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Called for the World’s Belief
Winter Quarter: Call in the New Testament
Unit 2: Jesus and Calls in His Ministry
Sunday school lesson for the week of Jan. 24, 2021
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard
Background Scripture: John 17: 14-24
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (John 17: 20)
The Apostle John (John the Beloved)
- To understand the disciple John and his writing.
- To understand Jesus’ intent when praying the High Priestly Prayer.
- To understand how this prayer is related to us.
John is considered the youngest of the twelve. Tradition claims John wrote the following books: The Gospel of John, John 1, 2, 3, and Revelation. The authorship of some of these books is debatable, however, I customarily follow tradition. John almost certainly wrote the Gospel of John. Tradition claims John is the only disciple to die of old age. The others were said to be martyred.
Jesus called John before the others. He was a young fisherman by trade. It is important to remember that John was one of three disciples who formed the inner circle,
along with Peter and James. These three were part of the Jerusalem Council and held great sway over the early Christian church. When arguments arose or decisions needed to be made, the inner circle calmed the troubled waters and made difficult decisions. The early church was very dependent upon these three.
John never wrote his name in his Gospel. He did, however, identify himself in the Gospel as “the one whom Jesus loved” (
John may have been quick-tempered; this would explain Jesus referring to him as a “son of thunder.
” However, when with Jesus he could be very compassionate and caring. Above all, he was loyal.
John was definitely close to Jesus. His seat at the Last Supper placed his head in Jesus’ bosom. This was symbolic of being close in heart. He also followed Jesus after his arrest in Gethsemane. Peter followed at a distance and even denied knowing Jesus. John was at the cross, along with Mary and a few women followers. When Mary Magdalene experienced the empty tomb and told the disciples of the remarkable event, it was John who raced to the tomb, along with Peter. John was the first to arrive, and first to walk inside the tomb.
The Gospel was mainly written for Gentiles. He writes his Gospel in Greek. It is important to remember that John refused to use the word miracle;,
he chose instead to us the terms signs and wonders.
This strongly indicates that John believed that every supernatural act was pointing to God. The supernatural acts said something about Jesus. The miracles were a sign that the Kingdom of God was here in Jesus.
Do we look for God in our past? Our future? Our day? Exactly how do we seek God in daily living? When it appears obvious that God has done something great in life, do we see it as a sign? A sign of what?
John’s Gospel is by far the more philosophical, mystical, and spiritual. John appears to be most interested, not in what is seen on the surface, but what is beneath the event or words. In John 1 he writes all things were created by the Logos. The Logos is behind everything, bringing order and redemption. John seems to call, “Look more deeply, seek the Logos in all things.” I have oversimplified. Still, whereas the authors of the synoptic Gospels seem more concerned with the events and teachings that proved Jesus was and is God, John calls, “Look more deeply.” Jesus and his Kingdom are present in life, moving in life, and giving life!
John can be difficult to read, but, his audience understood his Gospel. Jesus employs a lot of pronouns; thus, it is important for me to offer who Jesus is speaking to and of.
Do you find it difficult to read John? What specifically makes us read John a little slower than the other Gospels?
High Priestly Prayer
- The text opens with your word. This phrase means the Father’s word.
- In verses 14-19 the pronoun them means the disciples.
- Verse 20 reads: “I pray for all who will believe.” Jesus is praying for all who will follow him in the future! Their message refers to the message of the disciples.
- The pronoun you in verses 21 through 24 means the Father. In verse 22-23 the pronouns them and they are the followers of Jesus.
- The pronoun we means Jesus and the Father. The reason the Holy Spirit is not mentioned here is because John has recorded earlier in the discourse that Jesus will send the Spirit after his death, resurrection, and ascension. The Spirit will come upon them at Pentecost.
John 14-17 is Jesus’ farewell discourse. Within this discourse is John 17: 1-24, known as the High Priestly Prayer. Some name this prayer as Jesus’ Farewell Prayer. It is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Gospels. The high priest was head of the Sanhedrin, and the only one allowed in the Holy of Holies. Jesus prays his prayer as the great interceder, the one who rules over all, and the one who invites us into the realm of the holy and eternal. In the prayer, Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and the world. It is a powerful prayer of spiritual intimacy as Jesus states his relationship with the Father, with his disciples, and the world. It is a multilayered prayer of love for the entire world!
