Easter is about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, yes. And resurrection happens after torment and death. Yet there is one thing that is quite fascinating even before the torment and death. That is Jesus’ prayer in John 17, right before Jesus was arrested, right before he was going to lose his freedom and life so that we can be free. He offered this prayer to his heavenly father:
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 (emphasis added)
Jesus could have asked for all kinds of things for his people, but he prayed especially for their unity. There are still three more verses after verse 23 which are the conclusion to Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and it is his own proclamation of his father’s love rather than a prayer request. But in verses 20 to 23, the term “be one” occurs four times. How important unity must be for Jesus, that right before he was arrested, before he faced the suffering on the cross—at that moment, he did not refer to the horrible suffering which was to come. Rather he was thinking about the issue of unity.
If Jesus cares about something this much—even more than his own pain and suffering—then we, his followers, should care about it too. Think about the last time you had a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ. Or, when was the last time you felt in your heart that you just did not like a person in your church, even if you weren’t openly fighting. Or you might feel jealousy because someone you think is not better than you has found favor and gotten praise in others’ eyes. Even if there is no action, and nobody else knows it, those thoughts in our hearts are called disunity, and that is directly against Jesus’ final prayer to his father before he gives his life and freedom for us.
Disunity is indeed hard to overcome, which is why Jesus prayed about it. He knows we are weak. He knows we will have conflicts, and they hurt ourselves and hurt his church. But unity is too important to allow conflicts to fester. Since Jesus prayed about unity, we can pray about it, too. Since God the Father heard him, he will hear us too.
God’s answer to this prayer, namely, the unity of believers, may not come immediately, but will be fully manifested because it is promised in Jesus’ prayer. He died and rose again for it.
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