Maundy Thursday: Jesus’ Prayer

Maundy Thursday: The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin and means “commandment.” On Maundy Thursday some churches gather around tables in the form of a cross and commemorate Jesus’ commandment to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (John 17:20).

The night when Jesus was betrayed, he spent much time in prayer. Prayer was one of the most important factors of his ministry. Everything that he accomplished, he did so after spending time with his Father. One of the prayers of Jesus was for his disciples, present and future. Jesus was concerned for each one of his disciples, so much so, that he entrusted them to the Father as he prayed for them.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15). These words of Jesus are very powerful to Christians everywhere. Jesus had saved his disciples from the world because the world was in spiritual darkness, but Jesus could not remove them from the world. Even though they were not of the world (John 17:16), Jesus allowed them to be in the world because the disciples had a very special mission in the world. The disciples’ mission was similar to Jesus’ mission: As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:18).

Jesus came into the world to bring God’s love, His forgiveness and His salvation to a lost world. Jesus came to rescue men and women from their loneliness, from their evil ways, and from their fallen lives in order to give them a meaningful and purposeful life. This abundant life comes as people discover God’s divine purpose for them, and as they learn how to obey God’s commandment and live by God’s word.

Since Jesus’ time on earth was short, he called a group of twelve people whom he called “apostles.” The word “apostle” comes from a Greek word that means “the one who is sent.” Each disciple was sent into the world with the message of Jesus. That message is what we call the “Gospel,” the good news that in Christ God was calling people into a new life, a life marked by a new relationship with Him.

Thus, in his prayer for the disciples, Jesus also prayed for today’s disciples. He said: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. When Jesus prayed, he was not praying only for those twelve disciples who shared that last supper with him, but he also prayed for those who will believe in [him] through their message. These words of Jesus reveal something important, that at times Christians today fail to realize: Jesus knew and expected that the disciples would go everywhere and proclaim the good news of the Gospel.

Christianity is one generation away from being extinct. If those early Christians did not proclaim God’s message you and I would not be here today. If you and I do not carry God’s message, many people will die without hearing the good news of Jesus Christ. As before, Christ expects you to carry his message to a lost world. This is the reason he saved you and then sent you into the world.

Jesus knew that Christians would accomplish their mission in a hostile world: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. The evil one will oppose the work of Christians but Jesus needs the testimony of every believer because that is the only way lost people will hear that Jesus is their only hope. Jesus’ plan for you is not to take you out of the world, but to reach a lost world through you.

The evil one wins when you and I fail to present God’s message to a lost world. Today’s Christians are afraid to share their faith with others. This means that lost people are not being saved and that the evil one is winning in the battle between good and evil. As long as good people are silent, evil prevails.

Christians must be committed to reach people for Christ, whatever it takes. This commitment comes out of a realization that we are God’s agents in the world, that we are ambassadors of Christ, charged with a ministry of reconciliation. Christians should boldly proclaim Christ because we are not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

The church of Jesus Christ is a place where men and women can discover God’s new life in Christ. Christians live in the midst of broken people with broken lives. They have many questions and Jesus is the answer to their questions. Christians must carry God’s message to these future believers. Jesus expects us to do so.

Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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