John 17 is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. He prays that:
- The Father would glorify Him in His mission (1-3).
- The Father would return Him to glory at the end of His mission (4-8).
- The Father would protect His representatives in the world (9-15).
- His representatives would be holy in the world (16-19).
- His representatives would be unified as they are on mission (20-23).
- His disciples would join Him in glory (24).
- His disciples would live and act as He did when He was in the world (25-26).
Seven things he prays in His High Priestly Prayer. I want us to focus in on His fifth petition. It comes in verses 20-23.
Let’s read verse 20:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
Throughout history the gospel has been spread, people have believed and passed that message on, and that process has continued all the way up to today, making believers along the way, including many of you reading this right now. With that in mind, the first thing this verse reveals is that Jesus prays not only for His current disciples, but also for us.
The second thing this verse reveals is that Jesus’ disciples are to be on His mission. What does that mission involve? It involves making disciples. How do we best go about calling others to be Jesus’ disciples? The remainder of His fifth petition gives us an idea.
How do we make disciples?
Disciples are made primarily through our verbal witness. The proclamation of the gospel tells others of the hope that is in us. Proclamation, however, is not all that is required. Disciples are also made through our community witness. How? Let’s look at verse 21.
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
We act as a witness to the gospel by the way we relate to one another. Why? Verse 22 and 23a hold the answer.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one,
Two things we see here:
(1) True unity requires heart change.
Change which only occurs by the gospel piercing our hearts.
(2) True heart change through the gospel allows us to image or reflect the Trinity for the first time ever.
Imaging the Trinity means that we love one another as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. It also means that we will be unified with one another as the Father and Son are unified.
The unity we show by imaging the Trinity allows us to act as a witness to the world for the gospel. Look a the remainder of verse 23.
so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
When we are unified with one another, we not only give credence to our verbal witness, but we also act as a witness to a completely different way of life. Life that can only be lived through true heart change by the gospel.
So then, our community witness speaks just as our verbal witness does. One cannot be had without the other. If the community is not unified, then their verbal witness will not hold much weight. If a community doesn’t give a verbal witness, then those around them will not know why they are different. Both need to be present.
Unity takes work
Unity doesn’t come without work. Jesus knows that, which is why He prays His disciples would be unified. The work it requires though is worth it because it allows us to accomplish our mission in the world.
How do we become unified?
(1) We must first allow the gospel to pierce our hearts.
The gospel must change our hearts from a heart of stone to one that is gripped by the gospel.
(2) After that has taken place, we must continue to reflect on the gospel.
The love Jesus showed us by dying for us must constantly be preached to ourselves. Reminding ourselves of His love, should spur a desire in us to love others in the same way Christ loved us, selflessly.
If everyone in the community selflessly loves one another, we will see a unity, a oneness, we, or this world, has never known before.
So let’s love each other like we have never loved each other before, so that we may experience unity as we have never seen before, so that we may be a witness to our community for Christ. That is Jesus’ prayer, and that is my prayer as well.