement. Here we have
Jesus on the point of being arrested by the
powers that be, both political and religious,
so as to be sentenced to death for insurrection
and blasphemy, tortured, humiliated and
crucified stark naked so as to die slowly in
excruciating pain as a slave. This is nothing
to boast about. It is not the fate of someone
in authority, but of a worm of a man, of someone
without any rights.
Still, Jesus says that He has been given by God
Father authority over all living flesh! And He
follows that by saying that since He has been
given that authority, He can bestow «eternal life»
to all God Father gave Him!
It is not Jesus who decides who gets eternal life
but God Father by «giving» that human to Jesus.
It is only to those God Father bestowed to
Jesus that He can give that «present». All
others are out, left without. Where is free will?
Everything seems to be preordained, an idea
that I obviously cannot accept. But is this really
what this text says?
Jesus then goes on to define what He means
by «eternal life»: «And this
is life eternal, that they might know thee the
only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast
Jesus' definition of what constitutes «eternal life»
is odd; how is it that «knowing the one and true God»
is the definition of «eternal life»? But first, what does it mean
to know God Father as the One and Only True God?
First, Jesus states with all the Jews that there is
only one God; then He states that this One God is
Father; and He goes on to say that He, Jesus,
is the Christ, the Anointed One (this is the
translation of «Christ»), the One marked by God
as His Perfect Messenger, as His perfect Ruler,
Master on this earth.
Only those who know these facts to be true
can be given «eternal life»; the others cannot
share it. And those who know these facts to be
true will spend this «eternal life» knowing these
more and more intimately, completely. The ones
who cannot accept these facts will not be able to
go on this trek of increased knowledge as they
will not have the required basis to do so.
Still, this is certainly a strange thing to say. But perhaps
the rest of the text will help to understand how this
all works. Jesus goes on to say: «I
have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the
work which thou gavest me to
We have seen that this can be read as:
«I have made You,
God Father, properly known on earth, I have
revealed You to humans, which was what you
sent Me to do.»
This He follows by: «And
now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self
with the glory which I had with thee before the world
This I understand to mean that Jesus wants His
Father to make Him known now as He Is, as He
has been known by His Father from before this
world came into existence. He wants His Father
to make clear to humans Who He, Jesus, Is.
He then goes on to say: «I
have manifested thy name unto the men which thou
gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and
thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy
The Greek term translated as «manifested», «ephanerôsa»
could be translated as «made visible», «made known».
Jesus says that He has made known God's real
Name, Father, to those He gave Him as followers
and that they have received all His instructions,
His words, which He passed on to them. Again
here, Jesus mentions the fact that it is only those
that God Father «gave Him» that took in His
message; the others are left out.
He expands on this theme that His followers have
received everything that He was to tell them and, in
so doing, believe Him as God Father's Mouthpiece:
Now they have known
that all things whatsoever thou hast given me
are of thee. For I have given unto them the
words which thou gavest me; and they have
received them, and have known surely that I
came out from thee, and they have believed
that thou didst send me.8
This could be said to conclude the first part
of His prayer by the Cedron. In it, Jesus basically
states that He has completed the job God Father
gave Him, a job consisting in making Him known
for Who He really Is, Father, and that this message
has been accepted by some, those that God
Father «gave Him» to accept His message as
coming from God Father as He Himself came
from God Father.
This could be said to be a repeat of things Jesus
has already said to His disciples that evening.
But let us not forget that these words are
directed to God Father. So Jesus is really
filing here His last report on His mission to
His Superior, God His Father.
B. Jesus is to be known through His disciples
Jesus goes on to pray for His disciples, those who
have believed in Him: «I pray for them:
I pray not for the world, but for them which
thou hast given me; for they are thine. And
all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I
am glorified in them.»9
Jesus says that He now petitions God Father for His
disciples, those individuals that God Father
«gave» Him. He makes it clear that the individuals
that are part of this world order are here excluded.
What follows is for and about His chosen few.
He is praying for the disciples as these individuals
are not only His, but also God Father's, as they are
the ones who are going to make Jesus and His ways known.
