John 17:20 ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Here Jesus begins to envision something beyond incredible but not incredulous. As the old preacher reminded me, Jesus died, not so much to get us into heaven as to get heaven into us. A unity with His church that parallels that of the Holy Trinity can only mean that we have arrived at the very threshold of the Kingdom. Unity is only possible if all interests are centered in Christ. Unity is only possible if our personal desires—if I may be a bit cryptic or metaphorical—reduce to a common denominator, absolute humility, so that God can easily take the sum of all our ministries together. Unity is only possible when believers are at peace with one another, when we willingly submit unto one another allowing each to minister to the other as the Spirit directs. Unity means no racism, no lies, no personal ambition, no greedy grasping for attention or fame. Unity means we take personal possession of nothing but have already laid all our crowns at His feet. Unity means all things in common and no one has unmet needs. Unity is the ultimate revival! Unity is ὁμοθυμαδὸν, one passion, according to Acts 2:1. Unity, the Greek word is “One,” was a vision the Church caught on its first day at its birth while it was still in its cradle, its infancy, in Acts 4:32. “One heart, one soul.” But have we outgrown this?
I was surprised to hear Jesus praying for this because we have been so divided and denominationalized over the centuries, because we have prided ourselves in our hermeneutics and traditions and rituals and doctrines. Because we have stayed in our church circles and were told to stay there. Other christians in other circles were strangers in the night of a world drifting more and more distant from God.
Jesus was praying for us because He was praying for them, for the masses, for harvesters to seek out the Lord of the harvest (singular) and allow the Holy Spirit’s ministry in us and then through us to show us how to wield a sickle (Matthew 9:38). But, if we think His High-Priestly prayer here is the first sign of a burden for the “lost,” we must reread the Gospels. Not only did He weep over cities (Matthew 23:37) and swing wide in His travels outside Israel to minister to even gentiles (Matthew 15:21; John 4), we must remember that He came to die for them, too!
Perhaps, it is time to look at the word used for “prayer” [ἐρωτῶ to ask or request]. There are a couple other words, synonyms, which scholars argue over. I shall not engage them, but it might be safe to say that the nuance with our word here is to “ask God to do [not give] something. Jesus is not seeking for anything personal. We have maintained throughout that He has remained self-less. He is asking His Father to pull off the miracle of miracles, to unite us for the sake of the harvest of souls! There is nothing more self-less than that except His soon crucifixion.