Unity of Spirit
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
Jesus has been trying to prepare his disciples —and himself, for what is coming. He has warned them. He has explained to them. Now he prays for himself and he prays for them. The hour has come, the rubber is about to hit the road. I can only imagine that Jesus, the man, was realizing his earthly self was about to die and at the same time both yearning for and trusting his death was not the end. He prays that his best discernment of God’s will was indeed God’s will. In the text, he prays that he might be ‘glorified’ (“glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you”).
Glorified is a bit of a funny word to my ears but it is a theme in John. John’s prologue begins the theme: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. Later, in 7:39 we learn that believers had not yet received the spirit because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Glorification is a way to describe a lifting up of the way Jesus sought to serve God—and ultimately a vindication of his crucifixion.
Jesus has been seeking to discern and follow God’s will for him. In this prayer, he is hoping and praying that his discernment is glorified. This is John’s version of Jesus praying in Gethsemane in the other gospels. Will Jesus’ decision to ‘set his face toward Jerusalem’, his decision to risk everything earthly, be validated. Will his sacrifice serve to show us what is ultimately important—eternal life. Or, will his sacrifice be forgotten among the thousands of other sacrificial deaths? (“I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.”)
We know the end of the story, but in that moment, Jesus was acting on God’s promises. He was living in the in between state of all earthly disciples. He was living between God’s promises and the realization of those promises. Only later, in his crucifixion and resurrection is Jesus’ sacrifice glorified and his life vindicated as the way, the truth and the life. Only then is Jesus’ life revealed as the way to the Father.
Jesus gave up everything earthly to show that we are safe with God— no matter what happens to us. Eternal life is unity with the Father and the way to the Father is through surrender. He prays that we may have eternal life…so that we may be one, as Jesus and the Father are one. Unity with God—living in continuous relationship with God is Jesus’s hope and prayer for all of us.
Years ago I was told this story. I have long since lost the source and I could not find it using Google. But it has given me a way to conceptualize Paul’s description of the resurrection and Jesus’ prayer for his disciples of every age. A woman who is made of salt is wandering the earth seeking peace. Her journey brings her to the ocean’s shore. Curious, she extends her hand to touch the water—and suddenly she feels a unity and calm she has never known. She is awed and delighted. She withdraws her hand, looks down and realizes that her fingers have dissolved in the ocean.
In the context of this passage, Jesus dove in. And Jesus wants us to see that we, too, can be joined with God. Saying ‘Let your will be done’ often requires great risk and great courage. But the promise is that we will ‘become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.’ If ever, you have tasted unity of Spirit; if ever you have felt safely embraced, you know what Jesus desires for you. Being deeply known and deeply knowing leads to love. Unity with the Father is what it means to be God’s child. Jesus prays for his disciples and for us: “ Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Diving in, becoming one, offers peace beyond understanding but the way to get there requires surrender. That is not a very popular word. It has defeat embedded in our usage—but at its base is the simple acknowledgment that we are not God. There is something greater than ourselves. We give up our certainty and our righteousness and lean into God. It is a choice to give up our ways for God’s ways. It does not come easily. It is a choice that is made possible by Jesus and it is a choice that leads to Jesus and the Father.
In a story circulating on FaceBook, a man sees a cat drowning. He reaches to help the cat but the cat scratches him and he pulls his arm back. This happens twice more and an observer calls out: “What are you doing, Aren’t you going to learn your lesson? You’re going to keep getting hurt.” Ignoring his observer’s comments, the man reaches in a fourth time, is scratched again but this time, he pulls the cat from the water. The cat runs away and the man turns to his observer. He says, “It is in the cat’s nature to scratch. It is in my nature to seek to show love and sympathy. I try to live by my nature and not allow myself to become the cat’s nature. It is how Jesus lived and it is how he would have us live.
Find the courage to surrender to his way. Dive in. Discover the unity of Spirit that is love and which leads to love. Try not to let the pressures, anxieties and uncertainties of this world change your desire to be kind. You will be scratched. You may well not be appreciated. Love anyway. Let it be so.