Although Jesus knew that He would die an excruciatingly painful death in just a few hours, His mind was not on Himself. Rather, He was primarily thinking about those who did and would believe in Him. Jesus’ great love and concern for them is made obvious in the prayer we just read.
As Jesus stated in His prayer, He told His disciples everything the Father had told Him to tell them. As a result, they had come to believe in Him, and Jesus considered them to be gifts from His Father. Unlike the majority of people, those eleven men believed that Jesus was sent from God, and Jesus was so proud of them, he called them His “glory” (John 17:10).
Now, as Jesus returned to His Father in heaven, they would remain in a world that hated them, a world ruled by a spiritual leader who would love to destroy them and their work. While in their presence, Jesus had provided for their spiritual protection, so that none of them, except Judas, was led astray. Now He prayed that the Father would keep them safe in His absence, so that none of them would be divided or led astray by Satan or false doctrine. Jesus prayed that they would be unified and would be pure and holy. He prayed that they would reach out to the world in a convincing way.
Did you notice that Jesus also prayed these same things for you? Jesus said, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony” (John 17:20). All of us who believe in Jesus have done so as a result of the passed-down testimony of the original eleven disciples.
It seems that more than anything else, Jesus desired and prayed for our oneness, indicating that our unity is a major key in convincing the world that God sent Jesus. When the world looks at the church and sees us disagreeing, fighting and dividing, it certainly doesn’t help convince them that God sent His Son. Our unity should be based on our common belief in Jesus and our common goal of making disciples of all nations. Anything else that we disagree about is not important enough to divide us. But, by and large, the church has been divided over hundreds of issues that fall into this secondary category, even giving themselves identifying titles that advertise their separation from other Christians. All who believe in Christ should share one title: Christian. Anything beyond that demonstrates disunity.
Q. What do you think would happen if all the churches in the world that truly believe in Jesus would remove their present titles and unite with the rest of the body of Christ under the one name of Christian for the common cause of spreading the gospel to the whole world?
A. It would make a lot of people angry because they are more loyal to their brand of Christianity than to Christ, but it would also result in the world hearing the gospel.
Application: Today, as Jesus did, pray for the unity of those who believe in Jesus so that the world will believe in Him.