the prayer that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 6:9-13) is usually
called “The Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer of Jesus in John 17 could
be more properly given that title. On the eve of his crucifixion, facing the
agony of separation from the Father as He bore the curse and punishment of our
sin, Jesus’ prayer reveals that He had far more on His heart and mind than
the pain and death He would suffer: He was thinking of and praying for us. And
this is a prayer that continues to this day. The God of mercy who saved us also
allows us to actually fulfill the prayer of Jesus.
Exercise a Consistent Faith (20-21a)
scope of Jesus’ prayer and concern extended far beyond His disciples who
had followed Him throughout His earthly ministry. His prayer reached through
future millennia and around the globe to all who would believe in Jesus through
the Apostles’ testimony. His prayer was not that they would be uniform,
but that they might be united. The desire of His heart was not that they be
in conformity with one another, but that they might be in communion with the
Father and the Son.
answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity lies within our power, but only to the
degree that we each submit ourselves to His will. Just as Jesus and the Father
are one in purpose and will, so must we be submitted to that will and purpose.
Not only does this accomplish our oneness with God, but also with God’s
people. We cannot have this unity by living out our individual interpretations
and ideas of Christianity, but by exercising the integrity and consistency
of a life submitted to Christ, just as Christ submitted to the Father.
Exhibit a Constant Witness (21b)
are never given a right to judge the world. In our shock at its lewdness, crass
antics, and godlessness, we often forget that the people around us are acting
like what they are: fallen humanity.
reminds us in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 that we have no business judging the world.
God is fully capable of doing that Himself.
the other hand, the world does have the right to judge Christians! When Jesus
told the disciples that the world would mark them as His disciples by their
love for each other, He was telling them that the world is watching. Again,
here in His great prayer, He reminds us that the world has the right to judge
us by our unity.
unity with one another provides a powerful presentation of the effects of the
gospel. Unity is not unison, everyone singing the same note, but harmony. Unity
is not uniformity, which comes from pressure within, but rather light from
within. Unity is not union; pulling all the corpses together in the graveyard
won’t start a resurrection.
is our single and settled devotion to following Christ, the evidence to the
world that our faith is real.
Experience the Same Glory (22)
as children look like their parents, so Christians reflect the glory of God
through their unity.
Christians major on the externals and insignificant matters, they fail to experience
the unity for which Jesus prayed. So long as we build on accidentals rather
than essentials, pursue some persuasive personality or some innovative doctrine,
or seek to build our kingdom rather than His, we will never really know the
glory of God for which Jesus prayed. As long as Christians split hairs, they
will split churches.
prayer of Jesus reminds us that we do not have to manufacture unity; it is already
here. Our job is to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!”
We cannot produce unity; we can only preserve it. Our unity emanates from the
glory of God.
Enjoy the Same Love (23-26)
the core of God’s glory and at the center of Christian unity lies the love
of the Father for the Son.
cannot be explained by program, personality, propaganda, or persuasion. The
only satisfactory justification for such a change in direction, devotion, and
desire is the overwhelming love of God. In these verses Jesus lets us in on
the love that God had for the Son before the world was ever created. We actually
become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and of the intimate communion
of the Godhead.
as Jesus declared God’s name to a world that hated Him, so we must enjoy
that overwhelming love so fervently that we cannot help but share it with others.
brief provided by: Hershael York, Lester Associate Professor
of Christian Preaching, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY