Sunday 29 May 2022

Bible Book:

'The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.' (v. 22)

John 17:20-26 Sunday 29 May 2022

Psalm 97


These words, recorded in John’s Gospel, form part of Jesus’ most earnest and intimate prayer to his Father on the night on which he was betrayed. John provides us with depth and detail, distilled after years of reflection. It was recorded for the church community because the message was so important, and not to be lost. It is sometimes called the ‘High Priestly Prayer’, and John places it between the ‘Farewell Discourse’ and the ‘Passion’ narrative. There is a building sense of tension, foreboding, and yet an eternal nature to these words – rooted as they are in the confidence and hope of Jesus’ relationship with his Father God.

This part of the prayer focuses on unity. It is based in the unity Jesus knows exists between the Father and the Son (with the here-unspoken bond of the Holy Spirit). And the source of this unity is love (agape in Greek), as expressed five times in these few verses. And yet the prayer is not simply an expression of adoration between Son and Father, it is a prayer for the disciples and for the Church. Jesus prays not only for his immediate circle of followers, but for all those who will follow after. He prays for genuine unity: “that they may all be one” (v. 21). Jesus prays for unity that is not superficial, or about friendly acquaintance, but a true unity, which mirrors the unbreakable bond of purpose and love that we declare is at the heart of the Holy Trinity.

In the 2000 years of history following Jesus' life, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Church had never read these words, and certainly never reflected that this was the earnest desire of its Lord. What trifles of doctrine or spiritual preference have we split over? What blood has been spilt over denominational badges? What price have we paid for the need to be ‘right’, over and above the command to love one another? Every year we have a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Surely our prayer should begin with lament and repentance, for have we really sought hard enough to be the answer to Jesus’ prayer?

To Ponder:

  • How important is Christian unity to you? What about your church? Are you part of a local Churches Together group? Or are there any ecumenical projects you can join, where local churches work together?
  • Where can we rejoice when we see unity in action? What are the projects that seem to be blessed or flourishing?
  • Verse 21 implies that unity will help the world to believe in Jesus. Do you know people who struggle with Christianity because it is divided? What message to the world (or a local community) would a uniting Church give?
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