Year C Easter 7 John 17:20-26
John 17:20 [ Jesus said ] "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 "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. 25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
From the sermonblog:
Look back in wonder!
Jesus prayed for you, me and all other believers, v. 20. Every believer is a gift from God the Father to Jesus, v. 24.
Look today, determined in witness!
Jesus prayed that we may be united to demonstrate to the world the love of God in Jesus, v.23.
Look forward in certain hope!
Jesus also prayed that his followers would, one day, see his full glory, v.24.
How do I feel knowing that I am a gift of God the Father to Jesus and that Jesus prayed for me?
How can I love and our churches be united with other believers so it is a witness to the world?
How should the knowledge that I am destined for glory influence the way I live?
How do you feel when someone says that they will pray for you ? Encouraged ? Valuable ? Cared for ? That you will have supernatural help ?
In today's gospel Jesus is praying for you and me. It is minutes before Jesus will be betrayed. The next day he will be crucified, and John records this final prayer before then. Earlier in Chapter 17 Jesus had prayed for himself, verses 1-5, then the disciples, verses 6-19. Now he prays for us, and every Christian in history.
Jesus is still praying for you and me today through his presence with God the father in heaven. Hebrews 7:24-5 says, 'Because Jesus lives for ever he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.'
This shows us how much God cares for us. Of his great compassion for us. We can feel valued and cared for. We can be encouraged because God the Father will answer those prayers and grant us his supernatural help to do what he wants us to do.
What does Jesus pray for in this passage ? Two O's !
A oneness of believers rooted in a oneness with Jesus and his love.
Just before the Battle of Trafalgar Nelson asked Admiral Collingwood where his Captain was, and learned that he and Captain Rotherham were not on good terms with each other. Sending a boat for the Captain Nelson placed the hands of Collingwood and Rotherham together, pointed to the enemy's ships and earnestly looked both of them in the face. 'Look, yonder is the enemy.' he said. It was enough; disagreements were forgotten, and victory was gained.
Jesus' disciples came from different backgrounds. Some were fishermen, one a tax collector, with different temperaments and abilities. Peter, impetuous and fiery. Thomas, loyal yet cautious and wanting to understand things. Of course they were all Jews, and soon God would be calling non-Jews, or Gentiles into the church.
Today we have different people in churches. Differing race, colours, ages, sex, jobs, abilities, temperaments ... the list goes on. What unites us ? Jesus.
Earlier in Chapter 15 Jesus told the disciples that they were to be rooted in him like branches attached to a vine. Now Jesus uses the illustration of his unity with God the Father for the unity that he wants the church to have. Verse 21a.
God the Father and God the Son are different persons in the Godhead, but united in their will and purpose. As Christians we are different. Thank God for that !
I once filled in a form which asked about the beliefs that I, and we hold about certain issues. The first question asked if I thought that God had created the world in six twenty four hour days, in six longer periods of time, or if I thought that the creation account was not written from a scientific point of view.
If I ticked a different box from other Christians that doesn't mean that one of us is a better Christian than the others. It doesn't mean that we cannot work, worship and pray together. God doesn't want us to be clones, all alike. He demands unity, not uniformity.
We can be different, but we should have the same aims in sharing and living the gospel.
That unity is to be personal not institutional. Rooted in our relationship with God through Jesus, not in our membership of a particular church. Verse 26, "I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." Jesus is talking about the continuing revelation of God through Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit.
These two aspects of the unity that we are to have, contrasts with some cults. For example the Jehovah's witnesses. They are all forced to believe the same thing. They are not allowed to question any doctrine that is held by 'the organisation' as it is called. If they do raise anything they risk being disfellowshipped i.e. thrown out from the organisation and being cut off from all it's members. They are not allowed to read the Bible without guidance from the organisation, so there will be some parts of the Bible they will never have read. They are not encouraged to be obedient to Jesus in itself, but obedient to the teaching of the organisation.
From verse 26 we read that the love of God, living in believers is the glue that should keep them and us together.
The glory of Jesus, verse 22 should also bind believers together. What does Jesus mean by 'glory' here ? Glory is the self-disclosure of God. We see this in different ways. Here it is probably looking back to the humble service of Jesus to the disciples when he washed their feet earlier that night ( Chapter 13 ). It may also be looking forward to the crucifixion the next day.
