To read Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17 is to be welcomed behind the veil that shrouds the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Before beginning His journey to the cross, Jesus pauses and allows us to eavesdrop on His intercession. Knowing that death is looming on the horizon, Jesus isn’t concerned with the evil system of the world. Instead, in John 17:20, He turns His undivided attention to all those who will believe in His gospel. Then with loving care, our merciful High Priest prays for two specific things for His people: unity and fellowship.
Jesus prays “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (John 17:21). Just as eternal unity exists between the Father, Son, and Spirit, there should be a oneness that characterizes the church before a watching world. Since carnal man does not understand the things of God, the gospel is displayed through the testimony of the divine oneness that exists in the church. If our fellowship is fractured and divisiveness consumes our hearts, the gospel becomes obscured before the world that we are seeking to win. Jesus doesn’t leave us to our own human devices or creative ingenuity to cultivate and produce such oneness. He turns toward heaven and prays, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22). This unity is possible only because Christ has planted new life within us, animated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. All believers are now in union with Christ, are indwelt by the Spirit, and share a commonality that now has a capacity for mutual love, joy, peace, and oneness. While gospel unity signifies godliness, petty division signifies carnality and should never characterize God’s children. Jesus has unified His church so that the world will believe, embrace, and confess Him as the only begotten Son of God (John 17:23).
Jesus also requests that the Father bring us to glory to enjoy eternal fellowship with Him: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Jesus prays that the Father will finally usher us into His glorious presence to join the eternal fellowship that He perpetually enjoys with His Father. As our High Priest, Jesus has made the proper atonement for our sin not only so that we will enjoy a life of oneness here and now but also so that we will have greater fellowship in the life to come. Why does He desire to spend eternity with sinful creatures He has saved? “So that they may see my glory.” Not only will believers spend eternity dwelling with Christ, but we are invited to enter the Holy of Holies of His refulgent glory. No part of Him will be withheld from those He loves. This is the culminating fulfillment of our redemption—one with each other, one with Christ, to behold His glory.