"I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they ..." (John 17:22-23)

"I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and You in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me." (John 17:22-23)

What does Jesus mean by 'glory'?

We can quickly tell that "glory" is not the best choice of translation* by the fact that Jesus is saying that he gave his followers "glory." How would a teacher give his followers glory?

If we were talking about a football team where the coach led the team to a championship, that might be a case for the coach giving glory to the team.

But Jesus was not a football coach. So let's discuss the concept Jesus is praying about more closely.

As Jesus continues his open prayer to the Supreme Being, he delves into the depths of his intimate relationship with the Supreme Being.

Entering into this relationship is not possible for professional teachers among those sectarian institutions motivated by gaining followers and filling their coffers.

Entering into this relationship is not possible for those who confuse Jesus with God - teaching that Jesus is "God became man." To call Jesus God ignores the very relationship that Jesus had with God.

Jesus contradicts such a notion in front of his disciples (he is praying openly before his disciples here) not only with his prayer in general but this specific part of his prayer:
"I have given them the glory that You gave me"
"Them" here refers to Jesus' students and disciples - as confirmed throughout this prayer with statements such as "I have given them Your word (teachings)." Certainly, Jesus is referring to whom he has been teaching.

So what has Jesus given them? Glory? What is that? How has Jesus given them glory? Is Jesus talking about fame here? Did he make them famous? - as glory typically refers to fame.

No. The Greek word translated to "glory" here is δόξα (doxa). This is actually a complex word - and in this case, it is more complex because Jesus is using it to describe a spiritual concept.

As we examine the lexicon, we find several uses, but the most applicable would be "a most glorious condition, most exalted state."

So is Jesus talking about God exalting Jesus and Jesus exalting his students? Why, then was Jesus' physical body beaten and tortured, and why, after Jesus left the physical world, did most of his followers have to also undergo beatings and persecution? Were they really exalted?

This is not what Jesus is talking about here. The "glorious condition, most exalted state" that Jesus is speaking of is a spiritual concept. It is a spiritual condition - a spiritual state.

And what is that state? It is bliss. And what produces this bliss?

It is love for the Supreme Being. This is the perfection of spiritual life - as Jesus instructed:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
To achieve this instruction - to fall in love with the Supreme Being - with all our heart and soul and mind - is a glorious spiritual accomplishment. It is the achievement of spiritual perfection.

And this - love for God - can only be granted by the mercy of the Supreme Being and one of God's representatives.

This is why Jesus is saying that "I have given them the glory that You gave me."

Because love for God - real love for God, not the "oh I love God and I love my cat and my dog and my house" that we often hear people say - requires coming to know God.

After all, we cannot love someone we do not know.

And to come to know the Supreme Being, we have to be introduced. Either by God personally or by someone who already knows and loves Him.

This is what Jesus is talking about: He has introduced his students to the Supreme Being and they have come to know God and have achieved love for the Supreme Being through their relationship with Jesus. How is this?

What does Jesus mean by 'they may be one as we are one'?

These references to "unity" and being "one" are being taken from a repeating of the Greek word εἷς (heis), which refers to the opposite of many or divided according to Thayer's lexicon. Jesus' use of this word refers to a unity that comes from having a personal relationship.

How can a person have a personal relationship with God?

Let's say we want to meet a famous rock star, and come to know him. Do we just write him a letter? Millions of people write him letters. Do we try to call him? His phone number is private. Do we try to rush the stage at a concert? The rock star has armed bodyguards that protect him. How do we meet and come to know the rock star?

The only feasible way is to be introduced by a friend of the rock star. If we come to know the rock star's friend and the rock star's friend begins to trust us - they know we aren't a nut case or something - then they might introduce us. But this is only if they - the rock star's friend - trust us and if we are sincere. 

If it seems we are just using the rock star's friend then there will be no trust. But if we are sincere then there will be trust and the friend of the rock star will introduce us.

Of course, such an introduction requires first that the friend of the star is on good terms with the rock star. The rock star must trust the friend - and only then will the rock star trust someone who is introduced by the friend. The whole thing is built upon relationships.

This is not so different for the Supreme Being. Why? Because the spiritual realm is built upon relationships. One must have a relationship with God to be in the spiritual realm. It is not as though we can just go hang out in the spiritual realm and have a good time. The spiritual realm is based upon loving service relationships with God: Loving God and serving God, which is blissful to the pure soul.

God has created us for the purpose of exchanging a loving relationship with Him. He also gave us the freedom of choice to love Him or not. Those who chose not to love Him got sent away to the physical world - and given temporary physical bodies. Why? Because we wanted to get away from Him. So here we are in the physical world - away from Him.

That is why our physical bodies - our temporary vehicles - have no access to God. We cannot see Him, hear him nor touch Him with these physical bodies. This was our choice - God is simply granting our wish to be away from Him.

But should we become serious (and sincere) about returning to our relationship with the Supreme Being, He will see this seriousness as He knows our heart. And He can direct us to His representative who will introduce us to Him.

