"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me" (John 17:20-23).
On Easter Sunday, our sanctuaries will be filled with people celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even the most casual Christian likes to remember how Jesus defeated death for Himself, for us and for our loved ones (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
As for today, "Good" Friday, most of those people will be winding up the work week and looking forward to some weekend recreation. A much smaller number will gather to solemnly celebrate the crucifixion: the death that made the defeat of death possible.
Why did Jesus go to the cross? Was it just to provide people with a ticket to heaven, or were there other purposes?
This is a question I addressed at Easter 2008 in my article, "Christ Died So He Could Live Through Us." There I spoke of how the grain of wheat fell to the ground so it might bear much fruit. Christ came in one body so He could live and minister through many bodies — Christ in you and me, the hope of glory — part of God's plan to restore the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
It was a good article, and worth reading again, but it wasn't good enough. It didn't tell the whole story. So as Paul Harvey would say, it is time to hear the rest of the story.
People who pray will particularly pray when they are about to face a serious challenge. They will pray for God's help and for the outcome from this challenge that is their heart's desire.
Jesus was a man who prayed, and He prayed before He went to the cross. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke describe one of those prayer times in Gethsemane, when Jesus asked if there were any other way. This shows us how great the challenge of the cross was — the greatest challenge ever faced by anyone anywhere.
The gospel of John doesn't describe the Gethsemane prayer time, but instead sets forth the prayer of Jesus just before He went to that garden. It is the prayer of John 17, and we should each read it carefully and reverently today.
It is a prophetic prayer because Jesus embraces within it both things that had occurred and things that were about to occur. It is an intercessory prayer because Christ prays for His disciples and the believers who would come after them, including you and me. It is a revelation prayer because it shows us the outcome our Lord desired with all His heart to see happen as a result of His crucifixion.
Jesus prayed we would become one with Him in the same way that He was one with the Father. This was and is His heart's desire.
You will not appreciate the weight and wonder of this prayer until you reflect on the oneness Jesus shared with His Father. Jesus was filled with all the fullness of God! (Colossians 1:19) He only said and did what His Father directed (John 5:19, 12:49). The Father and Son knew each other completely (Luke 10:22). The oneness between the Father and the Son is so perfect we embrace the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to describe it: three Persons, one God.
The English word that best describes such oneness is "intimacy." The Lord wants the same perfect intimacy with us that He has with His Father. This is what eternal life really is: intimacy with Jesus and the Father (John 17:3).
The cross, by eliminating the barrier of sin, allowed Christ to give us the "glory" the Father gave Him. This "glory" is the Holy Spirit, who empowers intimacy with God because through Holy Spirit, both the Son and Father can dwell in us even as we dwell in Christ (John 14:23).
And this intimacy is for now. Jesus prayed for intimacy while the world is still lost and we still live in it, not after we die or He returns. It is when the lost see our intimacy with God that they will know God sent Jesus and loves them (John 17:23).
Intimacy with the Lord is intimacy of heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30). We experience His love and love Him back. We renew our minds by embracing the mind of Christ. We tap into God's power and provision with peace and joy as we do His will (Matthew 6:33; Romans 14:17). In oneness with Him, we can also walk in oneness with each other.
My friends, are we doing all we can do to help Jesus achieve His heart's desire for deep, daily intimacy with us? If not, wouldn't this be a "good" day to start.
God bless you, and God bless our community.
Doug Tweed and his wife Christie are founders of Friends of the King Ministries. Readers may reach Doug by visiting the website friendsofthekingministries.org