Two Gifts for His Followers: John 17:1-26

Focus Passage: John 17:1-26 (CEV)

After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed:

Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. And you gave him power over all people, so that he would give eternal life to everyone you give him. Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent. I have brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you gave me to do. Now, Father, give me back the glory that I had with you before the world was created.

You have given me some followers from this world, and I have shown them what you are like. They were yours, but you gave them to me, and they have obeyed you. They know that you gave me everything I have. I told my followers what you told me, and they accepted it. They know that I came from you, and they believe that you are the one who sent me. I am praying for them, but not for those who belong to this world. My followers belong to you, and I am praying for them. 10 All that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine, and they will bring glory to me.

11 Holy Father, I am no longer in the world. I am coming to you, but my followers are still in the world. So keep them safe by the power of the name that you have given me. Then they will be one with each other, just as you and I are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost, except the one who had to be lost. This happened so that what the Scriptures say would come true.

13 I am on my way to you. But I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my followers will have the same complete joy that I do. 14 I have told them your message. But the people of this world hate them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t.

15 Father, I don’t ask you to take my followers out of the world, but keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They don’t belong to this world, and neither do I. 17 Your word is the truth. So let this truth make them completely yours. 18 I am sending them into the world, just as you sent me. 19 I have given myself completely for their sake, so that they may belong completely to the truth.

20 I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. 21 I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.

22 I have honored my followers in the same way that you honored me, in order that they may be one with each other, just as we are one. 23 I am one with them, and you are one with me, so that they may become completely one. Then this world’s people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me.

24 Father, I want everyone you have given me to be with me, wherever I am. Then they will see the glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the world was created. 25 Good Father, the people of this world don’t know you. But I know you, and my followers know that you sent me. 26 I told them what you are like, and I will tell them even more. Then the love that you have for me will become part of them, and I will be one with them.

Read John 17:1-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the night Jesus would be arrested, He prays a prayer with the disciples and for the disciples as they traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane. In this prayer, which is one of the few that are shared in detail, we see a picture of how Jesus talked with God, and we can see a better picture of His heart and love for His followers.

John shares that in His prayer, Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, I am no longer in the world. I am coming to you, but my followers are still in the world. So keep them safe by the power of the name that you have given me. Then they will be one with each other, just as you and I are one. While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost, except the one who had to be lost. This happened so that what the Scriptures say would come true.” (v. 11-12)

This portion of Jesus’ prayer is a powerful request for protection. Jesus knows He will be leaving soon, and He asks the Father to keep His followers safe. Jesus acknowledges that He was able to keep them safe while He was on earth, but now that His ministry and location would be changing, He asks God to keep protecting this group of followers and friends.

Jesus also prays for His followers’ unity. Not only does Jesus know that opposition would come from the outside, but equally devastating would be division or separation coming from within. If the disciples lost focus and began to argue with one another, they would lose their mission and the young church would die.

Not every one of Jesus’ core group of twelve disciples accepted this protection and unity. But that didn’t stop Jesus from offering it. While Judas Iscariot ultimately chose to betray Jesus, Jesus still had invited him to be a part of this close group.

Unity and protection are two of the biggest things we can ask God for in our own lives today. Helping His followers be united and protected from Satan and his plots is something that God offered to His followers back then, and it is something that He offers to us as followers today. If Jesus prayed for these two vital things for us as followers, it would be wise for us to accept His offer of help!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Flashback Episode — Your Most Important Year: Luke 13:1-9


Read the Transcript

Part way through Jesus’ ministry, He hears some news that would make for a good teaching point. As I read the gospels, it seems that Jesus loved teaching themes from the events and culture of the world which He lived in. Our passage for this episode is a perfect example of Jesus teaching based on the events of the world at that time.

To learn what happened, let’s look at Luke’s gospel, chapter 13, and let’s read from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Let’s pause reading for a moment to touch on what Jesus has just shared. On hearing the news about a group of Galileans who were tortured and likely killed, Jesus senses the opportunity to share about the importance of repentance – and repentance as a continual habit.

