In John 17:1-11, Jesus begins a prayer that will continue through the chapter. Some find it odd that he, Son of God, should pray – but we understand the three persons of the Trinity to be in close, indeed perfect, communication.
He knows the time of glory – the time of sacrifice – has come, and prays that his disciples may receive eternal life. Too often we have limited that to some after death experience, but it is meant to be a new quality of life, beginning now and continuing beyond death. We shall have to discover what it means, as the first disciples did. It is not the effortless and trouble free existence we might imagine, but does indeed bring a new quality of love (purpose, hope, service, – we could find many words) to what may still be a difficult situation or hard slog.
Jesus is clear that his followers are those God gave him. For us, it is a mystery how God both gives us freedom of response and yet knows who will be his people. Yet this group have discovered that Jesus spoke God’s words, and value them accordingly. He prays for them, rather than for humanity, that they may be protected and united. Protection we find it easy to understand – there are many threats. Unity takes more thought. Why is it so important? Perhaps it helps to look at the history of Church division, the often personal (or personality) differences which have handicapped fellowship and service.
It is good to have a tradition, to belong to a group of fellow believers. It helps us find a starting point, a way of doing things. But let’s resolve to be Christians first, and above all other loyalties and badges. United with all who follow Jesus and long for his life to be fully realised in them, we shall grow in love and service beyond narrow boundaries.