The Gospel text for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is always a part of what has been called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. This is, of course, a great prayer. And, as always in the Gospel according to John, this prayer is filled with a number of things that could be discussed.
A brief ‘Sabbath Day’s Journey’ with this text is almost impossible unless I pick just one thing to write about. I am going to try that, and it will even be something that I focused upon in last year’s blog.
For this year, the text is from John 17:11b-19, and last year’s text included the first part of verse 11. In that part of the verse there is this amazing statement of Jesus: ‘I am no longer in the world.’ I call that statement ‘amazing’ because of the many other things that seem to be connected to it.
I may have mentioned before that the other gospel accounts use the Jewish system of time, but the Gospel according to John uses the Roman system, and that system starts counting the hours much earlier than the others; it starts at midnight.
It is thought that this gospel account was written many years after the others, and that is why it has such a huge emphasis on the divinity of Christ. It would also have been written when the message about Christ was going all over the Roman Empire—and thus the reason for using the Roman time system. But the reason for the different time system could be more literary than chronological.
This gospel account could also be significantly different because there is a different way to view Christ’s authority. If one considers this account to be connected to the eagle (one of the four symbols on God’s throne), there is a good reason for Jesus to say that he is no longer in the world, even when he is still in this world. From his perspective, he knows what is coming.
This earlier ‘departure’ of Jesus may also be connected to the fact that the much-talked-about ‘hour’ of Jesus comes earlier than his death on the cross; it comes when some Greeks want to see him (John 12:20-23). Things worked out well for Jesus while he was on earth, and they will work out well after he is gone.
I brought up last week that the issue remains as to whether or not Jesus remains—on earth, that is. In this prayer, Jesus is asking his Father to ‘keep them in your name, which you have given me’ (verse 11b). Certainly this name could be ‘Jesus’. But I would think that it could also be the ‘Word’.
This whole chapter is full of words that Jesus could have said to the Father just a little bit later, after he ascended into heaven. But Jesus stayed down on this earth and said those words so that almost all of his followers would have the fulfillment of joy (verse 13)—in great contrast to Judas, who had the fulfillment of scripture that he would be lost (verse 12).
Jesus seems to be all about words in these chapters, a comforting thing for those in this century who, after hearing many words from many different sources, may think that they are a bit lost. With this One, they will be kept in some important words that will truly last.