By Sally Ivaska

Lenten Devotions

In the church calendar, the season of Lent is the period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. If you have never observed Lent, or never enjoyed observing it, take advantage of these next six weeks to prepare for the Easter celebration by consciously drawing close to God through Bible reading, meditation, and prayer. Some of you may want to add to this the discipline of fasting — giving up something you habitually do (like eating chocolate or watching TV) in order to remind yourself that Jesus gave up heaven for us (Philippians 2:5-8).

If you already have some Lenten traditions, perhaps these daily devotions will be a means for you to connect with God in new ways.

Each devotion consists of a short Bible passage taken from John 13-17, followed by a few questions for meditation, and a suggestion for prayer. The actions and teachings in these five chapters in John take place during the last meal he has with his disciples. They contain important insight into who Jesus is and how much he cares for those with whom he’s spent the past three years.

You can take 15-20 minutes at your computer or print out the devotions for the week to use in the morning in the comfort of your favorite chair, during a lunch break, or in bed before you sleep. Choose a time when you are least likely to be interrupted. It will be helpful to have pen and paper or a Word document ready to record what God is saying to you. Don’t be discouraged if you miss a few days. Each devotion stands on its own so you can begin again when you’re able.

Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four
Week Five
Week Six

Each day, before you begin, take a couple of minutes to sit in silence, emptying your mind of “to do” lists (you may need to write things down as you “toss” them) and extraneous thoughts. If there is sin you need to confess, do so and thank God for his forgiveness. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s truth to you.

 

Week One

Monday

Read John 13:1-5

Notice the verbs in verses 1-3. Jesus knew and he loved. What did he know and whom did he love? If you are a child of God, what do you know about yourself? Whom has God given you to love?

Jesus’ head and heart were both engaged in what he did next. He got up, took on the appearance and role of a servant, and washed the disciples’ feet. With your identity in Christ and your eternal destiny in the hands of a loving God, how can you serve the people God has put into your life? What does the Spirit need to do in your head and/or your heart to bring you to the place where you are willing and able to serve?

Prayer

Ask God to give you his perspective and his love.

Tuesday

Read John 13:6-11

Jesus’ actions have caught Peter completely by surprise and he resists Jesus’ expression of love. How do you feel when God or another person unexpectedly serves you in some way? In what situations are you reluctant to let God or others serve you? Ask the Lord to show you why you resist.

Why does Peter vehemently reverse his position in verse 9? Peter is once again jumping to a wrong conclusion, but Jesus patiently explains to him why he only needs to let Jesus wash his feet. According to verses 10-11, what does it mean to be “clean?” (Keep in mind Judas — an example of someone who is not clean.) Think about your own experience. Have you known Jesus cleansing in a significant way? When and how?

Prayer

Thank God for cleansing you from sin. Ask him to keep you humble enough to receive his “foot-washing.”

Wednesday

Read John 13:12-17

What do you think the disciples were thinking and feeling while they listened to Jesus explain what he had just done? What logic does Jesus use to exhort them to do the same thing?

Mutual submission and service are to characterize the people of God’s kingdom — a beautiful rhythm of giving and receiving. List examples of how mutual service is happening in your fellowship group; your church; the body of Christ worldwide. How can Christians do a better job of cultivating servanthood? Where and with whom do you need to cultivate servanthood?

What promise does Jesus make in verse 17? Think of a time when you experienced blessing or happiness as a result of serving others.

Prayer

Ask God to give you a servant heart and the courage to follow Jesus’ example.

Thursday

Read John 13:18-30

In this passage, Jesus’ knowledge of who will betray him causes him to be very troubled. Why do you think he tells the disciples that someone in the group is a traitor? If you were sitting around that table, what would you be thinking?

“At Eastern meals it was a common gesture of special friendship for the host to offer a morsel to one of the diners. Jesus’ action, then, seems to say to Judas that in spite of his intention, the Saviour’s love remains unchanged” (F. F. Bruce, ed., The International Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1986], 1254). In spite of this gesture, Judas continues with his plan. And John lets us know how dark his soul has become by adding this little phrase: “And it was night.” How could Judas’ response be a warning to you and encourage you to stand against Satan when you are tempted?

Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas of your life where you are choosing darkness instead of the light of Jesus’ presence. Confess those to God. Then rejoice in his love and mercy.

Friday

Read John 13:31-35

Once again Jesus reminds the disciples that his life is reaching its climax. He is about to be glorified, though not in the way they think. His tone here is very tender, like that of a parent patiently instructing siblings on how they are to behave when the parent is gone. How is Jesus’ new command an extension of his exhortation to “wash one another’s feet?” How does it expand the latter?

Jesus sets the bar high by commanding them to love one another as he has loved them. Name some of the ways Jesus has loved you. Think of one sister or brother in the body of Christ whom you find it difficult to love. What are some practical ways you can love that person in the next few days?

Prayer

The by-product of serving is “blessing” or happiness (John 13:17). The by-product of love within the body is the world recognizing that we belong to Jesus. Ask God to help you love so that others may know Jesus.

Saturday/Sunday

Read John 13:36-38

Rather than focusing on the new command Jesus has just given the disciples, Peter’s curiosity is aroused by the statement that Jesus is going somewhere where Peter can’t go just yet. But he is not content to wait. What are you likely to become impatient with in your Christian life?

What declaration of loyalty does his impatience lead Peter to make? How does Jesus respond to him? What truth does Jesus want him to see?

Indeed, following Jesus is more difficult than we think and we can’t do it in our own strength. What have you told Jesus you will do for him that you will need help from the Spirit to accomplish?

Prayer

Thank God that “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” (Philippians 4:13) Ask him for his help to follow when things get tough.

 

Week Two

Monday

Read John 14:1-3

Though Jesus himself has reason to be troubled (and is troubled according to John 13:21), he focuses on the emotional state of his disciples, addressing their fears. What does this tell you about the character of Jesus? What fears are you facing in your life right now that Jesus already knows about? What helps you to trust him when you are feeling afraid, unsure, or disturbed?

Now Jesus begins to explain to them where he is going, using figurative language. What does he reveal about where he is going? How could this information help them to put aside their fears?

Take a few minutes to meditate on this thought: when Jesus left this earth, he went home to get our rooms ready. What perspective does it give you to know that Jesus is preparing a room just for you and is looking forward to taking you to be with him?

Prayer

Ask God to help you trust him with your fears. And pray for increased anticipation of your home in heaven.

Tuesday

Read John 14:4-7

As is so often the case, the disciples are on a different wavelength than Jesus. In this passage, what indicates that Thomas has not understood what Jesus was talking about in verses 1-3? How does Jesus’ answer in verse 6 satisfy both questions: Where are you going? And how can we get there?

How does Jesus describe himself? Think of some ways the disciples have seen him to be truth and life during their three years with him. In what ways have you personally experienced Jesus as truth and life?

Not only is Jesus the way to God, but seeing and knowing him is the same as seeing and knowing God. Ask yourself this question: I claim to know God, but how well do I know Jesus? When was the last time you read one of his biographies, or studied a particular teaching of his, or spent time talking with him? What can you do to get to know Jesus better this year and thus deepen your understanding of God?

Prayer

If you have trouble accepting Jesus’ words about himself, ask him to help you understand them. Talk with him about the ways in which you want to know him better.

Wednesday

Read John 14:8-11

In this passage we hear from the disciple Philip. Since Jesus has just finished telling them that knowing him is the same as knowing and seeing the Father, why do you think Philip asks this particular question?

Notice that Jesus does not dismiss the question as teachers sometimes do when they think they’ve already answered it and the student just wasn’t listening. Instead, how does Jesus respond in verse 9? What do you think his tone of voice and body language might have been?

In verses 10-11, how does Jesus further describe his relationship to his Father? The word “believe” is repeated three times in these verses, indicating Jesus’ strong desire for the disciples to understand the statement he made in verse 7. Are there some things you know about the Lord that, like Philip, you still have questions about? How does this passage encourage you to keep asking so that you may understand and believe?

