May 16, 2021


Passage: John 17:6-19

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
— John 17:6-19, ESV

Sometime during the early hours of Good Friday morning, somewhere on the Mount of Olives, probably in a processing area called Gethsemane, Jesus uttered a full Lord’s prayer. It spreads out now over the entire seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John.  The Lord prayed every part, for Himself (vs. 1-5), for the eleven men with Him (vs. 6-19), and for any and all who would join the movement (vs. 20-26).

Today we focus on part two of the prayer, offered on behalf of a den of dumbstruck disciples the size of a football huddle.  It was the end of Jesus’ ministry.  It was the beginning of theirs.  So He prayed for them, especially, eloquently, effectively.

The eleven men were nobody then.  You can say much more about them now.  They led what became the largest religious organization in the history of the world.  They co-authored the best-selling book of all time.  They are the Apostles.

The Importance of the Apostles

This is a VIP prayer.  Jesus is supreme, which is why the first part of the prayer is about Him.  The Apostles were supremely important, which is why they get second mention.  The keys to the kingdom of God have been placed in their hands.  The future of the New Testament church rests upon their shoulders.  Jesus handles them with prayer.

To be an Apostle, with a capital A, one must be personally chosen, coached, and commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is certainly true of “the eleven:” Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), Thomas (the twin), Matthew (Levi), James (of Alphaeus), Judas (Thaddeus), and Simon (the Zealot).  They were by Jesus’ side as He prayed.  The twelfth, who left to make them eleven, was the traitor Judas (Iscariot), who by this time was on his way with a militia to betray and arrest the Lord.

The other Apostles with a capital “A” include Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot on the day of Pentecost, the Lord’s half brothers James and Judas (Jude), and the Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus), “one untimely born” (ref. 1 Corinthians 15:8) on the road to Damascus.  Some make cases for additional Apostles, but we’ll have to wait until Heaven to find out for sure.  Some take the title of Apostle in this day and age, but since Jesus is not here in bodily form to lay hands on them, I would respectfully disagree.

Apostles are important because they were hand-picked by Jesus to preach the gospel of the Lord, plant the first churches Christ purchased with His own blood, and prophetically write Holy Scripture known as the New Testament.  Along with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostles are considered the foundation of the church (ref. Ephesians 2:19-20).  You and I would not be part of a church where the gospel is preached and God is praised if it were not for the Lord Jesus Christ, and His Apostles.

The Prayer for the Apostles

First, the Son thanked the Father for “the people you gave me out of the world” (vs. 6).  By the sovereign grace of God each Apostle was chosen, called, saved, and sealed.  Clearly none of these men came to Jesus until Jesus first came to them.  The Lord did not choose them because they were better or brighter than other people in the world, the Lord chose them because that what the Lord does, choose whom He wants to save, by grace.  The same is true for every Christian who comes to Christ (ref. John 15:16).

Then, Jesus identifies them by speaking of the things that prove their faith, discipleship, and in their cases Apostleship.  “They have kept your word” (vs. 6), “they have believed” (vs. 8), “I am glorified in them” (vs. 12), “they are not of the world” (vs. 14) but God has “sent them into the world” (vs. 18).  Apostles hear the gospel, believe the gospel, live the gospel, and spread the gospel, for the glory of God.  The same is true for every Christian who comes to Christ (“apostle” literally means “one sent with a message”).

We learn from the Apostles, that the evidence of grace is faith, and the evidence of faith is loving obedience to God’s word.  The shame is true for every true Christian.

Finally, Jesus prays for these most important men for some most important things, things that are again important to all Christians.  They can be boiled down to three essentials: “keep them” (vs 11, 15), “that they might have my joy” (vs. 13), and “sanctify them” (vs. 17).

A lot was riding on their success.  Jesus’ prayer secured it.  God granted them eternal security, as they all persevered to the end.  No one went the way of the devil except for Judas, who obviously never believed in the first place. They all had joy, the settled satisfaction of knowing and doing the will of God, as you can plainly see in their lives and letters.  And, they were holy men of God, useful tools in the Master’s hands, vessels of the Holy Spirit, who spread the gospel, planted churches, and gave us the New Testament Scriptures.

We little “a” apostles have been given a great gift and a high calling, too, to follow Christ, to follow the footsteps of the Apostles, to make the Apostles’ legacy stand until Christ comes again.

The Legacy of the Apostles

Because of the answered prayer of Jesus, the Apostles’ success has become our success, at least in the way God defines success, which is much more than merely having your best life now.

We have the gospel, the hope of salvation, the pearl of great price, the greatest treasure on earth.  With it comes salvation, abundant life, eternal life, joyful life, but not necessarily an easy life.  It is a life enjoyed with a personal relationship with God and a corporate relationship with God’s people, the church.  We carry on their legacy by believing, preaching, and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have the church, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the living worship and witness for Christ.  The Apostles appointed pastors and elders in every town, along with deacons to help bear the burden of ministry.  They baptized people who committed their lives to Christ, and broke bread from house church to house church until churches could meet in their own houses of worship.  They gathered the people for simple, reverent, biblical worship on the Lord’s Day, and dispersed them to be disciples and make disciples of Jesus during the week.  We carry on their legacy by obedient discipleship and responsible church membership.

We have the word of God, the complete Bible, Old Testament and New, the inspired, infallible, inerrant message from God and map that leads us through life in this world and onward to Heaven.  Our Bibles give us an occasional word from God the Father, falling like thunder and lighting from Heaven.  Our Bibles give us monumental words from God the Son, printed in red in many modern versions.  And every word in our Bibles is a word from God the Spirit, who worked in the prophets of the Old Testament and these Apostles of the New Testament to hand us the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God which will endure forever.  We carry on the Apostles’ legacy by loving, reading, and obeying Holy Scripture.

All of this, the calling and commissioning and caring for all Apostles and all apostles, is blessed and secured by the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And in the last breath of this loving prayer, Jesus will pray specifically for those of us who are following Him now.

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