Click on the image to see it full-screen.
Gospel according to John 17: 20-26
20 “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 – 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.
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.”
These verses conclude Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” or “consecration prayer”, the longest of Jesus’ prayers recorded in any of the four Gospels. In the passage above he repeated the desire for unity that he pleaded for in verse 11: “that they may be one as we are one”. The relationship between the Father and the Son is the model which all his followers must strive to emulate, one with another.
Those who yearn for an intimate relationship with God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit know the challenge of trying to eliminate all distractions in order to be totally focused on God in prayer. The world clamours for our attention! It wants to divert our attention away from God! Jesus was able to maintain close connection with the Father throughout his life despite the fact that, once people recognised him, they incessantly placed demands on him.
The union between the Father and the Son is a perfect union. We, in our own strengths, are not likely to achieve such perfection in this life. Despite this, Jesus has prayed on our behalf for our unity. Can God’s church on earth “be brought to complete unity” (verse 23)? Jesus wanted this in order to convince the world that he was sent by the Father and that the Father’s love for the Son extends to all of God’s Church.
How might such a unity among Christian people be seen? We would not all be identical; God made each as a unique individual. We probably would not all worship in precisely the same way. We might not necessarily adopt the same doctrinal practices. Instead the unity would be manifest in the love Christian men and women showed to one another, to all Christian men and women regardless of Christian denomination. The fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23) – would be evident in all relationships, particularly within denominational communities and congregations.
Possible? Yes, made so because Jesus has prayed for it (verse 20), not only for his disciples but for us too, for all who believe in him through their message. Let us believe in the possibility of this prayed-for complete unity and, in our own fields of endeavour, strive to achieve it.