I spent a good portion of the day today preparing to teach tonight at Southern Calvert Baptist Church. I am teaching the Journey kids during our AWANA program. I am excited about teaching John 17:1-21. This is the Lord’s prayer. No, not the Lord’s model prayer, you know, “our Father”. This is Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, the prayer that He prayed for His disciples (all of them throughout the ages).
This is a powerful prayer and we have much to learn from it about ministry, especially in the form of making disciples. I want to divide this lesson into two parts; what we learn about Jesus and what we learn about His disciples. As we look at these two characters, we will also discover truths about ministry that are vital for all followers of Christ, especially since we are all called to make disciples.
The prayer begins with Jesus because He and the Father are the two main characters. The disciples enter the mix because Jesus prays for them.
1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,
2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. (John 17)
Jesus lived His life to glorify God. The Greek word that is translated to English as “glorify” means “to give an accurate representation”. Jesus lived to show everyone around Him who God really was/is. That is what motivated Him to get out of bed every morning and do what He did every day. Jesus received His ministry from God. Jesus, the Creator of the world, could have demanded His authority and ministry. He did not do this. Instead, He set an example for His disciples by receiving His authority and ministry from the Lord. How many ministers today seek to attain authority and ministry instead of receiving their authority and ministry from the Lord? Did you notice the focus of Jesus’ ministry? He focused on teaching people about eternal life. What exactly did Jesus teach His disciples?
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
Jesus taught His disciples how to know God. Notice that the text does not say, “to know about God”. Jesus taught His disciples how to have a personal relationship with God. The way that they were to get to know God personally was to get to know Jesus Christ. According to verse 3 and verse 5:
“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:5)
Jesus claimed that He was God. If the disciples were to know Jesus, they would know God. If the disciples were to have a personal relationship with Jesus, they would have a personal relationship with God. Do you have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ?
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. (John 17:6)
There is much debate today on the subject of the relevance of the Old Testament in modern culture. Some say that we should simply teach the New Testament and leave the Old Testament behind. Some even claim that this was exactly how Jesus ministered? What did Jesus uses as His instruction manual when teaching about eternal life and connecting with God? According to Jesus, Himself, He used the Word of God. During Jesus’ ministry, the Word of God was the Old Testament.
7 “Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You;
8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. (John 17)
The Word of God is what leads us to faith in God. We cannot connect with God apart from His Word. We do not know Him apart from His Word. Jesus goes on to pray many, many more things in His prayer. The next part of the prayer will focus on the disciples and so I want to transition to them in the next part of the lesson.
Jesus taught the disciples during His earthly ministry. They have been well trained. Now, they are getting ready to go out and minister on their own (with the help of the Holy Spirit). Jesus also prayed for their future ministry.
17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
18 “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
19 “For their sake I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; (John 17)
Before going out and making disciples, the disciples needed to be set apart from the rest of the world. They could not set themselves apart on their own. They needed to be set apart. In order to be set apart from the rest of the world, they needed to stay connected to the Word of God. The Word would continue to transform them. As they go out into the world around them, they would take the Word that made the difference in their lives and they would share that Word with the world. As a result, many, many new followers of Christ would come on the scene. They would be transformed by the message of the Word of God and they would go on being transformed by the message of God. Jesus prayed for all the disciples for all time. He wanted the process to continue on and through His prayer, He laid out the path of ministry. Remain in the Word and continue being transformed. Continue to get to know Jesus more and more. Continue to develop a deeper relationship with God. Take the Word to the people around you. See the world transformed one person at a time. Based on what we have seen in this lesson, are you a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you continuing to stay connected to the Word of God so that you can develop a deeper and more personal relationship with Christ? Are you taking the Word of God to the people around you? Do you pray for your current disciples and the disciples who will come to faith through your disciples? If we decided to live like this on a daily basis, Jesus tells us in verse 21:
that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
That looks like unity to me. We constantly talk about wanting to be unified and Jesus shares the secret with us here in this passage. I want to see this kind of unity. I want to live this kind of unity. Let’s each do our part to make this kind of unity happen.