John 17 contains the longest recorded prayer of Jesus Christ, which he said right after the Last Supper. Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, is in direct conflict with Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest in the Jerusalem Temple for that year. The Romans had taken over appointing the High Priest from the Jewish Nation, as part of their conquest, and Caiaphas was their puppet priest for the year that Christ died. Today, this would be like the President of Italy yearly appointing a Pope in the Catholic Church. Let’s take a look at these two High Priests, Jesus and Caiaphas, and how they differ.
Before we begin our analysis, let’s see exactly what it says.
John Chapter 17, The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, 2 since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. 4 I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; 5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.
6 “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; 8 for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; 10 all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
12 While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. 18 As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.
20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. 26 I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Jesus IS the High Priest Sent by God
We know that Jesus is the High Priest sent by God from several other scripture references. First, in John 6:27, it says,
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”
In Exodus 28:36, the High Priest had to wear a crown with a seal, or signet on it, which would allow the High Priest to assume the guilt of his people. Since God set His seal on Jesus, we know that He is the High Priest. Additionally, Peter, in John 6:69 called Jesus “The Holy One of God,” a reference to the Moses and Aaron, the High Priests, from Psalm 106:16. Paul calls Jesus the High Priest many times in Hebrews, as well.
Caiaphas and Politics
Caiaphas was a political high priest, who thought that it was more expedient for one man (Jesus) to die than it would be to let him live and lose the whole Jewish nation to the Romans. At the time, the Romans were an army of occupation, which still permitted some Jewish governance and, most importantly, Temple worship. As it turns out, his plan to sacrifice Christ in order to save the nation failed miserably. Even though he did manage to get the Romans to kill Jesus, his plan backfired. In 70 AD, just 40 years after Christ died (one generation), the Jewish nation was crushed by the Romans, thus fulfilling Christ’s prophecy that “not one stone would be left standing” in the temple (Matthew 24:2). So by killing Jesus, Caiaphas managed to do the very thing he warned against – the destruction of the Jewish nation!
Caiaphas even managed to violate sacred scripture by tearing his robes (Matthew 26:65) in protest of Christ’s answer to him that he was indeed the Messiah. The prohibition against tearing the robes of the high priest goes all the way back to the High Priest Aaron, in Leviticus 10:6. Later on, in Matthew 27:51, as if to let Caiaphas know that the days of the old animal sacrifices were over, God ups Caiaphas’ robe-tearing antics by tearing the curtain in the temple from top to bottom. At the Crucifixion, the Romans at the foot of the cross refused to tear Jesus’ garments (John 19:24), which is a biblical way of letting us know that Jesus was indeed the real High Priest.
Jesus’ Example of Prayer
Conversely, Jesus is certainly no political High Priest like Caiaphas. In His High Priestly Prayer of John 17, Jesus gives us all an example of how all of us should pray for all time:
First, He prays for the glory of God to be restored:
“Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee.”
Praying for the greater glory of God our loving Father is always a great way to start off every prayer.
Second, He prays for his apostles:
“I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.”
Praying for others, rather than for selfish things, is a very holy thing to do.
Third, He prays for Christian unity:
“Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
This unity prayer is something that is continually needed today, with so many different Christian denominations teaching so many different beliefs.
Fourth, He prays for His apostles to be set apart (consecrated) as priests:
“Consecrate them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
In Exodus 28:3, to consecrate someone meant to make them a priest, someone who is set apart from the rest of us to make intercession for our sinfulness with God. So many people don’t believe that the apostles were really priests, but here is the prayer of Jesus asking for them to be consecrated, like Aaron was in the Old Testament.
Fifth, He prays for all Christians, including you and me, to be unified in their belief throughout the ages:
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
This is a follow-up to the earlier prayer of Jesus for Christian unity. This prayer now includes everyone for all time, and not just the apostles.
Jesus Gives His Glory to His Apostles
Sixth, in an amazing statement, Jesus prays that He has given His glory to His apostles! This may come as a shock to those Christians who think that “God is a jealous God” and doesn’t share His glory, but that is wrong. Jesus says in John 17:22-23:
“The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.”
So how can this be? How can Jesus give His glory to His apostles? The answer is that by giving The Eucharist (The body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ) to His apostles at the Last Supper, Jesus did indeed give His glory (Himself!) to His apostles. And the great news now is that everyone who receives the supernatural food (John 6:27) of the Eucharist, including you and me, receives the glory of Christ every time that we partake of the Eucharist in a state of grace.
And lastly, Jesus prays that the Father and His love will be made known to the entire world. This is a wonderful thing for which to pray, as God is our loving Father, not some uninterested bystander who couldn’t care less about us:
26 I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
It’s very apparent that Caiaphas and Jesus are two very different kinds of high priest. Caiphas says “KILL HIM!” while Jesus honors His Father, prays for his apostles and us, and gives us His glory. What a contrast!
And thank God that we still have Christ with his love for the Father and for us as well as our eternal High Priest, continually offering Himself, even now, in sacrifice for our sins, in the Mass, each and every day, in order to give us this day our daily bread (Jesus Himself), also known as the Eucharist.