Jesus prayed the following prayer in John 17:4-9 in the garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest and crucifixion.
I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began. I have revealed You to those who You gave me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me and they have obeyed Your word. Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You. For I gave them the words You gave Me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours. (John 17:4-9)
So how (and why) do we obey Jesus’ command to go and make disciples?
- Jesus stated in John 17:4-9 that He had completed the work the Father had given Him to do. But this prayer was prayed prior to His death, burial, and resurrection. He is talking about making disciples.
“If Jesus had died on the cross for our sins but had not made disciples who could deliver the message, none of use would have heard the good news. Jesus completed the message: He died for us and rose from the grave. He also created a way for people even today to hear that message: by releasing His disciples to go and make disciples, who in turn were released to go and make disciples, and so on.” – from the text.
- Many people believe that Jesus came only to die and be resurrected from the dead. They often leave out – either through omission or by ignoring completely – the work Jesus did of making disciples. I believe this is because focusing on Jesus’ example of putting priority on making disciples puts the onus on us to do something. We can’t possibly do the work of Christ on the cross, so there are absolutely no expectations associated with us following His actions there. But we CAN go and make disciples, so that DOES put an expectation on us to actually do something. And we want to duck that responsibility.
- Again, the completed work that Jesus referred to was making 12 men into mature disciples, setting the example for us to follow. We know our work is complete when someone we are discipling accepts God’s Word, knows with certainty that Jesus came from God and was sent by God, and are ready to spread this news to others.
- The messenger is essential. “The church was not designed to be a group of spectators who attend weekly lectures . . . All believers are the messengers who bring the message to others and then continue the process of discipling those who believe.” (from the text) Romans 10:14 states:
How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?