Prayer

Thank the Lord for his patience and his desire for you to believe him. List one or two questions you have and then pray, expecting him to reveal more of himself to you.

Thursday

Read John 14:12-14

Believing that Jesus is one with the Father results in faith in him. And “anyone who has faith” (that includes all believers, not just the disciples) will do what he has done — and even greater things! How do you think Christians might be able to do greater things than Jesus did?

In verse 13, Jesus promises to do “whatever you ask.” How does he qualify this promise? What would it mean for someone to ask for something in your name or on your behalf? What does it really mean to ask for something “in Jesus’ name?”

How would it change your prayers, if your motivation as you pray was for God the to receive the glory?

Prayer

Pray that your faith in Jesus will show itself in your daily activities. Ask God to give you wisdom to ask for things that will bring him glory.

Friday

Read John 14:15-21a

In chapter 13 Jesus talked about his love for the disciples and the need for them to love one another. In this passage he begins and ends by talking about their love for him. What does Jesus say is the natural outgrowth of the disciples’ love for him? What commands of Jesus’ do you find difficult to obey? How does this reflect the depth of your love for him? Based on past experience, what is it that deepens your love for Jesus?

In verse 16, Jesus introduces the Counselor who will be a topic of conversation throughout the next several chapters. What do you learn about the Counselor from verses 16 and 17? Note that the Greek word parakētos has several meanings, including “one who is called alongside” and “someone who helps another in court,” and therefore has a variety of translations in English: Counselor (NIV), Comforter (YLT), Helper (NASV), Advocate (TNIV). What unique nuance does each translation add to your overall understanding of the Counselor?

There is some debate among scholars about the meaning of “I will come to you” in verse 18. Does Jesus mean they will see him again after his death and resurrection? Or does he mean that he will come to them in the person of the Holy Spirit after he has left this earth? Regardless of the interpretation, how would Jesus’ words bring comfort to the troubled and confused disciples? How could the interweaving of the Father, Son, Spirit, and you (verse 20) help you to love and obey Jesus?

Prayer

Ask the Spirit to show you ways in which you are being called to obey Jesus. Respond with gratefulness for the ways Jesus has demonstrated his love for you.

Saturday/Sunday

Read John 14:21b-24

Chapters 13 and 14 have been a series of statements by Jesus, followed by a disciple’s question, followed by some explanation and more teaching, which prompts another question. This time it’s Judas’ turn (Judas son of James, Luke 6:13). His question elicits more explanation about the relationship between the disciples, Jesus, and the Father. What phrases does Jesus keep repeating? Why does he need to repeat them? Take a moment to thank God for his patience in teaching us about himself.

What new things do you learn in this passage? What does it mean to you that Jesus and the Father make their home with you? What are some practical implications of this? For Jesus it means that even his words do not belong to him (verses 10b and 24b). What areas of your life are still off-limits to God?

Prayer

Open yourself to God and ask him to come in and “clean house” if necessary. Ask him to help you open up those areas that may have been closed to him.

 

Week Three

Monday

Read John 14:25-27

After reminding the disciples that the things he is telling them come from God (verse 24), Jesus once again speaks about the Counselor. What more do we learn about the Counselor from these verses? In what ways has the Holy Spirit taken on these roles in your life? What would your Christian life be like without the Spirit?

Once again Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid. What does he offer them in the place of fear? What do you think is the difference between the world’s peace and the peace that God gives? How or in what ways have you experienced that difference?

What does it look like when your heart is troubled? When your heart is at peace? What is your heart troubled about right now, either external or internal? In what areas of your life are you experiencing God’s peace?

Prayer

Thank God for what you have as a result of the Spirit’s presence in your life. In exchange for his peace, offer to God the parts of your life and areas of the world that are troubled.

Tuesday

Read John 14:28-31

In this passage, Jesus once again reminds the disciples about his departure and return. He does this to give them cause to believe (verse 29) when they see events unfolding just as he said they would. Why does he tell them they should be glad?

