Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 23

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for April 23

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By Dr. Ben Stubblefield
Visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


John 17:13–26

The Gospel of John, which provides several unique vistas into the mind of Christ, shows us a remarkably personal, open and passionate moment between Jesus and His disciples. In particular, we hear Jesus pray for His friends. In this high priestly prayer, Jesus prays for His disciples, present and future, to be sanctified, united and regathered with Him in glory.

Sanctify (13–19)

When Jesus speaks of “these things,” He likely has in mind the Upper Room discourse stretching back to chapter 13, but He may also have had in mind the entirety of His teaching ministry. He links “these things” to the “joy made full” of the disciples. The disciples who hear Jesus pray will understand that no matter what happens, He has their greatest joy as His greatest priority. The hatred of the world will not compare to happiness from the Lord.

The world will put His disciples to the test with unusual animosity. You may not experience significant hatred because of Jesus, but demonic vitriol has been aimed at His people since Christ’s ascension.

Notice that the Lords’ people don’t get saved and then disappear. We have a task to complete while remaining in the world.

As He teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prays that we are protected from evil while remaining in a world overrun by evil. This is because we are sent as Jesus was sent into the world. Though sanctified, set apart and reserved unto holiness, we belong to the soul-saving enterprise for which Jesus came.

Unite (20–23)

Jesus asks the Father for unity among all believers. The nature of that union is profound, mysterious and extraordinary. Jesus prays, “even as you, Father, are in Me, and I in You.” The church is to be as united as the Trinitarian fellowship.

That union is so remarkable that it will reveal God’s glory in the church, evangelize the world and clarify the love He has for His people.

When I was in school, some church friends decided to have an evening get-together. We had a great time! The next day as I sat with an unchurched neighbor at his house, he told me, “What happened last night was so confusing. All those people were at your house, and there wasn’t a single fight, raised voice or anything. I’ve never seen that many young people get together and get along so well.”

That may seem a low bar for the Christian witness, but we often underestimate how profound peace, unity and love are among the Lord’s people and how devastating division is for evangelism and outreach.

Gather (24–26)

The final prayer is for believers to join Christ where He is, presumably an eschatological prayer. Jesus also prays that His people may be fully aware of His glory and the Father’s love for them and that they may fully experience Christ’s love for them.

The impact of this prayer is manifold. Christ’s followers can rest in the promise that their faith in Jesus will be vindicated.

They will see Him in all His unveiled glory. Their faithfulness will be rewarded, and they will live with Him wherever He is.

Finally, we are empowered to love each other. The final words of Jesus’ high priestly prayer mean that His indwelling love for others manifests through each of His own. “What a fellowship! What a joy divine!”