This is why this prayer concerns only His disciples:
they are His only agents on earth, the ones who have to take up
the task He started.
C. The disciples' need of love and unity
Jesus then goes on to say: «And
now I am no more in the world, but these are in the
world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through
thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that
they may be one, as we
Jesus talks as if He has already left this earth, has
already died, which of course is not strictly correct.
But He knows that His end is very near; He knows
that His death is just a matter of hours, so He can
say that He definitely is going back to His Father
through His dying. After all, the present moment is
not something that lasts only a nanosecond: it is
something that lasts as long as the event which
He knows that though He is going to die very soon,
His disciples will continue to live within this world
order; that they will need help. So Jesus asks
God Father to «keep them». This is the translation of the verb
which can also be translated as «guard», «look
after», «keep», «preserve».
This kind of guard is somewhat strange: «in thine
Name». What can that possibly mean? Jesus always
uses the word «Father» when He mentions God.
So this must be the Name He is thinking of here.
God is to guard the disciples as His children, just
as He guards Jesus His Son. The family unity that
exists between Father and Son, this is the family
unity that Jesus wants between the disciples as
well as between them and Father and Son. This is
the kind of unity that He is asking His Father to
Jesus goes on with: «While I was with
them in the world, I kept them in thy name:
those that thou gavest me I have kept, and
none of them is lost, but the son of perdition;
that the scripture might be
Jesus here says that while He was with His
disciples, He kept them safe from the enticements
of this world order. He made sure that none was
lost, except for «the son of perdition», Judas, who
was «needed» to fulfill the Scriptures.
I must say I find that last little bit very difficult to
swallow as it seems to imply that God made sure
Judas acted the way he did. That would imply that
Judas did not act according to his own free will in
this circumstance, something I find totally
I think it makes much more sense to assume that
what Jesus means here is that He let into His
intimate circle someone whom He knew to be a
«rotten apple», someone who would keep believing
in this world order whatever He did, someone who
would quite willingly betray Him when the time came.
This interpretation, it seems to me, fits the text just
as well as the other.
The «advantage» of the first interpretation,
which I refuse to accept, is that it corresponds
to this world order's way of thinking, the way of
thinking we tend to go for most of the time as we
are only in the process of becoming children
of God, of thinking with His mindset. We much
prefer to think within this world order's ways of
violence, deceit, injustice, refusing at all times
to consider that others have a will of their own
but insisting that they are on this planet only to follow
The text we are examining also talks about
Jesus having kept His disciples in God Father's
Name. The Greek term translated by «keep»
is the same as before; but it then reappears
in «those that thou gavest me I have kept» and
this time it is the translation of the Greek word «ephulaksa»
a military term about being on sentry duty, which
could also be translated as «look after», «be on
guard duty». Jesus is thus saying that in this battle
against this world order, He has kept His little flock
safe from its attacks, excepting Judas who was
won over by the Enemy. Jesus thus states again
that He fulfilled the obligations He was given by His
D. The disciples and this world order
Jesus goes on to say: «And now
come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world,
that they might have my joy fulfilled in
Jesus is leaving this world order for His Father;
but before going, He is preparing His disciples for
what will come, His resurrection, something to be
really joyful about. That this world, with its injustice,
oppression, hate, is not the last word; that it is
followed by the Real World where God reigns, where Love
reigns, is good news indeed! To be presented with
the proof of its existence, to know for a fact that this
world order is going to be replaced by God's, this is
a real cause for rejoicing!
Jesus then goes on to say: «I
have given them thy word; and the world hath hated
them, because they are not of the world, even as I
am not of the
Again we have this idea that those who are not
«according to this world order» are hated by it
as they are examples of an alternative to this world
order based on violence and death. The reason why
they are «not of this world» is because they have
made theirs these words from God Father that
Jesus had made His and has taught them.
Jesus goes on to say that He is not asking them
to be removed from this world order but that they
be protected from its evil
onslaught: «I pray not that
thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that
thou shouldest keep them from the
Jesus cannot ask God Father to remove
them from this world; after all, His job has been to
prepare them so that they would go and preach
God's word. This is God Father's will.
