John 17:20-26 is a very brief section of scripture, but a very potent excerpt. In these six verses, we get a glimpse of Jesus’ love for us as believers as well as the Father’s longing to be in relationship with us.
This passage is simply a prayer that Jesus prays for us; that is, future believers. He makes this absolutely clear when he says in verse one “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me…” (NLT). Jesus, speaking to God the Father, prays that his followers in the future will be able to experience God how he does. Four times in the passage, he makes statements of the permeation of God in himself and vice versa and how he longs that we experience such perfect unity so that the world can know that God loves us. He then marvels at God’s timeless love and how it was before the world began. In his prayer, he continually longs for his disciples to be united the same way that God and himself are united; without conflict, division or strife; only love abounds and no separation. He ends the section by setting himself as the medium between humanity and God and commits to the continuation of this relationship, committing to communicate God’s love through him into us.
This passage is important to us as Christians in two ways. First, it is confirmation of our standing in respect to God and Jesus. After knowing this prayer was said to God from Jesus, we don’t have to question either of their love. Secondly, we now know that Jesus desires us to follow the relationship template that God and him have set; that all of his followers should love each other and be united in the same way that he and the Father are united. Through this prayer we gain instruction as well as comfort.
We can apply this instruction when we find ourselves in conflict with a fellow believer. I know that church politics are some of the ugliest arenas to wrestle in, but it is in these struggles we must remember that it is Jesus’ desire that we be unified with each other in love. We can also use this passage in the moments when we feel forgotten by Jesus as we all feel in times of trouble. Jesus thought of us before we were ever believers. He had confidence that his disciples would carry his story on and that you and I would one day hear it and believe. This is a comfort that only the human race can claim and I think that is something special.
My reaction to this scripture was awe at Jesus remembering me and then a great burden to survey the relationships I hold with other believers. I feel challenged to right any dissension in my life and simply try to be unified in love with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We can do this on any given day with any given person and we shouldn't hesitate to do so.