So Jesus is saying that we should be bound together by love expressed in service. This is the glory, the self disclosure of God that will be seen by others.
When India was under British rule O.H.M.S. used to be printed on official documents sent within that country. A boy was living out there, the son of Canadian missionaries. He asked what these initials meant and was told 'On His Majesty's Service'. He prayed this prayer, ' Lord, please make me like a government letter. No matter what becomes blurred or defaced on me, please keep the letters O.H.M.S. on me crystal clear .'
John's gospel has a theme of the glory of God being shown on the cross, rather than in the way we might expect it which is of Jesus coming on clouds in splendour and power. This is the glory that is referred to in verse 24. "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. This is encouraging because Jesus is saying that if God has chosen us then we can look forward to seeing Jesus in all his glory. The word see is talking about careful observation, rather than a quick glance.
How can we know if God has chosen us ? A true Christian is one who trusts in Jesus, who perseveres in that faith, who loves others, and who has the Holy Spirit living inside them.
It is one of the works of the Holy Spirit to unite believers. Paul writing to the Christians at Ephesus writes ( 4:3f ) : 'Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit...'
Whilst it is God's Spirit who unites us note that Paul says that we have to play a part. 'Make every effort' he says. I know that there are members of this congregation who are not united in the way God wants them to be with other Christians. This can flow from someone else doing something or not doing something that we see as wrong and so it spoils our relationships. Barriers build up and as the years go on they become more difficult to break down.
It is God's job to judge. We do not know enough and are not impartial enough to do it properly. When we judge others we step outside God's grace. We move into being put right by good works. Something that we cannot accomplish. We are saved through God's grace, by faith, which is itself a gift of God. We are free and forgiven. So we can be free and forgiving.
We pray 'forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us' in the Lord's Prayer. We don't pray 'forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us and say that they are sorry'. We should forgive others to show that we appreciate how much we have been forgiven.
If we are going to move forward as a church we need to repent. To turn away from judging others. Forgiving those who have hurt us. Loving and accepting one another. Each of us recognising that we are sinners together. United by God's undeserved favour.
In Columbia there are social problems including crime, drugs, violence and murder. A German aid worker succeeded in bringing people together by encouraging them to play football matches. Teams have been set up in that country and brought people together who would otherwise not meet one another except to fight.
If football can bring together people who would otherwise fight and kill one another, how much more should the love of Christ unite people who are frosty and judgmental to one another ?
Why does Jesus pray for oneness among his followers ? As a means of
Earlier that evening ( 13:34f ) Jesus said to his disciples ' A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.'
Jesus said that loving other believers is a new commandment. A very important one because it was love that was an important ingredient in the early church. Acts 2:32. 'All the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they shared everything that they had.'
Unity and practical love reach out to a world that is divided and selfish.
Our luncheon club is an example of this. When it started some people thought that they would have to attend church if they were to join. But the purpose of the Club is to show the love of Jesus to the local community in a practical way.
The Jubilee 2,000 Campaign is another example.
Verse 21, "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." The oneness of believers with one another and with God should demonstrate that God has sent Jesus. That he is a living reality in the lives of Christians in such a way that it gets up and slaps people in the face.
Verse 23b May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Again the emphasis is on oneness. A complete or mature unity. What should this show ? Firstly that God has sent Jesus. A repetition of verse 21. When something is repeated in Jewish, and other literature it is to underline the point.
Oneness shows that God has sent Jesus. If there is not that oneness there is not that witness. Secondly oneness is evidence that God loves his followers, just as he loves Jesus.
God loves you and me ! In this gospel John describes himself as 'the disciple who Jesus loved'. He doesn't do this out of pride, but because he thinks it is mind blowing that this Jesus who is eternal, who created everything, who came to earth as a man, should love him.
This incredible fact should fill us with joy. It should fill us with humility. A realisation that before God we are nothing without Jesus. And that this applies to every believer. Therefore, we should love one another. We are all sinners justified by God's undeserved favour.
Jesus prays for all believers for them to be united in love to witness to the world. Let us do all that we can to make that prayer come true.