“Archeologist Dr. Jim Strange from the University of South Florida (Tampa) visited a Buddhist temple in Tibet. As he watched the flow of people come and go, he noticed a group of teenagers gathered at the temple. They were dressed like American teenagers from the 1980s, and he thought it peculiar that they would light incense and bow in the traditional manner. So he asked his guide, ‘What are they praying for?’ The guide responded, ‘They’re not praying. They’re wishing for money, good relationships, and success.’
When a person bows before a temple with lighted incense and intently ‘wishes,’ that is praying, even though it may be mistakenly aimed. Many modern people in a plethora of languages and cultures pray for money and success. But the ‘good relationships’ angle is interesting. In a very real sense, that was part of the essence of Jesus’ prayer. And he was not ‘wishing’ either but devoutly committing himself to the Father for a return to heaven and the ongoing empowerment of his disciples.
We learn a great deal about prayer from this chapter but perhaps even more about relationships. A relationship to the Father and the Son is primary, but our relationships with other believers in the world gets significant attention in this high-priestly prayer. We can activate this chapter in our lives by praying in the pattern of Jesus. But perhaps even more important is for the modern church to allow the Spirit of God to activate his love through us to other believers.
The result of Christian unity on earth is a radiance of the love of the Father and Son in us. I remember an old chorus from the days of my youth:
May Christ be seen in me, O Lord.
Hear thou my earnest plea.
O take me, fill me, use me, Lord,
‘Til Christ be seen in me.”
[Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 322].
Differences in our marriage
Judy and I don’t always agree on everything (I know, that may come as a shock to some of you)
I like sushi and she doesn’t
Her favorite ices cream is mint chocolate chip and mine is either grapenut or teaberry
I like Hawaiian pizza and most everyone else doesn’t
I like video games and she doesn’t
Unity in our marriage
We don’t have to agree on everything in our marriage to be unified in our marriage
We realize that most of our differences are personal preferences
What unites us as husband and wife is a mutual love and relationship with Jesus Christ
Unity comes, not from within us or in our own strength, but through Jesus
I realize that no one else has differences in their marriage or other relationships – it’s just Judy and I
We all experience differences in our relationships, no matter what relationship that may be (family, friends, coworkers, fellow believers, church attenders, etc.)
Those differences don’t mean we can’t be unified, especially within the body of Christ
We have to determine that the relationship is more important than the personal preference we hold to
In this last part of Jesus’ high-priestly prayer, He is praying for future believers (He was praying for us!). There are repeated themes of love and being one (unity) throughout these seven verses. The key to being one, as followers of Jesus Christ, is modeled for us by God and Jesus. We will learn today that . . .
BIG IDEA – Body unity comes from activating divine unity.
GOD (John 17:20-26)
United in Him (vv. 20-23)
Future believers (v. 20)
Pastor Marc shared last week about Jesus’ prayer for His disciples – those eleven men who had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry
We see that Jesus’ prayer for them will be fulfilled as He continues praying for future believers
This should have given the eleven disciples incredible confidence and hope for the future
Jesus had already told them that they would experience the same things He had experienced on earth (hatred, persecution, separation, and death)
The mission He was giving them would not be easy, and yet His prayer here shows that they will be successful
Jesus is praying for people who will believe in Him through the message that the disciples would share with them
Jesus’ prayer stands the test of time
The generation of believers that heard the message from the eleven disciples could also claim the promise of this prayer as they shared the Gospel
The generation that followed them could claim the same promise and have the same hope that the Gospel would be successful in transforming the lives of individuals
We can claim the same promise and have the same confidence as the first disciples that when we share the Gospel, people will believe in Jesus through our message
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people share the Gospel
When we share the Gospel, it means that God’s promise and Jesus’ prayer are fulfilled from generation to generation
We can have confidence that even though we will be hated and persecuted by the faithless world, that God’s redemption plan will continue to transform the lives of those who hear it and accept it
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Confidently claim the promise that when I share the Gospel, people will believe in Jesus.
We may not witness the transformation taking place immediately, but we can have hope and confidence as we plant and water the seeds of faith
1 Corinthians 3:5-9, What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
So, Jesus is praying for every person who will believe in Him through those who share the message of the Gospel – generation upon generation!
He prays for their unity
Complete unity (vv. 21-23)
Divinity, Divinity relationship
What we see in these verses is an incredible love between the Father and the Son (God and Jesus)
This love has been expressed throughout John’s Gospel
Jesus has been modeling this love for His disciples, so they will understand its importance
PRINCIPLE #2 – God and Jesus are One!
