“Teaching the Next Generation”
May 13, 2018
By John Partridge*
John 17:6-19 Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 1 John 5:9-13
Last week I stopped at a body shop in Massillon to get a quote for repairing the rusty fenders on my truck. As we concluded our conversation, the owner took the time to say goodbye to his high school or college aged son who was leaving at the end of the day. After he did so, he told me that he was teaching this young man his trade and passing down what he had learned. We both agreed that it was important to teach the next generation to do what we do so that someone will be around to take over for us when the day comes for us to quit.
Isn’t that what we remember today on Mother’s Day as well? Aren’t we who we are, because of what our mothers taught us? Doesn’t every good mother try to teach the next generation the skills and the lessons that she has learned over a lifetime to her children?
But regardless of whether you are a mother, or in the auto body trade, or a pastor, or anything else, every one of us is on a countdown clock. Regardless of our age or health, none of us is getting younger and the time that we have on earth is limited. And so, no matter what we do, or what we know, we are motivated, at some level, to teach the next generation what we know. As always, every person has their own gifts and their own natural “bent” but each of us need to learn the skills and gain the knowledge that will lead us through life.
Not surprisingly, none of this is new. In both the Old and in the New Testaments we see fathers training their sons in the trades that they knew. James and John were taught to be fishermen by their father Zebedee. Joseph taught Jesus to be a builder, and in turn, as the oldest son, Jesus probably helped to teach his trade to his younger brothers. But Jesus had other things to teach to other people as well. Jesus called his disciples so that he could teach them, and others came later that learned from Jesus as well as from the disciples, but near the end of his ministry, Jesus knew that his time was running out. And as the clock ran down, Jesus was concerned about those whom he would leave behind and he prayed this prayer for them (John 17:6-19):
6“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “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. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Jesus talks about “those whom you gave me out of the world.” At first, we might be tempted to think that this is about the disciples, but if we take a longer view of it, we realize that Jesus is talking about all of those who God has given to him, and that means not only the disciples, but all of us. This is a prayer for each one of us, lifted up to God, by Jesus, and in it he prays for our protection, for our sanctification, which is our purification and our journey, with God’s help, to become more Christ-like. And Jesus also notes that just as God sent him into the world to rescue the people from sin and death, he is sending us into the world to continue and to complete the work that he began.
John echoes this in his letter to the churches in Asia in 1 John 5:9-13, where he says:
9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
It takes him a while to get there, but John is saying that whoever accepts Jesus must also accept the teaching of Jesus, but John writes to the church in the firm belief that everyone who believes will have eternal life. Even though John couldn’t physically be in all the churches in Asia, he knew that it was important to continue to teach the words of Jesus, to encourage those who believed, and to train the next generation.
In Acts 1:15-17, 21-26, the eleven remaining disciples assemble because it was important to replace the authority that was lost with the betrayal and death of Judas. And so, they met together to do something about it.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
The disciple felt that it was critically important for the leadership of the church, to replace the position of the twelfth apostle. But the qualifications were that the person selected had to be someone who had been with them the whole time. Which means, although they weren’t among the 12 original apostles, it had to be someone who came shortly afterward and was among the very earliest followers of Jesus. But Peter uses an interesting and important phrase here. He says that whomever was chosen “must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” Note that he doesn’t say that he must “have been” a witness to the resurrection. That was already determined when they required that the candidate be someone who had been “with them the whole time.” Peter isn’t using the past tense, he’s using the future tense, and so when he says that the twelfth apostle “must become a witness with us” he is saying that their job was to reproduce, to preach, to raise up and to train the next generation so that the church would continue to grow.
Last week we talked about the need for Christians and for churches to reproduce, to tell the world about Jesus and to offer rescue from sin and death to those who are being lost. But the emphasis this week reminds us that reproduction is not enough. Our mothers, our parents didn’t stop caring for us when we were born. They taught us to walk, to talk, to be polite, to have values, to care for other people and a host of other things. Likewise, believing in Jesus is not enough. If the church is to be healthy and if the church is to continue in the future as it has in the past, then we must also place an emphasis on teaching. We must teach our children, we must teach new believers, and we must continue to teach those who have already accepted Jesus and have been in the church for many years.
It is our responsibility to train, and to be trained, to teach and to be taught, so that each person, and the entire church, can grow and mature as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we fail to teach or to learn, then we end up with a church full of baby Christians, of all ages, who lack the understanding and maturity to survive the storms and struggles that life throws at us. Without maturity, believers can’t get along with one another, or reveal Jesus to the world around us. Without maturity, we cannot become one with each other as we have been called to do. The unity of the church, and our ability to pull together in the same direction, grows out of our maturity, our faith, and our understanding of scripture and all of that grows out of our willingness to teach, to study, and to learn.
Our mothers didn’t give birth to us and stop, they had a lot more to teach us and they kept at it as long as they could put up with us. We need to do the same for the church.
Let us all commit ourselves to teaching, and to learning, so that our people, and our church, can become healthy, filled with God’s spirit, and grow not only in numbers, but in our sanctification and in our Christ-likeness.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at email@example.com. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.