Tuesday, May 12, 2015

John 17:6-19

This passage occurs in the RCL, Year B, Easter Season (most recently May 17, 2015).

This post is from Guest blogger Rev. Jim Rowe.
The assigned Gospel reading for the 7th Sunday of Easter (if you are using the Revised Common Lectionary) comes from Jesus’ prayer to the Father on behalf of his followers before the Passion narrative. When looking at this text it can be helpful to look at a few things: 1) Read the entire prayer. All of John 17. 2) Pay attention to the larger context. This prayer comes immediately after Jesus finishes his long-winded farewell discourse (14:1-16:33) where he speaks to his followers about what discipleship looks like: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; “I am the vine, you are the branches”; “Love one another just as I have loved you”; and the great “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (which sadly does not appear in the Revised Common Lectionary). This is the transition piece from discourse to Passion, from teaching about discipleship to modeling discipleship.

Key Words:
δίδωμι (to give) appears 17 times in this chapter, more than in any other chapter in the New Testament and more than any other verb in this chapter. The Father gives Jesus authority over all people to give eternal life to all whom the Father has given the Son. Jesus glorified the Father on earth by finishing the work the Father gave him to do. But the focus of the lectionary text is on those whom the Father gave to the Son from the world.

κόσμος (world) appears 19 times in this chapter and is incredibly important in the theology of John’s Gospel. The world came into being through the incarnate Word, Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, For God so loved the world…, “I have conquered the world!”

For those whose theology states the world is a place to escape from, John’s Gospel suggests otherwise (17:15). The Creator is in such love with the world that the creative Word that spoke the world into existence will lay down his life to take away the sin of the world. God loves the world. Likewise, in John 17, for those who were given to Jesus by the Father (aka Jesus’ followers) the world and all in it are objects of great love (even laying down their lives?) because even though the world has hated them (17:14), Christ sends them into the world just as the Father has sent him into the world (17:18). God sent Christ into the world because of love, and so Christ sends his disciples (us) into the world because of love.

Being that this is the Easter season, a time of year when the Church has historically expanded on the teachings of the faith for the newly baptized, the appropriate question seems to be, “So What?” What does this text say about how the resurrection, Christ’s conquering of the world, mean for me (or my congregation or the entire world)? If Christ loves me (my congregation and the Church) so much that he has sent me (us) into the world, then how does that affect the way I live in the world? How does that love and protection (17:15) shape my actions and words as I work for peace and justice in all the world?

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