Jesus’ singular will and desire in that petition is that his own would be with him. No, not that he would be where they are, but that they would be where he is. In fact, this is one of the reasons for his departure. He left this world so that he could enter heaven and prepare a place for us.
The final night of Jesus’ life before his crucifixion was an evening filled not only with the penultimate expression of his love but also the deepest instruction of our Lord’s ministry. I have often marveled, as it was once pointed out to me, that as the lives of the disciples were about to be turned upside down, Jesus gives us some of the most significant teaching on the interrelationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is often regarded as one of the most perplexing in all of Christian theology, but Jesus knew it’s what the disciples needed for their sorrow to become joy.
Intimate as his expressed love and teaching were to those disciples, it’s an intimacy that is nearly eclipsed by what followed their interactions – Jesus own prayer to his Father for himself, the disciples, and for all who would come to believe in him through their witness. The unchanging heart of Jesus for his church is unfolded in the petitions he offered to heaven for our strengthening in this present world. George Newton wrote: “[It is the] Lord’s prayer, which he made for us. Not that which he propounded to us, as our pattern; but that which he presented for us, as our privilege.”
Of all the appeals contained in that prayer none seem to comfort in the saddest affliction of life – which is death – as what Jesus asked in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”