I was reading in the book of John last week Jesus’ prayer in the Garden. I’ve read this prayer countless times. I have always enjoyed it and feel it really gives us a peek into the heart and mind of Christ. This time, something jumped out at me that never had before. In John 17:6, Jesus, when praying for his disciples, says they obeyed God’s word. Then, down in verse 8, says they knew Jesus came from God. I can’t help but think back through the Gospel’s and think about this ragtag group of disciples and say to myself, “Really?” They obeyed? They believed? These guys who, at multiple points, had no clue what Jesus meant when he spoke. The same disciples who still expected Jesus, at some point, to lead a revolution against the Romans. Peter, who just hours before this prayer tried to tell Jesus what to do, and then just hours after this would deny Jesus. Peter, whom we often think of as aloof obeyed and believed? Doubting Thomas? James and John who were concerned about who would sit at Jesus right and left were obedient and believed? These same disciples who couldn’t perform healings at times or cast out demons because of their lack of faith were obedient and believed? This seems a strange thing for Jesus to say, considering the multiple recorded accounts of the disciples’ failings.
I believe this is something that can speak incredible grace into our lives today. With all of those failings, Jesus still said they obeyed and believed. Even with all of these moments where they clearly did not obey and did not believe, Jesus still said they were obedient and believers. Moments of unbelief do not separate us from Christ. Moments of disobedience do not disqualify us from the Kingdom. They are just that, moments. They are fleeting. They pass. We move on from them. Clearly the disciples did, because we sit here today as believers. Clearly we can as well.
I can be hard on myself and allow my moments of disbelief and disobedience separate me from Christ. It is never Christ who does this, only me and my own guilt. Christ still sees me as an obedient believer, even in those moments. Jesus still believes in me, still loves, and is still going to use me. Jesus still believes in you, still loves, and is still going to use you. Look no further than this moment of prayer, when despite the clear shortcomings of these first disciples, Jesus still had faith and love for them. Obedience and belief are a journey. They can’t be figured out in one moment, and neither can they be undone in one moment. This is what Jesus believed about the first disciples, and what he believes about us today.