If Jesus lives in the Father and the Father in him (Jn 14:10) and anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (Jn 14:9), what do you think Jesus means when he says the Father is greater than the Son?

In verses 30-31, Jesus explains a bit more about what is going to happen. If you were in the disciples’ shoes, who would you think might be coming for Jesus and why? It’s not clear exactly what the disciples thought “prince of this world” meant, but the encouraging thing is that he “has no hold” on Jesus. How would this information further encourage the disciples not to be afraid? How does knowing that Jesus’ suffering was motivated by obedience (verse 31) give you courage to hold on in difficult times?

Prayer

Today’s scripture calls us to respond unselfishly in times of trouble, submitting to God’s will in all things. Thank Jesus for being obedient, even to death. Pray about areas of your life where you seem unwilling or unable to submit to his will.

Wednesday

Read John 15:1-4

Jesus uses the metaphor of the vineyard to describe the inter-relationship between the disciples, himself, and the Father. What is the responsibility of the branches? The vine? The gardener?

The phrase “bear fruit” is repeated four times in this passage, emphasizing the purpose of the branches. Based on the presence of the Holy Spirit in us (Jn 14:25-26), what kind of fruit should you as a branch be producing? (See also Galatians 5:22-23)

In the cultivation of grapes, one purpose of pruning is to improve the quality of fruit produced by the vine. The gardener prefers top quality fruit over quantity. So pruning, though painful, results in a superior crop. Where have you experienced God’s pruning in your life? What tools has he used to prune you? How have you responded to his pruning?

Prayer

Thank God for being your gardener and causing good fruit to grow. Which fruit of the Spirit would you like more of in your life? Ask God to do what it takes to increase you fruitfulness.

Thursday

Read John 15:5-8

Continuing with the vine metaphor, what word does Jesus keep repeating in this passage and the verses preceding it? What does it mean to “remain” (some versions use the word “abide”) in Jesus? In the busyness of your everyday life, what kinds of disciplines help you to stay connected to Jesus?

A dead branch, disconnected from the vine, can’t bear fruit – it’s impossible. And yet we often try as hard as we can to bear fruit on our own. Jesus says, “Stop trying. Just remain in me and ask me for anything.” Try resting in Jesus, and allow him to infuse you with all the nourishment you need to be fruitful.

Who gets the glory when the branches bear fruit? In what ways has your life brought glory to God and demonstrated that you are a follower of Jesus?

Prayer

Confess any tendency to strive for fruit on your own. Thank Jesus for the fruit he is producing in your life as you remain in him.

Friday

Read John 15:9-11

In the context of the vine metaphor, Jesus once again reminds the disciples that he loves them. From these verses, what more do you learn about what it means to remain in Jesus? What an encouragement to know that when Jesus asks us to remain in him, he is not asking us to do anything he has not already done! He has spent his whole life obeying the Father and staying connected to his love. And he asks his disciples to do the same.

In verse 11 Jesus introduces the concept of joy. The metaphor that began in verse 1 with the painful process of pruning now culminates in joy. And we can have the same joy that Jesus has. Where does his joy come from? Name some of the ways in which obeying God has brought you joy.

Prayer

Take a few minutes to sit quietly, meditating on the fact that Jesus loves you. You are his beloved child. Ask him to show you ways in which you can joyfully obey him today.

Saturday/Sunday

Read John 15:12-17

Jesus has just told his disciples that if they obey his commands they will remain in his love. Now he summarizes the commands in one all-encompassing command to love each other as he has loved them. To what extent has Jesus loved his disciples? (verses 13-15) If you are a follower of Jesus, then these things are true for you as well:

  • Jesus has given his life for you.
  • He considers you his friend.
  • He has made available to you all the Father has taught him.

How could these truths make a difference in how you live your life from day to day?

In verse 16, notice what the disciples did to deserve Jesus’ love. Nothing. He chose them. And he has chosen you. For what purpose has he chosen you? What can you do in the week ahead to bear fruit? What could you ask for in Jesus’ name, for yourself or a family member or colleague? Is there a fellow believer who’s difficult to get along with whom you could love?

