Throughout the earlier part of the evening Jesus had given the disciples information about what was about to happen and how he would provide for them in the future. Now Jesus offer intercession for them. This prayer, prayed by Jesus just before his death, is often called his High Priestly Prayer. It is Jesus’ Last Will and Testament, as it represents Jesus’ provision for the disciples’ needs on the eve of his death. He intercedes with God on behalf of the disciples, present and future.
In this third and last part of His Prayer, Jesus is not giving instructions to the disciples or to the church they will lead. “not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word” (Jn 17:20).
Jesus is praying for us. He looks toward the future and reveals His great desire for unity among the believers of his time, His disciples, and us the believers who are “yet to believe”- that we all may remain in the love which unifies.
“As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…” (Jn 17:21). Jesus prays that those who follow him may be drawn into the life of the Holy Trinity. He yearn to draw all humanity into the relationship that exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When the risen Jesus meets Mary Magdalene near his tomb, he instructs her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ (Jn 20:17) In the resurrection, the communal relationship of the Son and Father, is now extended to those for whom he prayed before his death. Jesus asks thatI “may be one”
(Jn 17:21), Jesus is not spurring the church, he is not instructing, not preaching, or rallying the masses. The passion of this prayer is the cry-of-the-heart of perfect love, a prayer of perfect faith. Jesus knows these disciples’ weaknesses, but he also knows that God will take care of them. Jesus is leaving the future of God’s work in the hands of this small group of ordinary people (fishermen, tax collectors …). Leaving them, not alone but in God’s hands. The Holy Spirit will accompany them, strengthen and guide them. The union of the disciples with Father, Son, and Spirit will make the impossible possible.
“Komos” Greek word which means the world, is often a way of describing those who oppose Jesus – a corrupt and even demonic world. It was for love of the world that God sent the Son (Jn 3:16), and in this prayer, at the close of his ministry, Jesus intercedes for that world. Jesus asks for unity and love between those given to him and the Father, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).
For the world who had been hostile to the coming of the Son, such believing, leads to life in his name (Jn 20:31).
It is also a prayer for community. Jesus prays that, “all may be one.” As it was essential for the disciples then, it is more so for us today to return to Jesus’ prayer. For it describes His hope, and His vision of us, His followers; how we are to live our lives together. To be a follower of Jesus is to be a part of a greater whole. There are to be no spiritual solitary. To be one, does not mean that we all have to get along or agree with one another all the time. It is not a call for constant agreement. We are one in Christ whether we agree with each other or not, whether we like one another or not. We are human; there are bound to be disagreements and squabbling. We are called to be a part of the community, into the “oneness” in Christ. Jesus’ prayer reminds us that our unity, our “oneness” is to be a sign to the world of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Oneness and unity is about love. The mystery of the incarnation is that God desired unity with us so much that God became one of us and “dwelt among us” (Jn1:14).
Unity does not mean uniformity, but rather to remain in love, in spite of tensions and conflicts. A love which unifies to the point of creating; creating a better environment for the growth of one another. The love which unites the Trinity allows us to experience God through union with the people in a community of love. Where love should be the sign of God’s presence in the midst of the community (Jn 13:34-35).
This love builds unity in the community. A community that looks at the unity in God in order to understand the unity among themselves. A divided church loses persuasive force. Unity multiplies the effectiveness of our witness.
Finally, Jesus asks the Father to fulfil His promise. Earlier, He promise the disciples, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also” (Jn 14:3). Jesus does not want to remain alone.
Jesus wants us to have the same experience of the Father which He had.
May we not be limited to a rational theoretical knowledge, but truly accepts the experience of the presence of God living in love with the people of our community.