Monday, February 26, 2018

John 17:13-18:24 #eebc2018

We are in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus is arrested. He has been praying, speaking with His Father about what is to come. That's something we should consider: Jesus has no sin to interfere with His relationship and His understanding of God's will. He knows.

He still takes time to pray. And do we?

His prayer is first for the current disciples. They are going to face difficulties and Jesus is well aware of those challenges. He knows that they will be persecuted and executed for obeying Him. And this is not "you can't have a discount on your airline tickets" inconvenience but true persecution: prisons, pain, death.

A key component is John 17:19 where Jesus speaks of sanctification coming through truth. We tend to think in other terms, more subjective terms than "truth." Or, these days, people speak of "their truth" as if truth is something that can shift from person to person. That's not truth. Truth is static, fixed--understandings can change, what people perceive to be truth can change--but truth does not shift. If Jesus is the truth (see John 14:6), then becoming like Christ is connected to seeking the unchangeable truth.

The pursuit of truth, then, is part of the Christian life. There is nothing inherently Christian about remaining in ignorance nor of neglecting the knowledge that God has made available. Neither is there a virtue to pursuing knowledge exclusive of the Creator---if Jesus is the truth then ultimate understanding must, by nature, include Him.

This is why our worship-filled lives as Christians must involve a great deal of wonder at so much. The specific, special revelation that is the Word of God must not be neglected and indeed must reach first place. But the remainder of the general revelation in Creation must be studied, the amazing things at human creativity can achieve, all belong within the bounds of what we study and appreciate.

From there, Jesus goes on to pray for all those who will believe from the preaching of the disciples. I would recommend that you pick up from this that Jesus knew there would be a length of time between His ascension and return. And that the disciples should have known that as well--be careful with the view that suggests the disciples expected an immediate return. It is likely that they did, at times, become frustrated that Jesus did not come back as soon as they wanted. My word--that hits many a preacher when the Lord does not return on Saturday night! However, I don't think we give the disciples enough credit for the Holy Spirit working in them after the Resurrection.

Still, we are in the line of those who believed because of the preaching of the disciples. That puts us in those Jesus prays for. Perhaps, then, we should examine what He prayed for and see what it would look like to obey His words. He prays for unity and love--these are not mystical moments that will just happen. We can choose to obey, choose to seek unity in His truth. Or we can not.

Then comes my favorite part of this reading: the arrest of Jesus. Why? Look at John 18:5-6. The arresting posse shows up to take Jesus, He asks who they seek--and they say "Jesus of Nazareth." His answer is two words in Greek:

"I am."

Seriously. That's His answer. The same name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. Jesus demonstrates His unity with God with this. And then take a look at what happens to the crowd:

They fall down. Some interpreters take this to mean they deliberately fell at His "blasphemy." I take it the other way: at the Word of Jesus, they are struck down. They cannot stand in His presence. It's not their choice. It is His power.

And Peter thinks that his sword will help...

We do the same thing. Our swords, our scheming, our plans--all of these are useless compared to the Word of God. There comes a time to lay down our titles, our labels, our methods, and our personal views aside for the sake of the Word of God.

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