Today we are finishing our walk through Jesus’ prayer in John 17. This is the end of Jesus’ final discourse that we have spent several weeks walking through as we are continue to move towards John’s objective:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
John had been building perspective of who Jesus is through his actions, His miracles, His interactions at festivals, His teachings, and His interactions with his disciples. He has been intentionally bringing us as readers to hyperlinks of Old Testament narratives that build a picture of a new covenant coming through relationship with Jesus. John is walking us along through narrative and spends a lot of time focusing on this intimate moment with His disciples in John 14-17.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and triumphantly entered Jerusalem, seen as a political revolutionary messiah, John brings these moments out between Jesus and His disciples: the Passover meal, the washing of feet, the call of a new command, His predicted departure, the promised Holy Spirit, an exposed betrayer, Peter’s predicted denial, the call to follow commands, a prayer exposing eternal life as knowing God, a prayer for protection so they can have unity, a prayer for protection from the evil one, and a prayer for sanctification as they follow Him.
And today we come to Jesus’ prayer for those that follow the message of the disciples. A prayer for us. We are mentioned!
After our UNITED SERVICE, we come to a new section in John. It moves from this final discourse with the disciples to narrative as Jesus is arrested, and on to his crucifixion, death and resurrection. As we get there, it will be a moment where the disciples would say, I would give anything to come back to the insurmountable chaos of yesterday; today is the worst.
But today we are mentioned!
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (John 17:20)
Us - he is praying for us!
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:20-21)
Jesus could have prayed anything for us: Protect them. Care for them. Provide for them. Bless them. Encourage them. Help them. Build them. Reassure them. Focus them. Teach them. Empower them. Enlighten them. Remind them. Love them. Cherish them.
Come on Jesus--Unity? That is what you go with? That is where you are going to go? Unity?
Maybe if you continue on in the prayer we will get to the blessing--money, fame, fortune, wisdom, prosperity? Let me have it Jesus. Pray it!
“May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:21-23)
Oneness. Unity. Connectedness.
Let’s try something:
Google Search: What does God care about?
What stands out to you as you see these search results?
What do these search results say about what people are looking for?
What was the tone of the search results? What does it say about us? What does it say about what people are looking for? Why are the search results so “me” and “us” focused?
What about apart from us? What does God care about and think about independent of us? Or is He really that good that all of His thoughts are concerning us even when we would take advantage of Him or be completely undeserving of His focus and attention?
Jesus could have prayed for anything here. This was the culmination of years of time spent with his disciples. This was the moment to say the most important things. And He chose to pray for unity for us.
This is a question we are going to talk about now and revisit in slightly different form at the end of today's conversation:
Why does Jesus pray for unity, oneness and connectedness?
Before we dive deeper into the text, before we dig into its hyperlinks, can we deconstruct unity for a moment?
Unity: the state of being united or joined as a whole.
Sometimes unity is difficult to see or define, but lack of unity can be easier to see sometimes. Just think about a group of five-year-olds playing a soccer game. That’s lack of unity summed up.
As we were preparing for this we had some great conversation surrounding what unity is and isn’t. Rather than just telling you all the great things we talked about, I’m going to invite you into that conversation.
Before I get to the first question, let me put another definition on the board:
Conformity: compliance of practices.
How are unity and conformity different?
How can unity exist in communities where people have many differences?
How can unity exist where conformity isn’t present? The disciples likely would have faced this daily--a tax collector, a couple brothers, some fishermen, and everyone probably with different backgrounds.
John is building towards His objective, walking with us to seeing who Jesus is, and walking with us to see what life is in relationship with Him. And from the first words of John, he is bringing to the surface that connection between God and Jesus.
In John 1, we saw the declaration that Jesus is God and distinct in God and is God with us. And now Jesus prays a prayer about the oneness of God and Him:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:20-24)
This would, without question, bring the hearers to the Shema. The Shema refers to a couple lines from the book of Deuteronomy, which became a daily prayer in ancient Israelite tradition.
The Shema gets its name from the first Hebrew word of the prayer in Deuteronomy 6:4, which says, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” Or, “Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” The English word “listen” renders the Hebrew word “shema.”
The Shema, prayed both morning and evening, has functioned both as the Jewish pledge of allegiance and as a hymn of praise. It appears in the opening section of Deuteronomy, which is a collection of speeches attributed to Moses before the next generation of Israel entered the Promised Land.
Moses challenges them with his wisdom and warning because he doesn’t want these Israelites to repeat their parents’ mistakes. Rather, he invites them to respond to God’s grace and mercy with love, faithfulness, and obedience.
The Shema can keep God’s love and loyalty in the forefront of your mind and drive you towards obedience--not out of obligation or duty, but out of love.
In Hebrew, “hearing” and “doing” are basically the same thing, but how should Israel respond to hearing that the Lord alone is their God? “Love the Lord your God.” In this context, love isn’t simply the warm, fuzzy, emotional energy we feel when we like someone. In the Bible, love is action. You love someone when you act in loyalty and faithfulness. For Israel, loving meant faithful obedience to the terms of their covenant relationship.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Thinking of God’s oneness, and in turn thinking of God’s commands, the readers would have to be pulled back to Jesus’ new command:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Oneness is a character trait of God, and now in John 13 Jesus is asking for this character trait to be something His followers have.
Love God. Remember. And love one another.
What’s amazing is this picture of “love one another” is found all through scripture, so it’s not so much a new command as it is a continued command.
In Luke 15 we see a moment where Jesus sees this not happening. Jesus was living it out but the religious authorities grumbled:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)
Here is a picture of people seeing unity as conformity, or as being identical: Jesus, You can’t hang around these bad people! They are bad people. They are not us. We are not them. We don’t need them. I can’t believe you are uniting yourself relationally with them.
We keep coming back to the chapter in Luke. Over the past year we have been here many times, but we can’t walk away from it. Jesus shares about the lost sheep and the lost coin and then about the lost son.
Luke 15:11-32 • The Prodigal Son
What did the prodigal son think? I don’t belong. I have blown it. I won’t be accepted back. I have forfeited my identity.
What did the brother think? He doesn’t belong. He blew it. We shouldn’t accept him back. What about me? What about my reward? Why don’t I get recognized? This isn’t fair!
What did the dad think? My son is home. Let’s celebrate! We are back together as a family again. Let’s celebrate!
Now we go to work. With our conversations in mind--what God cares about, unity and conformity, unity in the midst of diversity--now we ask this again:
Why does Jesus pray for unity, oneness and connectedness?
Let’s go back to the prayer:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
All who would believe in Me through their message. Even if at first they don’t believe or are opposed or are even enemies. All who would believe.
May they be one and may they also be in Us.
Unified together when things are easy and when they’re difficult, with people who are like us and who are different from us.
How are you a recipient of this prayer being answered?
How are you a participant in this prayer being answered?
that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Take It Deeper Questions:
- Read John 17:20-26.
- Would you rather be in a room full of people just like you or full of people who are the exact opposite of you? Why?
- How does unity happen when people are not exactly alike?
- What is unity?
- How is unity achieved?
- What is an individual's responsibility in progress towards unity?
- How do you see Jesus' prayer being answered in your life? In our world?
Bible Reading Plan:
- Numbers 3
- Numbers 4
- Numbers 5
- John 16
- John 17
- John 18