Of course, because His disciples are following
God Father's will, they are not following this world
order' ways any more than Jesus
is: «They are not of the
world, even as I am not of the
E. Practical dedication of the disciples
to God's mission and message
Jesus now proceeds to
say: «Sanctify them through
thy truth: thy word is truth.»17
This is a rather strange expression: «sanctify them in
the truth». What can this mean? The Greek word
translated as «sanctify» is «agiason»
which can also be translated as «consecrate»,
«make holy». But again, what does that mean?
It is a word which is used often, but what does it
really refer to?
When one consecrates a building, one makes it holy,
which implies here a dedication to the service of God.
I think it is fair to assume that what Jesus is getting at
is that His disciples will be dedicated to the service
of God Father by their knowledge of the Truth, which
has been revealed by Jesus as God Father's Word.
It is because they are willing and reflective witnesses
to Jesus' life that they can be dedicated to spreading
God Father's message.
So basically, at this stage of Jesus' prayer, He is
asking God Father to officially endorse the passing
of the torch to His disciples. He asks God Father to
give His disciples their commission - as
«military» officers in the campaign
ahead - to go and preach the Truth about Him.
This understanding permits to go straight into the next
verse: «As thou hast sent
me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the
The disciples are the next carriers of God's word; they
are the ones Jesus is now sending to continue His work.
Jesus clearly states that He was commissioned by
God Father, and that He is still dedicated to Him. So
His disciples, whom He formed, are also commissioned,
dedicated through the Truth of His
words: «And for their sakes
I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through
He is reporting to His Superior
that the training of His disciples is now complete:
God Father can give them their «commissions»
as His officiers so that they
can be sent on their mission.
Jesus makes clear that this commission to God's
service is not only something that will apply to these
few disciples only but to all who will make theirs
His message of Truth: «Neither
pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall
believe on me through their
Thus Jesus commissions and dedicates to God Father
all who will make theirs God Father's commands rather than
this world's. And as this world order will fight back
ferociously, they all will need the support of each
other, of Jesus as well as of God
Father: «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.»21
This unity is required to give each and every
one strength to face this world order, which attacks
very insidiously and with great perfidy. This unity does
not entail uniformity, but love towards each other,
help and understanding. It is the kind of Unity that is
found between Father and Son: They are not the
same, but They truly Love each Other, They are always
there for the Other. Love is what identifies Them, what
permits others to identify, recognize Them.
The perfidy of this world order is most obviously at
work when schisms break between the disciples,
when instead of being one, they form their own little
groups. This is perhaps the worst kind of problem
facing the disciples and exactly the one Jesus
wanted them to avoid.
This problem is the worst that they can face
because the various factions all consider that they
have the monopoly on the Truth, that they - and they
alone - represent God. The problem is that as soon
as they think such thoughts, they cut themselves from God Father and
fall prisoners to the Enemy!
God Father wants us to think of others as His children,
as part of His family, whatever they have done,
whatever they think. God Father wants us at the
very minimum to tolerate those who think and act
differently from us, which implies refusing to judge
them in any way, shape or form. As His children,
we are not allowed to reject them, to ostricize them,
to excommunicate them as these ways of acting
are according to this world order.
On the contrary, we have to listen
to them, and to engage in a dialogue between
equals, never considering that others are wrong,
foolish or bad. We have to give our views and our
reasonings in a respectful manner, never forgetting
that the ones we are talking to are as much children of
God Father as we are. And these remarks apply
to all, from our beloved Pope to the very ordinary layperson
that I am, from the
Congregation of the Faith to the most insignificant lay
This is why He goes on to
say: «And the glory which
thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be
one, even as we are one:»22
He now says that the reputation that God Father
is making known of Jesus is now passed also to
His disciples. The unity of God Father with Jesus,
the unity of love between God Father and Jesus,
is also now to exist between His disciples, as well
as between Father, Son and the disciples.
