Reading someone else’s journal or diary is a definite no-no, right? I mean, it’s a glimpse into someone’s most intimate thoughts, unguarded and candid in a way we’d never feel comfortable expressing out loud. There’s this sense of vulnerability to the moment, in my opinion, that lends itself to a special kind of care and almost…reverence.
I felt that way when going through my mother-in-law’s personal items after her death – and finding her pre-marriage letters to my father-in-law. She’d kept them hidden from the world since his death decades before, and my husband and I found them carefully folded and ordered in a wooden box in her closet. The sweetness and intimacy in which they wrote to each other, the humor and sincerity, it revealed a greater depth of my mother-in-law’s personality and gave a deeper insight on how much the two had cared for each other.
Something on a much grander scale, and even more tender, happens in chapter 17 of the gospel of John.
What is it?
Jesus prays to God out loud for his disciples…in front of his disciples. It’s kind of like reading Jesus’ prayer journal, so to speak.
Now, there’s a good chance Jesus has been praying for his disciples for a long time up to the point of his relationship with them, but this “high priestly prayer”, as it’s called, gives the disciples a glimpse into his particular thoughts about them and what he desires most for them. (Keep in mind, if you read in verse 20, Jesus is praying for US TOO!!!)
What does he say about them?
These disciples (both in the present during Jesus’ prayer and in the future…US) are a “love gift” from God to the Son and visa versa.
“I have manifested my name to the people you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me…” v. 6-7. We are gifts of love from God to Christ and Christ to God. Think about how that must have made the disciples feel, even in their brokenness and blundering, to be viewed as gifts. Imagine how much comfort Peter could have gotten from this reminder when, in the very next chapter, he denies Jesus three times. How could he still be a gift? Jesus prayed this prayer AFTER he’d told Peter he was going to betray him 3 times, so the joy of Christ’s love for Peter wasn’t based on his performance, but on Christ’s and God’s perfect love. Wow!
What does he pray for them?
He prays that they’ll “glorify” God by their lives of love and unity in this world.
It’s seems almost impossible to imagine, but Jesus prays that his disciples (those in Christ’s presence at the time of the prayer as well as those to come) would live in such unity and love with one another that it compels the world to ask questions, to marvel, and to eventually “believe that you sent me,” says Jesus. To be more exact, here is verse 23, “so the world may know that you sent them and loved them even as you loved me.”
How does God love his Son? Perfectly. Completely. Wholly and holy.
Does that knowledge give you a sense of hope? Love? Maybe even a little conviction?
Of all things to desire most, Christ doesn’t pray for his kids’ safety, but their unity.
In a world of constant divisiveness, injustice, anger, and selfishness, Jesus’ prayer should give us an even deeper sense of what is most important. When we realize how much we are loved (as gifts from God), then the things that bind us together become much more important than the things that keep us apart.
And we have the Holy Spirit helping us build and maintain this unity! We’re not on our own!
Knowing who we are in Christ – how LOVED we are in Christ – changes the ways we respond and, in doing so, naturally becomes a picture of God’s unity in Christ to the world.
By the way we live. By the way we love.
We seek others before ourselves.
We forgive more quickly because we’ve been forgiven.
We offer grace and compassion before judgement and condemnation.
We speak truth in love.
Our unity in love and truth is the very fingerprint of Christ in the lives of his believers.
If you’ve ever wanted to “listen in” on what Christ thinks about you as his child and what he prays for you, then I encourage you to take a little time to read John 17…
We are loved.
We are His.