Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer

As we continue our exploration of the Gospel of John, we come to what has traditionally been called "The High Priestly Prayer." The identification of Jesus as a "High Priest" connects the ministry of Jesus with that of Temple priests in the Old Testament. According to the Jewish tradition, one priest was identified as the High Priest, who was given the task of annually entering the Holy of Holies in order to make atonement for the sins of the people. (The book of Hebrews provides an extended theological reflection on Jesus as our "great High Priest.") Before offering the sacrifice of atonement, the High Priest would offer prayers to God on behalf of the people, prayers of intercession for the forgiveness of sin, for the restoration of fellowship between God and his people, and for God's continual blessing in the future. The final prayer of Jesus in the Gospel of John fits this traditional pattern. Immediately after Jesus concludes the "High Priestly Prayer" he is arrested, put on trial, and, ultimately crucified for the sins of the whole world. What makes the sacrifice of Jesus so remarkable is that he fulfills BOTH the role of priest and victim. As the great High Priest, Jesus is offering himself as the sacrifice.
Jesus' Prayer for Unity
One of the central themes of Jesus' High Priestly Prayer is that of unity. Jesus prays that his disciples will be one as he and the Father are one. In Christian theology, the perfect unity of the Trinity is the foundation and source of our unity as the Body of Christ. In other words, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons, yet one God, so we are called to be distinct persons unified through our shared fellowship with the Triune God. The unity of the Church is an expression of the very nature of God.
In addition, Jesus prays that our unity would serve as a witness to the world that he truly is the Son of God, the One sent from the Father. The disunity of the Church not only hurts our relationships with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, it severely diminishes our public witness in the world. Jesus calls us to embody the oneness of God. And as we embody the oneness of God, the world will see and know that Jesus is truly the One who has come to bring life to all people.

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