I’m preaching through a bit of a topical series at the moment, where the topics are from the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. My normal mode of teaching is expository, but this is proving to be a good exercise as well. It’s helpful for us to see how things in Scripture join up, and everything is joined up.

My main anchor text for this week is the closing section of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-26. It’s a slightly odd place to go when thinking about discipleship, but there is definitely that line of thinking within it.

As Jesus prays, he knows that the cross is coming and he knows that his disciples are going to need help. And so within earshot of them, he prays to his Father and talks about all that he has done. He praises his Father, perfectly. He says he has given his disciples the Father’s word. He asks the Father to set them apart in the truth, which is his word.

And then he speaks of those who will come to faith later.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26 ESV)

There is much more to be said about this, but some of what I can see as I work through this and prepare to preach on Sunday is:

Disciples believe through the testimony of other disciples

While it’s tempting to believe that we just need to live a good, moral life to be a sharing the gospel, its clear from Scripture that using words to communicate the gospel is the way that people come to believe.

Disciples are united together in Christ

I’ve heard people say that you don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian. Or that the church should really be about social action or something else. In reality, the reason why the church exists is because it is a gathered group of people who have been united to and in Christ. He is the reason why the church gathers. He is the reason why this odd mix of people from different backgrounds, classes, races, political persuasions can coexist in the very same community. Jesus breaks down all of those barriers and joins people together in him.

Disciples are united together to be a witness

Us being together and united in Christ shows the world that Jesus is sent by the Father. He says so right there in his prayer. They reason why Jesus wants Christians to be united together is because it is how the world knows that we are loved by God. Jesus was sent because God loved the world, and Christians united around that fact is the testimony to that being true. The proof of who Jesus is and what he did is in the miracle of Christian community.

Disciples want to take the message to the world

At a conference this summer, Richard Pratt explained that the mission the disciples had was to take the whole world for Jesus. Jesus explicitly tells the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. This wasn’t some isolated mission only meant for 1st century Palestine. It started there, but it won’t end there. Because God’s people have taken this message and mission seriously, there are more Christians around the world in more places than there have ever been at any point in history. For example. In 1 AD, the world population was about 300 million people. Today, there are between 80 and 100 million Christians in China alone.

While the mission is far from over and the work is far from complete, there is much reason to be encouraged and much reason to continue to persevere in telling people about Jesus.

At my own church, we are preparing to run Christianity Explored next month. If you’re reading this and are a Christian, please pray for us. Pray that we would be asking people to come, pray that they would actually come, and pray that we would trust God to be at work in the hearts of those who do come. Pray that we would be encouraged to share the gospel and that we would be brave.