Prayer

Ask God to help you grasp the length and breadth and height and depth of Jesus’ love for you so that you can extend that love to others.

 

Week Four

Monday

Read John 15:18-25

In the preceding verse (Jn 15:17), Jesus reiterates to the disciples his command that they love each other. This mutual love is all the more important given Jesus’ description of their relationship to the world. John commonly uses the word “world” (_kosmos_ in Greek) to refer to the “created moral order in active rebellion against God” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991, p. 525). How does Jesus contrast the world and the disciples? In what ways do you feel you do not belong to this world?

Jesus makes it very clear that though the world will persecute his followers, it is actually Jesus they are rejecting. What is it about Jesus that people in the 21st century do not like? Have you experienced hatred or rejection for being a Christian in your family? The classroom? Your workplace? If so, what has been your experience and how have you responded?

Jesus reminds the disciples that “no servant is greater than his master” (Jn 13:16). They are expected to serve one another, following his example, but also to accept persecution because of him – even if there is no good reason for it (vs 25). It should not take us by surprise.

Prayer

Thank God for the privilege of being identified with Jesus, even when it’s difficult. Ask him to help you find ways of being in the world but not belonging to it.

Tuesday

Read John 15:26-27

In these two verses we see that another function of the Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus. In many parts of the world today people are becoming Christians as a result of dreams and visions. What are other ways in which the Spirit is actively giving evidence that Jesus is the Son of God?

In addition to the witness of the Holy Spirit, the disciples themselves will tell what they have seen and heard as eyewitnesses who have lived with Jesus for three years. The book of Acts is our record of how the early Christians lived out their testimony. Describe some of the ways they testified about Jesus, both in words and actions (e.g., Acts 2:22-24, 42-47, 3:1-10). Think of ways that Jesus has been at work in your life. What opportunities has God given you to share these things with those you around you? How can you witness to his love in what you do and what you say?

Prayer

Thank God for the Spirit’s activity in the world today. Ask God to open your eyes to his presence and work in your life. Invite the Holy Spirit to give you the opportunities and courage to witness to what Jesus has done.

Wednesday

Read John 16:1-4a

Twice in this passage Jesus gives the reasons for why he has been telling the disciples “all this.” According to verse 2, what is going to happen to the disciples? How could being warned about these things help the disciples to stand firm?

But he hasn’t just warned them; he’s also given them teaching to strengthen and encourage them. Skim chapters 13-15 to remind yourself of all that Jesus has told them in the course of their evening together. How would Jesus’ words to them that night in the upper room help them not to stumble (NRSV, NASV) or go astray (NIV) when they face persecution? What passages in the previous chapters do you find most encouraging or comforting? In what situations in your life might these truths help you?

Prayer

Thank God for giving you his word to hold onto when you face difficult situations. Pray that you and others you know may feel secure in the love and knowledge of God.

Thursday

Read John 16:4b-11

After giving his reasons in verses 1-4a for telling the disciples “all this,” Jesus then tells them why he didn’t tell them this at first — there was no need for them to know these things while he was with them. But now he reminds them that he must return to the Father and he sees that their grief is profound. In verse 7, how does Jesus respond to their grief? How would the presence of the Spirit be even better for the disciples than Jesus’ physical presence with them?

Jesus has already said many things about the role the Holy Spirit will play after he leaves. What more do we learn about the Spirit from verses 8-11? It may be difficult to understand unbelief as sin. Why do you think Jesus describes it this way? Theologians have varied interpretations of verses 10 and 11, but one thing is clear: the Holy Spirit comes to convict unbelievers. This is part of his role as one who testifies about Jesus (Jn 15:26). Knowing this, how can you partner with the Holy Spirit as you share your faith with others?

Prayer

Thank God for the Holy Spirit within you. Ask the Father to help you witness about Jesus in cooperation with the Spirit who is doing the convicting.

