How do we know this is part of Jesus' prayer?
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: (John 17:1)First we must ask what is the "hour" being spoken of. As the events will unfold in the Book of John, this is most certainly the time when Jesus is to be arrested by the guards of the Jewish high priest, to be eventually delivered to the Romans and subsequently persecuted for his teachings.
Is Jesus asking that God glorify him?
Here the word "glorify" comes from the Greek word δοξάζω (doxazō), which can mean "to make glorious" and "to praise," but it also means "to make renowned," "render illustrious," and "to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged," according to Strong's lexicon.
In other words, Jesus is not speaking of God glorifying Jesus. Can you imagine the type of person who would ask God to glorify him in before others? A pretty self-centered person at that.
No. Jesus is asking God to cause Jesus to be respected by others - "to cause the dignity and worth of some person" - so that he could utilize that respect to influence others.
Jesus said something similar after he healed Lazarus:
"This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it." (John 11:4)And for what purpose is Jesus requesting the Supreme Being to produce dignity and respect from others and influence others? This is where the other usage of the same word - δοξάζω (doxazō) - comes into play. Jesus would be using that respect and influence in order "to praise" God - or "to make renowned" or "render illustrious" with respect to God.
Jesus' goal was to see the Supreme Being praised and glorified. He wasn't interested in his own glory - having the respect of others was only considered a means to establish God's glory - to raise people's consciousness of God.
This brings us to the translation of the word "son" in this verse and elsewhere in the New Testament. Did Jesus call himself "son" as he prayed to God and as he spoke to others?
No. The word "son" here is being translated from the Greek word υἱός (huios), which according to the lexicon, can only be translated to the word "son" - "in a restricted sense, the male offspring (one born by a father and of a mother)". "In a restricted sense" means that the application of "son" cannot be applied in this context outside of being born by a father and of a mother: A physical family in other words.
In this context, we cannot accept the translation of υἱός (huios) to "son". The lexicon also clearly states that the word υἱός (huios) is "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower or a pupil."
So when used in conjunction with God, the lexicon clearly states that υἱός (huios) would apply to "the pious worshipers of God."
In other words, Jesus is not referring to himself as God's son - he is referring to himself as one of God's subjects - a worshiper of God - a follower of God - a servant of the Supreme Being - and more importantly, as the Representative of God.
We can see elsewhere that Jesus uses the word υἱός (huios) in conjunction with a subject or a servant - or in his case (as he was sent by God) as God's representative. Consider these verses, all of which use υἱός (huios) - the same word being translated to "son" here:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children [υἱός (huios)] of God." (Matt. 5:9)
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children [υἱός (huios)] of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matt. 5:44-45)
"And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people [υἱός (huios)] drive them out? So then, they will be your judges." (Matt. 12:27)
Jesus replied, "The people [υἱός (huios)] of this age marry and are given in marriage." (Luke 20:34)
"They are God's children [υἱός (huios)], since they are children [υἱός (huios)] of the resurrection." (Luke 20:36)
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child [υἱός (huios)] of hell as you are." (Matt. 23:15)We can see in all these uses of υἱός (huios) by Jesus that unless the word is specifically referring to a physical son of a father and mother, then its use is general - to describe a follower or devoted person - a loving servant - or in some cases, "subjects" - which can both be captured by the word "followers."
But because there is a distinction between someone who simply follows a group or consciousness and someone who follows God, it is important to use a separate distinction depending upon the context, just as it is appropriate to translate υἱός (huios) to the word "son" when used to refer to a son of a mother and father.
To comply with this contextual issue, let's test this translation by inserting "servants" or "subjects" instead of "sons" in the verses quoted above:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called servants of God." (Matt. 5:9)
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be servants of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matt. 5:44-45)
"And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your subjects drive them out? So then, they will be your judges." (Matt. 12:27)
Jesus replied, "The subjects of this age marry and are given in marriage." (Luke 20:34)
"They are God's servants, since they are subjects of the resurrection." (Luke 20:36)
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a subject [can also use servant] of hell as you are." (Matt. 23:15)We also find that Jesus' followers also used the same type of reference:
"....because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [υἱός (huios)] of God." (Romans 8:12-17)And in Galatians:
“You are all sons [υἱός (huios)] of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)Which would be properly translated to:
"....because those who are led by the Spirit of God are servants of God." (Romans 8:12-17)And in Galatians:
“You are all servants of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)For many of the verses above, the words "followers" or "devotees" may also be inserted instead of "servant" to retain the context.
After all, we are all "children" of God in that we were each created by God. But not all of us are actively involved in serving God. Most of us are quite the opposite in fact. So we could all be called "children of God" but not necessarily "servants of God." This is because God made service to Him our choice - but we are all "God's children" by default. Thus being a "servant of God" is a distinction, while being a "child of God" is not.
Thus we can conclude that the mistranslation to "son" or "sons" of God - υἱός (huios) - would also then have absolutely no distinction because everyone is a "child of God" - as "son" and "child" (or "sons" and "children") are synonymous.
Thus the use of "son" as Jesus is referring to himself in this prayer is quite simply mistranslated. Jesus is not referring to a physical "sonship" here at all - because he knew everyone including himself is a child of God.
What Jesus is referring to himself as is God's servant. The fact that Jesus referred to himself as God's servant is also consistent with many other statements by Jesus, such as:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:50)and
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)Someone who does someone else's "will" is none other than that person's servant.
Jesus never claimed to be God's only begotten son
These statements also confirm that Jesus never made a claim to be God's "only begotten son" as preached by many ecclesiastical Christian teachers. Such a claim would make God impotent. Could the Supreme Being - who created the entire physical universe with all the solar systems and living beings - be only capable of having just one son? That would be an absurd hypothesis, and it is negated throughout the scriptures, as we find others also referred to (mistranslated) as sons of God. For example:
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. (Genesis 6:2)
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. (Job 1:6)
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1)
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:7)
Let's see how these verses play out with the right translation to servants:
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the servants of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. (Genesis 6:1-2)
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterward — when the servants of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. (Genesis 6:4)This clarifies what is going on here - and this is the crux of the scriptures. The scriptures detail events of those who are devoted to God - God's loving servants.
And those who are self-serving are distinguished in the scriptures from someone who serves God.
This is also the distinction between a person who is self-interested versus a person whose interest is pleasing God - they are acting in God's interest. They are doing God's will, not their own will.
This is captured by the word servant, but better, God's representative, because Jesus was sent by God to teach on God's behalf.
We are never forced to serve God
God gives us the freedom to serve Him or not because He loves us and He wants our love. He could force us to serve Him all day long but He doesn't. He leaves that choice up to us.
Jesus is specifically stating here that he is God's loving servant and representative, and that whatever respect and honor God will bestow upon him, Jesus will utilize the influence this bears in order to serve God - by glorifying Him and praising Him.
This service can only stem from love for God, which is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“‘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)
*Here is the translation of this verse of Jesus' prayer from the Gospels of Jesus:
"LORD, the time has come. Exalt Your Representative so the Representative may glorify You.” (John 17:1)