The Night Before Good Friday

If you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth, what would you do?

I’m sure that most of us would spend our remaining moments with our family and loved ones, we would go somewhere peaceful and private. We would try to relish every moment, whilst reliving every precious memory and try to leave nothing left unsaid.

A little over two thousand years ago, Jesus had a night like this.

The night before he died, after the Last Supper, Jesus took his disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. The Gospel of Luke records that Jesus’s anguish was so great that he sweated blood. Jesus knew what was about to come and the clock was running out of time. It would be the last time he had a moment with his disciples before his death.

The Gospel of John tells us that right before he was arrested, and subsequently tried and crucified, Jesus prayed a long prayer. In fact, it’s the longest prayer recorded in the New Testament. In the “The High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus, though completely aware of his coming death focused more on his disciples and those who will believe through their Gospels than on himself. His chief request to the Father is that he would make them one.

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name, the name you gave Me, so that they may be one as we are one,” prays Jesus for his disciples (John 17:11). He knew his impending death would be their greatest trial. Their faith would be tested like it had never been tested before, and in that moment the success of the early church would hinge on their unity.

But Jesus was also looking beyond those around him that night, to those who would put their faith in him through the ages.

“My prayer is not for them alone,” continues Jesus. “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.” (John 17:20-21)

Even then, at that agonizing hour, Jesus wanted his followers to understand that the credibility of the cross and the empty tomb would be contingent on the unity of the church. Without unity, the church loses its ability to effectively communicate the message of the gospel.

Division abounds in almost every country in the world these days. Sadly, it exists even between Christians and in most churches. We’ve allowed politics and theology to divide and fragment us. This isn’t what Jesus intended for his followers.

I firmly believe unity in this world begins in the church. It’s in the church where any dividing barrier — whether racial, political or social — should come down. As Billy Graham would say, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

In this time of great division, the church must lead the way in modeling unity. That’s what Jesus asked of us the night before Good Friday.

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