It is believed this discourse was given just after the last supper in Jerusalem. It is important to know that this discourse is given to the 11 disciples; Judas has left and betrayed Jesus. Remember, the Eleven still do not expect Jesus to be crucified. Their ignorance concerning Jesus’ death reveals they have heard without listening.
It is obvious Jesus is praying for the unity of the Church today, and the Church of the future. If you were offering your personal farewell prayer within your church, would you be comfortable doing so? If so, why? If not, why not? Exactly for what would you pray concerning your church?
Not in The World and Hated
Jesus taught we are in the world, but not of the world. Jesus spoke truth which challenged the souls of everyone listening. He was light to the world. These two terms were not comforting to those who lived in a state of sin and those trying to hide their sins. As we’ve studied previously, light makes the rodent run for the darkness, for, to remain in the light is to be exposed. I listened several years ago to a lyric in which the singer claimed that “light had no romance with the darkness” (sorry, I can’t remember the singer). Jesus had no romance with darkness and those who followed Jesus quickly learned the lives they lived were to stand in contrast to the darkness. The disciples of Jesus were to be loving, compassionate, truthful, enlightening, and joyful. I could extend this list with no difficulty. Jesus himself said he brought a sword into relationships. There exists a sharp distinction between the dark, egocentric values of the world and the compassionate heart of the Christian. Those who hated Jesus were thus going to hate the disciples. In the years of the early Church, tension between the Christians and the world grew ever tense. Eventually, the Church was horrendously persecuted. One can never state the Christian life is easy; the selfishness pride of the world ensures it will never be easy. No, it isn’t easy, but it is fulfilling and meaningful. We experience dimensions of love the world cannot know. We have insights the world cannot see.
Though we feel a growing distance from the darkness, we still live in the world. Temptations and obstacles are part of every day. The potent prayer of Jesus offers the other side of the coin. We are in the world, but not of the world.
Jesus, the despised and rejected, indwells the Christian. We walk in the world with distinction. Our behavior, actions and beliefs clearly come from another place and another person. They set us apart.
Have you experienced ostracism, dislike, and even hatred because you are a Christian? Can you cite examples? Do you believe Christians are disliked and mistrusted today? If so, can you cite examples? What do you think should be your church’s response to dislike and hatred?
Sanctified from the World
The Biblical term sanctified
means to be set apart. Specifically, the sanctified of Christ are set apart from the world. We are sent into the world with God’s mission and purpose. No Christian’s life is without gifts and graces to share the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has empowered us for this purpose. Yet, as we walk in the world our hearts belong to God and God’s Kingdom. The world is becoming a strange land for followers of Jesus.
To be sanctified also implies that we are consecrated. Those consecrated in Jewish life were often anointed with oil. The Holy Spirit is understood to be God’s anointing oil. Jesus was consecrated for his mission as the Holy Spirit descended upon him at his baptism. The followers were consecrated on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon them as cloven tongues of fire. The Spirit has indwelled all who give their life to Christ. Therefore, we are consecrated by the Holy Spirit, and thus, empowered to do what God has asked.
Do you believe you are sanctified? Do you believe your church is sanctified? If you answer affirmatively, on what do you base your answer? For what do you believe you have been set apart? Do you believe your church knows her purpose in relation to the world? In her neighborhood? What is special about your church that makes you believe she knows her purpose and takes action based on that purpose?
The Glory of God
I was assigned a great task in seminary. I was to do a word study on the word glory.
Over time, the terms glory and glorified have been used in a variety of ways in Christendom. A word study asks the student of the Bible to read every occasion in which the word glory is used, as well as its derivatives. In other words, we read every use of the term and its context. My study, as well as the study of others, reveals that most always the word glory means the nature and character of God.
