At the culmination of Jesus’ high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, we hear Him expressing His deepest desire to His Father. Jesus’ prayer in this passage was unique because it expressed His knowledge about His pre-incarnate relationship and glory with His Father “before the world was.” This prayer also focused on the manifestation of the glory of the Father and the Son to the world, the glorification of those who were believers in Christ, and Jesus’ deep desire to dwell with His people forever.
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn. 17:24–26)
We need to meditate on the beautiful phrases found in this holy prayer. The phrase “I desire” was translated from a Greek word which in this context highlights the concept of I desire to, want to, wish to with pleasure and much delight. Jesus expressed His deep desire for His eternal Bride to behold His eternal glory. That glory is expressed in His beauty, His justice, His lovingkindness, His mercy, His power, etc.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (Jn. 17:1–3)
Jesus desires His Bride to know Him—not just for a moment—but in close and intimate proximity (union) in an ever present reality, forever and ever. Eternal life does not just describe longevity of time, but also the quality of relationship with Jesus through an exponential increasing of the knowledge of God.
Knowing God necessitates the keeping of God’s commandments (1 Jn. 2:3, Jn. 15:1-10. The epistemology here involves not only an interaction with knowledge but an experiential knowing where our mind, soul, and actions identify and live in synchronous relationship with the person of Christ who is our way, truth and life. Knowing Him must also lead to incarnational knowledge where our experiential knowledge becomes a lifestyle that offers transformation to the community.
The bond between Christ and those who believe was initiated and upheld by the power of God’s eternal love and zealous desire (Rom. 8:31-38). The passionate dimension of Christ toward His covenant Bride has often been neglected in our theological studies and reflections. This desire and passion of Christ is further illustrated in Jesus’ three declarations regarding His second coming in the last chapter of the book of Revelation: “Behold, I am coming quickly,” “Behold, I am coming quickly,” and “Surely, I am coming quickly.” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20) These declarations were not mere statements reflecting an expression of “speedy justice”—they reflect the passionate desire of Christ to dwell in and with His covenant Bride forever.
The transcendent love of God became immanent when He loved us as a Man with His same love that was before the foundation of the world. His eternal love emanates out of His uncreated beauty and glory. In the context of John 17, Jesus in His humanity was fully aware of His divine nature—the glory and love He shared with the Father before the world was. In His John 17 prayer, He asked the Father to let His covenant Bride share this glory and love with Him. This is the Bride whom He redeemed with His covenant blood from every tongue, every tribe, and every nation. These were seen standing before Him in Revelation 7:9.
Beholding is what cultivates this knowing. It denotes a face-to-face encounter. About a millennium before Christ, King David was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write Psalm 27:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?...One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple…When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:1, 4, 8)
David expressed that his singular desire was to behold the beauty of God and to inquire in His temple all the days of his life. His exclamation is most remarkable because it was as if David knew the desire of Christ before even Jesus prayed it in John 17. David seemed to understand the most precious desire in the heart of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit could have revealed such deep things of the Spirit to David.
But David did not just keep this desire private in His personal devotion. He made it his life vision to build God a glorious house so that nations could behold the glory of the Lord. He used his influence, wealth, and power to accomplish this purpose. His son, King Solomon completed the construction of the temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it around 10th century BC. (1 Kings 8:22-60) When David wrote this psalm emphasizing in verse 4, “all the days of my life,” he was living with the revelation of the beauty and glory of God as his daily sustenance. He understood the continuous posture of beholding the beauty of God—beyond his religious duties—because he knew that his living God desired a living relationship. He refused to allow circumstances, trials, and adversaries in his life to distract him from this primary focus in life.
He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior —Jesus. (Acts 13:22–23)
The revelation of our covenant relationship with Christ as His eternal Bride empowers us to walk out our obedience to Him. As humans, we usually obey out of duty, out fear of consequences, out of commitment, and even out of a desire to excel and obtain rewards. However, there is a force that sustains obedience and guides our actions more than these common motivational forces: love. Just like King David, when a soul lives in daily sustenance from the beauty of His holiness, that soul will experience a moment-by-moment transformation as described by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18. This transforming effect comes through an experiential knowing of God which empowers our being and our actions. Indeed, if we love Him, we will keep His commandments and teach others to do so. Obedience will lead us into more encounters with His person, presence, and power.
Several years ago, while I was meditating on John 17:24, (“Father, I desire . . .”) in the prayer room, it was almost as if I heard an echo from David in Psalm 27:4, (“One thing, I desire . . .”). It seemed like King David tapped into a symphony of heaven when he declared that the desire of Christ was also his own primary desire all the days of his life. I understood at that instant that to have a Davidic heart is to have the heart of a loyal Bride who understands the desires of our Bridegroom, our King, and our Judge—Jesus Christ.
I also understood the importance of the revelation of the beauty of God for fueling our maturity in love and empowering our daily keeping of His commandments. Obedience fueled by love is the most sustainable and pleasurable, and I was reminded of Song of Songs 8:6–7:
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.
This desire of Christ was revealed in His high priestly prayer. Will we avail our lives in response to His amazing redemptive grace and live in a manner that expresses this desire for His covenant Bride?