While we are unable to meet for Sunday School, I will post an adaptation of the youth Sunday School lesson every Wednesday. Think of the lesson as a guide to discuss a passage of Scripture as a family. Each lesson will include some introductory material, a Scripture reading, questions for discussion, and a short prayer. I encourage you to take just 15-30 minutes every week over dinner, at the end of the day, or whenever best fits your family schedule to actively engage your students in this opportunity to grow together as a family in faith.
Our Scripture passage this week picks up at the end of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples at Passover. John’s account of the Last Supper includes a long speech that Jesus gave his disciples. During that speech, Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for all that was about to happen. He encourages them to continue trusting in God, reminds them that loving God means that they must also love others, and he wants them to know that God will continue to always be with them. Last week, we focused on Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would come and be with them.
Jesus ends this long speech with prayer. If you look at John 17 in a Bible with section titles, you can readily see that Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and for all Christians. In the previous few chapters, Jesus speaks to his disciples to encourage them to keep the faith and to comfort them. In this chapter, Jesus’ prayer seems to do the same for him – to encourage him to faithfully follow God’s plan for him and to provide comfort for himself and his friends as they will soon be separated. When he finishes praying, they leave where they are, go to the garden where other Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus again chooses to pray, and that is when Jesus is arrested.
- What does Jesus ask for himself in verses 1-5?
- What does Jesus ask God for on behalf of his disciples in verses 9-11?
- How would you describe Jesus’ relationship with God based on this passage?
- What does this prayer tell us about Jesus’ feelings for his disciples? What does it tell us about their relationship?
- What do you think it means when Jesus prays that the disciples “may be one as we are one” in verse 11? Why do you think Jesus offered this prayer? Remember, Judas, one of the disciples, will betray Jesus. Try putting yourself in the disciples’ shoes in the aftermath of Jesus' death and even his resurrection. They are scared (their own lives at risk) and confused.
Jesus knows what God is calling him to do. He knows that his betrayal, torture, and death are coming; and he knows that he will soon return to God’s presence. Despite his confidence that this is God’s plan for him, he knows that all of these events could cause many divisions. Jesus knows that it is important for his followers to remain united as one as they continue to bear witness to Jesus. Consider this commentary from the Feasting on the Word Youth Sunday School Curriculum:
Some ancient theologians who studied these very verses talked about Jesus’ oneness with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What if the answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity was not about solidifying into a monolithic block but, rather, was about joyful interplay, glorious dancing? If we tried that idea on for awhile, could it affect how we view our own disagreements with our brothers and sisters? Perhaps the vision toward which we strive is not one of total agreement but of the ability to join, in our disparate ways, in the common dance of faith.
Even though Jesus knows all that is about to happen, this goodbye is still hard for him to face. He clearly loves his disciples, and he can’t say this goodbye without coming to God on their behalf. He needs to know that these disciples, whom he loves, will be protected and that they will never be left alone. This scene is reminiscent of anytime a parent leaves a child – for the first time in daycare/school, to go on a trip, to begin college, etc. Parents linger to make sure that those in charge know everything they need to know and will do everything they need to do to keep their children safe. Jesus’ affection for his disciples is much the same. He knows that he will not have much time left to be by his friends’ sides, and he comes to God in prayer to ask God to continue to care for them in the same way he has.
- Jesus knows the importance of prayer. This week, choose a few of the prayer topics below, fill in the prompt with your own prayer, and commit to praying these words of prayer every day:
- My prayer for myself is…
- My prayer for my family is…
- My prayer for our youth group is…
- My prayer for our church is…
- My prayer for my school is…
- My prayer for our community is…
- My prayer the world is…
- What prompts you to pray? Think of something that you do every day that you can use as a prompt to pray, and commit to using that time to pray for something specific (for example, commit to praying for your friends while you brush your teeth).
Dear God, we thank you for your love and peace. We thank you for drawing us together as brothers and sisters, even when we cannot be physically together. Help us commit to caring for one another and our world by praying for one another and our world. Let us be voices of truth and let our actions be evidence of your love. Amen.