In the upper room, Jesus told his disciple a great deal about what was soon to happen. He told them, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” He also promised to send the Holy Spirit who would “guide [them] into all the truth” (John 16:12,13).
Just before leaving the upper room, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come” (John 17:1). He would soon leave on a journey that would end with his suffering and death on the cross. He prayed that his Father in heaven would glorify him as he completed his work. He went on to pray for his disciples and also for us—“those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20), that is, the message of his apostles.
Our Savior’s vision of the future did not abruptly end with his death. He had spoken of his resurrection after his death, but he saw even beyond his resurrection. He had spent his earthly ministry gathering and training these men. He would send them out—minus the one he knew would lead an arresting cohort of soldiers.
Jesus certainly knew he would not be with them as he had during those short three years. He told them so. After the resurrection he would send them out with the message they finally and fully understood. Peter and the remaining ten—plus one elected to fill the spot Judas vacated—would boldly proclaim that message on Pentecost. It would be just as Jesus said: he would send the Holy Spirit to them.
Like the apostles and the many believers after them, we are bound to share the message.
Their message would spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Some would seek to silence their message, distort it, or ignore it. Others would tweak it so it would be unrecognizable—only religious gobbledygook and pious platitudes. Still others would persecute them and those who came to believe in Jesus “through their message.”
Those few sentences summarize a great deal of Christian history, including our own age. To be fair, one more sentence must be added—a short one. Many have believed in Jesus through their message. Jesus knew it and he knew us.
We few—the church has always been a little flock in a big world—are among those who believe. We have heard the message Jesus gave his apostles. While some consider their message just information about Jesus, it’s much more. It is the means for the work of the Holy Spirit. The message is a power and becomes like a seed that springs to life in the heart of those who hear it. Jesus taught them about the seed of the sower on good ground—sprouting, growing, and bearing fruit. The Holy Spirit works through it to create faith.
It’s important to remember that Jesus was thinking of us as he prayed that night. The apostle John knew the message was powerful and shared his message in order “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The apostle Paul wrote, “The gospel . . . is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
That message has found soil in our hearts and sprouted. Now we can look beyond ourselves. Like the apostles and the many believers after them, we are bound to share the message. Jesus sent them, and he sends us with their same message. His prayer reminds us that the work is not finished and won’t be until the end of time.
Share the gospel.
Author: John A. Braun
Volume 108, Number 5
Issue: May 2021