Jesus had moved from praying for the protection of the Father of those whom Jesus had faithfully kept and guarded, to praying for seven specific spiritual requests. The first three were Joy, Spiritual Protection, and Sanctification. Now came the other four: Consecration, Communion in Unity, Glory, and Love.
Even as you sent me into the world, so also I sent them into the world, therefore on their behalf I myself consecrate myself, in order that they may also be who have been consecrated in truth.Jesus to the Father, John 17:18-19
The Father sent Jesus, Jesus sent the disciples, and over the course of his three-year ministry the one hundred and twenty, and through the empowering of the Spirit, Jesus sends every believer into the world. Every believer is to be consecrated to the world, being given the same mission Jesus had.
In order to consecrate himself, Jesus set aside much of what was legitimately his for our sake. Jesus was separated from
- His heavenly glory in order to take on a body, to be a human being and live among people.
- The agency of his eternal and infinite, divine power in order to live in complete earthly dependence upon and communion with the Father, to model a life of complete surrender and to teach it.
- His physical, earthly life so that by his real and physical death he could cancel the debt of sin, and make it possible for people to receive God’s forgiveness, cleansing, and righteousness, for people to be reconciled to God and to be brought into that intimate union with God which is eternal life.
In the same way, God consecrates every believer to join in that great kingdom work, to spread the good news of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.
This consecration involves separating ourselves from legitimate, even deserved activities and pleasures in order to be part of God’s redeeming work in the world. Even as I typed those words, I thought about my twenty-four hours. You and I only have that time.
As I look around my desk, my Greek lexicon, commentaries, the pictures on my wall, the stacks of notes and reminders scattered about, and my phone beside me, I am reminded of all the things that occupy my days, and my nights. Sometimes these good things can clutter the Way the Truth and the Life of Jesus. It might be a good meditation for me to ask God if there is something the Lord might be pleased to have me set aside so that I may be more free to join God in this great work of redemption.
Every now and then it is right and good to take stock of priorities as one of God’s own. Are we sufficiently separated from the world so that you and I can go into the world to complete the mission God has given us?
COMMUNION IN UNITY
But not concerning these, do I only entreat you, but rather also concerning those after me who believe through their [the apostles] word (logos), in order that all would be one, just as you, Father, [are] in me and I [am] in you, in order that also they in us would be, in order that the world would believe that you sent me.
So also the glory which you have given to me I have given to them, in order that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, in order that they may be fulfilled, made completely into one, so that the world may perceive and know that you sent me and you loved them even as you loved me.Jesus to the Father, John 17:20-23
In fact, the primary thrust of Jesus’ whole prayer is that believers would be one, unified in the Lord.
At the very beginning of his gospel, John explained that God is unseen, and no one can reveal God except the one who has been with God.
And that one came to be with people in the world, so that invisible God might become visible. This revelation of God continues to this day, for though the world cannot see God, they can see the Church.
So what do people see, when they see the church? What are our lives telling the world about God? What is the community of God’s people telling the world about God?
- The glory which you have given to me I have given to them. Does the world see the glory of God when gazing at the people of God?
- I in them and you in me, in order that they may be fulfilled, made completely into one. Does the world see a glorious union and communion among the people of God, a community so diverse every corner of the earth is represented, yet so unified in heart, mind, and soul it might be said the church is an entirely new race of people?
- The world may perceive and know that you sent me and you loved them even as you loved me. Does the world see God in the company of God’s people? Does the world perceive the mystery of the Father sending the Son, of the Father’s great love for God’s people as God’s own beloved heir?
For this is what Jesus prayed would be.
Father, [of] those you sent to me, I desire that where I myself am they also may be with me, so that they may behold my glory that you have given to me, because you loved me before [the] foundation of [the] world.Jesus to the Father, John 17:24
All true believers have God’s glory within, no matter what they may look like on the outside. The community of God’s own, the Lord’s redeemed, is not based upon what occupation we might have, or what economic tier we might occupy, what nation or language or social strata or culture we inhabit, or what sort of body we end up with. It is based upon the internal spiritual state of eternal life, imparted by knowing God and being known by God, by being made one with God through Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.
The ultimate destiny of the Church is to be with God in the new heavens and the new earth, to be glorified, seeing Jesus as he is, in all his glory, because we will be like Jesus, perfected, purged of all sin, fully resurrected in every way, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, in our personality and character, and physically having resurrected bodies just like Jesus.
For I made known to these your name, and I will make it known, in order that the love [with] which you loved me would be in them, likewise I in them.Jesus to the Father, John 17:26
The perfect bond of oneness is love.
Jesus was praying that his disciples—and every believer—would have a full relationship with God through Jesus, would experience that relationship as real, that every believer would share in the same love that exists between the Father, Son, and Spirit, the love that fills God-Three-In-One. Every one of us would know that we are loved, and have the capacity to love back. Intimacy with the one true God, the living God, is the key to vitality and fruitfulness.
Believers know God’s name and share in a very real way in God’s divine nature. Because God is truth and love, truth and love must go together in every believer’s life.
Our greatest needs are spiritual
It is certainly a good and healthy practice to pray for earthly things, Jesus taught us to ask God for our daily bread, for the things we need.
But prayer needs to go deeper than just the earthly.
Prayer needs to go into the spiritual, eternal things.