Sunday

John 17:20-26 Sunday 8 May 2016

Psalm: Psalm 97


Background

These verses form part of a prayer of Jesus (John17:1-26), often known as the "high priestly prayer" because itshows Jesus in priestly role, ie standing between the people andGod interceding on behalf of the people. John is the only Gospelwriter to include this prayer which concludes a long discourse(starting at John 13:31) set after supper and immediatelybefore Jesus goes out with his disciples to a garden where he isbetrayed. John presents Jesus giving a farewell address which alsolooks to the future (cf the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 29:14-15).

Earlier in the discourse Judas had left the meal and Jesus hadpredicted Peter's betrayal. Perhaps these signs of division andcrumbling within the band of disciples lead Jesus to make thisimpassioned plea for unity, the paramount theme of the prayer. Heexpresses the hope that all who come to believe because of the wordof the disciples "may all be one". Past and future are fused withinthis longing for unity as Jesus' words look back to the foundationof the universe (verse 24) and forward to the establishment of somesort of future following (verse 20). All who continue to read anduse the passage today are thus brought into the scope of thisprayer. The unity for which Jesus prays is to be of the same natureas the unity experienced between Jesus and God, whom he addressesas "Father" (verses 21, 24, 25).

Union with God (verses 21, 23) and sharing in the glory of God(verse 22) are cited by Jesus as the means by which this unity maybe achieved. The fruit of such unity will be missional, giving riseto belief in an unbelieving world. Firstly that it is God who hassent Jesus (verses 21, 23) and, following on, that God's love forthe world is as strong as his love for Jesus (verse 23).

Mission also lies behind the final verse where through the unitybetween Jesus and his disciples, demonstrated as love, the worldmay also come to know God and God's love.


To Ponder

  • It's one week until the start of Christian Aid Week. Is it enough thatChristians work together for the relief of poverty and thedevelopment of potential (whether through Christian Aid, All We Canor other charities)? Or does the desire for unity for which Jesusprayed need further expression. If so, what more could churchesdo?
  • How do you understand Jesus' words "The glory that you havegiven me, I have given them" (v. 22)?
  • John Bell's hymn "Because the Saviour prayed that we be one"(StF 675) asks in verse 4 for God to "guide us". Throughout thisweek our theme is 'Guiding Light' - look out for rays of that lighttoday.
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