It is Thursday evening, and the crucifixion will happen on Friday. Jesus is meeting with his disciples in the last meal, and in it, giving them instructions and assurances, and again predicting his death. Much of this did not register with the disciples, as indicated by their responses upon his arrest and desertion after the sham trial. But Jesus has some final lessons for his disciples, which will shape them and the early church after his resurrection and departure to heaven. After the Last Supper, Jesus withdrew to a private place, and there, had three parts to his impassioned prayer: for Himself, and the suffering he knew was coming; for his disciples, and for the larger group of believers who would come after him and follow him – namely 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—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23.
- The Prayer of God for the Church. There is no equivocation in the final hours of Jesus’ life as to his prayer and hope for his disciples, and ultimately, for the church. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17. Greatness in the Kingdom does not come by superstructures, by mega programs, by large community events – it is measured by a believer’s obedience to Christ and love one for the other. Their lives are to be set apart – sanctified – for the purposes of heaven. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[a] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:15-19.
- The Litmus Test of True Faith. Jesus’ soon ascension left the disciples with confusion, fear and a myriad of questions about how they were to live and continue without the One they had followed daily for three years. Believing in Christ includes the indwelling presence of both Christ and the Holy Spirit, which provides direction for the disciples and for the church. 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[a] 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 17:25-26. The reality of the Christian life is that it is God in us that enables us to understand that our ultimate direction and calling is toward heaven. Christians are not perfect, but we understand the difference between the temporary and the eternal. And it is in that which provides life direction.
- Unity is the Final Test. May they be brought to complete unity. John 17:23. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6.
This is the life direction that gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Next week. The illegal trial and conviction of Jesus.