The Bible is a little too accessible. Well, maybe that’s overstating the case a little, but here’s what I mean. The accessibility of scripture invites a level of familiarity that is positive on the one hand. It’s obviously good for us to grow in our understanding of the Bible. But there is a shadow side of that accessibility: it tends to breed a casual engagement with the Bible that tempts us to forget the nature of what we’re reading. John 17 isn’t just a 2,000 year-old prayer with a couple of golden nuggets offered by a man named Jesus. To mistake it as such begs us to make a profound category mistake and miss the unique power of (1) listening-in and learning from Jesus’s relationship with the Father and (2) listening to the Savior’s own heart for us. If the accessibility and familiarity of the Bible renders a passage like this as normal or mundane in any way, then it’s time to re-set the frame.
Perhaps this is why Jesus’s prayer in John 17 has been so arresting to me over the last few weeks. It must be read and remembered as a prayer that was offered by the Savior of the world on our behalf! Reading through this lens affords Jesus’s prayer new authority and power to direct both my heart and my actions.
For instance, Jesus’s prayer points toward a deeper concern for the way we show up in the world than the church to which we show up on Sunday morning. Jesus is so convicted that our unity will reveal God’s love to the world that He intercedes on our behalf that God would protect us so that this can happen! Although we have to guard against elevating one passage above all others, this prayer seems to reveal Jesus’s belief that the key to the transformation of the world isn’t what happens inside the walls of the church, but what happens when we’re together outside the walls of the church when we’re in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. How we treat our neighbors, then, is either a fulfillment or a rejection of Jesus’s prayer for us. While that could be a frightening thought, I prefer to focus on the excitement of being part of what Christ was praying for in this crucial moment of his life. Is there anything better or more important that helping God to fulfill Christ’s prayer that our unity would reveal God’s love to the world?