You can read this week’s passage here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=153895165
At the Last Supper, Jesus has been addressing his disciples. Now he turns his attention to God. After a long time teaching, Jesus now offers a prayer, and the whole of Chapter 17 is Jesus’ prayer to the Father. Jesus’ prayer might be divided into a few distinct parts:
Prayer for himself. Jesus begins by emphasizing his close relationship to the Father. Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus said that “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). When he makes his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, he said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). We return to those themes again in Jesus’ prayer, as he says that he has glorified the Father in his earthly work and as he asks the Father to glorify him “in your own presence”, suggesting that he will soon return to the Father in the way they were together before he was born.
Prayer for his disciples. Jesus prays for his disciples, “those whom you gave me from this world.” He acknowledges that during his time with them, he protected and guarded them, and, knowing that he soon will leave them, he asks the Father to protect them. He prays especially that “they may be one, just as we are one.” In effect, the closeness that the Father and the Son share ought to be evident in the close relationships between the disciples.
Prayer for those who will come after the disciples. Jesus knows that others will come to believe after the disciples, and he includes them in his prayer to the Father. He again prays that those who come later “may be one.” Christians have traditionally seen this prayer as expressing Jesus’ desire for unity among Christians. The reality of the Church today is that it doesn’t look like we are “one”, with so many different denominations competing with and judging each other, and with divisions within denominations. To the extent that are divided, we fail to embody Jesus’ prayer, but perhaps Jesus’ prayer can remind us that, when we go beneath the surface, all Christians really are part of one church.
People committed to ecumenical work – bringing different denominations closer to each other and focusing on what we have in common rather than on what separates us – use this prayer of Jesus as their inspiration.
This prayer brings to an end Jesus' time with his disciples. What a powerful reminder of his love for them: that, knowing what he was about to face, he was still able to lift them up in his prayers to the Father.
- What connectedness to you feel with Christians of other denominations? Does Jesus' prayer affect how you view ecumenical efforts to bring denominations closer?
- When Jesus prayed for "those who will believe in me", he was praying for us today. How do you feel knowing that in his last hours he was holding you in his prayers?