Christ prays for our Unity
Christ Prays for Our Unity* (John 17:20-26)
The last night before His cross, Jesus began to do what He now does perpetually. He prayed for the needs of His own disciples. A few hours before His arrest, Jesus interceded for His own disciples. He may have done so in the area of the temple itself, where the high priest of the Jews were supposed to pray for the people. He prayed not only for His immediate disciples (vv. 6-19), but for disciples in all generations to come. Beyond His death, Jesus expected a great victory and a growing church. Jesus prays that the unity of Christians would make such an impact that the world will believe in His divine mission.
Christ Prays for the Unity of the Church
What might Christ have prayed for in the final moments before His arrest? He might have prayed for His own strength, that the eleven would support Him, that they would not flee from Him, etc. Instead, His prayer was dominated by a single great thought— the unity of the disciples. He prayed that the original disciple group would be one (v. 11). What He prayed for them, He then prayed for all believers (v. 21a). This is a comprehensive prayer for the church at rest above and the church below at work.
The pattern for the unity of believers is the unity of the Father and Son. There is literally no unity on earth like that unity. It is not merely a unity of organization, purpose, feeling, or affection. It is a vital, organic unity with an exchange of life's energy itself between persons. Just as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, we are to be so related to the church.
Christians are drawn to one another because they are drawn to a common center, Christ Himself. Later, John wrote a letter to Christians "that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
Christ Prays for the Impact of a Unified Church
The impact of a unified church is that the world believes God the Father sent Christ the Son "that the world may believe that you have sent me" (v. 21b). Only the manifest, visible unity of believers will convince the world of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Only the spectacle of united disciples will convince the world of the truth of Jesus' message and mission. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
A truly unified community of people is a supernatural fact that must have a supernatural cause. The world is so disunited that a perfectly unified church compels the world to confess that God is at work among us. On the other hand, a disunified church reverses all the work of Christ and renders our witness to Him impotent and without effect.
Christ Prays for the Glory of a Unified Church
Christ prays that the present church on earth and the future church in heaven will see His glory. "Glory" is the visible manifestation of all the divine attributes. It is what we see when we look at God.
Christ has already revealed all the glory we can comprehend on earth below: "I have given them the glory that you gave me" (v. 22). We see in the divine manhood of Jesus Christ all the glory that our eyes are capable of seeing below. "The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). The purpose of showing us His glory was that "they may be one" (v. 22). Even now, when we get our eyes off one another and contemplate the revealed glory of God in Christ, we are one. That glory changes us even now: "We, . . . are being transformed into His likeness with an ever-increasing glory" (2 Cor. 3:18).
Christ will fully reveal all of His glory in heaven: "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory" (v. 24a). There is more to come. We will be perfectly one when we perfectly see His glory. The final object of believers' contemplation forever will be the exalted Jesus Christ. The more we look at Him, the more we will see forever. The more we see, the more we will become one forever.
That glory is the outward, visible expression of love between the Father and the Son: "the glory You have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world" (v. 24b). We will spend eternity contemplating the love between Father and Son!
Why not start now? Our church will never be fully united by looking at the pastor, program, or one another. To the extent we all look away to Jesus Christ, we will be drawn to one another.