By DaQuan Gibson
Before Jesus’ crucifixion, He prays for Himself, His disciples, and us. This is a futuristic prayer. It is a prayer that focuses on unity, on all being one. Not uniformity but unity, true friends!
I imagine that as the disciples gathered for their final meal with Jesus (even though they did not know it), they did not feel united. They had to be frightened, uncertain, insecure, and un-united. Thomas was skeptical, Peter was grouchy, and Judas was malevolent. James and John were probably still jockeying for positions. They were far from being described as one.
This is Jesus’s last hour with his disciples before he goes to the cross. The focus of Jesus’ prayer is both for the disciples who are present with him and all those who would later become his disciples. Jesus is praying this prayer while the opposition is getting closer.
Christ extended His prayer to “those who will believe” (John 17:20) through the witness of the original disciples. What Jesus prays for us is the same thing that He prays for the original first disciples–that we would be one.
This is not simply a unity of love. No. This unity is predicated on adherence to the Father’s revelation to the first disciples through His Son, the revelation they believed and preached. This oneness is comparable to the oneness of the Godhead.
The Father is in the Son to the extent that we are told in John 14:10: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” The indwelling of the Father in the Son is to the extent that we can be told that it is the Father performing the Son’s work.
And yet the Son is in the Father, not only in total dependence and complete obedience to the Father, but also the very one who created everything and for and through whom everything was created. He was in the beginning with God. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3).
The Father and the Son are distinguishable yet still God–distinct personalities and yet one. In the same way, we Christians, believers, are to be one in purpose, one in love, and for one another and in submission to the revelation of Christ. Yet I am me, and you are you. I do not have to become you or be like you.
Jesus envisions the great multitude before the throne of God of every nation, skin color, language, class, and social level (Revelation 7:9-10). Jesus prays that we would rise above our differences and understand our unity: that ”they may all be as one.” (John 17:21).
Jesus prays for the unity of the disciples that the Father gave Him. They were all from the same place and time with similar backgrounds. It’s as if Christ is saying, “Father I know more are coming and they are coming from everywhere, speaking different languages, with different customs, different tastes in music, using various colloquialisms, from different classes, and from every age for the rest of time. Father, make them one.”
Yes, we will have doctrinal differences. If we do not, then it means that we are not thinking. Yes, the doctrine will cause some lines to be drawn. Rightfully so. We will not agree on everything but we are not to be of a contentious spirit, separating ourselves from those who are living members of the one and indivisible body of Christ. Some promote the faith by creating divisions or pointing out our differences. It should not be so. We must cultivate both our love of truth and our love of the brothers and sisters.
I have become really good friends with another pastor with whom I have some significant doctrinal differences. And what I find amazing is that we can talk about those differences and enjoy breakfast and lunch together. We will sit for hours, praying for one another, telling pastoral stories, discussing doctrine and covenants and dispensations, marriage, children, and sports. And there are those with whom I have doctrine in common, and they wouldn’t spit on me if I were on fire.
Doctrine may cause us to worship in different places, but nothing should cause us not to be one in Christ. If you claim to be in the Father and in the Son and thereby identify with God and depend on Him for life and eternity, then we are the residency of the Father’s work in this world. And we become the Father’s display of love and unity, so much so that it is unworldly.
The unity envisioned in verse 21 is not institutional but observable. We don’t get there by lowering our doctrinal standards; we get there by having a common adherence to the Gospel, being joyfully self-sacrificing with a commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ (glorifying the Father), by dependence on God for everything. Our unity must be intentionally worked at, but it will be perfected when Christ returns.
“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 17:22-23).
Jesus prayed that the church would be marked by glory. The Father and the Son share–and have always shared–glory. The Son transmits that glory to those who have heard and believe the words of His disciples, the Gospel. I define glory as the manifestation of God’s character or person in a revelatory context.
Jesus mediates the glory of God in His person and work to his first followers and through them to those who believe their message. And he has done all of this “that they may be one as we are one” (v. 22) so that the world will come to know that the Father had sent Jesus.
It is worth remembering that the glory the Father gave to the Son often appeared humble, weak, and suffering. That same glory was ultimately displayed in Christ’s revolutionary sacrifice. The glory of Christ is quite different from the glory that many seek and display in the Church today. Jesus often referred to His cross as His glory. You want glory? Humble yourself. You want glory? Serve. You want glory? Lay down your life. You want glory? Get involved with the very work of unity.
We are never closer to God and His glory than when we are lowly, humble, and serving. Unity is much easier when there is a sense of God’s glory. When we have a God-centered unity based on God’s glory, the things that divide us get pushed to the back, and we realize how small they actually are. To God be the glory.
Meeting at Red Lion Christian Academy: 1390 Red Lion Road, Bear, Delaware 19701. Sunday Worship Service 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. | Sunday School 11:30 a.m.
The vision of Redemption Church is to be a community of believers, worshiping and working together as guided by the Holy Spirit. We exist to glorify God through the preached word (God), authentic relationships (Family) and charity (Others).
For more information visit Redemption Church’s website www.redemption.global. Pastor DaQuan Gibson’s sermons visit facebook.com/redemptionchurch.global/