Jesus’ final words here at the tail-end of the Upper Room Discourse connect directly with Jesus’ opening words at the very beginning of the Upper Room Discourse.
As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, Jesus began His parting words to His disciples with this promise: “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” That is the beginning of John 14.
Jesus added one last exclamation point to it all with this parting prayer: “Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.” This at the end of John 17.
Jesus’ heartfelt emotion in this moment cannot be overstated.
These are the heartsick words of a smitten bride-groom about to leave His newly-betrothed bride. His bride with whom He is very much in love. His bride from whom He must now depart in order to — in the words of John 14 — return to His Father’s house to prepare the place where He and bride will dwell together forever.
It was back in Podcast #20, at the wedding at Cana, when I first clued you in that when Jesus, in John 14, promised to return to His followers, Jesus painted that promise in the portrait of a Jewish wedding. From the disciples’ point of view, in less than 24 hours, their bridegroom would indeed depart to His Father’s house in order to prepare a place for them.
You need to feel it, keenly so, that the dark cloud casting a dreary shadow over entire majestic Upper Room Discourse and Jesus’ glorious High Priestly Prayer is specter of Jesus’ immanent departure.
This is in every sense of the words high drama and intense — very human — emotion. On a couple of most-significant levels.
We are about to gaze directly into Jesus’ sizable soul. And what we are about to discover there is Jesus’ eager anticipation of a bridegroom (that will be fulfilled), coupled with His expression of an expectation that His newly-betrothed bride will historically, dramatically, and devastatingly fail to fulfill.
An unconscionable departure from what is clearly the plan, purpose, and will of God, for which the entire world is now paying a very high price. You talk about a clash/collision of contradictory emotions! Welcome to the world of Jesus.
Yes, this climax, this high water mark of this Upper Room Discourse is very much the very definition of high drama.
Now, just to give you a heads-up as to where we’re going tonight.
What you are about to see, in living color, in HD, in real time, is this:
- When your prayers seemingly go unanswered…
- When you cry out to God to fix a problem, heal a disease, restore a relationship knowing that such a fix/healing/restoration would meet with God’s approval, but your cries seem to fall on deaf ears…
- When your faith faces a devastatingly deep disappointment, an unnecessary and totally avoidable set of circumstances, what should be an easily fixable situation into which God for whatever reason does not intervene and does not fix…
- Know this: Jesus experienced, and continues to experience, all of that, His own disappointment to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom.
- A devastating disappointment that breaks His heart even to this day. One that breaks His heart — Hear this — His own prayers about this very situation notwithstanding.
To be blunt: a singularly-important part of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer has yet to be answered, this after 2000 years and counting.
Now, there is a theme – a thread, if you will – that seems to run throughout the New Testament:
I urge you, believers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in full agreement in what you say, and that there be no divisions or factions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your way of thinking and in your judgment [about matters of the faith]. 11 For I have been informed about you, my brothers and sisters, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are quarrels and factions among you. (1 Corinthians 1:10-11)
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ… (1 Corinthians 12:25-27)
…you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. (Philippians 1:27)
And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:15-17)
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. (1 Peter 3:8)
This is universal. When Paul writes about the unity of the Body of Christ, he is not merely talking about the church in Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, nor any of the churches throughout the region of Galatia. This message is meant for all of us, and it is pronounced all over the New Testament.
On top of that, it is perpetually written in terms of pleading and begging with desperation that we behave as such.
Jude takes the opposite approach, but with the same message, warning us against those who would live contrary to the way Peter and Paul wrote about:
These men are hidden reefs [elements of great danger to others] in your love feasts when they feast together with you without fear, looking after [only] themselves; [they are like] clouds without water, swept along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted and lifeless; 13 wild waves of the sea, flinging up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of deep darkness has been reserved forever.
14 It was about these people that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, when he said, “Look, the Lord came with myriads of His holy ones15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly deeds they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh and cruel things ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” 16 These people are [habitual] murmurers, griping and complaining, following after their own desires [controlled by passion]; they speak arrogantly, [pretending admiration and] flattering people to gain an advantage.
17 But as for you, beloved, remember the [prophetic] words spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They used to say to you, “In the last days there will be scoffers, following after their own ungodly passions.” 19 These are the ones who are [agitators] causing divisions—worldly-minded [secular, unspiritual, carnal, merely sensual—unsaved], devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:12-19)
Even a blind and deaf man can understand the point of Jude’s words. Yet, how many Christians throughout human history have missed this point entirely?
How is this so, when Jesus specifically prayed that we would all be united?
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one (John 17:20-21)
There is to be no more division within the Church as there is between Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
Yet, far too many pastors have elevated division to a virtue.
What do I mean by that?
I’m talking about leaders who are so proud of the fact that they are of such doctrinal purity and so selfishly devoted to “contending for the faith” (Jude 1:3); meaning that they feign grief that anyone would disagree with them every because of their Biblical authority… and they teach the people of their churches to behave and think likewise.
Thinking like this, violence between denominations, biases and vitriol between believers have grown over the centuries… all to the contrary of Jesus’ prayer for us.
In fact, Jesus staked the collective credibility of His followers on our unity.
…they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe [without any doubt] that You sent Me. (John 17:21)
And we wonder why the world cannot believe that God sent His Son for the redemption of the world and forgiveness of sin, while there is so much division and dissension amongst His Church.
I’m talking about a defiant rebellion against the clearly revealed will of Jesus, who in His final hours prayed to God that we would all be one, just as He and His Father are unified… this rebellion is a sin. And, infinitely worse is the fact that we have elevated our separation from each other to the level of a virtue, so that we should be applauded when we separate.
Now, I admit that this is a tragically enormous problem that I am unable to solve. But, what emerges from the shadow of this problem is an enormously blessed truth: Whenever you pour your heart out to God, praying for something that you know is His will and profoundly touches your heart, yet nothing changes at all… in that moment of despair, you will know exactly how Jesus feels today. He understands your doubts and cynicism at heaven’s apparent silence. Because His own prayer has gone unanswered. We are not one, as the Trinity is one.
But, His prayer will not remain unanswered forever.
Revelation 5:9 prophesies of the angels singing a new song:
“you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
We all will, eternally, be one! Jesus’ prayer will be answered! And so will yours.