What I’m Thinking: United in Love

In Jesus’ closing prayer at the Last Supper, he prayed for the unity of his disciples. It wasn’t just any unity, however. He had something specific in mind.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the end of chapter seventeen in John’s Gospel (John 17:20-26). This closes Jesus’ prayer at the end of the Last Supper. Following it, Jesus and his disciples went out across the Kidron Valley to a place that there was a garden to pray.

John spent a lot of time and effort in describing the events and (much more to the point) Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. Chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen are what we call Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to his disciples. Compare that to the amount of space that you’ll find in Matthew, Mark, or Luke with Jesus’ words at the Last Supper and you’ll realize just how much attention John wanted us to give to this section.

And these words close it. These words of Jesus addressed to God close not just the Last Supper but Jesus’ great prayer for the disciples that were present with him in that moment and the disciples that they would, in turn, inspire. In other words, this prayer is about us.

Listen to just a few words of that prayer:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.”

John 17:20-21a

This is, in fact, the motto of the United Church of Christ. This is one of the fundamental beliefs of our denomination and of the movement that we hope it is: that the disciples of Jesus are summoned to be one.

It is a special kind of unity, however. It is a unity that is firmly based in the other things that Jesus asked God to provide to his followers in this prayer. He asked God to love them. He asked God to love them so that he would be known, that God would be known, through their words and actions. He asked God to be present in them so that God would be present in us.

The distinctive unity of the Christian Church – in Jesus’ mind and in the mind of John who made sure that we could read these words – the essential unity is a unity of love. The essential unity is a unity that emulates Jesus. Jesus, remember, when this prayer was done, went out to the place that he knew that Judas would follow, would follow with soldiers and police, seek him out, arrest him, hand him over to the Romans for torture and crucifixion and death.

Make no mistake: the unity of Jesus’ imagination is not an easy one because it is a unity that can all too easily lead us into conflict with the standards of the world, a conflict that can easily bring us down, a conflict that can lead us to our own crosses. But this is a unity in which there is deep and abundant love, a unity in which which there is the constant presence of Jesus, a unity in which death itself is no longer a barrier between us and God.

Jesus’ prayer was that we might may all be one. May his prayer be fulfilled in us.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , , | Posted on May 23, 2022

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1 Comment

  1. by Janet

    On May 23, 2022

    I am deeply moved by your thoughts on Jesus’ last prayer. It is good to be reminded of the motto of the United Church of Christ….John 17:20-21. While Jesus’ prayer turned over his mission to the disciples, I, too, need to be cognizant to follow, as a believer.

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