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Jesus' Words after the Last Supper: Chapter 4


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 enough.

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 Father.

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 thee:»2 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 him.»3 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 sent.»4 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 do.»5 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 was.»6 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 word.»7 The Greek term translated as «manifested», «ephanerôsa» (εφανερωσα), 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 are.»10 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 defines it.11

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 «tèrèson» (τηρησον) 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 protect.

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 fulfilled.»12

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 unacceptable.

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 ours.

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» (εφυλαξα), 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 Father.

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 themselves.»13 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 world.»14 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 evil.»15 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 world.»16

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» (αγιασον) 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 world.»18 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 the truth.»19 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 word;»20

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 organization.

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 me.»23 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» (θελω); 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.

F. Epilog

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» (δικαιε), 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 Messenger.

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 time.

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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