The first request for unification is for unity by faith. In verse 20, Christ intercedes for all who will “believe in [Him] through [the disciples’] word.” In verse 21 He expands on this unity by faith, asking that “the world may believe that you have sent me.” Where the request in verse 20 shows the concept of unity within the church, in verse 21 Christ explains how this idea of unity is to be proclaimed to the whole world. Whether the focus is on the fellowship of verse 20 or the evangelism of verse 21, this kind of unity can be found by faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus’ request reminds us why the proclamation of the gospel is so important. Any true hope for unity must start with faith in Christ.
Christ also requests that we will be united in the Father’s love. The love of our Father is such an immense encouragement. Despite our battles with sin and Satan, the Son is asking that we would be united as children of our heavenly Father. A version of Psalm 103 puts it well:
The tender love a father has
For all his children dear,
Such love the Lord bestows on them
Who worship Him in fear. (“The Fatherly Love of God,” Psalter Number 278)
Our Father’s love for the sake of Christ gives us a more profound understanding of unity. David, the author of Psalm 103, knew the Father’s love. John, who recorded the prayer of our High Priest, knew the Father’s love. And we who continue to call out to our Father in heaven, are united to these men and all who call to Him in faith for the sake of Christ.
Christ’s request for unity should not primarily leave us pursuing strategies to break down denominational barriers or cultural hurdles or as a proof text for discussing the social divides of the day. Rather, the High Priest’s request encourages us that we are unified with the Father and the Son, called to believe in Him through His Word and to show Christ to the world. Christ has Himself fulfilled that prayer for unity and continues to fulfill it as men and women come to faith in Him and proclaim Him to the world.
Glory (vv. 22, 24)
The Savior then moves on to a final prayer request that His disciples will show His glory. A request for glory is a fitting conclusion, as it connects with the idea of unity. As His disciples are unified with Christ they will also share in His glory. In these concluding verses, Christ asks for glory to be acknowledged now, and for His glory to be shared in the future. Christ points us primarily to present glory in verse 22, for He speaks of the glory He has given them in the here and now (John 17:22). Certainly, the glory of our Savior has already been revealed. For He is the One who came in glory (Luke 2:14), unveiled His glory to His disciples (Matt. 17:1–8), triumphantly entered in glory (Luke 19:38), and rose from the tomb in glory (24:19). The Great High Priest confirms that His glory in Jerusalem has been already shown and will be revealed one day in all its fullness. While we undoubtedly yearn to see His glory face-to-face, we must also acknowledge how He has already revealed His glory. We should even more desire to read the Scriptures, when we see how clearly His glory has been shown to us in His Word.
Furthermore, Christ is asking that His glory would arrive in the future. In verse 24, His request is looking forward as He asks “that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24). Indeed, the concept of glory often leaves us looking forward to that which is still to come (Matt. 16:27). Future glory calls all Christians to continue in prayer. The final prayer we find in Scripture is “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). In times of difficulty, struggles with sin, or the pain of death, let us continue to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Future glory also reminds us of the big picture of God’s salvific plan. His plan of salvation is one that will continue throughout all eternity, and it is a plan that began before the foundations of the world. The final statements from Christ’s High Priestly Prayer (John 17:24–26) remind us that He is still praying for His elect. What encouragement we find in this prayer as our High Priest, Jesus, even now intercedes for us from heaven. May we know Him and be united to Him by faith. We are called to continue to make Him known to the world until He returns in glory.