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JOHN 17:20-26 (NASB)
The billboard shows a little girl sitting on her daddy’s shoulders waving an American flag … and the caption says ... WHAT MAKES US GREAT … “Unity, pass it on!”
Since 9/11 - “United We Stand” has been the theme – we want to project a united country.
Jesus also spoke about a unity far beyond patriotism.
On the last night before Jesus went to the cross, He began to do what He now does eternally. A few hours before His arrest, Jesus interceded for His own disciples.
John 17 is a prayer of three sections.
· verses 1-5 Jesus prays for Himself.
· verses 6-19 He prays for that immediate group of eleven disciples gathered around Him.
· verses 20-26, He prays for all believers yet to come.
Beyond His death, Jesus expected a dynamic and growing church that would last throughout the ages.
· When Jesus looked at the face of Peter in that circle of eleven, He saw behind Peter the whole of Pentecost and thousands more behind them.
· When He looked at the face of John, He saw the church of Ephesus and all the churches of Asia Minor.
· And when He saw the gap where Judas Iscariot had been, surely he thought of the face of Paul and all of the churches of Europe.
· And crossing generations and oceans, right down to this very day, He said I pray for every one of them who will believe through the Word of that original eleven.
Jesus prayed just one thing. He prayed for believers unity, so that the unity of Christians would make such an impact that the world would believe He had sent Jesus the Son.
Look with me at this passage in John 17:20-26, and let’s see what Jesus prayed for you and me on that night before the cross.
READ John 17:20-26
I. JESUS PRAYS FOR THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
What could Christ have prayed for in the final moments before His arrest? He might have prayed for His own strength, that the eleven would support Him that they would not flee from Him and His teachings. Instead, His prayer was dominated by a single great thought -- the unity of the disciples.
Jesus knew that the church could never make the impact on the world that He wished it to make unless spiritually the world saw in that church a oneness, a unity. The churches of our world have never taken these words of Jesus with the seriousness they deserve.
Notice first of all in verse 11, that Jesus prayed for the unity of that original disciple group. This was no easy task in itself, and Jesus knew it!
In that original group there were incredible tensions. Tensions created by James and John when not long before that they had asked for the seat at the right and left hand of Jesus in heaven which caused an outrage of jealousy among the other disciples.
Earlier on this same evening, the disciples were fuming with rage because there had been an argument among them as to who was the greatest.
In fact, in that little group there were all kinds of tensions. There was Matthew the Publican who had sold out to Rome and Simon Peter the Zealot who had pledged to kill people like Matthew the Publican. No wonder Jesus prayed for that original eleven, "Lord, make them to be one."
That wasn’t all though. He moved beyond the eleven and prayed for the generations to come. In verse 21, what He prayed for them, He then prayed for all believers.
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