Monday, May 2, 2016

My Rabbi's Final Words Were...

In this blog, I've written before about how little I like Jesus' "high priestly prayer." Sure, it's a wonderful, powerful message of love, but it lasts...forever. Anytime you open one of those red-letter bibles and see both facing pages have nothing but the red letters of Jesus' words, you know that there's no action--all talk. Forgive me for wanting even a little narrative in the midst of dialogue, but I get worn out by this preaching.

Unless your congregation used John 5 yesterday, this coming Sunday will be the third in a row in which the gospel lesson contains nothing but talk: John 13, John 14, and now John 17. I'm tempted to preach on the lesson from Acts 16, in which the chains binding Paul and Silas are loosed during a God-sent earthquake, but I want to give Jesus a chance. I have a few days left to make up my mind. This time around, what does Jesus say that's worth listening to?

I can't help but notice that this is the very, actual, really, at last end of Jesus' prayer. These last few verses of John 17 are the last words Jesus will say to his disciples. As soon as these words are uttered, he heads off into the garden with his disciples to be arrested. So this is it. And what does Jesus pray for? Others. For what feels like pages and pages, he's been praying for his disciples--"All mine are yours, and yours are mine"--but now he turns his focus outward: "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one." This part of the prayer, therefore, is Jesus praying for us.

It takes a while to go back and read the whole thing, but it's worth it because, in Sunday's lesson, all of the things that Jesus asks the Father to do for his disciples he now asks the Father to do for us. The rest of the prayer uses mostly pronouns--them and they--but I presume that the operating text of "those who will believe in me through their word" is what defines the "they" and the "them" for the rest of the passage. In that case, it's pretty remarkable. All of the intimacy that Jesus has with the Father and that he has therefore imparted to the disciples through their close fellowship he now shares through this prayer with all of those who will come to believe in him through the testimony of the disciples. That means that the intimacy that Jesus had with his disciples is bestowed upon us. Jesus' final words are to remember you and me and pray that we may be included in all that he has to give.

Have you ever wanted to be one of the twelve disciples? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to share a meal with Jesus? Have you ever dreamt of watching the miracles unfold or hear the parables spoken for the first time? Have you thought of being there with them? On Sunday, Jesus will invite us into that inner circle.

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