To witness God’s glory is to see his nature and character in his followers and Church. Glory refers to any manifestation of God in which it is clear that God is present. The word glory also is used to describe the nature of the resurrected body of Jesus and those who appeared on The Mount of Transfiguration.
In this instance, the glorified bodies clearly point to the power and love of God. Who has the power to raise the dead? Who has chosen to manifest the divine nature and act in eternal love? God!
In our lesson, the glory of the Father that is given to Jesus is the divine nature and character of God.
This is why Jesus prayed, “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you
.” To experience Christ is to experience God. In verse 24 Jesus closes his prayer, “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.”
Jesus previously prayed in verse 21b, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
” It is obvious Jesus intends for his Church to so bear the nature and character of God that the world may see Christ in those who follow Jesus. We are to bear the image of Christ in the world!
The prayer goes on to state that our unity is made possible through the glory of God. It is God’s nature and character that draws us to Christ, and to one another. We share a unity in the glory of God. Jesus makes certain we know that if one follows him, they will live in unity with one another. How can we be a part of the unified Church if we forgo fellowship and worship? How can the world see the Christ, who is redeeming all things, in those who choose to walk their own path?
The world needs the unity of the Church to draw the world into unity. Psalm 133 proclaims, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity.” Notice the psalmist states it is good and pleasant when God’s people
live in unity. Again, the Church’s ability to live in unity becomes a witness to a divided world. Ephesians 4 reminds us that everything is moving toward the ultimate unity that arrives when God’s Kingdom is fully manifest in our world. We cannot ignore how important our unity is, nor can we neglect the powerful redemption unity makes possible. The world in 2020 and into 2021 moves in suspicion, paranoia, violence, and division. These days can, however, serve as the perfect time for the Church to dwell in unity! The world needs to see the power of God’s unity and the good life it provides. It is for the unity of the Church and the world that Jesus prays in his farewell discourse.
How important is church unity for you? How important do you think church unity is when seeking to redeem the world? Do you think the church is unified or fragmented? Why? What do you think the universal Church needs to do to establish unity in love and purpose? What do you believe your local church needs to do for unity?
Praying for The Future?
When reading our lessons, I always submit myself to interrogation. I allow the text to question me. When reading our lesson for this Sunday I asked myself, “When did I last pray for the future, and those yet to be born?” Sadly, I can’t remember the last time. We must remember Jesus sees differently. He sees through the eyes of redemption. His vision is stronger, wider and deeper. We tend to pray just for those in our lives. On occasion we pray for those personally unknown, yet known by other members of our Sunday school class or congregation of worship. Jesus’ words should have served as a clue that he may not return in a matter of days. Jesus is praying for a future
! Jesus sees all who will need our unity in Christ. He sees all who are in need of light, truth, and unity. In chapter 13 of John, it records “Jesus knew from where he had come, and that the Father had placed all things into his hand, and knew where he was going.”
I have prayed for those in my past who shaped me. It is important to know our past and give thanks for every event and purpose that shaped us. I have prayed for God to use me in my day. I have prayed for sight to see God in all things. And, I have rarely prayed for the future. Jesus knew from where he had come. He knew where he stood that day and where he was going. He was on the path to crucifixion and resurrection. In the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prays for the future into which the disciples and yet-to-be Christians walk.
Another grand truth emerges from the farewell discourse. It is often read too quickly with little thought. Jesus prays for the current Disciples and followers to come, to be with him
. Jesus is stating he is in our future! I frequently meditate on the thought: “I am not afraid of my day for I have seen God in my past. I am not afraid of my future, because the God of my yesterdays will be there in the future. Thus, I am not afraid of my day.”
How much attention do you give to the Church of tomorrow? When you consider the church of tomorrow, what struggles do you believe they might face? What triumphs do you believe are possible? Do you feel todays Church takes on the glory of Christ? Does the Church bear the character and nature of Jesus? Do we personally bear his nature and character?
Loving God, we give thanks for your love and mercy. Thank you for filling our life with purpose. Sanctify us wholly that we might bear the image of Christ in the world. Grant us the courage to live in your high purpose and will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.