“As you sent me into the world, So I have sent them into the world.”John 17:18
John 13-17 provides us with an intimate look at Jesus’ final meeting with his disciples before his crucifixion. It’s telling that as Jesus prepared the disciples for his departure, he made one thing very clear to them: trials, tribulation, and persecution were coming. His final message to his disciples before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion was not, “Believe in me and you will have wealth, health, and a comfortable life.”
He didn’t call them to prosperity and comfort. He called them to a mission.
He told them that they would be his witnesses (John 15:27). And he told them what being his witnesses meant. They would receive the same response that Christ received – a world set against them. Jesus warned them:
- The world will hate you (John 15:18, 17:14),
- The world will persecute you (John 15:20),
- You will be thrown out of synagogues (John 16:2),
- You will be killed (John 16:2),
- You will be scattered (John 16:32),
- You will have tribulation (John 16:33).
As he calls them to a mission, Jesus prepares them for that mission. Several times in these last moments with his disciples, Jesus tells them exactly why he is telling them these things:
- So they would have a fullness of joy in him (John 15:11, 17:13),
- So they would love one another (John 15:17),
- So they would persevere in the faith (John 16:1),
- So they would remember his words (John 16:4),
- So they would have peace in him (John 16:33)
Jesus was helping his witnesses to be joyful, loving, persistent followers who remembered his words and found peace in him through the inevitable trials that would come with the mission.
Is That True of Me?
But as I read those verses and as I write that summary, I wonder if that’s the kind of witness I am. To be honest, it hasn’t seemed that way as of late and, frankly, doesn’t seem that way most of the time.
Joy in ministry has seemed elusive to me lately. I routinely wrestle with a reluctance to lovingly serve others, instead hoarding my time for myself. One recent setback seemed to deflate my spirit far easier than it should have. I let lies slip into my mind far too often at the expense of remembering Jesus’ words of truth to me. And I have this habit of thinking I can find peace in things apart from Jesus.
In other words, it seems at times like I’m far from the kind of witness I should be.
It also seems like maybe the disciples themselves were wrestling with similar thoughts about their preparedness for Jesus’ departure. Peter didn’t understand why Jesus was washing his feet (John 13:6). Thomas worried that they didn’t know the way to where Jesus was going (John 14:5). Philip wanted Jesus to just give them a clear glimpse of the Father, even though that’s exactly what he had done all along (John 14:8). And multiple times Jesus referred to the troubled hearts and the sorrow of the disciples (John 14:1, 27, 16:22)
I have experienced the same worry and concern I hear in the disciples’ voices. The same recurring lies constantly try to get a foothold in my mind, telling me:
- I’m not equipped for this.
- I can’t do this alone.
- I don’t have anyone to talk to for help.
- I don’t know how this is going to turn out.
And yet Jesus knows each of these fears and responds directly to them as he lovingly prepares us for our mission.
When I say, “I’m not equipped for this,” Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
God both provides and is the very help I need.
When I say, “I can’t do this alone,” Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth … You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)
God provides his very presence for my loneliness.
When I worry that I won’t have anyone to talk to about my need, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
God provides direct access to him for me to share my every need with him in prayer.
When I worry that I don’t know the outcome of a troubling situation, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
God provides the victory for his glory through every circumstance.
Weak, Yet Full of Power
Jesus sends us out into the world (John 17:18) as his witnesses, knowing full well that we are woefully weak. Weak, yet full of power in Christ. He tells us as he told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
So in the grace of our Savior, may we go bear witness to the grace of our Savior.