by Harry Banks, October 25, 2015:   John relates a prayer that Jesus uttered, less than 24 hours before his death on the cross, for the benefit of those his Father had given him.

It intrigues me that in this prayer Jesus refers to his disciples as “those you have given him” (referring to himself in third person); also as “those whom you gave me out of the world” and as “those you have given me.” He never refers to them as “disciples” in this prayer. And when I got curious about this turn of phrase and went back and looked at the places where Jesus said “you are my disciples,” both references were conditional. They had “IF” attached to the statements.

Hmm… in John 8:31 (KJV): “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed”; and over in John 13:35, he says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Makes one wonder if being a disciple is based on a person’s meeting certain conditions; however, these persons described in the prayer of Jesus were in fact designated, or given, or placed in Christ’s charge by his father. Nothing conditional about their assignment into his care.

Makes one wonder how to identify those who have been placed in our care. Based on Jesus’s comments about his family members, it appears that “those you have given me” included more than his immediate biological family. And on the cross he assigns the care of his mother to John.

Sorry for the digression but over the past year or two while I keep coming back and looking at this prayer of Jesus, it seems that the phrases used are somewhat strange but have a deeper meaning that I still am trying to grasp. So I try to bring the phrases along with me as I pray for understanding and guidance from this prayer.

As I was saying… Jesus “looked toward heaven and prayed” (verse 1, NIV) for the benefit of those who were given to him. He says, “I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”

Are you kidding?!?

Knowing the crisis of the universe, the worst crisis of the lives of the disciples is only hours away,… and he is concerned about their “full measure of my joy within them”!

Trick question… When was the last time someone was concerned about your joy?? Huh?? Hun?? See, this is not something most people go around worrying about for other people… Most of the people I know are worried about their own joy… not someone else’s joy. And it’s not just joy but a “full measure” of joy and … and … He’s not done yet … “within them.” I’m not sure I “get” the full impact of that “within them” but I wonder if that might be some deep inner warmth, a transcendent sense of joyful being, that can only come from immersing one’s self with the Divine.

I used to be the campus photographer in the days of darkrooms and chemicals and silver emulsions on film and paper. I would expose my print under the enlarger and in the red light of the darkroom slide the blank print into the developer. It would sit there… the expectation would build… slowly a shadow would form… then a detail… more details… the deep shadows would deepen… the middle tones would emerge… leaving the highlights to bring sparkle and vibrancy to the print…

I sometimes wonder if revisiting this prayer in John 17 will allow some of these phrases and words to become embedded wordless “knowing” that emerges from our cloud of unknowing.

But believe it or not … Those are not the words that are catching my attention today. The words that are catching my attention today are the words where he says …

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one” (v 11b, NIV).

I don’t know about you but this just kinda blows my mind… You know… where the kids of today hold their open curved hands near their head and make an explosion sound while they move their hands rapidly away from their head… Popugh (OK, so I don’t know how to spell the sound – use your imagination here…)

OK, so, mind blown…

First off, these are the guys that have just been playing status games, and power moves, too proud to serve… and Jesus is saying what??? “So that they may be one as we are one.”

Mind blown …

Again …

Why would you say something like that, when you know this crowd had demonstrated total inability to function “as one” to this point in time?

OK, so there is no real answer to that question…

But the fact is … But He actually said that!?! Well, that’s what John says he said.

Unbelievable!

But there is something else that is surprising to me in this appeal to his holy Father…

Who is given responsibility for the oneness stuff?

Jesus doesn’t take on the responsibility. The disciples, or “those you have given me,” are not given the responsibility.

Did you ever notice that people who give sermons on unity seem to assume “they” are responsible for unity? Maybe it’s my imagination but that’s how it seems to me…

Anyway … It strikes me as very powerful that this appeal is for the “holy Father” to “protect” them… The “holy Father himself is asked to “protect” them … I’m sorry but I don’t think you can go any higher on the food chain on this one … Like I said, the “holy Father” himself is asked to “protect”… and then there is this part that still eludes my full comprehension… The “holy Father is to protect them by the power of his name … I still grapple with this “power of the name” stuff … My understanding … experience… “knowing” (an inner state of being/knowing) … is still too two-dimensional to fully “get it” when scripture talks about the “power of the name.” I know the words, and stories, and illustrations that surround this discussion but they do not leave me with what I would call “full understanding” or “full knowing.” In fact, I think “understanding” is too shallow a word because it implies that it is a only conceptual thing and less than a participation with the Divine.

So when I’m thinking about “full knowing,” I’m thinking about stuff like Paul refers to when he says things like…

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell” (2 Cor. 12:2-4, NIV).

That “things that no one is permitted to tell” kind of knowing… is what I’m referring to… I’m always amazed that there seems to be general assumption that just because someone can say certain words, it seems to be assumed he understands; even though it is obvious from his current behavior that he does not “know” at a being level what he is talking about.

But I digress (again…)

So the “holy Father is in the protection business, using his Name; actually it is further qualified by Jesus as “the name you gave me”… all this is going on so “they may be as one.”

Did he actually say that … “be as one”?

Hmm … looks like it …

But he’s not done yet … Ready for this one …?

“As we are one” OK, then … there’s a stretch … try that one on for size… being one as Christ and his holy Father are one …

Now, like, how is that supposed to happen…? wait… wait… Remember who is in charge of this oneness and protection stuff… the holy Father…

So if I’m getting this right… oneness doesn’t come from “those who have been given” to Christ; it isn’t even assumed to be primarily implemented by Christ… but the holy Father himself is at the center of oneness…

But we are not done yet… And then… and then… Jesus goes and prays…

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 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” (John 17:20-23, NIV).

So the other day I ran across someone suggesting that when Jesus was here on earth he could not find any form of human government that was an appropriate example of the government of heaven. Which got me to wondering how valid the use is of known political measures for our form of church governance.

Someone at our In His Steps Community Fellowship suggested that we should go through Revelation. So we have been moving through Revelation verse by verse looking for the personal messages that can be found among lights, trumpets, angels and beasts… Someone suggested that the beasts represent the coercive forms of human government found on earth in different ages but that the reason the animal representing heaven’s order of governance is the “Lamb of God” is to make it clear there is no coercion in the divine government where the holy Father is in charge of protecting through the power of his Name so that they may be one… As Jesus and his Father are one.

I don’t know how we as a church will deal with the apparent disruption currently playing out in our community of faith… but it seems like an appropriate time to look for a model of how it is “supposed to be.”

Judging from some of the comments I see, it seems that some assume that human beings are in charge of unity… some assume a military form of governance is appropriate… I see little mention of the kingdom of God that Christ suggests as a vine, or as the writer Ellen White suggests… a river…(yes, there are other references but I was surprised to see a river mentioned – I had missed that one) or as Paul suggests, the organic model of the body… Which by the way, he points out the head cannot say it does not need the other parts… Just sayin’.

Which comes down to this… Did I mention that at In His Steps… we look for personal meaning…?

So as I say from time to time… The trick question is…

What am I going to do to allow the unity of heaven to prevail in these times of playing status games, power moves, and coercion?

Well, based on this prayer it looks like I need to turn to the holy Father and ask his protection; to learn what is in the power of his name; to open myself to that fullness of joy that is of divine origin; to explore the divine models of governance; to treat my fellow humans with the redemptive passion exemplified by his Son.

I’m still not sure of all the aspects of life that are included in the instruction to “abide in me” (vine form of governance)… but that seems like a start…

So where do you look for your Divine connection? You don’t have to answer that out loud but I thought I’d ask it anyway…

“… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor 12:25-27 NIV).