Did you ever hear someone say something that was very moving? You knew that it was profound but you couldn’t yet say what all the implications of it were?
Whenever I hear this passage from John 17 I feel a bit like that. We usually read it on this day or during the week of prayer for Christian Unity – between Pentecost and Trinity Sundays.
I know these words are good. They are very profound. And I am also sure I really don’t understand all they can mean for us.
I think St John must have felt the same too. He thought these words of Jesus over and over to try and explain clearly what he meant. What came out in English is rather long and complicated.
But here’s a little thought of encouragement. I hope that we can all understand it and take home with us. John was most concerned for the church. They were in a time of crisis because of the periods of persecution they had experienced. What words of Jesus, he would have thought, would be the best to encourage them with?
And John remembers these words of Jesus. He tells them to us as Jesus’ teaching ministry was coming to an end. Here we see the Church in a wonderfully new way. Jesus is praying for the church. By being prayed for the church in a sense takes on a new identity. Many in the church were feeling a bit helpless, frightened and confused. These words of Jesus transform the church into a community that clearly belongs to God. And because it belongs to God, it is freed and empowered to fulfil God’s purposes for the world.
We know this ourselves on a small scale, don’t we? If we are having a hard time and a friend prays for us – and we know it – somehow we are not nearly as frightened or confused as we were?
John is telling his friends in the church – you and me – that they shouldn’t be afraid. Jesus has prayed for us. And he has prayed that we would have all the power of God to be his people, sharing his love with all the people whose lives cross that pathway of our lives.