Summary: Jesus’ last request was for his children to be unified. The scriptures tell us how to answer his prayer.
John 17:20-26 Palm Sunday 2004
The Path to Unity
The Luke account:
Luke 19:41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.
4 days later, Jesus is praying that the future church will recognize what will bring us peace. This prayer occurs just hours before Jesus is arrested. He knows that he will be arrested, and he knows that he will die. He prays for himself, for his disciples, and now, for those who will believe because of the disciples testimony (us). He could have prayed for many things, but at this intense and urgent time, what he concentrates on is unity: that we would be one.
Show the prayer
Jesus’ prayer for the church – for unity
That the world might know
He says it twice here – If the church is one, then people will know that Jesus is the Son of God, sent from the Father.
Isn’t this just like God – it is not if we get all of our arguments straight, it is not even if we perform miracles (although both of these help) it is not if we get everything perfect but, if we learn to be one people, unified together, that the world that looks on will know that Jesus is the Son of God!
This is not too hard to see today – the question that gets asked most is if the church has the truth, then why are there so many divisions? I gets asked very honestly by people seeking God, and it gets asked cynically by people who just want to argue.
We have whole books written on overcoming hurdles to evangelism, books that give well thought out answers to every conceivable question, books that talk about the role of signs and wonders in opening people’s mind to the gospel. But the greatest hurdle to people accepting the truth of the Gospel is not in their hearts or minds – it is in the disunity of the church. If we truly have a heart for seeing people turn to Jesus, we will have a heart for unity.
John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
It works! Acts 2:42-47
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
-“and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
You can see that the unity that they had in Acts 2 was not just a philosophical or theoretical unity, but a very practical, real loving unity.
If you come from a dysfunctional family, and you see a family that is unified and loving, wouldn’t you want to be part of that family
This close unity is called fellowship, and John writes of the close connection between unity/fellowship and evangelism in his first letter
3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
That we might know
In his letters, John is writing to a group of Christians who were being attacked by people who argued against their belief. Some of the Christians began to wonder if they actually had the truth.
John points, not to clever arguments, but to the Spirit living within them and the love that is between them as proof of the truth.
12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
Our unity is a sign both to the world around us and to ourselves that we have found the truth.