In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read John 17
The disciples knew that Jesus loved them, from the moment they were invited into the inner circle as followers and friends, all throughout their years together, and most especially as the time drew near for Jesus to leave them and return to his Father in heaven. His “farewell discourse” recorded for us in John 14-17 reveals so much of Jesus’ affection for his disciples. All of these words were spoken on the heels of his demonstration of the “fullest extent of his love” for them by washing their feet.
He urges them not to let their hearts become troubled, but to trust in God. He prepares them for his departure, sharing that he is the way and the truth and the life, the only way to the Father. He promises to send them “another Counselor” who will be with them forever, the Holy Spirit of truth and love. He reminds them they are his friends, and promises them that their grief will turn to joy when he’s gone.
As he is concluding these remarks, he turns to the Father in prayer. In John 17, Jesus is praying for his own relationship with the Father, noting that he came to earth to complete the work of glorifying the Father throughout the world. Then, he prays for his immediate disciples, for the Father to protect them by the power of his name, so that they may be one. He also prays that his disciples would have the full measure of Jesus’ joy within them. And, that the Father would sanctify them by the truth of the Word.
What follows in verses 20-26 is Jesus’ prayer for those who would follow him in future generations, including our own. For those he prays for God’s glory to be revealed and released through their unity and oneness, “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” The focus of Jesus’ heart prayer for disciples of every generation is complete unity, without which the world will never know why Jesus was sent by the Father to earth as the greatest of all expressions of love.
In Jesus’ great high priestly prayer of John 17, his outstretched arms of love embrace us all. No disciple of any millennia since the time of Christ is excluded. In this prayer, Jesus and his Father, along with the Spirit, are praying for all who follow him and claim his name as believers. As we are united as one in Christ, we reveal the glory of God in this watching and waiting, often wounded and skeptical, world. Only as we are one will the world fully know the gospel of peace, joy and love.
Will you join Jesus in fulfilling his prayerful longing for our generation? Will you participate in building unity among all who call themselves Christian? Behold Jesus blessing his disciples in their community oneness; believe in the priority of unity today; belong to those who choose to be reconcilers and peace makers; become a Christ-follower who desires to see God’s glory revealed and released even today.