In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
These words should not be taken lightly. Not only are these words spoken by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but they are the last recorded prayer that he leaves with his disciples. In it, Jesus prays for his current followers, and then for all those in the world who would believe the message. This means that Jesus was praying for you and for me.
In today’s culture we place a heavy weight on the words of a dying person. We treat the utterances as if they are the person’s revealed will and deepest desires. Our court system also ascribes great importance to one’s last will and testament. By any measure, Jesus’ final prayer carries great weight, not only because he knows it is almost time for him to fulfill the Father’s plan for him to go to the cross, but because he uses it to reveal his deepest desire for all of us.
This should be significant for us Christians. Jesus prays that we will be sanctified and act in such a way that the world may believe that God sent him. This is the essence of our witness: living, working, and acting toward others in such a way that many will desire to be a part of the body of Christ.
We see glimpses of the possibility of this holy community in the early church. Acts 2 tells us that early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer,” and that as they met, broke bread together, and prayed, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 46-47).
Today in the Christian Reformed Church we continue to live into the reality of Christ's desire for us. The gospel is not simply about right thinking; it’s about gospel relationships done in such a way that Christian community becomes a model for others. You can see some glimpses of this in the stories on these pages.
Jesus further prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23).
May we continue to look at Christ and his finished work and know that our circumstances do not define us. We are called to be countercultural people, to be people of the cross. And when we live into that reality, Jesus promises, the world will know that God sent Jesus Christ to the world and loves us even as the Father loves the Son. May we believe and live into this reality.
To God be the glory!
About the Author
Colin P. Watson Sr. is the executive director of the CRCNA. He is a member of Madison Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.