We were studying the John 17 when the realization hit me. God loved me as much as He loved Jesus! Impossible! After all, Jesus was the son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Who was I? Nothing, nobody, just an average jane.
It was 1970-something. Our large Tuesday evening group was studying scriptures. I was sitting on the floor (we had more people than chairs) against the north wall of Marcella's living room when I read and understood that twenty-third verse. It felt like my heart would explode. I could barely breathe. The enormity of that realization fell on me like huge weight that turned to gossamer when it touched my shoulders. In that moment, I was forever changed. All the world was different.
This seventeenth chapter of John begins with Jesus' prayer for Himself. Here He says He was with the Father "before the world began." Jesus, by His own admission, was present at creation.
Then He prays for the disciples and their future in this world, that God would protect them. Obviously that means in the spiritual sense, because the disciples were physically persecuted, tortured, and executed. But they never succumbed to the evil one. That protection was their unity with Christ, just as Christ is unified with the Father.
Then Jesus prayed for you and me - for all who would believe because of the words of the disciples. The outcome of this prayer is to be our unity with Christ and therefore with the Father.
Jesus prayed that we (all Christians) would be unified - one in the Holy Spirit. Now I don't believe that means that all our sectarian differences will fade away - that we must all be one amorphous worshiping mass.
We each come to Him as individuals. How you worship might just set my teeth on edge - and vice versa. The point is our love for one another (whether we agree on all the details or not) should be the guiding force in our relationships with one another.
Make us sensitive to the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit which creates the unity between God and man. Help us to respond appropriately to Your unbounded love for us.
In Jesus' most precious name.