Connected to God: 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!

In Jesus’ prayer on the night He was arrested, He prays for His followers. The followers Jesus prays for are not just the small group of disciples, but all of His followers who live throughout history. A big theme of Jesus prayer is connection and unity. Just like Jesus is one with the Father, He wants to unite His followers into being one with both Him as well as God.

We can see this theme clearly throughout a number of the sections in Jesus’ prayer, but as Jesus begins to wrap His prayer up, we see a picture of oneness that is a little unique from some of the others. In His prayer to the Father, Jesus says, “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. 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.” (v. 22-23)

It is amazing to me that Jesus tells us that He honored His followers in the same way the Father has honored Him. Some translations say glory instead of honor. This idea is powerful because it reveals how God’s nature is to step down. When we give someone or something glory, we lift it up, and by doing so, we place it above us. While it might not technically be worth more than we are to someone else, honoring something or someone is more in the eye of the one giving the glory or doing the honoring.

As an example, if I give honor to a friend for something they accomplished, I am lifting them above me (or perhaps up beside me if it is something I had also accomplished). Honor and glory lift others up. My friend in this example might not feel as though he is worthy of the honor because he might be focused on someone or something else who is even better than he is. This means that honor is in the eye of the one giving honor – and Jesus says He has honored His followers like God had honored Him.

God the Father lifted up Jesus, and Jesus lifted up His followers, and we are called to continue the cycle of honor by returning it to God. We complete our connection and unity with God by giving honor to Him for everything He has done for us through the Father, through Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit. When we close this circle by returning honor to God, we become one with Him and this oneness becomes a witness to those living around us that God loves us.

While God’s love doesn’t always mean that we are protected from bad events, it does mean that we have Someone who is willing and happy to walk through life with us as we continue to live, learn, and grow towards being the person God created us to be.

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The Spiritual Chain of Command: Matthew 8:5-13


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Continuing through the gospels and the miracles that Jesus performed, we come to a miracle that Jesus did, not for a Jew, but for a Roman officer. While this detail in itself is significant for us to pay attention to, there are plenty of details in this event that should prompt us to pay attention. Most Jews were hostile towards the thought of Rome being present in their territory, and the thought of Jesus actually helping a Roman would upset many of the most devout Jews. However, it is also worth noting that a Roman asking a Jew for help is also just as shocking.

Let’s read Matthew’s gospel and discover what happened. Our passage is found in chapter 8, and we will be reading from the Good News Translation of the Bible. Starting in verse 5, Matthew tells us that:

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Roman officer met him and begged for help: “Sir, my servant is sick in bed at home, unable to move and suffering terribly.”

“I will go and make him well,” Jesus said.

“Oh no, sir,” answered the officer. “I do not deserve to have you come into my house. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and I order that one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and I order my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Let’s pause reading for a moment to focus on what Matthew has just told us, because while reading this just now, a phrase jumped off the page at me, and it is something that reveals something this Roman understood about Jesus that most everyone else missed seeing.

While Jesus knows that the Roman officer is simply asking for help and healing, Jesus wants to go a step further and come personally to help. However, the Roman officer is surprised by this and he is content knowing that any promise Jesus makes will happen. The officer doesn’t need Jesus’ presence to confirm Jesus’ command.

This is the first amazing level of faith this Roman officer displays. But there’s another idea present in this passage, and it is this phrase that jumped out at me while reading this.

In verse 9, the Roman officer tells Jesus, “I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers”. This Roman understood that Jesus was not present just for Himself. Instead, this Roman understood Jesus had been sent with a mission to this world and to the Jewish people. In this phrase, the Roman officer captured an aspect of Jesus’ ministry that we don’t often think about. In Jesus’ ministry, He both came willingly and He was sent with a mission. We often focus on Jesus’ willingness to come, which is true, but we should also realize that there is a very clear theme running through the gospels that Jesus was sent.

This Roman understood the hierarchy involved in a chain of command, and He recognized Jesus was fulfilling His mission in a similar, but also spiritual, structure.

Let’s continue reading to discover how Jesus responded to this man’s statement. Picking back up in verse 10, Matthew tells us that:

10 When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this. 11 I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven. 12 But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the officer, “Go home, and what you believe will be done for you.”

And the officer’s servant was healed that very moment.

In this passage and this event, we discover something amazing, both in the faith of this Roman officer, and in the promise within Jesus’ response. In verse 11, Jesus told everyone present a wonderful promise: “I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven.

But this promise is followed up with a sobering warning. Verse 12 continues by saying, “But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness”. While we might be tempted to think this warning refers exclusively to the Jewish nation living during this time period, the sad truth is that this represents many of God’s professed people living in many different generations.

This also means that Christians today are just as liable to be kicked out of God’s feast as the first century Jews were. Christian’s today should be present at the wedding feast in the kingdom of heaven, but if they assume they are saved while not letting Jesus transform their lives or hearts, then they ultimately will be thrown out. A transformed life is the evidence that Jesus has entered one’s heart and that an individual has placed their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus. An invisible faith is a worthless faith.

In this passage and in this miracle, we discover that as followers of Jesus, we should model this Roman officer’s belief in Jesus. This Roman understood that Jesus was part of a powerful, spiritual chain of command, and this chain of command could instantly heal his favorite servant. The Roman’s faith is solid enough that he does not need Jesus to physically come and help his servant because in the spiritual realm, things can happen quicker than if we need to see in order to believe.