The Father is in Jesus (vv. 21, 23)
Jesus is in the Father (v. 21)
Jesus has been telling His disciples, the religious leaders, and everyone else, that He and God are One
As we’ll see in just a couple of weeks, this claim will be one of the reasons why He is crucified
The next relationship we see in these three verses is between the disciples and Jesus and God
Disciple, Divinity relationship
We have to be in Jesus and God (v. 21)
“Like a set of matched mixing bowls, we are the smaller one that fits into Christ who fits into the Father.” [Gangel, 319]
The relationship that Jesus is praying about here is perfectly summed up in His teaching about the vine and the branches (John 15:1-11)
John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me to can do nothing.”
We’ll talk about the fruit of unity in just a moment
Jesus has to be in us (v. 23)
This is the relationship that is most important, because it guarantees spending eternity with God
John 14:23, Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Revelation 3:20, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (this is a picture of a close relationship)
John 1:12-13, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
This leads us the final relationship between disciples
Disciple, Disciple relationship
PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus’ desire is that His disciples are one (unified).
Defining unity [Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 343-45]
Unity is not compromising the truth
“[Unity] is not achieved by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator, but by common adherence to the apostolic gospel, by love that is joyfully self-sacrificing, by undaunted commitment to the shared goals of the mission with which Jesus’ followers have been charged, by self-conscious dependence on God himself for life and fruitfulness.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 568]
We have to keep the main thing the main thing
Most evangelical churches agree on the Gospel of Jesus Christ even when they don’t agree on other secondary issues – we can still be unified with them around the Gospel
The same in true within every local body of believers
Unity is not outlawing any diversity
Just as Judy and I don’t agree on everything and have our own personal preferences, every one of us will have our personal preferences and not agree when it comes to church
The key is found in this classic quotation: “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” [Carter & Wredberg, 344]
We may think that certain things should be done a certain way at church, but in most cases those things are related to personal preferences
In some extreme cases, individuals make their personal preferences higher and more important than Biblical truth and unity and will fight to the death in order to get their own way
This only cripples the local body of believers in accomplishing God’s purpose and will
Unity is participation in a shared relationship with Jesus
Jesus prays about giving His glory to His disciples
We don’t have any glory on our own, it only comes from God and Jesus
“Child of God, don’t you know only you share the glow. It’s the light from within, when the blood covers sin. It’s the wonderful glory of God.” [Gangel, 319]
We can only experience true unity in the body, as disciples of Jesus Christ, when we keep our focus on loving Jesus and God
Body unity comes from activating divine unity.
Four evidences of a unified church [Carter & Wredberg, 346-49]
A shared commitment to Biblical instruction
Acts 2:42-44, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.
“If every member of the church is willing to ask, ‘What does the Bible say?’ and commit to obey it no matter what, that church will experience unity.” [Carter & Wredberg, 347]
Are you willing to ask that question when confronted with conflict and disunity in the church?
Are you willing to commit to obeying God’s Word no matter what?
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Study God’s Word and commit to obey it when confronted by conflict and disunity in the church.
A shared understanding of our new identity
At the moment of our salvation, we are immediately in Christ
We are children of God, family members
This membership in God’s family creates unity across ethnic, racial, economic, and social lines
Unfortunately, even within the Christian community we still see division, hurt, anger, and disunity in all of those areas
We need to make sure that we are agents of Christian unity with everyone
A shared pursuit of sacrificial love
Jesus’ prayer highlights the fact that God loves us the same way He loves Jesus (that’s a perfect love)
Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
Philippians 2:1-2, If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
What does the pursuit of sacrificial love look like? [bearing one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1), instructing one another (Rom. 15:14), forgiving one another (Eph. 4:2), praying for one another (James 5:16), submitting to one another (Eph. 5:21), encouraging one another (1 Thess. 4:18), provoking one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24)
It means putting aside our personal preferences and seeking what is best for others
A shared discontentment with selfish division
We should never get to the point where we say “We’re unified enough.” [Carter & Wredberg, 349]
Imagine for a moment that someone put arsenic in your cup. Would you feel confident to drink from that cup if you didn’t know that every last drop of arsenic was removed?
“Disunity and broken relationships are like poison in the church. We can’t be content until every last drop of division is removed – not by getting rid of someone or leaving ourselves but by dealing biblically with division.” [Carter & Wredberg, 349]
I’m really passionate about reconciliation within the church, but unfortunately it rarely happens, because there is a church on every street corner in America. When someone doesn’t get their own way (whether a congregant or a pastor) they just move on to the next church and never resolve the conflict. Church discipline is really weak in most churches. The thing that’s frustrating is that the issue that drove the individual away from the church follows them to the next church. It eventually surfaces again and the process continues, indefinitely.
I’ve had people ask me if I want them to leave the church and my answer has always been, “No.” I want them to be transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. I want there to be submission to the Lord and His Word and changed attitudes and hearts. I want there to be reconciliation and unity.
“Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks wrote, ‘Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous’ (“Legacies”).” [Carter & Wredberg, 349]
How do you deal with differences and disagreements within the church?
Paul (Read Philippians 2:5-8)
Jesus (Read Matthew 18:15-20)
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to resolve any differences and disagreements I have in the church and strive to reconcile with the individuals involved.
Hurting the purpose of unity
“Divisions in the church breed atheism in the world.” [Thomas Manton cited by Carter & Wredberg, 349]
“The effectiveness of the church’s evangelism is devastated by dissension and disputes among its members.” [John MacArthur cited by Carter & Wredberg, 349]
“The gospel proclaimed from the pulpit is either confirmed, and hence immeasurably enhanced, or it is contradicted, and hence immeasurably weakened, by the quality of the relationships in the pews. In this sense every Christian is a witness. Every time we gather together we either strengthen or weaken the evangelistic appeal of our church by the quality of our relationships with our fellow church members. The biggest barriers to effective evangelism according to the prayer of Jesus are not so much outdated methods, or inadequate presentations of the gospel, as realities like gossip, insensitivity, negative criticism, jealousy, backbiting, an unforgiving spirit, a ‘root of bitterness’, failure to appreciate others, self-preoccupation, greed, selfishness and every other form of lovelessness.” [Milne, The Bible Speak Today: The Message of John, 250-51]
Jesus explains the purpose of this incredible unity that He has been praying about
Purpose of unity
The world will believe (vv. 21b, 23b)
It’s all about God’s divine plan of redemption for the world
Our unity, through love for one another, is a powerful testimony that God sent Jesus from heaven to earth to take our punishment for sin
It’s also a powerful testimony of the everlasting, loving kindness of God, with which He draws sinners to Himself (Jer. 31:3)
I don’t know about you, but I want to have that kind of testimony with our neighbors and community
We’ve been praying for salvations and I want to see God answer those prayers
Our effectiveness in leading others into a discipling relationship with Jesus is based on our unity as a body of believers
Body unity comes from activating divine unity.
Jesus was so concerned about our unity, that He prayed about it over two thousand years ago and has continued to intercede for us before the Father
He not only prayed that we would be united in Him, but also that we would be reunited with Him
Reunited with Him (vv. 24-26)
Being with Jesus (v. 24a)
Home improvement shows
Judy and I love to watch home improvement shows and tiny house shows
When the house is complete, the homeowners usually invite their family and friends over for an open house, so they can show everyone what it looks like
Perhaps you’ve done that when you’ve moved into a new home, or have made improvements to your current home
You want everyone to see how attractive it is
Jesus is looking forward to the time when those, that God had given to Him, would be able to be with Him in heaven
The attractiveness of heaven will far exceed any home improvements that we can do here on earth
Our heavenly home will be perfect!
The magnificence of heaven will be highlighted by the glory of Jesus and God
Jesus’ glory (v. 24b)
As Jesus continues with His request, about being reunited with His followers, He expresses His desire for His followers to see His glory
This is the pre-incarnate glory that He had with God before the world was created
2 Corinthians 3:18, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
1 John 3:2, Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Jesus concludes His prayer by reaffirming that He has made the Father known to the world
Making God known (vv. 25-26)
Jesus addresses the Father as righteous
This is one of His many attributes
It means that He does everything right – He does everything perfectly
Jesus had made the Father known to the world
John 15:15, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 17:6, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.
The fact that the world does not know the Father, doesn’t mean that they hadn’t heard
“The problem is not the world’s access to the knowledge of God . . . but that the world refused to acknowledge that God had sent Jesus.” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 469]
Jesus continues to make the Father known through us
Jesus, and His love, living in us, is the key to making the Father known to the world
We are Jesus’ ambassadors to those in our world who don’t know Him
Are you sharing the Gospel of Jesus with your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors? (You can do it with confidence knowing that God will give the increase)
Are there any relationships in the church where you need to work towards reconciliation and unity?
The body unity that comes from activating divine unity will accomplish God’s purpose of transforming individuals in our world
“The church can be a taste of heaven. When people with different preferences, hobbies, jobs, genders, backgrounds, skin colors, accents, and tastes love one another with a love surpassing all human love, they open a window to heaven, and people begin to feel a breeze from a far-off country and in their souls awaken a long-dormant hope. They want to go to that place and be with those people who know, see, and feel something different, something beyond, something more.
The love of God assures us we have a home and a country on the other side of the sea. This knowledge binds us together and spills out in a love that feels strangely foreign but still familiar. When people see this love displayed in a million little ways, they will hope it’s real, and when the hope is confirmed, they will understand the story is true. They will know Jesus lives and Jesus loves.”
[Carter & Wredberg, 351].