The time had finally come. Jesus finished a last supper with His disciples, where He shared His heart and some final words of exhortation. As they left the room Jesus looked at the sky and prayed. He prayed for Himself (John 17:1-5), and for His apostles (17:6-19). And then He did something, which should be at the core of our reflections as we go into this Easter season: He prayed for us.
Think of it! On the eve of His crucifixion, with the world’s sins weighing on His heart, Jesus took time to pray for us down through the ages, for all who would receive Him as Saviour.
What He didn’t pray for is as significant as what He did. Jesus didn’t pray things we usually pray for like health, wealth, or happiness. Instead, with His death at hand, He prayed three things for us—things nearest to His heart as priorities for our lives and prayers.
Harmony Among Us (17:21-23). First, Jesus prayed for all who believe in Him to be marked by harmonious unity.
Why is Christian unity so important? So the world will know God sent Jesus (17:23). The essence of what it means to be a Christian lies in the fact that we are united with and in Christ. Therefore, we are living advertisements that Jesus is who He says He is. It is inconsistent to claim unity but display disunity among believers.
Unity isn’t natural or easy. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which is evidence of Christ’s saving work. This is why unity between believers is such a powerful testimony and why Jesus prayed for it.
However, unity doesn’t require uniformity. Just because we don’t think the same way on every account doesn’t mean believers should be divided. Above everything else we are to preserve our unity (1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 1:27; 2:1-4; 1 Peter 3:8). Let this phrase from St. Augustine be our guide. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
Heaven For Us (17:24). Second, Jesus told God that His will was for us to be with Him in Heaven, so we can behold and share in His glory.
In the New Testament, there are two Greek words that are translated "to will." The first is thelo, which means “to purpose.” It’s used for the will of God, which is unalterable and firmly fixed. It’s the decree of the sovereign God and will come to pass.
The other word is boulomai, which means “to have a wish or a desire about something.” This word is used of God's desires that may or may not come to pass depending upon our actions. For instance, boulomai is used in 2 Peter 3:9. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (NASB). It’s not God's wish that any perish. However, for this to be realized all men must receive the Lord.
In John 17:24 thelo is the word used. Jesus is saying, "I am declaring my purpose is for everyone who receives Me to be with Me in Heaven and behold My glory." In other words, if we are saved we are going home. What assurance and comfort!
Hearts in Us (17:25-26). Third, Jesus prayed that our hearts would be filled with God’s love and expressed in our lives to the world. This kind of love is God's demand for us as His children (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). In fact, Jesus said our love would be a sign to the world that we belong to the Lord. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
This is a love the world can’t duplicate. It’s produced by the Holy Spirit in our hearts as born-again children of God. Who but God could produce within us a love for others? There is so much dividing us—background, social and financial standing, race and creed. The love of God in our hearts as His children is the best witness to the world of the truth of the Gospel.
Easter is a time for special reflection on what Jesus endured for us. It’s because of His death and resurrection we are heaven-bound. With the Cross in view, Jesus prayed we would be united together with love.
Is your life an answer to His prayer?