This statement is made even more obvious in the next
verse: «I in them, and thou
in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and
that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and
hast loved them, as thou hast loved
It is through the disciples' proclamation that will be
known God Father's sending of Jesus as His
Mouthpiece as well as His love for Jesus and His
disciples. They are the new heralds of this Reality
that far exceeds the «reality» of this world order
based on oppression, violence and force. Church
unity is not Church uniformity: Jesus and the Father
are One, but They are different; They Love each
Other, but They are not the same.
Jesus then goes on to
say: «Father, I will that they
also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I
am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast
given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation
of the world.»24
The Greek verb translated by «will» is «thelô»
it can be translated as «will», but also as «desire»,
«want». So Jesus wants His disciples to come and
join Him, so that they can know Him for Who He Is,
the One God Father has loved from ever.
The epilog of this prayer takes again some of its main
points: «O righteous Father, the world
hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and
these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have
declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that
the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them,
and I in them.»25
Jesus again states that this world order does not
know, understand Who God Father Is; but He, Jesus,
and His disciples, whom God gave Him to teach and
prepare to take over His mission, they know and
understand Who God Father Is. Jesus concludes
by stating that He indeed told His disciples that God
is Father, is Love, so that the Love with Whom
God Father loves Jesus may be in them, as He is
also in them.
It is perhaps worth noting that Jesus here calls His
Father «righteous». As far as I know, this is the only
case where He does so. This adjective is the translation
of the Greek term «dikaie»
which can also be translated as «just», «honest»,
«proper». It certainly could be understood as meaning
that God is the proper Father, the One Who is truly
Father, the One Who is the most excellent Father,
Who is rightly Father.
G. Beaulieu's Revised version!
Again, here is my version of Jesus' prayer at the Cedron:
«Father, now You will
attest to and make known Who I am, Your Son, so
that I can now attest to and make known Who You
are. You have set Me to rule over all, so that I can
bestow to those You gave Me the knowledge of
Who You are, the Only God, and of Who I am, Your
I have made You, God Father, properly known on
earth, I have revealed You to humans, which was
what You sent Me to do. Make Me known as You
know Me from before time. I have made understood
Who You are to those You took out of this world
order to give Me; they were Yours, now they are
Mine, and they have accepted Your message.
They truly accept that I speak for You and that I
came from You.
I petition You for them, the ones You gave Me after taking them out of
this world order, as it is them that will make Me known.
I am to all intents dead, on the way to You, but they
are alive. Keep them on Your mission so that they
be united just like We are. I kept them on Your
mission; I saw that none erred, except the one
I accepted in My group though I knew He would
not be faithful.
I am coming to You through death; I am saying
all this so that they may be joyful as I am. I have
given them Your Message. This world order
detests them as they are not of this world order
anymore than I. I do not ask You to let them die,
but to protect them from the world order.
Commission and dedicate them to spread the
Truth, Your message.
Just like You sent Me on Your
Mission, I am sending them to continue it. I
commission them just like You commissioned
Me. This I am also asking for those who will
follow them by their spreading of this message.
Unite them as We are so that this world order
may see that You sent Me. I am giving them the
reputation You have given Me: so that they may
be united like Us. Our love will be made manifest
by theirs. I ask You to bring them to Us so that they
know Me like You know Me, loving Me from before
Most excellent Father, the world order does not
know You, but I do, and they know that You sent Me.
I have made You known, and will again very soon.
Give them the love by which You have loved Me,
so that I can be in them.»
1 John 18:1
2 John 17:1
3 John 17:2
4 John 17:3
5 John 17:4
6 John 17:5
7 John 17:6
8 John 17:7-8
9 John 17:9-10
10 John 17:11
11 something made clear
by quantum mechanics.
12 John 17:12
13 John 17:13
14 John 17:14
15 John 17:15
16 John 17:16
17 John 17:17
18 John 17:18
19 John 17:19
20 John 17:20
21 John 15:21
22 John 15:22
23 John 15:23
24 John 15:24
25 John 15:25-26
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Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6th, 2008
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