Summary: The challenge of the Great Commission is this. We need to 1. Know the message and where it has come from; 2. Be committed to following Christ ourselves and 3. Pray for protection from evil that we too will not fall.
Story: There is an ancient legend about Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
In it, Jesus is met by the angel Gabriel who asks him, "Now that your work is finished, what plans have you made to insure that the truth that you brought to earth will spread throughout the world?"
Jesus answered, "I have called some fishermen and tax-collectors to walk along with me as I did my Father’s will."
"Yes, I know about them," said Gabriel, "but what other plans have you made? "
Jesus replied, "I taught Peter, James and John about the kingdom of God; I taught Thomas about faith; and all of them were with me as I healed and preached to the multitudes."
Gabriel replied. "But you know how unreliable that lot is. Surely you must have other plans to make sure your work on earth was not in vain."
Jesus quietly replied to Gabriel "I have no other plans. I am depending on them!! "
I would like to focus on our Gospel reading this morning.
John 17 is part of the farewell discourse of Jesus. It is a prayer Jesus prays just before he is taken away in a series of events that led up to his crucifixion.
It is the prayer – known as the High Priestly Prayer. In it Jesus prays for his disciples – and in our Gospel lesson today he focusses on strength for them to continue to do his work on earth.
I would like to look at one verse Jesus says – speaking to his Father
As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:18)
The disciples were sent to proclaim a message.
Jesus entrusted them with spreading the Good News:
In Mt. 28 Jesus gave them the Great Commission
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:18.19)
In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus reveals three requirements for the disciples to be able to fulfil this command.
1. They need to know the message and the source of the message (Jn 17:6)
2. They need to be committed (Jn 17:6-8)
3. They need to be faithful (Jn 17:15-17)
1. The first requirement for preaching the Good News was that the disciples needed to know what the Gospel is and where it has come from.
Jesus, speaking about the disciples said this to the Father:
"For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them"(Jn 17:8) and
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me” (Jn17:6)
I suppose it goes without saying – but we can’t preach a Gospel until we know what it is and where it has come from.
The disciples spent three years around Jesus listening to his message. It was an intense time. It was the most heavily documented three years in the ancient world – and we have four Gospels that record some of what Jesus taught.
What we know of God is, I would suggest, not what we can in the natural discern, but what Jesus has revealed.
And so, we don’t have to rely on our own ideas – we simply preach what Jesus has revealed to us.
2. The second requirement to be able to preach the Good News is that the disciples needed to be committed. In other words they needed to be real DISCIPLES.
St Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the Gospel at all times – and use words when necessary”
Jesus in our Gospel reading said this about the disciples:
“For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them” (Jn 17:8)
In the ancient world, belief was not simply intellectual assent to a proposition. It was more than that. If you believed in someone it meant you adopted his or her teaching.
If you were a disciple of Socrates, then you followed Socrates’ teaching. And by extension if you followed Christ, you applied his teaching to your life.
3. The third requirement to preach the Good
News is they need to be faithful and so Jesus prays for them to be protected from evil.
How often has the Gospel been dragged into disrepute by the fallibility of our ministers? Perhaps the fall of the tele-evangelists in America in the 90’s is a particularly sad example.
No wonder the Lord taught his disciples to be aware of evil and pray for protection from it.
“Deliver us from evil.” (Mt 6:13)
Jesus in our Gospel reading says this:
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one” (Jn17:15)