Also, in this passage and miracle, we discover that we should take Jesus at His word and let Him change our hearts and lives. Let’s not be kicked out of this wedding feast because we didn’t let God’s Spirit transform our lives. Let’s choose to place our faith in God in visible, tangible, and relevant ways, and let God transform us into the people He created us to be.

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 your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him and what He has done for you and me. Accept God’s promises as truth and live each day claiming His promises for our lives. Let’s be like the Roman officer who had stronger faith than the Jews present in that region and understand that Jesus is part of a much bigger picture. Jesus is the key Person in our story of redemption.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and let God transform your heart and your life. The closer we grow towards God, the better we will be able to see through His eyes, and love others as He loves each of us. Use the Bible as a filter for your life and as a guide for your spiritual walk.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 12: When Jesus offers to physically heal the servant of a Roman officer, we discover an amazing level of faith that Jesus commends, and a faith that is worth us modeling in our own lives.

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The Secret to Growing Faith: Luke 17:11-19

Focus Passage: Luke 17:11-19 (NASB)

Of the countless times Jesus healed people, I am always fascinated by one specific healing – the one included in this passage. Most times Jesus healed someone He would lay His hands on the individual, or in some way touch the sick person. In a few cases, He would give confirmation to the friend/family member when they came to Him on behalf of the sick person.

However, what is most distinct about this healing is that Jesus gives no confirmation, there is no contact aside from a distant shout, and what was shouted was simply a direction: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (Verse 14b)

This healing contains no encouragement or confirmation that the command to go to the priest would result in healing, but just like the Old Testament record of Naaman being healed in 2 Kings, chapter 5, obedience to the command itself demonstrates the faith that is present.

Perhaps the men knew Jesus could heal them, but maybe they weren’t sure entirely if Jesus would want to. Perhaps doubt had clouded their thoughts, and maybe only one was brave enough to be the spokesperson for the group – the same one who later returned to thank Jesus. These are some speculations that I have in my mind as to why Jesus may have answered like He did – He was pushing back against doubt.

Doubt has a way of stopping us from moving forward. It can derail our progress and cause us to slow down. Doubt derails our active, continually-moving-forward faith. God wants us to have a relationship with Him, but doubt creeps in to sabotage and stop the relationship from growing.

What really stands out in this healing that I can take and apply to my own life is Jesus’ first command to these men: “Go”. Sometimes we need to step out and start moving for God to be able to act. Sometimes, when we are stuck somewhere, we simply need to start moving, and then believe that God will direct us – though hopefully not as creatively as He did in Jonah’s life (recorded in the short book of Jonah).

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Obeying the Right Answer: Luke 10:25-37

Focus Passage: Luke 10:25-37 (CEV)

25 An expert in the Law of Moses stood up and asked Jesus a question to see what he would say. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to have eternal life?”

26 Jesus answered, “What is written in the Scriptures? How do you understand them?”

27 The man replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’”

28 Jesus said, “You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life.”

29 But the man wanted to show that he knew what he was talking about. So he asked Jesus, “Who are my neighbors?”

30 Jesus replied:

As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead.

31 A priest happened to be going down the same road. But when he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. 32 Later a temple helper came to the same place. But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side.

33 A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him 34 and went over to him. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.”

36 Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?”

37 The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.”

Jesus said, “Go and do the same!”

Read Luke 10:25-37 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading from Luke’s gospel as Jesus shares the illustration of the Good Samaritan, I am amazed to learn that this entire parable hinges on a follow-up question – and this follow-up question might not have even been asked if it were not for the attitude of the religious leader who asked it. When I read about this event, in many ways Jesus’ parable overshadows the powerful truth He gives the religious leader in response to the leader’s earlier question.

To set the stage for what is shared, Luke opens by having a religious leader ask Jesus what must happen for a person to gain eternal life. This religious leader’s question is a question that most everyone who believes in an afterlife has had at one point or another.

Instead of answering the man’s question directly, Jesus asked the leader how he understood the scriptures. The leader replied by saying, “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’” (v. 27)

What Jesus says next is incredibly powerful. Jesus replied to this saying, “You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life.” (v. 28)

This should have been the end of the conversation, but because this leader wanted to justify himself and his knowledge, Luke tells us that he then asked how to define the concept of neighbor.

We are quick to look into truths and themes from the parable Jesus shares to help us illustrate the concept of being a “neighbor”, but when we pull the parable from the context of the conversation it was shared in, we miss the powerful truth that Jesus just shared and confirmed the way to gain eternal life.

The religious leader gave the standard, summary overview of God’s Law and Moses’ law that was given through Moses while the Israelites were in the desert, and Jesus confirmed that it was the way to heaven. Loving God and loving others as much as we love ourselves is the key. Since most people are pretty self-centered, it makes loving other people that much more challenging. However, it is what Jesus has just confirmed that we are called to do.

However, knowing the right answer (like this religious leader did) and obeying the right answer are two different things. Most of the Jewish world during the first century knew this answer, however they missed the truth that this answer needed to be obeyed. They also missed that the core idea of this answer was love.

In our own lives, we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. In case we want a practical example of how to do this, all we need to do is look at Jesus’ life. He came to illustrate what these two commandments look like when obeyed!

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!

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