Seventh Sunday of Easter

by Bear Wade

John 17:20-26
(The Seventh Sunday of Easter)
analysis by Cathy Lessmann

20″I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

DIAGNOSIS: Missing Out

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Not One
This prayer of Jesus is for all believers, though the future tense (“those who will believe in me”) brings it closer to home. Like our ancestors in the faith, this text speaks to us “future Christians” that we may be “one.” However, the prayer itself implies that we are in fact, not one–not one with Jesus, not one with the Father, not one with each other. We are lacking, in the true Johannine sense, a sense of community, of koinonia. No one is one with another. We are not displaying a spirit of intimate oneness with each other. Worse yet, in our isolation we are not capable of being an effective witness to our world, “so that the world may believe that you sent me” (v. 21).

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Not Knowing
Many have suggested that the answer lies in bringing all the diverse and divided churches together into one organic union. But the problem may be more basic than that, such that even organic union can not solve all our problems. Nothing against ecumenism, but at the heart of the problem is our stubborn and ignorant hearts. Simply getting together may not give us the real “glow” we need. Truth is, we do not “know” Jesus in the same way that Jesus “knows” the Father. We do not trust the way a child trusts a Father, especially if we think we can solve the problem on our own. There is only the shallowness of our being, undignified and un-glorified; and even in any makeshift community we may assemble, there is still the isolation of faithlessness.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Not “In” With God
This failure of trust becomes disaster for us. In the depths of our isolation from one another and in “fix it yourself” faithless hearts, we are a people that are “Fatherless,” or, to put it crudely, bastards. A bastard has no legitimate connection, no name, and nothing to inherit. And with that loss comes a whole host of other losses that signify what it means to not be “in” with God–no future, no hope, no eternal life, no glory. We are on the outs with God, and more significantly (even deadly), God is on the outs with us.


Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Jesus, Our Petitioner for Unity
But consider the One who, even then, even now, prays for us–for us “future Christians,” even as he prays for those who were with him then and there. Is this the prayer of One who prefers us to remain on the outs with God, with one another, and also with our world? Certainly not! Jesus’ petition will take him to the cross, where he will bring about the unity for us with God. Contrary to all our expectations, this is Jesus’ time of “glory.” It is not razzle-dazzle power and might, but in giving his life on the cross, in an ignoble death, he gains the whole world. In sharing our depth of fatherless-ness, we are given the assurance that we will never be without a Father. All of this was the Father’s will for our unity, and the Father accepts the petition of His Son for our being right, being “in” on the family, united as children of God.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Knowing is “Glowing”
We not only “behold” God’s glory on the cross, but now we get to “know” it–that is, we take it as the truth about ourselves, that we are embraced in the unity with Father and Son here and now (and not in some future, however hopeful, union). God’s love is already “in” us, as we are “in” with God. Faith is the knowing that we are known, and loved. And knowing is “glowing,” beaming with the joyful adoption that the unity we share in Jesus the Christ and with the Father defines our being. Does that have ecumenical overtones? You bet! Faith is the communion we already get to share with one another, here and now.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: “Glowing” the Unity
Neither is the world to be left with any sense of being bastardized, cast off. Jesus’ prayer implies that those who are “in” on the secret cannot but help let that secret out. Its light and glow will shine through us, and convey the hope that one and all are “fathered.” The world will see, will “know” the Father’s love when it observes us adopted kids acting like the Beloved Son of the Father, Jesus. They will see it in our actions toward each other, in our intimate participation, our “oneness” with each other. In fact, it is “through our word” (v.20) that they will learn that God is in the business of loving the world into completeness. Even as we bring that “glowing” faith and love to the world, Jesus is praying for it’s success, for us, and for that world!


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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.


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