Because of the rhetorical question Jesus asks, we can conclude that in the first century culture, the belief was that the way a person died was an indication of their life. If someone died a horrible, painful, or humiliating death, then they must have been bad, while someone who died of old age, painlessly, in their sleep must have lived well and close to God.

Stating this belief in this way draws out the fallacy of this belief. Someone who is very vocally for God may be singled out and tortured, but this wouldn’t be because they were living apart from God but for God. Jesus’ key idea here in the first half of our passage is that the death doesn’t determine the life – but while one is alive, repentance is crucial.

The two events Jesus includes in His teaching bring out the point that we don’t know when our lives will end. While most everyone hopes for a long life and a painless death in their sleep at the end of a full and rewarding life, this is not practical in all cases. Disease, sickness, accidents, violence, and natural disasters all can end life before it was meant to end. It doesn’t matter if you have 30 days to live or 30 years, what matters is what you focus on today – because with rare exceptions, no-one knows what day will be their last day alive.

To help push this point further, Jesus continues in verse 6 by sharing a parable:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

What amazes me about this parable is that it has no ending. We don’t know if the servant taking care of the vineyard was able to spur the tree into producing figs in the coming year.

However, what we do know is that unknown to the tree, that fourth year, was a very important year for it. If it wasn’t fruitful during year four, it would be cut down.

When I read parables like this, I begin to imagine what each character represents. For this parable, God is probably the vineyard owner, and Jesus or the Holy Spirit would be top contenders for the vineyard manager. This leaves the fig tree to represent us as God’s people.

If this is the case, and we are represented by this fig tree, then the discussion we can see surrounding the time we have been given directly relates to how fruitful we are being. Not only does this imply that we develop a character that includes the fruits of the spirit, but it also implies that we must be doing something with what God has given to us. In other words, we should be using the talents that God has given to us in order to glorify Him.

I don’t want to take this parable too far and state that you only have one year to accomplish what God has placed you in this earth for, but echoing Jesus’ earlier remarks, no one knows when their time on earth will be up – which makes every day the most valuable day we have to live. While we can predict that if we are living today we will most likely be alive tomorrow, for many this won’t be the case, and it is wise to remember this truth.

However, while I include this disclaimer about not wanting to take the parable too far, I also want to restate Jesus’ key idea that how a person dies does not determine the life that person lived. There will be a point in time when our lives on earth will end, and at that point, the only thing that will have mattered is how our relationship with God is. If we have placed our belief, trust, hope, and faith in Jesus, then our eternal lives are guaranteed, but if we have lived only for ourselves and have rejected God’s offer through Jesus, our lives will be eternally lost.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, let me challenge you on the positive side of this discussion instead of leaving us thinking of the negative:

Always intentionally seek God first and place Him as first in your life. Live each day with the attitude of forgiveness, repentance, and with the peace that knowing when our lives end, the next face we see will be Jesus.

As we seek to place God first, be sure to study the Bible for yourself, because when we open our eyes after death and see Jesus, only those who have grown a personal relationship with God will be pleased to look into His eyes. It is the people who know Jesus and the people who Jesus knows who will inherit eternal life and live forever with God.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 28: Cam discusses a lesson Jesus shares when He hears some bad news, and some thoughts about a parable that Jesus tells the crowd to emphasize His point.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Why People Followed Jesus: Luke 6:17-26

Focus Passage: Luke 6:17-26 (GW)

17 Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples and many other people were there. They had come from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They wanted to hear him and be cured of their diseases. Those who were tormented by evil spirits were cured. 19 The entire crowd was trying to touch him because power was coming from him and curing all of them.

20 Jesus looked at his disciples and said,

“Blessed are those who are poor.
    God’s kingdom is theirs.
21 Blessed are those who are hungry.
    They will be satisfied.
Blessed are those who are crying.
    They will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you, avoid you,
    insult you, and slander you
        because you are committed to the Son of Man.
23             Rejoice then, and be very happy!
                You have a great reward in heaven.
                    That’s the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But how horrible it will be for those who are rich.
    They have had their comfort.
25 How horrible it will be for those who are well-fed.
    They will be hungry.
How horrible it will be for those who are laughing.
    They will mourn and cry.
26 How horrible it will be for you
    when everyone says nice things about you.
        That’s the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Read Luke 6:17-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the heights of Jesus’ popularity, Luke describes a message Jesus gives to His followers. While Luke states that this message was given to the disciples, Luke qualifies the word “disciple” in this instance to mean the large group of followers present and Jesus likely spoke it loudly enough for everyone present to hear.

But while transitioning to Jesus’ less famous “Sermon on the Plain”, Luke shares some interesting details in the setup for this message. Luke tells us, “Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples and many other people were there. They had come from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon. They wanted to hear him and be cured of their diseases. Those who were tormented by evil spirits were cured. The entire crowd was trying to touch him because power was coming from him and curing all of them.” (v. 17-19)

When I read this, I am amazed at the detail in verse 19 that “the entire crowd was trying to touch him [Jesus]”. When I think about crowds and individuals trying to touch Jesus, I immediately think of the woman who tried to secretly touch the edge of Jesus’ robe. That event is so well known that seeing another place where people were clamoring to touch Jesus may come as a surprise.

It is during this commotion that Jesus turns and shares the four blessings and four warnings with His disciples. Luke doesn’t say that Jesus finished healing the sick in the crowd before beginning to speak; Luke simply transitions the focus making me think that Jesus paused in the middle of this crowd.

Luke shares two reasons for Jesus’ popularity at this point during His ministry. He tells us that the crowd of disciples “wanted to hear him and be cured of their diseases.” (v. 18a)

Wanting to hear Him and being cured of their diseases are two key reasons to follow Jesus. While some people think following Jesus is simply “fire insurance” (another way of saying they would rather go to heaven than hell), following Jesus out of fear does not produce true love. A “fire-insurance”, fear-based relationship does not create the society that God would want to build in heaven. There are many examples of fear-based societies on earth, and none of them are desirable to live in. Fear and love may not be able to co-exist together.

In order for love to be present on both sides of a relationship, there must be the freedom to choose and the desire to be present. This crowd demonstrates this by freely choosing to come to Jesus because they wanted to hear Him. The freedom to choose is the first key reason to follow Jesus.

But the second reason is because Jesus is able to heal us. Another way to say this is that He can free us from our diseases. Luke describes Jesus banishing evil spirits who were torturing others. The crowd came to Jesus in order to be helped by Him.

Jesus is interested in freely helping those who come to Him. Jesus wants us to choose Him because we want a relationship with Him and a relationship with God. God wants to win us over to Him through acts of love and a selfless attitude towards us. Jesus demonstrates this – and there is nothing fear-based in God’s approach of inviting us to follow Him!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Fruitful Through Love: John 15:1-17


Read the Transcript

As we continue moving through the last things Jesus tells His disciples on the night of His arrest, Jesus shifts focus from obedience, which we talked about in the last episode, and onto a new word-picture. It’s likely this new word picture and the idea Jesus wants to teach us is connected with everything we’ve talked about so far in these last few podcast episodes.

Let’s read the next portion of Jesus’ teaching, and discover the next big ideas He wants to share with His followers. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, Jesus continued sharing, saying:

“I am the true vine. My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch joined to me that does not bear fruit. He trims every branch that does bear fruit. Then it will bear even more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain joined to me, just as I also remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me.

“I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain joined to me, and I to you, you will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me. If you don’t remain joined to me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and dries up. Branches like those are picked up. They are thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain joined to me and my words remain in you, ask for anything you wish. And it will be done for you. When you bear a lot of fruit, it brings glory to my Father. It shows that you are my disciples.

Let’s pause here for a moment to focus on what Jesus has just described. In a simple word picture, Jesus tells us that God the Father is like a gardener, Jesus is like a vine, and all of Jesus’ followers are like branches on this vine. However, while this illustration is easy to understand, it gets challenging. Jesus describes God-the-Gardener looking over each branch and trimming the branches that are bearing fruit, and cutting off the branches that are not.

In gardening, this makes perfect sense, but when you or I are represented by branches, the emphasis here is that being fruitful is the only way God will let us stay connected with Jesus. Being connected is one thing, but staying connected is another. This illustration challenges us with the dual ideas that in order to be fruitful in God’s eyes, we must be connected to Jesus, and in order to stay connected to Jesus, we must be fruitful, otherwise God-the-Gardener will cut us off.

Jesus ties this illustration to the illustration about prayer that we focused in on earlier in this conversation with His disciples, and He shares how He is happy to answer prayers and requests of those who are joined to Him, and in this context, those who are joined to Him are those who are being fruitful.

It’s worth pointing out here, before we move forward, that if you don’t believe you are being fruitful in your life, the most important prayer you can pray is one asking for help to be fruitful. I believe God is happy to help Jesus’ followers be fruitful, and this is why we also see God-the-Gardener trimming the branches that are being fruitful. Trimming fruitful branches clears distractions away and it helps focus the branch on its task of bearing fruit.

God touching our lives is not optional. Either He will trim us to help us be more fruitful, or He will cut us off if we are not fruitful. Being fruitful brings glory to God and it shows that we are Jesus’ disciples.

Continuing in verse 9, Jesus switches focus slightly to tell His followers:

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. In the same way, I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that you will have the same joy that I have. I also want your joy to be complete. 12 Here is my command. Love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore. Slaves do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends. I have told you everything I learned from my Father. 16 You did not choose me. Instead, I chose you. I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit that will last. I also appointed you so that the Father will give you what you ask for. He will give you whatever you ask for in my name. 17 Here is my command. Love one another.

Let’s stop reading here and focus on what Jesus has just emphasized. While many commands Jesus gives are important, Jesus tells His followers that the one command they should remember and emphasize above all the others is loving one another.

Yes, love for God is crucial too, but many hateful things are done in the world today through the filter of “loving God”. If we are to accurately represent God to the world, our lives must display a love for all humanity. This means that if you are white, you love those who are black, and it also means that if you are black, you love those who are white. This means that you love everyone from every other racial background, and you love everyone else regardless of who they are. Love starts with God, it was shown through Jesus, and we are called to carry this banner of love forward.

Loving others does not mean we agree with everything they are doing. Jesus did not agree with people who wanted to persist living in sin. However, loving others means that we respect others because God has given them life. Because God has given someone breath, we can trust that He has a plan for them and that He loves them.

Jesus loved people and He called them out of sin.

Jesus had no issue spending time with sinners, because we can read about plenty of examples where He spent time in the homes of a wide variety of people.

Jesus has called His followers to model this love for others, and the example Jesus gives us for love is the love He showed for us, a love that placed humanity ahead of himself.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love others, and when we love others, we are being like Jesus, and we are being obedient and fruitful in the eyes of God.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and place Him first in your life. Show that Jesus is first in your life by obeying Jesus’ command to love others. Other faiths demonstrate hostility towards those who don’t believe the same as they do, but Jesus has challenged His followers to show love towards everyone, regardless of who they are. We are to love others because we are representing God’s character, and God loves us so much that Jesus came to die the death we deserved and to take our place.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow your personal relationship with God even stronger. While getting ideas from other people can be helpful, don’t let your relationship with God depend on someone else’s relationship. Intentionally grow your personal relationship with God through regularly praying and studying the Bible.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 28: During the last conversation Jesus shares with the disciples on the night of His arrest, He describes how we should love each other, and how we are like branches that are connected to Him. Discover the secret to being fruitful and why God has called us to love one another.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.