This is Day Thirty-Two of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Lia Williams.
John 17: 1 – 26:
Jesus prays. If there’s any such time to pipe up, it’s here – Jesus’ moment of exposure, a place of complete vulnerability, and remarkable genuineness. This is an incredible extract as we get a glimpse into the relationship of Jesus and His Father in heaven, in full definition. We see Jesus’ cry of the soul plainly expressed from the depths of His being. It is a phenomenal moment, where we see the heart of Jesus as He speaks with passion for His people to His Daddy with great affections. It should leave us with an itch for more.
Jesus turns from His disciples, looks heavenwards and begins to converse with His Daddy. Jesus professes with profound confidence to His Father who He is, why He lives and what He expects to happen next. Imagine a man who is convinced of his reason for existence, who knows why he is created, what for, how exactly to carry that out, and who knows precisely who he is and where he is going. That would be close to the abundant assurance of Jesus; imagine being in the presence of such a man! The want and longing to be close to Him, to learn from Him, and to place your whole weight against Him must have been exceptional. It is no wonder His disciples were so willing to drop their nets and follow Him (Matthew 4:20)! And also how ready the scholars were to test Him (Matthew 16:1)!
The intertwined intimacy of Jesus with His Father is sometimes so immense in this passage that it is difficult to follow. Like a vine, they weave so tightly that you cannot see the one without the other. Jesus’ emphasis on His own glory alongside His Father’s glory reflects true humility. He has a definite confidence in who He is, whilst recognising that He is nothing at all without God, who is in heaven.
The way Jesus speaks about the disciples to His Father must have stirred up confidence in their hearts. They are revealed as ones who understand; these men rejected by their culture and deemed as common men and below the religious of the day were esteemed by the One whom they knew to be sent by God. How marvellous is the grace of God which touches men in the most secret place in their hearts and brings healing? They are singled out in Jesus’ prayer and are said to be the glory of Jesus. Hearing the One whom they had been running after for years say that they are the beacon of His glory must have sent their hearts to sing.
The disciples had seen Jesus’ relationship with God; they had witnessed it. They had seen how He left the crowds to be with His Father, how every word He spoke was what He heard the Father say, how demons shrieked and screamed out His name, how His teaching and authority stirred envy, and how illness and disease and even death submitted to His grace. Yet, at the end of it all, here was Jesus calling for the protection of His Dad over them so they could have the same level of intimacy and depth with God as Him. Jesus never fails to amaze.
What is more astounding is that the purpose for all of this, this prayer Jesus allows the disciples to witness, is for the sake of them. Jesus speaks it all in their presence for their sake, for the intention of filling their hearts with the full measure of His joy. That they would stand as His own and walk out these truths He bestows so affectionately upon them – incredible. This is the kind and caring nurture of Christ’s love upon a life. He affirms their identity and purpose and everything He has spoken to them in a prayer. That they might know their measure of worth and how indispensable they are to the world, to Him and to the Kingdom which He has come to establish on earth.
Furthermore, this prayer concludes not there, but in the true voice of a prophet, Jesus speaks to the hearts of those to come – namely that includes us, amazing. When someone prays for us, we should pay close attention, for their Spirit is intertwining with ours, and this moment of intimacy should not be minimized as merely the act of words, but as a holy moment of power as the Holy Spirit moves on our behalf through His holy people (Romans 8:26-27). As such, when Jesus prays for us, we should pay especial attention and study His words attentively, soaking them up in His presence. For this prayer is no more dead than Christ is, but continues to resound over us, as He continually intercedes for us from the right hand of God (Romans 8:34).
Jesus speaks a huge commissioning upon those who will believe as a result of the message of His witnesses. He calls us out into oneness with each other, and with Jesus and the Father, stating that it is this that will cause the world to believe that Jesus has come from God. That it is our unity with one another and God that will testify Jesus. It is incredible how far we as Church can surpass or avoid this call to unity. We can get so impassioned and driven by programmes and structures and reach out to the world around us, and even within serving itself, that we neglect the very people who surround us every week at the services in which we gather.
There are not many times in Scripture where we get the privilege of witnessing Jesus speak to His Father at length, this is one of those moments, so we should better take heed. Jesus, yes Jesus Himself, says that it is by His believers’ unity and oneness with one another and with God, that the world will be drawn to believe upon His life. This truth is profound. Jesus does not speak about strategies and outreach events and specific evangelism techniques for the sake of displaying the truth of who He is. He speaks simply and clearly, affirming over and over that it is by our oneness and unity that the world will see Himself.
There is no way of diverting these words. There is no way of diluting or dissecting their meaning without blaspheming Jesus’ words. We, the Church of today, are called to a sincere unity, and it is through this unity that others will see Jesus. Jesus proclaims that He has given us all the glory that God gave Him for the purpose that we might be one as the Trinity is one. If this is true, that God has given us all power and authority on earth, the ability to perform signs and wonders and miracles, all the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, and everything else we can attribute to the glory of Jesus for the purpose of having everything we need for unity; alas we should better be pressing into that call.
Is it, therefore, any surprise that our culture today emphasises self-sufficiency, independence and pride? That our cities with the greatest population density are perhaps the loneliest and solitude of places? That division is so prevalent in the history of the Church? That gossip and slander is far deeply too often the point of conversation as we fester in our one to one discussions? That envy and jealousy and coveting are reaping a brokenness in our communities? That the divide between the wealthy and the poor, not exempt within our Churches, appears to be widening and widening? That coarse and foolish joking and tearing down of our peers is not gouged out amongst us? That forgiveness towards those who have grieved us is often so challenging to do? Of course not, we are said not to be unaware of the enemy’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11); the devil seeks to steal, kill and destroy whereas Jesus has come to bring life and bring it to the full (John 10:10).
We must, therefore, trust and rely on the words of Jesus that in pouring ourselves, and all that He has given us, unto one another will not prove fruitless, but will draw the world unto the Bride and thus unto the face of its Redeemer (Isaiah 54:5). It is our love for one another that will prove to the world that there is a love that is greater. Greater than the lusts and passions of the flesh, a love which withstands it all and stays steadfast and faithful regardless of affliction. The Church is a platform to display the love by which Christ has loved us, and on it, we must stand, ‘.. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.’ (Matthew 5:14b).
Tenderly and affectionately we hear Jesus’ longing for us to see Him in His splendour, to see Him on His throne, to be with Him in His glory. These are the words of a Son asking His Father to meet His heart’s deepest desire – us. Jesus promises to continue to unveil the Father to us, that we might see the Father’s love for us, not merely in glimpses but wholeheartedly and always, in its fullness. Welcomed into the place of intimacy that Jesus has with the Father, Jesus wants fellowship with us, but not the shallow kind that only touches the surface and stays quaint, but a passionate oneness that leaves nothing unturned and unknown. Jesus calls us, His Church, to be His Bride. The closest representation of the intimacy Jesus wants with us is unveiled in marriage, and Him our Husband is yearning for us to come home – as one. Who are we to argue?
‘Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth. The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride.’
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell