Have you ever heard someone pray for you?
There’s something special about that, isn’t there? Just the thought of being part of that person’s conversation with God, getting that glimpse into their heart and soul; it’s a powerful thing. It draws people together. And I talk about this because our text is Jesus doing just that — He’s praying for us.
He’s praying that we may be drawn together, may be united, so that others may see it and be drawn in, so that, as he says, “The world may know him!”
This is recorded in John 17-21: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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.’’
It’s when the world sees our unity and our love that they start to understand God — his love. Just think about that — the fact that Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, on the night he had a few other things going on, a few things we might have been a little stressed and preoccupied over — while he knew exactly the pain and abandonment and suffering and death he was going to go through — he’s thinking of you — you, right here in Covington, you.
And he prays that you may be one, all so that the world around you might believe.
And he has given you the tools — so that you can unite to proclaim Jesus to this community and around the world. The first tool is unity.
Unity is a powerful thing, isn’t it?
When you see a tight-knit group whose members care for and love one another, who have one another’s backs, who support one another — you’re drawn to it, aren’t you?
You want to be a part of that. Unity is powerful and God knows that — that’s why Jesus prays that we have it.
But notice he prays that we have it, not just among one another. In verse 21, he prays that “They also be in us so that the world may know.”
Our unity in our families and communities and churches has power when it first starts with unity with God. Of course, Satan knows that, too — so he’ll be doing everything to help you break that unity.
He’ll use your sinful selfishness and pride and arrogance and ego.
He’ll use your insecurities and fears and shame — all to turn you against one another — to make it look like you aren’t getting along, like you aren’t this band of brothers and sisters.
He’ll make you look to yourself instead of your Savior.
And the result? Not only do you not have unity with each other or unity with God — then the world doesn’t know God either, at least not through you.
Instead, you see the fights and grudges in your life.
You see the ruined relationships and hard feelings at work, in your families, even at church. Who wants to be a part of that? That’s why Jesus prays for you. And pay attention to what he says.
Look at the key he talks about in verse 26: “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Jesus prays that the world may know God through our unity — but that comes about through his word.
He said he makes himself known so that we know love. In the very first verse of our text, he had said he was praying for all those who will believe in him through the message — through the word.
And what is that word? It’s the love Jesus made known.
Think of the scene of this prayer. The very next verse of John’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus had finished praying for you, he walked out of Jerusalem, through the valley that separates it from the Mount of Olives, and went to the Garden of Gethsemane.
And you know what happened there — more prayer as Jesus wrestled with our guilt and punishment, betrayal and a beating as Judas handed over his friend — a willing arrest as Jesus waited while the soldiers picked themselves up off the ground when he told them who he was. Then he was led away.
Why? To love us… That the world may see his love.
Then arrest and imprisonment, mocking and beating, condemnation by Pilate and lashes for our sins.
Then, the cross and the grave. You know the story. Jesus gave it to you, the glory of the message of God’s love for sinners. Why?
Look again at Jesus’ prayer — at what he wants for us: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
Jesus wants us to be where he is. He prays for us, who believe in him through the message, that we may be with him forever in heaven.
And as that truth draws us in, it draws us closer to one another, and God uses that unity, to draw in others.
In other words, you love and forgive one another so that through you, the world may know God.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.