Sunday 22 September I pray that all of them, Father, may be one (John 17:20-21)
I wonder if you’ve heard someone praying for you.
Sometimes we have this privilege of being prayed for – I had that over the last two days at Warkworth Pressie at New Wine facilitated days of ministry.
Your ears prick up – as someone prays for you – especially as they are led by the Holy Spirit – it’s a powerful experience. It’s always more interesting when they don’t know you – how the Holy Spirit guides them to pray precisely for your needs.
Imagine the disciples – and Jesus is praying his great high priestly prayer – for us – those who will yet believe – even us thousands of years later. I mean someone must have heard the prayer– at least John his closest friend who wrote it down in the 4th gospel.
How much more interesting would it be to hear Jesus pray for us today! Well we can! In John 17. Guess what he prays a couple of times? – that we may be one.
Yes he prays for other things – like verse 15:
Joh 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
But unity features a few times – earlier in verse 11 and twice in the passage we read.
(v 11 … protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.)
Imagine Jesus – in his prayer time for our unity – praying Psalm 133. It’s a logical thing really. The Psalms were their book of prayers and hymns.
You can pray a hymn can you not? We sang one last week: Love divine all loves excelling – fix in us thy humble dwelling!
Well do you want God’s love to live in you? If you do things will be different, don’t you think?
I would like us to imagine Jesus praying with this Psalm in mind. It would have sounded like this:
Hine matov u-ma na-im – shevet achim gam yachad.
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren (brothers) to dwell together (to be one!).
The Psalmist simply puts it out there – HOW GOOD AND HOW PLEASANT IT IS when brothers dwell in unity.
He uses two similes (remember – like or as figures of speech!)
Unity is like this – two liquids.
1. The picture in Psalm 133 is of the anointing oil of the Old Testament (Exodus 33:22-25 will tell you how to make this stuff. Myrrh, Cinnamon, fragrant cane and olive oil! Fascinating mixture). It was poured on the head of Aaron (read Leviticus 8:12 for that story).
I was very keen to demonstrate this today – with some cooking oil. There wasn’t anyone with a long enough beard apparently.
Picture the idea of pouring a large bowl of oil over someone – to get the picture of the influence of the power of unity – which comes out of love.
It soaks in – and runs everywhere – it runs deep into every corner of our being and life.
Imagine Jesus praying for us with this in mind!
2. The other image – of the dew of Hermon – is a refreshing picture.
Both are pictures of the pervasive influence of a liquid.
You know how it works – you spill a glass of water next to your bed and you know it will land in your slippers.
Or the coffee will seep into your computer keyboard – however quick you are.
The beauty of the Psalm is that it is almost as good as a kiwi Psalm. I don’t know if you’ve been watching this Americas Cup sailing story. This kiwi skipper – is the master of understatement. Like the Canadian who led the retreat we were on – and who taught over the last two days.
Understatement is a very effective tool in communication.
Like its opposite we encountered recently – HYPERBOLE – when we talked about Jesus’ directive to hate our family in order to love Him and His Kingdom with the right amount of passion.
Listen to this again:
Psa 133:3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
(For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.)
But wait a minute Mr Psalmist.
The dew of Hermon – Mount Zion.
These two mountains were some hundred miles apart.
The one was far north and a common or secular mountain that experienced a lot of dew. It was also the catchment area of the Jordan river – a source of life for the whole land.
Zion is the mountain outside Jerusalem – a holy place. Dew would fall on that mountain too.
There is a hint – in the understatement – that unity is such a powerful thing .
The first simile is more direct in its sense of abundance of the oil of anointing being poured out:
It is like oil that keeps flowing from God to man – the Aaronic priesthood was the link between God and people – and the blessing came through them – did it not – in Numbers 6:
Num 6:22 The LORD said to Moses,
Num 6:23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
Num 6:24 “‘”The LORD bless you and keep you;
Num 6:25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
Num 6:26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”‘
The dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion – hints at such a huge and abundant flow of water that it somehow connects these two mountains so far apart – is a huge stretch of the imagination.
Is this even possible?
Well that is what unity is – a powerful miracle – something that comes from God.
And of course the oil reminds us of the Holy Spirit who works in us – remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 about the unity of the Body – speaking of the church:
1Co 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
1Co 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Jesus prays for this unity.
It’s not structural or organisational. It’s organic and relational.
The Gospel reading today weaves the threads through which this unity is found – by which we are knitted together:
20 ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – 23 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.
Jesus would have known that this would be good and pleasant – a delight to God – something worth praying for.
I have given them the glory that you gave me (verse 22) – that they may be one as we are one. Something is afoot here – what does that mean?
He gives his disciples the glory that God gave Him? Remember this is John’s gospel – go back to John 1:14:
Joh 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Here’s the answer: John writes that they had seen his glory – the glory of the One and only, full of grace and truth.
Surely people are to see the glory of Jesus in us too? Full of grace and truth! Stretch you? Not really. Why does Jesus pray for our unity?
V21 – that the world will believe God sent him.
V223 – that the world would know God sent him.
In fact verse 23 of John 17 says this:
… 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.
This is all about a revelation of the love of God to the world.
This is about our witness.
This is about sharing good news!
God loves them (the world) as much as He loves Jesus – his beloved Son.
We are sons of God too – showing forth his love.
Dabble a bit in John’s letters and this is abundantly plain. It is in fact all about the love of God. John 3:16 is at the heart of it all.
May we be one and show the world the power of Jesus’ love!