Picture Jesus as he prepares to go to the cross. Praying to the Father, he recounts his ministry in the world. He begins, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”1 Then he describes that work.

What is shocking is that when Jesus summarizes his work on earth, he doesn’t start reliving all the great sermons he preached and all the people who came to listen to him. He doesn’t talk about the amazing miracles he performed—giving sight to the blind, enabling the lame to walk, and feeding thousands of people with minimal food. He doesn’t even mention bringing the dead back to life. Instead he talks repeatedly about the small group of men God had given him out of the world. They were the work God had given to him. They were, quite literally, his life.

When you read through John 17, you cannot help but sense the intensity of the affection Jesus had for this band of disciples and the gravity of the investment he had made in their lives. Consider this sampling from Jesus’ prayer to his Father regarding his disciples:

  • “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.”
  • “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.”
  • “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.”
  • “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”
  • “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.