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Bible Commentary / Bible Study

Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons on John 17:20-26

One with the Father and the Son - John 17:20-26

Introduction

In this passage, Jesus' prayer that "they may be one as we are one", v11b, is extended to those who will believe through the preaching of the apostles. Here is Christ's prayer for the church today, that we may continue in love.

The Passage

v20. Christ has prayed for the unity of his disciples and now he turns his attention to those who will come to believe in him through their preaching. This prayer is for those who hear the gospel, turn to Jesus and put their trust in him.

v21. Christ's prayer for broken humanity is that we may continue to be one. The meaning of this oneness is unpacked for us in verses 21 to 23. The oneness that Jesus desires for us is the same oneness that binds together the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is the sum of God's character; it is unifying love, merciful compassion. Jesus prays that we continue in the unity of love; that we be one, that we be in the Father and the Son. A consequence of knowing and experiencing the love of God in Christ is that God's ultimate plan of gathering a people to himself is progressed when broken humanity sees something of the divine in Christ's people, and seeing they believe.

v22. Jesus' prayer that we continue to know and experience the love of God, both in our relationship with Jesus and each other, is guaranteed by the gift of glory. The radiance of the divine, his glory, exhibited in the person and work of Jesus, is revealed to us in the scriptures. So we continue in God's love through the renewing power of Biblical truth.

v23. Finally, Jesus prays that this unifying love, evident in the relationship between the members of the Trinity and in brotherly fellowship, might soon be complete, perfected. The world will see this divine love "because" Christ was sent and "because" the Father's love for believers is evident to all.

v24. Jesus now winds up his prayer for his disciples and for those who believe through their preaching. Jesus affirms the Father's will that those who believe will share eternity with Christ and see the nature of his glory in all its wonder. This glory is divine, an expression of the reciprocal love that exists within the Godhead.

v25. Addressing the Father, Jesus makes a simple observation: only he knows God and only in him is God known. The disciples have recognized the divine in Jesus and so have come to know God. The world, on the other hand, has not recognized the divine in Jesus and so has failed to come to know the living God.

v26. Jesus concludes with an affirmation of fact. He has made known his Word, the gospel, and will continue to make it known through the apostolic witness and the Word ministries of the church. The purpose of this ongoing revelation is that believers will continue under the abiding influence of divine love, and so retain the intimate involvement of Jesus Christ in their life.

Abiding in divine love

I remember when I was a youthful member of my local church fellowship, that once a term, at the evening service, we would have a special evangelistic outreach. This was a time when people could give their life, or rededicate their life, to Jesus. Our old minister used the "alter-call" method which involved moving to the front of the church in plain view of everyone; a bit embarrassing. There was this young girl, a sad case really, who rededicated herself every time there was an altar call. I remember thinking at the time that the heads bowed and hands up routine would have been less embarrassing. Mind you, we all would have peeked anyway.

Of course, the truth is that when it comes to rededication, it wouldn't hurt any of us. In fact, there is a sense where going to church on Sunday serves this very purpose. We are always falling from some great height, slipping on slushy ground, continually short of our spiritual goals. Yet, as the Sundays go by, will we always focus on rededication, or will it wear thin?

In the upper room on the Thursday evening before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for his disciples, not just his apostles, but all disciples in every age. He prayed that we continue in unity, continue in him and continue in love. These three ideas are most likely facets of the one jewel; each speaks of the same reality; each in itself is that reality. Union with the divine and inclusion in the divine, are rather difficult ideas to comprehend, but love, in the sense of a divine merciful compassion, now that is an idea we can comprehend. Jesus prays that we continue in love, that we continue to bask in God's radiant love for us and in the radiant love of the brotherhood, that we take it in and give it out.

Jesus prays for those who believe in his Word and who by believing, are caught up in the love of God. This love, this divine compassion which brings with it forgiveness and eternal acceptance in the sight of God, in turn prompts forgiveness and acceptance within the brotherhood. He prays, not that we just continue in this divine love, but that it be ultimately perfected in us. More than this, Jesus tells us that he provides the wherewithal for its perfection in us. He has displayed before us his radiant glory, the revelation of God's mind, and this to progress our ultimate perfection.

So here then is the truth, we are kept in God's love by God's word.

Discussion

Discuss the idea that God's will is empowered through God's Word.

Source: Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons

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