Years ago, as a man some thought was the savior was killed on Good Friday, millions waited to hear what his last words were. Ars moriendi required certain events; if possible, one was to die in a secure area, cradled by loved ones, with a stenographer ready to record the person’s words. It was thought that one’s last words imparted some final wisdom, not merely summing up what his life had meant, but guiding his family and friends to greater life. This man was considered the father of a nation, but he had no last words. Abraham Lincoln was shot and immediately rendered unconscious.
Centuries before that, the true Savior had been killed on Good Friday. We have his last words recorded in Scripture—words that have incredible meaning for our lives. But it was not simply the final words on the cross that impact us. From Thursday afternoon, as Jesus spent his final 24 hours of life, again and again he spoke about us. In Sunday’s Gospel we see Jesus stopping to pray about you and me. Knowing that a group of soldiers was on the way to arrest him, Jesus was thinking about us.
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 "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. 25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 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)
Jesus prayed for those who would believe “through their words,” not only connecting us to the apostles he had just prayed for, but reminding us of how we enter his family—through his inspired Word. Jesus makes the Father’s love known to us, and thereby he dwells in us.
Jesus prays that we may be one, just as the Father and the Son are one. As Luther noted, we can’t see the Father and the Son, but we know they are one by what they do. Likewise, we can’t see the full unity of the Church; but we know it is present by what it does, proclaiming the Word and administering the Sacraments.
As we strive for external union, we desire the same unity as Father and Son, a perfect unity; the Father and the Son do not disagree on whether to baptize infants. What a blessing when God grants us agreement in doctrine. May we strive to love one another as God loves us.