16 May 2013

John 17:20-26

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” (v. 20)

Background: Each and everyone

Today's passage gives us an opportunity to eavesdrop on a seminal conversation, a heart-felt prayer that gives a rare but relevant insight into Jesus' understanding of his own purpose and passion, and what he believed and almost begged for for "those who will believe...".

In the earlier part of this chapter, Jesus recognises the journey of the disciples or followers around him, and the judgement of those who for whatever reason had chosen not to believe or follow him. He petitions heaven for the witness of God in the earth, asking for those who are following him not to be taken out of the world but to be kept in the world and from the evil in it.

Up to this point, Jesus' prayer had more or less covered all those who might have been eavesdropping, and hopefully they would have had that warm, fuzzy feeling that you often get when you realise that someone is looking out for you. For the courageous disciples, this prayer was a platform from which to 'boldy go' where others had not gone before to proclaim Jesus as Lord. For the less confident, it was the 'duvet' that would insulate them from the inclement and inhospitable times that might be ahead.

If Jesus had stopped there, it would still have been an amazing prayer to overhear, but in the narrative he didn't. He continued to pray for "all". He prayed for all those who would believe in the future, for all those who would come along after the followers who were with him now, and for all those who might struggle at first but then find clarity and wholeness in him. That small word 'all' took a prayer in time, and made it a prayer for all time and for everyone.

The core theme of unity may seem difficult to some and unattainable to others, but Jesus was passionate about it, and about including all people in it with only one caveat: that they believe. Neither background nor upbringing, class nor culture feature here; just an open invitation to believe.

So who is included in the "all" that Jesus continued in prayer for? Anyone - no everyone - who through this scriptural text has listened in to what Jesus prayed for and is willing to respond, would dare to be wrapped in the duvet of us his protecting love, and who would dare to be positioned on the platform of his grace, to share his love in the world.

Far from being a classified conversation, today's prayer is a timeless prayer for each and everyone.

To Ponder

  • What does this part of Jesus' prayer say to you?
  • How is this part of Jesus' prayer being answered in/through your life?
  • Who can you pray for today who may feel excluded or hurt?

Bible notes author

The Revd Katei Kirby

The Revd Katei Kirby is currently heading up the Belonging Together project in the Connexional Team. This initiative celebrates the Methodist Church's ethnic diversity, and seeks to embed this at all levels of the Church's life and ministry of the Church.