Friday

Read John 16:12-15

In verse 12, Jesus tells the disciples he has much more he could say to them on this important night. What keeps him from disclosing more? How will truth be revealed to them in the future? Notice how gentle Jesus is with them – he pays attention to and cares about how much they can bear. And he reiterates his promise to send the Holy Spirit to them. What comes to your mind when you hear that the Spirit will be their guide? In what areas of your life right now do you need a guide?

In verses 13-15, Jesus expands his description of the Spirit. What characterizes the third person of the Trinity? Just as the Spirit’s role in relation to the world is to testify about Jesus (Jn 15:26) and convict the world of their unbelief (Jn 16:8), the Spirit’s role in the lives of the disciples is to fully reveal to them who Jesus is. How intimately do you know Jesus? Do you know his love for you? Do you know his purposes for your life? How does God’s Spirit reveal Jesus to you?

Prayer

Ask God to reveal areas of your life where you need the Spirit to guide you into knowing Jesus, the Truth, more intimately.

Saturday/Sunday

Read John 16:16-22

Several times in the past few chapters Jesus has told the disciples he is going away (Jn 13:33; 14:2, 28; 16:5) and now he repeats it again in verse 16. Little by little he has added information about this including:

  • where he is going (Jn 14:1-2)
  • what he is going to do there (Jn 14:2)
  • his intention of coming back to get them (Jn 14:3)
  • how to get there (Jn 14:3)
  • what their response should be (Jn 14:28)
  • why he is going (Jn 16:7)

Now he brings up the question of timing. What phrase does Jesus use to describe when he is leaving and when he will return? How does the example of a woman in labor and delivery answer the disciples’ question about the meaning of “in a little while?” Several times in these verses Jesus talks about grief, tears, anguish, or pain, and four times he repeats the word “joy” or “rejoice.” What truth does he want them to grasp? When in your life have you experienced joy drowning out pain? How does this perspective help you to persevere through hard times?

Sometimes pain is unforgettable and will not be forgotten until we join Jesus in heaven. What difference does it make in how you handle your day-to-day grief and pain if you have the long view in mind? Do you know anyone who models this “in a little while” perspective? What can you learn from him or her?

Prayer

Pray for those you know who are experiencing grief and pain right now. Ask God to help them (and you) understand his perspective on time so that you may anticipate joy.

 

Week Five

Monday

Read John 16:23-24

Up to this point, if the disciples had questions or needed something, they asked Jesus directly. How will that change? In your prayer life, whether you are asking a question or asking for something, what is the Father’s role? Jesus’ role? Your responsibility? What does it mean to ask “in Jesus’ name?” (cf Jn 14:13-14)

In the previous passage, Jesus has told the disciples that their grief at losing him will turn to joy when they see him again. But “in that day” (after Jesus has died, risen from the dead, and ascended to the Father), their joy will be complete. What is going to complete their joy? Think of some things you have prayed for and received that have given you joy. Can there be joy if what you receive is not what you asked for? What do you want to ask God for today for yourself? Your colleagues? Your family? Your fellowship group? Your church?

Prayer

List those things you want to ask God the Father for in Jesus’ name. Continue asking until you receive an answer. Look for ways in which a “no” answer actually completes your joy rather than diminishes it.

Tuesday

Read John 16:25-28

In verses 25-28 Jesus reiterates some of the key truths he wants the disciples to understand. What does Jesus say about:

  • asking in Jesus’ name?
  • his relationship to the Father?
  • the Father’s relationship to the disciples?
  • Jesus’ mission?

These verses talk about what Donald Carson describes as a “circle of love” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991, p. 547). It was God the Father’s love that sent Jesus into the world (Jn 3:16) to extend that love to the disciples (Jn 15:9) who in turn loved Jesus and believed in him. According to verses 26 and 27, whom does the Father love? What difference does it make that you are loved by both God the Father and Jesus the Son? In what circumstances do you find it difficult to believe that God loves you?

Prayer

Take a few moments to focus on God the Father’s love for you. Ask him to help you believe wholeheartedly in that love.

