The well known question and answer to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q & A 1:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Suppose you could have asked Jesus Christ, “What is your chief end?” You begin to get an answer to that as you listen to Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17. Last night in our Bible study/prayer time at Trinity Presbyterian Church we looked at the first five verses of that chapter. Dare you listen in here? As Jesus prays out loud, John hears that prayer and records it in his Gospel so that you and I can get a glimpse into this most intimate of conversations, God the Son speaking to his Father. Who is worthy to listen in—except that the Spirit included this so that you can hear Jesus pray. He prays first about himself (John 14:1-5), then about his disciples (John 17:6-19), and finally about those who would believe in time to come—in short, about you and me (John 17:20-26).
As Jesus looks ahead to returning to his Father, he asks for the glory that he has had with the Father. These are the persons of the Trinity speaking to each other. What is it that the Son, by becoming incarnate, does that brings glory to the Father? Both the Father and the Son are glorified in the Son bringing eternal life to those people given him by the Father. Here, as elsewhere in the Gospel, those who belong to Jesus are described as those given to him by the Father. How often do you think of yourself as the Father’s gift to the Son, a gift in which both Father and Son are glorified as you are brought from death to life?
“The [experiential] knowledge of the Father, the only true God, as our God and Father, and of the Son, the sent and sealed messenger of the Father to save and bless men as our Savior, is not only the means, but it is the sum and substance of eternal life.” (John Brown, An Exposition of Our Lord’s Intercessory Prayer, p. 65).
Jesus is heading for the cross, knowing that in his sacrificial work on Golgotha he will be glorifying the Father. And as he returns to the Father in his resurrection and ascension into glory he carries with him the lives of his people. In that the Father is glorified. That is Christ’s chief end.