Have you ever seen a painting or a sculpture of the Last Supper? Perhaps you have seen the famous one by Renaissance Master Leonardo da Vinci. Well, did you know that as Jesus sat at the table that night, He had you and me on His mind? Not only did He think of us, He even spent time in prayer for us.
After praying for His own glory and for His disciples, Jesus finished His prayer at the Last Supper by praying for the church. It is a staggering thought that nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus was praying for us, here in America in 2014. This was the grand reality of His prayer, that as He prayed on that evening before His crucifixion, He had believers from all over the globe, through all the centuries of time on His mind.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”
We must realize too that as He prayed that prayer He had not yet died on the cross for sin. This means that His disciples were sitting there at the table, oblivious to the fact that shortly thereafter He would be taken away and executed. But this was not something He was unaware of. Rather, He had been speaking freely all evening about His impending self-sacrifice. Shortly, He would demonstrate that His love for those who believed in Him was genuine.
He had begun the evening by humbly washing the disciples’ feet indicating that He truly loved and cared for His disciples. But it would be days later, when they realized that He had given His life as a substitute for their sins, that they would ultimately recognize the depths of His selfless love for them.
We have the benefit of seeing the entire experience in hindsight. We see His prayer for us, followed immediately by His sacrifice for us. The authenticity of His care for us is inarguable. So, we understand that He prayed for us, but what did He pray for us?
In verses 21,22,and 23, Jesus continually asked God “that they may be one.” His desire for us, reflecting the desire of God for us, is that we would dwell together in a very distinct unity. Some would understand this unity to mean that all Christians everywhere should drop their denominational distinctions and theological differences and build a sort of ecumenical hodge-podge. Rather, if you recall, Jesus was praying for the sanctification of His followers just a couple verses earlier. Now, as He prayed for unity, there was a basis for that unity – holiness. It was the desire of Jesus that believers everywhere, regardless of cultural differences, would be able to unite under one common purpose - holiness.
Jesus still desires that we, as His followers, dwell together in this same purpose. It is not good enough to say that we are Christian. It is not sufficient to be warm bodies in pews. Rather, understanding that Christ only prayed those things that were the will of God, we can clearly see that God desires us to dwell together in unity and holiness. We should seek to create community with other believers that finds its moorings not in a favorite sport or hobby, but rather that finds its foundations in the purity and holiness that God desires and that our Savior Jesus prayed for and then died for.
Food For Thought: What phrase did Jesus say that tells us that He was praying for us too on the night of the Last Supper?