Overhear Jesus Praying for You
John 17:20–26 (CSB)
20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. 25 Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. 26 I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”
Dear fellow redeemed: As John relates the history, the climax of Jesus’ ministry, His service to mankind, was when he gave up His life on the cross, having atoned for the sins of the world. With his resurrection, He was shown forth as God the Son and our redeemer, and righteousness was declared for this world.
Jesus was our servant, living out our life of perfect righteousness, and dying our death to atone for our sins. But even though “Christ died for all,” there will always be those who are His and those who are not, those who are alive in faith and those who are not, those who believe in Him, and those who are not. Those who are His will be joined with Him in reaching out into the world, so that others will also come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, chosen and sent into this world to save us.
Because of this, eternity touches us. God is acting, not only to cause the son to shine, the crops to grow, the earth, moon, and stars to travel in their orbits. He is touching your heart and your mind and, most intimately, your very life and soul. In the great cosmic battle that embroils this universe each day, we who know Christ are all in this together.
Let me tell you what kind of company your keep, for we are all in this together, with each other, with the faithful all over the planet, with the faithful of the past and of the future, of heaven and of earth. We are joined with the host of heaven, clothed in white, the suffering and imprisoned faithful around the world, the aged and the baptized newborn, and you and me, all in this together.
And what we have here from Jesus on the eve of his self-sacrifice is an outpouring of His soul, …
WHAT JESUS REALLY, REALLY WANTS FOR US
- Children of the Apostles’ Word
- A Unity In Heart and Soul
- The Glory of God
- The Presence of God
Children of the Apostles’ Word
The first thing that strikes us is that Jesus has stepped out of that moment and transcends time. 20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word.” He says. That includes you, today. Today we pray to Jesus who was praying for us that night of His betrayal. And He prays for us still: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, CSB)
As in a family tree, your faith, your spiritual life, is traceable back to these apostles and the word of God, the revelation of the Holy Spirit, that was given, and believed, and in turn passed down. And think about it; as He was facing His death, He was also anticipating the victory that would be won first in His resurrection and then in our hearts through the Gospel.
A Unity In Heart and Soul
And what does He pray for? First, for a unity among us that is beyond anything the world can create, a real soul-connection. He says, 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, … 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.
I got a letter from the Bahai in Grants Pass last week. They confused us with the local ELCA church. The writer was just sure that, based on publicity from that church, we would love to participate in a sort of “unity day” with all the other religions in the area. Do they really think that true unity is taking part in a demonstration around the lie that all the false gods of this world are the same as the one and true Creator and Savior? Do they think that there can be any unity between those whose faith is in Christ, and those who deny that He is the only Savior?
Jesus is talking about the sort of unity that makes “soul mates” in the true sense of the term. As I tell young couples in the pre-marital instruction that I provide, “The closer you both are to Christ, the closer you are to each other.” So it is also in the church. The more that we are into this word and know Christ, not “know about” Christ, but know him as we know one another, then the closer we are to one another.
Because of this word, we have the same worldview as a teen-age shepherd from 1000 B.C. (David, who became king). At our heart, we have the same priorities as the people of Nyamira, in Kenya. We have the same hope as the house Christians of Red China. And today we are sharing the same experience of listening to Jesus pray for us. So the closer we are to the words of Christ, and the more we share the truth of that word, the closer we are to each other.
But Jesus takes it deeper, dear soul mates. As we heard a week or two ago, in the mystical union God dwells with us, spirit to spirit. The Father lives with us and in us, as do the Son and the Holy Spirit. Your body and your soul are the dwelling-place of God, so your body and soul are the temple of God, as Paul says, “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, CSB)
Why else is there this sense among us that we are family? How many times I have heard that in the last year! We are united more closely, in many cases, than we are with our own flesh and blood.
Sadly, this unity is disrupted when people become proud, or controlling, or domineering, or self-centered rather than Christ-centered. This unity is disrupted when people depart from the true word of Christ that reveals Him. Lord preserve us from anything like that!
The reason Jesus prays for this unity is so that “that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”
When someone talks with a Christian and hears about the mercy of God, and with another Christian, and hears about forgiveness, and with yet another Christian and hears as sinner grateful for God’s mercy, this brings a torrent of the gospel into that person’s life.
If someone talks to a Christian or a CHINO “Christian in name only” and hears about social justice, and with another one and hears about God as “mother” or that Jesus is a mere man or that He made no sacrifice for sins, and then with a Christian who shares the gospel, you can see that such disunity keeps the world from knowing Jesus.
While this all makes sense, perhaps the most astounding thing about this prayer is the unimaginable blessing that He gives us in order that we may be one. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one
The Glory of God
You and I actually share in the glory of God. If God dwells with us, and we with him, then we share in what He gives and in Who He is. In at least half a dozen places Scripture teaches this surprising, incomprehensible truth. Peter, for example, writes, “By [His own glory and goodness] he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.” (2 Peter 1:4, CSB)
Immortality, eternity, righteousness, divine wisdom, fellowship with God – – – these are all part of the divine glory, God’s glory, in which we share. Already it has started. Jesus said, I have given them the glory you have given me. The divine nature communicated to Jesus’ human nature, is what He gives to us also. Already you have spiritual life and fellowship with God that will never end – immortality. Already you possess the righteousness of God.
When I really grapple with what it means to be one with God, I think my head will explode. Think of what Paul says about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and in His resurrection, and in His death, and in His resurrection: “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11, CSB) Or take Peter, “Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13, CSB)
The Presence of God
Jesus ultimately prays for you because He wants you to know Him as He knows you, and to truly grasp, truly “get” the love that He has for you, and are immersed in it, and in the glory of God. He says, 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation.
Let me put it this way: As we live now, we are separated from Christ because of our sinful natures. But where there is love, there is desire for union, to become true soulmates. We experience this even in our lives, wanting our loved ones near, sharing their joys and dreams and triumphs. Loving you, this is what Jesus wants for you, and what He wants to share with you.
We face troubles in this world, don’t we? Tired. Hurt. Sick. Injured. Disappointed. Fearful. Frustrated. Depressed. Anxious. Rejected. Guilty. Embarrassed.
But we have also tasted Joy. Love. Hope. Satisfaction. Beauty. Companionship. Happiness.
The first of these are of this broken world. The rest of these are part of God’s nature, and they, dear ones, are yours, because Jesus said a prayer for you, and went forth and won them all for you.