This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 8, 2016.
All four canonical Gospels report that Jesus, after the supper and before his arrest, prayed. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the reported prayer is in Gethsemane and poured out in anguish for himself, for his being spared the cup of suffering, yet for the will of God to be done. In John’s Gospel, the reported prayer is in a room with his disciples and is substantially for them, as well as for future believers. The prayer has been understood by the church to be of enormous significance. It has often been called his “High-Priestly Prayer,” because it is offered on the verge of his final sacrifice, making supplication for his people in an intimate sanctity that could rightly be called “the Holy of Holies.”
One measure of its importance to the church is the fact that every year, parts of it are assigned to the final Sunday of the Easter season. The Revised Common Lectionary apportions John 17 as follows: Year A, 17:1-11; Year B, 17:6-19; Year C, 17:20-26. These divisions roughly correspond to the three natural divisions of the prayer: Jesus prays for himself (17:1-5), for his disciples (17:6-19), and for future believers (17:20-26).