Failure is a difficult thing to live with. For most of my Christian life, which encompasses all of my life except the first fifteen years, I have obsessed over the things I failed to do. My standards of obedience screamed failure. Three words became a balm that soothed my aching heart. I found those words in Jesus’ prayer before he died; not the prayer at Gethsemane when he asked God if there was another way to save humanity. The one he prayed after the last Passover supper he ate with them.
During the Passover supper, he said Peter would disown him and all of them would abandon him (John 13:38 & 16:32). Jesus concluded the meal by lifting his eyes heavenward and declaring to God “they have obeyed” (John 17:6). What gave Jesus the audacity to tell his father that his disciples obeyed? His disciples quarreled with one another and forbid children from approaching him. They failed to heal the son of a desperate father and tried to silence blind Bartimaeus lest he disturbed the healer. James and John jockeyed for the number two spot in God’s kingdom, causing the rest of the disciples to be indignant. They gloried in the power to command spirits instead of glorying in God’s love for them. They wanted to destroy an entire city by calling fire down from heaven. None of them had a clue Jesus would die a tragic death, even though he told them how he would die more than once. All of them were heading for dramatic failures when Jesus needed them most. Yet, Jesus said, “they have obeyed your word.”
The disciples were far from perfect, just like we are today, but they willingly follow Jesus even when their humanity got in the way. Jesus told us in his prayer what gave him the audacity to say his disciples obeyed. They accepted the things Jesus taught, and they believed God sent him. Using Jesus’ standard, I have obeyed as well. Have you?