Wednesday

Read John 16:29-33

Consider the declaration the disciples make in verses 29 and 30. They admit that they are only just now coming to believe. What things in Scripture do you find difficult to believe, either at an intellectual level or an emotional level? How does the disciples’ experience encourage you in your journeys to believing?

Though Jesus affirms the disciples’ declaration in verse 30, “This makes us believe that you came from God,” he also tells them plainly that when their belief is tested, they will fail the test. What feelings might Jesus’ words in verse 30 generated in the disciples? What experiences have you had failing to live out what you say you believe?

Throughout this conversation in the upper room Jesus has explained why he is telling them these things:

  • So that they will believe (Jn 14:29)
  • So that they will not go stray (Jn 16:1)
  • So that they will remember his warning (Jn 16:4)

What additional reason does he give in verse 33? What is the basis for this peace? What is the connection between Jesus overcoming the world and the disciples’ peace? If you are feeling inadequate or unfaithful as a disciple of Jesus, how would this passage encourage you?

Prayer

Confess ways in which you have failed to act on what you believe about Jesus. Thank God that the success of Jesus’ mission does not depend on you. Ask him to fill you with his peace.

Thursday

Read John 17:1-5

Now Jesus directs his attention to his Father in prayer. It is not clear whether the disciples heard this prayer or whether Jesus told them about it after the resurrection. But what a learning experience it must have been for them to know what Jesus’ greatest concerns were just before he died.

Jesus focuses on two things: returning to the Father and making sure the disciples have eternal life. How does Jesus define eternal life in this passage? How does this understanding of eternal life encourage you to deepen your knowledge of the Father and the Son?

How did Jesus bring glory to the Father? What work has God given you to do? How can you bring glory to God through it, whether it is studies, career, family, service to the church, or relationships with friends and colleagues?

Prayer

Thank God for his gift of eternal life through Jesus. Ask him to show you what he has for you to do today, and trust him to bring glory to himself through you.

Friday

Read John 17:6-12

After praying for himself in verses 1-5, Jesus turns his attention to the needs of the disciples. Only a few minutes earlier Jesus had predicted that the disciples would desert him; now he is reminding his Father in heaven that they:

  • belong to Jesus (vs 6)
  • have obeyed God’s word (vs 6)
  • know the relationship between the Father and the Son (vs 7)
  • have accepted Jesus’ words (vs 8)
  • have believed God sent him (vs 8)
  • have brought glory to Jesus (vs 10)

He sounds proud of them!

And now, as though it might be dangerous to rest on past successes, he prays for their protection in verses 11and 12. What kind of protection do you think the disciples need? What is the reason for God protecting them? Why is unity among believers so important? Think of ways in which God has protected your fellowship in order to preserve unity.

Prayer

Close your eyes and imagine Jesus telling God the Father how proud he is of you and how important it is that he protect you from Satan’s attacks. Ask him to protect your church, fellowship, or small group from things that would disrupt your unity in Christ.

Saturday/Sunday

Read John 17:13

As we saw in the previous passage, one reason Jesus prayed this prayer for his disciples was so that “they may be one” as he and the Father are one. What is another reason why Jesus prays for them, according to verse 13?

Notice that Jesus speaks superlatively when he speaks of joy:

  • I have told you this…so that your joy may be complete (Jn 15:11)
  • Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete (Jn 16:24)
  • I say these things…so that they may have a full measure of my joy (Jn 17:13)

How wonderful to worship a God who wants us to be joyful! What do you think it means to have a “full measure of joy” in you? Notice that the disciples do not have to wait to experience this; Jesus wants them to have joy even while they are still in the world. How can you experience this kind of joy in this life?

Prayer

Take time to fill in the following: “I’m glad I worship a God who…” Thank him for this. Pray that you may know the full measure of his joy.

Each devotion consists of a short Bible passage taken from John 13-17, followed by a few questions for meditation and a suggestion for prayer. Don’t be discouraged if you are beginning these after Lent is well underway or if you miss a few days. Each devotion stands on its own so you can begin or begin again whenever you are able.

