Can you imagine being a friend of Jesus and enjoying the privilege of sitting with him as he talks to his Father? Even better, can you imagine being a friend of Jesus and, in his prayer, hearing him talk to his Father about you and your needs? How thrilling! How humbling! What an undeserved blessing it would be to hear two of the three most dignified Persons in the universe dialoging about your eternal blessing. Well Christian friends, this happened, and this has been recorded for you in the 17th chapter of John. After you were predestined, but before you were redeemed, regenerated, justified, and adopted, Jesus prayed for you. You were the passion of Jesus before his Passion.
In John 17:1-5, Jesus prayed that He and the Father might be glorified:
… Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Then, in John 17:6-19, Jesus prayed for his Apostles and disciples:
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
And while Jesus implicitly prayed for you in the previous words — for you too are his ambassadors and disciples — he explicitly prayed for you in the following sentences found in John 17:20-26:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
So, before his Passion, Jesus was passionate about you, and what was he passionate to see in your life? Jesus prayed: That you may be one … like the Father and the Son … that the world may see and believe. Christian unity was the passion of Jesus before his Passion. This thought then begs the question: Are you passionate about that which Jesus was passionate?
- Are you one who esteems others better than yourself?
- Are you an individual ready to take up the basin and the towel and wash the feet of your brothers and sisters?
- Are you one willing to bite your tongue and only speak gracious words?
- Are you always ready to decrease that Christ and his promotion might increase?
- Are you one who loves God and neighbor more than self?
- Are you willing to take up your cross and die, or must you prove your point, get your way, and win the day?
- Are you much more cognizant of the telephone pole in your own eye than the toothpick in your neighbors?
- Are you prone to quickly confess your sin to those you have harmed?
- Are you eager to forgive and no longer bring up the transgressions of your friends?
- Are you big enough and secure enough in Christ to overlook a sin against you?
- Are you a peacemaker doing everything you can to avoid division in the family of God?
- Are you a peacemaker seeking to reconcile struggling friends at odds one with the other?
- Are you overly schismatic in your defense of doctrine and denomination?
- Are you much more interested in your church than in His Church.
Friends, according to our Presbyterian tradition, we take five vows when we wish to become members of a particular church. The final vow is as follows: Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to study its purity and peace? Personally, I think this is a very good vow, for it is based upon two scriptural admonitions. All believers are to “obey their elders who rule over them.” In addition, Christians are to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Clearly, according to the Savior, ecclesiastical unity is a big deal. So brothers and sisters, is the passion of Jesus our passion? And in response, is there something we need to do today to promote peace and unity in our home, church, workplace, and neighborhood?