21 January 2015

John 17:20-26

“As you, Father, 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.” (v. 21b)

Psalm: Psalm 85


Today's passage is Jesus' prayer for those who will believe in him through his disciples' word; he prayed "they may all be one" (v. 21). Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus spoke of being the good shepherd of the sheep, of bringing "other sheep that do not belong to this fold", and of them all being "one flock" (John 10:11-16).

The unity for which Jesus prayed was a sharing in the life of God. This unity, Jesus said, will also enable the world to believe that the Father sent him; this parallels an earlier part of the prayer where Jesus spoke of his disciples as those who have believed that the Father sent him (John 17:8).

In verse 23, unity is also related to the world knowing that God has loved the disciples as well as loving Jesus. This echoes the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples after he had washed their feet (John 13:34). He commanded them to love one another as he had loved them and said, 'By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (John 13:35).

The prayer also concludes on the theme of love: Jesus spoke first of being loved by his Father "before the foundation of the world" (verse 24) and then of making the Father's name known to his disciples "so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (verse 26).

To Ponder

  • Jesus prays that his first disciples and those who will believe in him through their word will be one so that the world may believe (verse 21) and know (verse 23) that his Father has sent him. How do you see the relationship between the unity and the mission of the Church?
  • What do you think are the implications of Christian unity being founded on a sharing in the life of God?
  • What examples do you know of Christian unity enabling the world to believe?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Stubbens

Neil Stubbens is a Methodist presbyter who is currently the connexional ecumenical officer. Previously, he has served in the Barnsley, Southport, St Helens and Prescot, and Sankey Valley Circuits.