This is what Jesus is speaking of here. He is introducing his students not just to God, but to his relationship with God. He has revealed God to his students while revealing his intimate relationship with God.

This intimate relationship with God is what Jesus is referring to with:
"that they may be one as we are one — I in them and You in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity."

What does 'complete unity' mean?

We can compare such unity with what happens between a mother and her infant. When the infant is hungry, the mother breastfeeds the infant. When the infant is crying, the mother will try to relieve the infant's distress. The mother cannot ignore the child's crying. She becomes distressed when the infant is distressed. This is because of the love and care that exists between the mother and her infant. The mother cares about the child so much that her life revolves around the infant.

The infant and the mother are certainly two different individuals - the infant is not the mother and the mother is not the infant. But there is unity between them because of the love the mother has for the infant. Her will is connected to the needs of the infant. This creates unity between them.

This is seen when the infant is happy: suddenly the mother will be happy too. There is unity there. When the infant is pleased, the mother is pleased.

In the same way, when a person is in love with the Supreme Being, their will becomes connected with God's will. Whatever God wants, the lover of God wants to do. This is also called loving service. Just as the mother tends to her baby out of love and care, the lover of God will tend to God and serve God with the desire of pleasing Him. This creates a oneness between God and the lover of God.

This type of oneness with God - this loving service to God - can be facilitated by God's representative.

In the example above about the rock star - the friendship between the rock star and his friend will reflect upon our relationship with the rock star too. If they have a particularly close relationship - and we end up having a close relationship with the rock star's friend - certainly our relationship with the rock star will also be close. The relationships become intertwined. This is how relationships work.

Of course, these examples have limitations. The relationships of the rock star or the mother and infant are not as deep as the relationships between God and His loving servants.

This depth of love is expressed by Jesus with this phrase:
— I in them and You in me —
Is Jesus talking about being inside of his disciples' physical bodies? Of course not.

This is a metaphorical expression or idiom. Today we use a similar metaphorical expression/idiom when we refer to someone with whom we have a special loving relationship:

"you are in my heart"

Certainly, this doesn't mean the other person is physically sitting inside my heart. It means that we have a closeness of love. A special loving relationship. This is what Jesus is speaking of as he refers to his relationship with God and his relationship with his closest disciples.

And this closeness also relates directly to Jesus' last point:
"Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me."
"Then" is connecting the "so that they may be brought to complete unity" to "the world will know that You sent me". This clarifies the relationship between God and Jesus. Jesus is God's loving servant, and God has sent Jesus.

This also relates directly to the purpose of God sending Jesus. It is not as if God could not come down to the earth and appear at any point in time, and with a thunderous voice say "I am God and you better love Me and serve Me or else." God could do that at any time.

But He doesn't.

Why? Let's use an example.

Let's say that a teenage boy has gone off to college - which his parents are paying for. But before the boy leaves he gets into a fight with his dad. The boy curses to his dad and says "I hate you" as he storms off and takes off to college.

What does the thoughtful dad do? Does he just show up at the college? Does he barge into his sons dormitory and demand his son take that back and hug him now? No.

The dad will stay away and give his son some space. He hopes this is a temporary phase, but also respects his son's seeming independence. Even though the dad is still paying for college.

The Supreme Being is sort of like this. He is kind and thoughtful. He is gracious and forbearing. He does not force Himself upon us because He knows that only we can decide to love Him. He cannot force us to love Him.

Why did God send Jesus?

To guide those who sincerely want to return to Him. To re-introduce God to those who want to come to know and love God.

God's messenger already has this oneness with God, because he wants what pleases God. Whatever pleases his master is what pleases him. This creates a oneness of purpose and will, which is what Jesus had.

Such oneness is extended - passed on - when a student of God's representative wants what their teacher wants. Because they know that what their teacher wants is what God wants, they can also join that unity by working to please God under the guidance of the teacher. This is what is taking place between God, Jesus and Jesus' students here.

The precious thing about what Jesus says here is how he praises God's love for him and his students:
"You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me."
Jesus is not thinking that he has some sort of exclusive thing going with the Supreme Being. He is loving the Supreme Being, and wants his students to also love God as he does. Jesus confirmed this when Jesus said elsewhere:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50)
Doing God's will means following Jesus' instructions. His most important instruction was to love God as indicated above. Another instruction was that we pray to the Supreme Being, and we glorify God's Holy Names. This is clearly indicated here:
“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matt. 6:9-10)
This indicates that Jesus instructed doing God's will along with praising God's Names ("hallowed be Your Name" or in KJV, "hallowed be Thy Name.")

Jesus' disciples also followed this instruction. This is confirmed in the last verse of Luke, after Jesus had left his disciples and returned to the spiritual realm:
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:53)

*Here is the translation of this verse of Jesus' prayer from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"The bliss that You have given me I have given to them, so they may become united, just as we are united: I with them, and You with me, so they may be perfectly united, so the world may know You have sent me – and have loved them just as You have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)