In his final hours before being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for his followers. His prayer matters in the lives of followers of Jesus from the first century until now. It turns out that our unity as believers was of the utmost importance to Jesus…
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. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.
9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
The invitation to come to Jesus and become a child of God is universally available and when we are in God, there is no distinction between nations, cultures, races, gender – we are all one in Christ. It is interesting to me, however, that Jesus prays specifically not for the world, but for his followers at this time.
His disciples were the focus of Jesus’ prayer to the Father. Glory came to Jesus as those disciples believed the words of the Father Jesus shared with them. He taught them and mentored them, and most importantly, they are the future of the church. The church would be established on the foundation of Jesus and through the devoted lives of his disciples.
And so in that context, Jesus says, ‘I pray for them.’ And what does he pray? That the disciples will be one, just as as Jesus and the Father are one. Unity in the disciples of Christ is essential in the building of the church. And so Jesus asks for the Father to protect them and their unity.
We are those disciples. We are building the church today. Our unity, therefore, is critical to our success in reflecting Jesus and the Father. How does that look in your church? What about between churches? Notice that the world is very adept at drawing lines of distinction between groups of people, including Christians, to divide and cause dissent.
We ought to be careful how we let the social and political issues of the day interfere with our unity around the essentials of the faith, which are rooted in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus prayed for us to stay together…