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Summary: Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples and the church.


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


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.

We need to note here that Jesus asked God to give us unity as a request. That means that unity is given and not achieved. It is indeed received, or Jesus wouldn’t have urged the disciples to "be one." Rather, He looked to the Father and said grant to them the gift of unity. The unity of God’s people can never be fabricated by man … it must be generated by the Spirit of God. It can never be organized by the church it must be vitalized by the Spirit of God.

The pattern for the unity of believers is unlike anything else on earth. It is nothing less than the unity of the Father and Son. It is not merely a unity of organization, purpose, feeling, or affection. Just as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, we are to be so related in the church.

Christians are drawn to one another because they are drawn to a common center, Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus prayed that "they would be in us." For that is the source of the power of that unity.

It’s as if every one of us in the church were a piece of crystal in a beautiful chandelier that God is making. And up at the top of that chandelier are Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three lights in one shining love one toward the other. And every one of us catches a little fragment of that light, and every one of us reflects it and breaks it up, reflecting it to one another, until the world looks at us, it sees shimmering there the unexplainable fact of the unity and love of God in His church. That’s the intention of Jesus Christ for His church.

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Robert Comer

commented on Mar 12, 2009

Powerful and critical for us to embrace in our gatherings as we turn each expression of the Body of Christ into a lamp for this world. We must stop throwing stones at each other, stop gazing at our "spiritual belly-buttons" and turn our efforts to bringing the Kingdom to the market place Monday through Saturday! United we stand.

Greg Nance

commented on Dec 11, 2009

Great exposition on a great chapter! Thanks for the good work and helpful illustration. God bless.

Rodney Buchanan

commented on Jan 19, 2011

Thanks for an excellent sermon. This is so needed in the church and the world. Seems that we are more interested in being "champions for the truth" when we are merely dividers of the church.

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