As you read this prayer, can’t you sense Jesus’ urgency, burden and passion? For three years Jesus has traveled with his small band of disciples. Through his teaching, his miracles, the example of his life, Jesus has been pouring into these people a sense of God’s love and reign breaking into the world in a new way. Many have been blind to this new reality, still a new way (the reign of God) is dawning, not just for all of eternity, but of at least equal importance, right here and now.
Jesus is about to go to the cross to complete what R.V. G Tasker calls “the divine errand of redemption.” All is changing. The world will never be the same after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The disciples will no longer be the same. With Jesus no longer physically present, the mission of Jesus, now given to his disciples, will change. As Jesus prepares for this ultimate act causing him to leave his band, Jesus prays, lifting his disciples before the Father. His prayer is for those disciples with him two thousand years ago, and his disciples through the ages, including us.
Jesus’ prayer is for unity. Jesus already in John 13 has given his disciples the command to love one another. This sense of self-giving love will demonstrate to the world those who belong to the Lord. Jesus showed what that love looked like through washing the disciples’ feet. Soon he will show what that love looks like through his self-giving death on the cross. Jesus prays that we, the followers of Jesus, the community of Jesus, might be one. We hear the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2—Have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus, though he was in nature God, he humbled himself….
This unity that Jesus seeks is not an end in itself. This unity propels the church in mission. As Jesus demonstrated and proclaimed the entering-into- the-world, changing- the-world love of God, so now the followers of Jesus, then and now, extend that mission. The task of the church is to reflect though its identity and its practices the self-sacrificing love of God. This mission is only given credibility as it is rooted in the unity of the followers of Jesus. The self-giving sacrifice of the disciples for one another creates the climate for the mission—being a blessing to others in the name of Jesus.
This prayer for the unity of his followers is not just wishful thinking on the part of Jesus. This unity is rooted in the very nature of God. The Father and the Son are one. That oneness extends to relationship between the Father and Son and the followers of Jesus. Jesus spoke of this in John 15. It is a sense of indwelling and abiding. That unity of God with Jesus’ followers creates oneness among believers. Again we hear an echo with the Apostle Paul: we are “in Christ.” Our baptism speaks of, and more so, creates, a unity, a oneness. We are the body of Christ. This is a new society, a contrast society yet one that exists within the world. This body of believers is formed by the work of God. It is a manifestation of the unity of the Father and the Son in the power of the Spirit.
Through the work of Jesus culminating at the cross, Jesus displayed the glory of the Father. Jesus’ mission on earth revealed the amazing love of God for the world. The Father has been glorified in the work of Jesus. Jesus is glorified through is faithful obedience to the Father. Jesus says the disciples are also glorified.
The glory that Jesus desires for his disciples is not a sense of being worshipped. It is rather the sense that the followers of Jesus reflect the love of God for the world to the world. Jesus’ true glory came by following the path of humble service. That mission of Jesus is now given to us. We know, deeply know, the love of God. We experience a relationship with the Father. We are one in Christ. So now, we demonstrate and offer that experience of divine love to the world where we live.
In the church today, in our lives, may it be so.