The penultimate sermon in our series on “the greatest prayer ever prayed”.
It is a real privilege to have someone praying for you, even more so when that person is none other than Jesus Christ! For having prayed for himself and his disciples, Jesus now prays for all who will later trust in him, with the main burden of the prayer being unity, something that even in New Testament times was occasionally in short supply as illustrated by the following examples of disagreement and disunity:-
- The disciples arguing as to which one of them was the greatest (Matthew 20 v 20 – 28.)
- Paul and Barnabas’ “sharp disagreement” over the suitability of John Mark as a missionary colleague (Acts 15 v 36 – 40.)
- Paul publically “opposed” Simon Peter regarding giving in to peer pressure and not eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2 v 11 – 13.)
- The Church in Corinth being rife with disagreements and quarrelling (1 Corinthians 1 v 10 – 17.)
When Jesus prayed that “they may be one” he did not have in mind organisational unity, where everyone believes and does the same thing and is deposited in the one super church; rather he was praying for spiritual and relational unity based on that found within the Trinity. Such unity is given by the Holy Spirit and so the church is not charged with manufacturing it, but with maintaining what already exists (Ephesians 4 v 3.) It can do this by concentrating, not on its differences, but on what it has in common, of which three things are mentioned in this prayer:-
1 – A Person (v 20 – 21a – we trust in the same Saviour.)
We are one because we have believed and trusted in the person (Acts 4 v 12) and work (Matthew 20 v 28) of Jesus, acknowledging who he is and what he has done.
2 – A Presence (v 22 – we are inhabited by the same glory.)
Despite our external differences, we are one because as God’s temple we are indwelt by his glory (1 Corinthians 6 v 19), and one day we shall share in the fullness of that glory together in heaven.
3 – A Proclamation (v 23 – we share the same testimony with the world.)
We are one because we proclaim the same message to a watching world using two underestimated aspects of community evangelism:-
A – Unity – When the world sees a feuding and fragmented church it refuses to take the Gospel message seriously. But when it sees tangible and visible relational unity, the Gospel is given credibility (Philippians 2 v 1 – 2) and it will sit up and take note.
B – Love – When the world sees a hateful and unloving church then the Gospel message will have little impact. But when it sees a loving community patterned on the Father’s love for the Son, then the evangelistic impact (John 13 v 34 – 35) will be considerable.
Challenge – Are you doing all that you can to maintain unity within this church?
Theme: “The one show!!”
Reading: John 17 v 20 – 26
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Chris Hughes