Our passage this morning, John 17:1-11, gives us some amazing insight into what Jesus did in his last hours on earth. He prayed. Of course Jesus prayed. We have many passages telling us that Jesus prayed regularly. Jesus began His ministry in prayer, he was praying at his baptism when heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him (Luke 3:21-22), Jesus also spent the whole night praying to God (Luke 6: 12) and he accomplished His ministry in prayer when he prayed ‘into your hand I commit my spirit’ (Luke 23:46). But these passages hardly tell us what he prayed or how he prayed. Today’s passage, John 17, is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the bible. So, this prayer of Jesus not only tells us that Jesus spent his last hours praying to God but also reveals what he prayed or how he prayed.
Verse 1, Jesus prayed for God to glorify him so that Jesus may glorify God. Verse 5, Jesus prayed that God glorify Jesus in God’s own presence with the glory that Jesus had in God’s presence before the world began. From these first couple of verses we could hear the unity and oneness between God and Jesus? Jesus’ motivation for God to glorify him is so that he can glorify God. The glory Jesus had in God’s presence before the world began goes back to the introduction of the Gospel of John in chapter 1 verse 1, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Verse 14, ‘ and the Word became flesh and lived among us,’ whose name is Jesus Christ. God and Jesus are one. Then further down in verse 10 and 11, the last two verses of the passage, Jesus prayed, ‘all that belong to Jesus are God’s, and all that belong to God’s are Jesus’; and Jesus has been glorified in his disciples. And now Jesus is no longer in the world, but his disciples are in the world, and Jesus is going to God. Holy Father, Jesus prayed, protect the disciples in the name that Jesus has been given, so that the disciples may be one, as Jesus and God are one.’ So, the unity between God and Jesus is reflected in the disciples and so that the disciples may be one, just as God and Jesus are one.
The scripture that came to my mind when I ponder on this unity between God and Jesus is Genesis 2: 21-24, ‘the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man…that is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.’
This scripture is one of the major reason, Daisy and I started dating 18 years ago. It happened at Mission Bay, in Daisy’s car. We parked up under a tree at Mission Bay and as we tried to decide whether we should start dating each other, this verse came to my mind and that was it for me. This oneness between the two of us is never easy and has been challenged before and after our marriage.
Then came our children. We have Gabby two years after we were married and followed by Isaac another two and the half years later. Both of our children’s favourite spot in this world, especially when they were younger is right in between Daisy and I. Whenever we are hugging each other, in less than few seconds, there will be a little head try to drill in between us from the side to get in the centre of our hug. When Daisy and I are walking holding hands, guest what, we ended up holding one of each of our children’s hand between us. The same goes with the sitting arrangement. The prime seat for our children is always you know where. When it comes to the bed in our bedroom, it would be like an upgrade to the ‘first class’ to move from their own bed into our bed between us.
This might not be the best example or theological, but I think we can see the unity Jesus has with God and his disciples when we consider the unity of parents with their children. God and Jesus are one. This unity is and should be reflected in the disciples. A father and a mother are one. This unity is and should be also reflected in their children. But we see division in this world.
The disciples of Jesus soon after this prayer will all be scattered and left Jesus alone on the cross. Jesus when he hung on the cross cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ The most recent challenge to my marriage was last year at St. John’s College. As a first year student transitioning from a pay job into a full-time study commitment I struggled with defining my new boundary. Previously I was clear that my job was my job and my family was my priority. But studying theology for the first 6 months became my priority last year and my marriage and family really suffered. Daisy even contemplated packing up and left me in Auckland to return to Christchurch. It was that bad. Our children never fight or argue and always love each other and care for each other, ‘YEAH RIGHT.’ How many of us would agree that as parents our worst nightmare is when our children are tearing each other apart or want to have nothing to do with each other? The church that I was part of in Christchurch had a history of division, hurts and setbacks because of the divide. It was tough. How about St. Peter’s? We are perfect lots here or are we? This world is divided. Donald Trump, Brexit (Britain departure from European Union) and the list goes on.
They may be One as We are One
Coming back to Jesus’ prayer, he began with the unity of God the Father with the Son, Jesus Christ, and end with the unity between the disciples as one just as God and Jesus are one. But you might say, wait a minute, Ian, that was not the end of Jesus’ prayer. Jesus’ prayer has 26 verses and we only stop at verse 11, one third of the whole prayer. That is true. So, let us look at the end of the prayer at verse 26. Let me read it to you, ‘I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ Jesus prayed that the love with which God has loved Jesus may be in us, his disciples, and indeed Jesus Himself is in us.
This prayer of Jesus forms a sandwich, with its beginning and ending holding the whole prayer together in unity. It makes me hungry for unity. In the book of Revelation 22:13, Jesus proclaimed, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ Also, do you know what the last thing Jesus said just before he prayed this prayer? We need to look at the last verse of the previous chapter, chapter 16 verse 33, Jesus told his disciples, ‘But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ God created everything and in everything He has the last say. Alleluia!!!
So the one thing that we can take away from this prayer of Jesus is in chapter 17 verse 11, where Jesus prayed, ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.’ Like children snug in between the love and security of their united and loving parents, let us snug right in the centre of Jesus’ prayer for our protection and unity as Children of God.
Let us pray with the prayer of Jesus that Holy Father protect our marriages in the Name of Jesus Christ, so that husband and wife may be one, as the Father and the Son are one. I need this prayer for my marriage and many other marriages need this prayer. Standing here today after 16 years of marriage and looking at your marriages of many more years are testimonials to Jesus’ prayer.
Every Sunday, I witness parents bringing their children and grandchildren to church here at St. Peter’s are such a witness to Jesus’ prayer who had conquered the world. Especially in this post-modern world where coming to church is not the most popular thing to do on Sunday. But Jesus is alive and He is building His church. Alleluia!
Our church has lots of issues to sort out throughout history and it is not getting easier today. But history is still in progress and at the end the Holy Father who protects His church in the name of Jesus Christ who makes His church one just as God and His Son are one will prevail.
This broken and deeply divided world around us desperately needs this unity which is in us who make us one as God is one. Amen!