 

Week Six

Monday

Read John 17:14-19

In these verses, Jesus once again talks about the interrelationship between the disciples, himself, and the world. Describe those relationships. If Jesus is sending the disciples into the world in the same way that the Father sent him, how should the disciples engage the world? In what ways are you engaging the world as Jesus did?

So far Jesus has prayed for God to protect the disciples so that they may be one (vs 11b) and experience the full measure of his joy (vs 13). What does he ask God to do for them in this passage? In what areas of your life do you feel threatened by Satan? What do you think it means to be sanctified or “set apart” by God’s Word? What aspects of your life need to be sanctified?

Prayer

Thank God for all the ways he has protected you from evil. Ask him to equip you to engage the world as Jesus did.

Tuesday

Read John 17:20-23

Jesus concludes his prayer by focusing on all those people who will believe the truth about Jesus because of the disciples’ message, both oral and written. And that includes you! What does Jesus ask for future disciples? Of all the things he could ask for (protection, power, peace, love, etc.), why do you think he prays for unity?

In this last conversation with his disciples, Jesus has repeated over and over again that he is in the Father and the Father is in him and that all he has (his love, his words, his glory) has come from the Father. This is the kind of unity Christians are to display. How do you think this draws people to Jesus? As you spend time this week remembering the costly sacrifice Jesus made for you on the cross, think about the specific ways you might live out this unity Jesus prays for.

Prayer

Confess to God any ways in which you may have contributed to disunity in the body of Christ. Ask him to unify your fellowship in such a way that others may see Jesus and believe in him.

Wednesday

Read John 17:24-26

For the first time in his prayer, Jesus uses the word “want.” What is his heart’s desire for those the Father has given him (including you)?

Three words are central to this passage: glory, love, and know. How are they interrelated? What is the connection between Jesus continuing to make himself known to you and how full of God’s love you are? Through what means is your knowledge of God growing deeper? What people has he put in your life to help you grasp his great love for you? How can that love overflow to others?

Prayer

Thank God for the promise of being with Jesus some day and seeing his glory. Thank him, too, for his deep commitment to help you know him and live in his love.

Thursday

Read John 13-17

In order to get the big picture of the passages we have studied for the past five weeks, read John 13-17 in The Message. Consider one or more of the following questions:

  • What impresses you about Jesus? about the Father? about the Spirit? about the disciples?
  • Is there a command for you to obey?
  • Is there a sin to confess?
  • Is there a promise you’d like to hold onto this week?

Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of Jesus’ words when you need them. Pray that the Lord will help you live out these truths.

Friday

Read John 18-19

Chapters 13-17 have been building to a climax. On this Good Friday, take time to read John’s account of the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus in John 18-19. Meditate on this passage. Close your eyes and try to picture the various scenes. Where you do you see yourself in them? What insight does this give you into the story?

Prayer

Take time throughout the weekend to thank God for loving you so much that he sent his son into the world to die.

Saturday/Sunday

Read John 20:1-18

What strikes you about John’s account of the resurrection? How did each person who saw the empty tomb respond?

Think how countercultural it was for Jesus to appear first to a woman. Women were not even allowed to give testimony in a Jewish court of law, but here is Mary Magdalene witnessing the greatest miracle of all. Jesus connects with Mary very personally in this resurrection encounter, but he does not allow her to stay there celebrating the good news. Instead, he gives her a job to do: go and tell. Think about ways in which you will both celebrate the good news of the resurrection and share it with others in the week ahead.

Prayer

Thank God for his goodness. Celebrate with Psalm 150:

Praise the LORD.
   Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
   praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
   praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
   praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
   praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
   Praise the LORD.

About the Author

Sally Ivaska is the wife of David, mother of four sons, and proud grandmother of Zadie Marie. She has a master of arts in teaching from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University. Her passions — small group Bible study and all things cross-cultural — have taken many forms over the years: hosting international students, coordinating small groups for her church, serving as the International Student Advisor at North Park University, and training African students to study Scripture inductively and write their own discussion materials. Sally is never far from a book or a friend and enjoys life most when her “plate is full.”

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