Summary: Jesus said that we should be one, so that the world would know: 1) God’s harmony (unity within diversity) and 2) God’s heart (His love).
John 17:20-23 – That the World Would Know
A book that has changed my life is What’s So Amazing About Grace? In it the author, Philip Yancey quotes Mark Twain. Apparently Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing left.
In this area it might be Baptist, Pentecostal and Catholic. But you know, it’s hard enough sometimes for a Wesleyan, a Wesleyan and a Wesleyan to get along. There’s something about people having a hard time getting along with each other, having a hard time being with each other. And that something is usually sin. The Bible says in Eph.4:3: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” If we have to make efforts to get along with others, obviously it isn’t always easy. And you know that anyway. Even as Christians, we don’t always see eye to eye. I wish we did. But sometimes we just can’t seem to do it.
Which is a major reason lots of people stay away from church, and ultimately from Christ. Even people who claim to know Him stay away from church, often times because they have some problem with the people or the preacher. (As if preachers aren’t people.)
As I have been working thru this summer series on the why’s of our worship – why we do what we do on Sunday mornings – I come to this issue of togetherness. Why do we actually come to church? I mean, we can pray at home. We can worship in our cars. We can give to other good Christian causes. We can read our Bibles on our front porches. We can serve and minister in other areas. So why do we have church? Why do we get together, especially when it’s so hard sometimes? Why does the Bible tell us in Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Well, there’s a whole host of reasons. We could talk all day on why people should come to church – the power of corporate worship, the multitude of serving opportunities, the words of Jesus that says He hears our prayers when 2 or 3 are gathered together, the tradition of hearing the word from someone else explain it, and so on. We could talk of fires staying hotter when the coals are together, than when the coals are scattered around. We could talk of the massive power failure this week, all started by one power plant shutting down and putting too much of a strain on all the others and they shut down too – meaning that when one Christian backs away, we all suffer.
But today I want to look at the words of Jesus in John 17. This was His final lengthy prayer heard by other people. Jesus wanted us to know what was on His mind in His last few hours. Let’s look at v20-23 for two thoughts about why we are to be united as Christians. Why should we come to church? Why should we be together? V20-23.
In this section of the prayer, Jesus is praying for us in particular (v20). He prayed that we might be one. That is, that we might be unified. Now, He had more in mind than all of us just coming to church and sitting there and sulking and pouting and being hostile towards one another. Someone once said: “There can be union without unity: tie two cats together by their tails and throw them over a clothesline.”
But obviously Jesus wants more for His church than to be barely hanging on and barely tolerating each other. He prayed that we would be one. Why? So that the world would know. Know what? 2 things that Jesus wants the world to know. If Jesus wants the world to know these 2 things, obviously it’s our job to be one with each other so that the world would know. What are these 2 things?
1) We need to be one so that the world would know God’s harmony. Harmony? What am I talking about? V21 – just as Jesus and the Father are one. V22 – we are one, I in them and you (that is, the Father) in me (that is, the Son). V23 – the Father sent Jesus and the Father loved Jesus. The members of the Godhead – the Trinity – get along with each other. The Godhead represents the perfect picture of unity with diversity.