At the YMCA where I’m a member, there is a Bible verse inscribed on a wall in the lobby area that quotes John 17:21, “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me,” New King James Version, NKJV).
This is the Bible verse that the YMCA founders adopted as their motto in the mid 1800’s. It served as a call for unity amongst all of its members in alignment with the prayer that Jesus prayed for all of his disciples, that they be one so that the world would believe. (ymcamission.org)
While the YMCA is generally associated with physical fitness, most persons are aware that it is a Christian organization. After all, Y-M-C-A does stand for Young Men’s CHRISTIAN Association. The reference to John 20:21 shows the importance of building a healthy spirit in addition to a healthy body. By the way, this verse is inserted within its equilateral triangle—spirit, mind, and body.
It’s commendable that the YMCA adopted this Bible verse as their motto. For one thing, it speaks to the conscience of every member—that the Y is serving a higher, spiritual purpose that is to be respected and implemented. Another thing, the verse is an important reminder that all Christians need to work together in the same spirit as Jesus prayed.
And while all this is true, I believe there is even more to understand and appreciate about John 20:21—something that points to the very nature of Jesus Christ himself. It has to do with a unique relationship between Jesus and his Father plus our relationship with both God our Father and his beloved Son.
Think of the verse in terms of horizontal and vertical positions. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, is praying to his Father in heaven. This is the vertical position. Jesus is offering a very special prayer to his God and Father for his disciples because he knows what’s about to happen, something that will test the commitment and character of his followers—his trial, his suffering, his death on the cross, his resurrection and, ultimately, what will happen to them once he has ascended to heaven (Matthew 5:11; 10:22).
And Jesus also knew that in future generations, anyone who confessed him as their Lord and Savior would also be tested by the unbelieving world. His prayer, therefore, is also for us—his church. This is the horizontal position. It was intended to reach forward to all his followers from his day to the entire present age until he returns to set up his Father’s eternal Kingdom on the earth.
Jesus’ prayer concerning his oneness with the Father and what that means for us reveals the special closeness they had, something that even transcended time itself. This oneness is not to say that Jesus, himself, is God. Nor is it to say that he was God who literally sent himself to earth from heaven in the form of a baby as is popularly believed.
Rather, Jesus was sent by God in the same context as John the Baptist, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John,” (John 1:6). John, obviously, did not pre-exist his birth. Rather, he was divinely sent on a mission, foreknown and thus foreordained from the very beginning of God’s redemptive plan, “to bear witness” of the one, true Light, Jesus the Christ (v. 7). Therefore, to be sent by God is an indication of one’s unique purpose and mission for fulfilling the plan God has for the world.
The fact that all believers have been chosen from before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4), and that Jesus Christ was in God’s plan ever since creation (“All things came into being through him and for him…,” John 1:3; also, Colossians 1:16-17.) proves the significance of Jesus’ prayer.
Those who’ve been converted to Jesus Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism, are able to claim oneness with Jesus just as Jesus is one with God. And, therefore, believers have access to that unity of which our Savior prayed. Christians are truly one with Christ because they are one in Christ (Galatians 3:27-29).
Such unity validates our aim to be likeminded in Jesus’ name with the claim of loyalty to his cause according to the Gospel or Good News. As the Apostle Paul urged the Philippian church,
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel,” (Phil. 1:27; also, 2:1-7).
Jesus prayed for us to be unified in him, standing firm as Paul stated, in the same spirit that brings us together as believers. His prayer should encourage us to know that he is still thinking of us while he is currently acting as our Mediator at the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (Acts 7:55-6; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:5).
While Jesus’ inspiring prayer in John 17, and particularly verse 21, continues to be in effect, it’s our joy and privilege to serve him by working together under God’s bountiful blessings of grace and truth. And that is truly what having a healthy spirit, mind, and body, are all about. Indeed, it’s mainly Y we follow Christ!
Good News to YOU!
P.S. The unity Jesus prayed for reflects the love we have for him and for one another. And the world will know us by our love. Here is For King and Country presenting, “By Our Love,” http://youtu.be/d9zoq3k-3K0