In John 17, Jesus prays over the disciples, and in verse 17:20 He makes it clear that the things He is praying not for them alone, but for all those that come after them who believe in Jesus, in other words us.
As I read this passage, I began to notice that the things Jesus prayed don’t seem to be so. Is it possible that Jesus’ prayers weren’t answered? He is the Son of God. If His prayers weren’t answered, then how can we have any hope? They must have been answered, but how?
Here’s an example:
That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:21-23)
I don’t know about you, but in the past 2,000 years, I haven’t seen much unity in the so-called followers of Christ. There have been denominational splits after denominational splits after denominational splits, and they started almost immediately. Paul talks about these issues in the first chapter of first Corinthians:
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-14)
Why all the divisions?
The answer is pretty easy actually. They’ve taken their eyes of Jesus. A.W. Tozer puts it this way:
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same [tuning] fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become "unity" conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
~ A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (1948), p. 97
And if they’ve taken their eyes off Jesus, I don’t believe they aren’t part of the group Jesus is praying for here. He is not praying for Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants. He is not praying for Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Non-Denominationalists, or any of the other hundreds of denominations out there.
He is praying for those who believe in and follow Jesus. They may have come to that belief through a denomination, but their denomination doesn’t define them. They don’t say, “I’m a Baptist”, “I’m a Catholic”, “I’m a Lutheran,” etc. They say, “I love Jesus!”
In my experience if you take a bunch of Jesus lovers from all the different denominations and gather them together what you get isn’t discordant arguments about doctrine and dogma, what you get is unified worship of the only One worthy of worship, God Almighty! I’ve seen it many, many times.
Yes, Jesus’ prayers for unity were answered, but those prayers only apply to those who have believed on Jesus and not an organization of men. You won’t see a Baptist in heaven, and you won’t see a Catholic in heaven, nor a Presbyterian, nor a Methodist, nor an Orthodox believer.
There is only one way to the Father and His name is Jesus. And the only people you will see in heaven are those who chose to follow Him, and they will be unified in their worship of God in the next age just as they were in this one.
Next in the series: Protection