“May they all be one … “I have given them the glory You gave Me, that they may be one as we are one” (John 17: 21, 22)
Waiting can be a very difficult exercise especially when one has no idea how long he/she has to wait. It comes with its package of anxiety and restlessness that sometimes ripple into loss of patience, irritation, flare ups and anger. Waiting is difficult, even for the patient. I would like to call this Sunday “The Waiting Sunday” because it comes in between two great events in the lives of the apostles, when they simply had to wait for God knows how long for the Advocate that the Lord promised. It is four days after the Ascension, when their Master “was taken up into heaven (Luke 24: 51; Acts 1: 4) before which He had instructed them “… not to depart from Jerusalem, but to stay until you receive the Promise of the Father …” (Luke 24: 49; Acts 1: 4). One can only imagine how difficult this period must have been for the apostles: the crucifixion, the death, the Resurrection, the Appearances, the Ascension and now, they have to wait for “the Promise of the Father.” All these events never really settled in yet. There were still so much that they did not understand but had to just contend with. And now, the waiting time. But St. Luke recounts something very instructive that the apostles were doing during this time: “… they went back to Jerusalem full of joy; they were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24: 52-53). Their actions here reflect those of people who were no longer in doubts about who they were relating with. They were convinced that Jesus was in deed the Lord. And therefore, they trusted Him. Their waiting became a celebration of faith in the hope they had in Christ Jesus. This should be our attitude at this time as well. As we, the new disciples, wait for “the Promise of the Father”, the out pouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we must wait in with faith not in doubt; in hope not in despair, praying and giving thanks to God for the gift of His Son, Who now sits at His Right Hand pleading for the forgiveness of our sins. We should be joyful filled with the assurance that our Redeemer has gone before us to prepare a place, so that we will be where He is (John 14: 3).
John’s Gospel Chapter 17, from which the Gospel of today is taken is part of the Last Supper Discourse, and it specifically recounts the prayer of Jesus in three parts: for Himself concerning the Cross that He was about to face; for His disciples that God may sustain them and protect them from the evil one; and for the future converts, those who will believe in Him through the words of His disciples (John 17: 20). This is the periscope from which we read today (John 17: 20-26).
“May they all be one”: Jesus’ prayer reaches to the future; to all those who would believe in Him through the witnessing of the disciples. Certainly, this prayer is for us. Our faith has come through the sacrifices of the apostles and the missionaries, who laid down their lives to propagate and shared the “joy of the Gospel” with us. But what did Jesus really mean by “May they all be one”? Was it that all believers should be under one denomination? Was it that all Christians should have one and the same doctrine; and one and the same way of worship? Or was it that all Christians, irrespective of denominations, modes of worship, should be under one authority and leadership? Or was it that all those who would come to believe in Him should have one heart and one mind bounded by and in the one love? Looking at all these possible interpretations, we can agree for sure that this prayer of Jesus still cries out for an answer and a response today. The Body of Christ in whatever ways we look at it has been fractured, fragmentised, polarised and deeply divided. We need to go back to the “New Commandment” of our Lord: “I give you a new commandment that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34-35). This is the sign and the mark of our identity - love. Now we have lost it. Why then do we turn around and blame the world for not believing us, and for even turning against us? The great challenge before each of us, is the challenge to respond positively from our little corners to the commandment of love until the world is submerged in love and transformed by love.
“I have given them the glory You gave Me, that they may be one as we are one:” The glory, which bonded Jesus with the Father could be described from two perspectives:
- The glory of complete obedience and perfect love: The life of Jesus was a life lived in complete obedience to the Father, motivated by perfect love. He did not only say: “My food is to do the Will of the Father” (John 4: 34); “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own Will, but the Will of Him Who sent Me” (John 6: 38), but He lived all these out. It was that same obedience and love that made Him to freely lay down His life. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10: 17-18). Love and obedience are the foundation of the oneness between the Father and the Son. This is the glory that Jesus has given to us. We too are to love and obey the Father in the Son, just as the Son loved and obeyed the Father. By this way of life shall be one with the Father and the Son.
- The glory of the Cross: For Jesus, the Cross was not a pain, it was a glory. When He said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12 23), He was referring to the hour of His crucifixion. The Cross was the ultimate way of giving glory to the Father and the Father glorifying the Son. Similarly, we are called to embrace our cross not as a punishment but a way of sharing in the glory of Christ. St. Paul says that if we are children and heirs with Christ, we then have to suffer with Christ in order to share in His glory (Romans 8: 17). St. Peter in his First Letter (4: 13) exhorts us not to be surprised at the trials that come but rather, we should rejoice that we share in the suffering of Christ now and in His glory when it is revealed (1 Peter 4: 12-13). It is certain that if we share in the Cross of Christ here on earth, we shall definitely share in his glory in heaven. St. Paul assures: “This is a saying that is sure: ‘If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure with Him, we shall also reign with Him …” (2 Timothy 2: 11-12).
Dear friends, let us wait in hope, for the One Who has promised us the Holy Spirit will not fail us. While we wait, let us, in obedience, take up our crosses, whatever they may be, and lovingly follow Him so that we may share in the glory that is to be revealed.