August 13 – John 17:20-26
Main Focus: God makes his people one with each other as they become one with him.
This week we finally arrive at one of the key dimensions of the High Priestly Prayer in John 17: the unity of God’s people. In the span of 26 verses, Jesus asks for the oneness of his people four times and references their collective identity at least another twelve. Clearly this is a huge priority for him, a massively good thing that he desires for us. But like we saw two weeks ago, our unity is even more than that—through Jesus, Christian unity connects us to the blessed unity and goodness that exists within the Trinity itself.
When you read this last section of the prayer (v.20-26), Jesus’s repeated mention of being “in” his disciples may have sounded a little abstract. But Jesus’s language here harkens back to John 15 and his vine and branches illustration; when Jesus talks about being “in” us and us “in” him, think of a grape vine branch connected to the vine’s root, from which the branch receives life and perishes if severed. So too, all the branches connected to the vine participate in shared life with one another. Astoundingly, mysteriously, God makes his people one with each other as they become one with him. The two are inseparable.
That being said, being joined to Jesus like a branch in a vine might still seem a little more metaphorical than real. Looking at some of Jesus’s reasons and intended outcomes in the passage can help make that oneness a little more concrete. First and foremost we see the connection between the internal, perfect love of the Trinity and us (v.23, 26). Unity with Jesus pours this love into us, convincing us of our welcome in God’s family (Rom 8:16), helping us withstand the travails of earthly life (Rom 5:1-5) and endure to the very end (Rom 8:28-31). In short, this love fills us up to walk like Jesus, confident in our Father, with a clear-eyed focus on and joyful receiving of the most essential work before us, and faithful to the very end.
But there’s even more than this poured-out love in store for us. Jesus wants for us the kind of unity with him that leads to a robust testimony to his good news (v.21, 23) and a knowledge of him even while the watching world remains largely in the dark (v.25). This indicates the sort of spiritual nourishment that we’re meant to gain through unity with Jesus supplied by his Spirit—being united with Jesus makes us better able to stand as loving, gentle, and persistent witnesses to his truth even against opposition.
To direct our attention to all that’s involved here, we’ll ask “why does Jesus want his people to be ‘one’?” Use this question to get at Jesus’s reasons for wanting this for us and his desired outcomes; ex. the loving community of the Trinity is a good thing Jesus wants for us (reason), and Jesus wants the sort of radical unity-across-diversity that testifies to God’s unique activity (outcome).
In the rest of the discussion questions you’ll notice a bent towards practical outworking—what exactly does this Christian unity thing look like? Much like the introduction above, we have to work to make the idea of being “in” Jesus and “one” with each other more concrete. We’ll discuss how differences in the body of Christ—such as race, ethnicity, gender, ethnic, geographic, economic, education, ability/disability, and others—play into the conversation of unity and its various challenges. We’ll assess ourselves, looking for those differences that are hardest for us personally to unite across. Then we’ll return to those resources that Jesus gives to create this unity across differences, most importantly the love of the Father for the Son, as mentioned above.
We’ll finish by asking how we as a church, and as a community group, can grow in this sort of unity. Next week begins our Divine Community series, in which we’ll explore the Genesis-to-Revelation story of God’s diverse-but-unified people. This question about points of growth should help prime the pumps as we continue to consider what it means to be God’s people at Vintage, to live and love as his people and, more and more, to look like his people.
• According to the passage, why does Jesus want his people to be “one”?
• What do you think unity among followers of Jesus looks like?
• How do you think differences of race, ethnicity, economics, etc., play into this conversation?
• In what ways is being unified with other followers who are different from you hardest for you?
• How do you think Jesus helps us in those difficulties?
• In what ways do you think we need to grow in unity as a church? What about as a group?
•Close in prayer, asking God to unify us in his Son for his glory.