John 17:20-26

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

These episodes are part of Jesus' prayer for the disciples. They are the climax of the long speech of Jesus to the disciples. In telling the story, the audience is addressed as those who are invited to become Jesus' disciples. The first part of the prayer is specifically directed to the original twelve disciples. Here, however, the prayer is not only for the twelve, but is also meant for all those who will believe, that is, the entire audience of John's Gospel. So at this point in the prayer, Jesus is praying for us. He is including us as the listeners to the story in the community of the disciples and those who are uniquely loved by him and by God.

Now the prayer of Jesus is that "they may all be one." This is the theme and verbal thread that runs through this first episode. The first sentence is: "I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who will believe through their word, that they may all be one." And the final sentence of the episode is: "They may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one so that the world may know that you have sent me and I've loved them even as you have loved me." If you recognize this verbal thread—"that they may all be one"—it will enable you to learn this episode easily.

There clearly were divisions within the community of the followers of Jesus in the first century. It happened almost immediately, as reflected in Acts 15 regarding the controversy over the inclusion of Gentiles in the church. The prayer of Jesus is that they may all be one just as he is one with the Father. The purpose of this oneness is not mystical union; the purpose of this oneness is that the world may believe that God sent Jesus. The prayer is then addressing a problem in the 1st century as well as the 21st.

In the second episode, the purpose of the giving of Jesus' glory to them is that they maybe one and the world may know that God has loved them. This love is potentially present for everyone that they may be completely one. So the purpose of Jesus' glory is that there is oneness. The unity in Christ's glory and in God's love is that they/we may be one.

The second part of the prayer is that the disciples may be with him and see his glory. This is an incredible prayer, a prayer that they may be with him in heaven, in the place of his glory, in the throne room where they can share his place at the right hand of God. It is a prayer for them to participate in the love of God for Christ from the foundation of the world.

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