In this part of the series on Jesus’ Prayer for His Disciples, the focus will be on the necessity for unity among the twelve disciples. Unity, as spoken by David in the psalms, has incredible value in the eyes of God. As David said, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Jesus knew the Scriptures well, and perhaps was reminded of this psalm when He prayed for His disciples. Jesus knew that if they were unified amongst each other and with God, they would be purposeful and effective witnesses for Him.
In order for the gospel to be carried throughout the world, those who carried that message had to have one heart and mind. They all had to share the responsibility of not only the mission but the message. Jesus told them that their greatest testimony to the world was going to be their love for one another and their spiritual like-mindedness. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) This love for one another included not only a mutual respect as men but also care and compassion as fellow eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Unity among the disciples was critical.
In John 17:11-13 is recorded the second part of Jesus’ prayer: “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Jesus had come to the end of His ministry on earth. Soon he was going to be handed over to Roman officials and crucified. He knew that He would be raised to life again, but He also knew that He was going back to the Father. This meant that the disciples were going to be left here on earth to carry out their mission. Jesus prayed that they would be kept, or guarded, so that they could experience the same unity as what was shared between the Father and the Son. They were to know and understand the Father’s will, and obey it. They were to consider the sick, the lame, the blind, the fatherless, and the widowed. They were to desire to see mankind restored and reconciled just as Jesus had desired. To do these things meant to submit to the authority of God. In so doing, they were going to be able to lead all men to the salvation of Jesus Christ.
During Jesus’ ministry, He walked with His twelve disciples and taught them about kingdom living. He performed miracles before them, and He spoke the words of the Father to them. Jesus completed every task that the Father had sent Him to do, including preparing these twelve men for the path that lay ahead of them. Not one of them had been lost, or destroyed, except whom Jesus called the “son of perdition,” or the heir of eternal destruction. He was speaking of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.
The other Eleven, along with Matthias who replaced Judas as one of the disciples, remained united both before and after Jesus’ resurrection. It was this unity that enabled them to spread the gospel throughout the then-known world within 30 years after Jesus’ ascension. Because of their efforts, the message of the gospel is still heard all around the world today.