John 17:20-23

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
John 17:20-23
Every summer, since I was ten years old, I’ve crossed Nebraska on I-80 to visit my grandparents in Colorado. I’ve made the trip as a squirrely sister in the back seat, as a teenager with attitude, as a college student in love, as a young pregnant mom with a toddler on my hip, as co-pilot of an overloaded minivan, and as a grown daughter of a sweet mom making her last trip home.

Whatever changed over the years, I could depend on two constants—homemade ice cream on July Fourth and evening devotions with Grandpa. He read John 17 from his worn, marked-up Bible on our last visit before he died. When I hear this passage read, I hear it in Grandpa’s strong, measured voice.  When someone we love is dying, the hours and days leading up to their death take on new meaning. We pay closer attention to the words they spoke and hold their written words with tender reverence.

When we hold John 17 in our hands, we hold the words spoken by Jesus in His final hours, the words He prayed the night before the betrayal that sent Him to the cross.
In a prayer that is personal, powerful and utterly confident in its outcome; we see not only a closeness but a complete oneness between the Son and His Heavenly Father. Jesus prays for his disciples and for all who will believe in Him.

He prays for you and me.

Jesus prays that we, believers, would be one in the very same way that He and God the Father are one. We do not need to wonder if he had the year 2020 in mind; we know He did. He knew we would be torn apart by politics and policies, by racism and inequalities, by differences both petty and profound. In this, we are no different than the early church, who had to be reminded by Paul that all are one in Jesus—Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.

Paul asks the early church in Rome, ‘Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?’ (Romans 14:10)

When Jesus prays for our unity, He offers up the grace for this to happen in His sacrifice on the cross. ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility’ (Ephesians 2:14). In breaking down the wall of sin that separates us from God, Jesus breaks down the walls of sin that divide us, too.

After Jesus breaks bread and before He offers up His body to be broken, He prays for the unity of all who believe, so that the world may know. This is the outcome of unity in the church—that others will believe. Because one day a great multitude no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages will bow before the Lamb seated on the throne.
Rebecca Janni | Author 

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