This series presents, in no particular order, what I regard as the scriptural teachings most essential to Christian mysticism. It draws attention to key words and phrases, and poses some questions about them that I simply leave for interested readers to address as they see fit. Part 1 was on the Great Commandments. You are welcome to respond in the comments section.
Teaching 2: The Farewell Prayer of Jesus
My prayer is not for them [my chosen disciples] 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—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:20-26)
Key Words & Phrases
“I pray also for those who will believe in me….”
Jesus’ farewell prayer begins by expressing his hopes for everyone who believes in him. In contemporary Christian life, we often take the word “belief” only its connotation of agreement, consent, or submission to a doctrine. But deeper than this intellectual position is the attitude of trust, and so Jesus is saying that his prayer is for those who trust him, who have enough confidence in his claim of oneness with God.
“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
The end of this sentence suggests that the belief, the trust and confidence, he has spoken of is not an end in itself, but that it is a step that opens us to the possibility of existing in oneness, to “be one,” experiencing and knowing it, “just as” he does.
“you are in me and I am in you,” “May they also be in us,” “I in them and you in me,”
Note the interchangeability of subject and object in those statements: God in Jesus, Jesus in God, us in God and Jesus, Jesus in us, God in Jesus, and thereby God in us. This interchangeability communicates oneness as well as can be done in dualistic terms.
In John’s Gospel, the Greek for “complete” is teleioo, and like our English word it speaks of something finally accomplished, in a state of fullness, and perfected. The Greek for “unity” is the same as that used for “one” in this passage. Thus “complete unity” speaks of being fully one. In the state of complete oneness, there is no longer two or any other number of things, only the one. The subject and object dichotomy becomes meaningless, and all these statements are, in effect, simply different ways of saying the One is one.
“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Here, at the very end of his prayer, Jesus says that all the ways in which he has made and will make God known to us are for the purpose of having us come to experience the same love (agape) that God has for Jesus, and thus he will be one with us.
Questions for Meditation
How does your meditation from Part 1 on the oneness of God inform the way you think about the meaning of oneness or unity in Jesus’s prayer?
- In mystically loving God, what is the role of belief and how does it relate to the Great Commandments?
- How does belief in someone or something differ from knowing someone or something? How does believing in something differ from being in it?
- What does this prayer say to you about possible outcomes of following Jesus, ones that he greatly desires for us?
- How might your life change if you were to ever know oneness with God so completely, even for just a single second, that it no longer made sense to speak of you and God as separate from each other?
- What would be the implications of such oneness for your relationships with other humans beings, the world, and all of existence?
- What relationship is there between being loving and knowing oneness?