“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me,” John 17:11
As Jesus prays for his disciples, both those present with him that evening and those that will eventually be his because of the impact of their witness, one request is repeated several times: “… that they may be one as We are.”
The fellowship of the membership of the church, its unity, its oneness, was of primary concern to Jesus.
In the months leading up to the upper room it’s easy to find evidence in the gospels to support the argument that the disciples were a highly disunified group of people. Competing desires and ambitions were driving the disciples and had it not been for the direct, repeated, intervention of Jesus these might have driven them away from him long before the trials of the Christ’s arrest and crucifixion.
Multiple times scripture records Jesus admonishing his disciples regarding the qualities of a godly, self-sacrificing, servant leader. At one time he’s described as placing a little child in front of them and telling them that unless they became like that little one they could never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ presence, his influence, his reprimands and teachings have kept them from coming apart but now he has to commit them to another. “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father…”
Jesus doesn’t give us into the keeping of an angel or even a host of angels. Jesus entrusts us into the care and keeping of his Father. He may no longer be present with us but the one that has kept him has the power to keep us. The one that taught him through the years of his youth has the power to teach us. The one that empowered him through the years of his ministry has the power to empower us. Through all the challenges of his life and work here on earth the Father has been with him and he will be with us as well and Jesus gives us into the keeping of his Father.
Our unity with the Father, and each other, is Jesus’ primary concern. It’s so easy for individual perceptions, understandings, inclinations and ambitions to drive wedges between people fracturing Christ’s Church and hindering its witness. Jesus doesn’t turn to us and give us the responsibility of safeguarding the unity of his church. We could never fulfill such a responsibility. Only one whose love for us is a match for Christ’s could ever draw us together in spite our liabilities. Only our Heavenly Father could ever answer Christ’s request.
Unity. It seems so simple. But for the us it’s possible only through divine intervention.
The Father is working today to fulfill the request Jesus made that night. People won’t make it easy but if you look beyond the weak earthly vessels all around you and keep your focus on our beautiful, glorious Father you’ll find that we’re able, as we’re drawn to him, to help him produce the unity in us that Jesus prayed for.