7th Sunday of EASTER
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,[a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
On Friday afternoon, I turned on the TV, and there it was another active shooter event. People scurrying out of public buildings. Police and first responders charging in with weapons drawn. This one seemed different to me probably because it happened in Virginia Beach, VA – I actually knew people that worked in the Virginia Beach Municipal building and I saw messages from local Presbyterians close to the facility and I read about Presbyterian Disaster Assistance setting up a station.
At the end of the day, 12 people were dead and 4 more were in critical condition in a local hospital. Since Friday, people have mourned, asked questions about why and lifted up “thoughts and prayers” over another incident of senseless gun violence. As I mourned over the deaths of 12 people and wondered what to say today, I had several passages of scripture pop into my head:
- 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4 who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
- Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me;
- 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
All wonderful and soothing passages of scripture, but this mornings text was what helped me deal with this horrible event in Virgin Beach. Simply because in it we hear Jesus praying for us. Yes. Jesus…nearly two thousand years ago…is praying…for us – incredible!
Let’s set the scene. It’s Thursday evening, the night on which Jesus will be betrayed, handed over to his enemies, deserted by his friends, tried, convicted, and ultimately crucified. And knowing all that is to come, he gathers his closest friends, offers them parting words of encouragement and hope, and then prays for them. He prays that they may endure the challenges that come their way. He prays that they may discover strength in their unity. He prays that they will be drawn together as one as Jesus and the heavenly Father are one. And then he prays not only for them, but for all for who will believe in Jesus because of their testimony.
And that’s where we come in, dear friends. Because we are now in church because someone told us about Jesus. Whether it was a parent, friend, grandparent, pastor or Sunday School teacher someone told us about the good news that in Jesus we see that God loves us all, and inspired by this promise and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we came to believe.
But here’s the thing: someone told the person who told us. And someone else told that person. And someone told that person as well…and so on and so on, all the way back to the testimony of these disciples who, despite their fear – both this evening and on Easter morning – nevertheless moved out of the closed room in the promise of resurrection and began to share the good news of Jesus with others.
And so when Jesus prays not only for these disciples but for those who believe because of them, he’s praying for John’s original audience and for all Christians ever since, all the way up to you and me gathered in this sanctuary today!
All too often, I think, Scripture can seem like a story told about people living such a long time ago that we may wonder what it has to say to us today. But in a few passages – especially in John’s Gospel – there are what I think of as little doors that open up to invite us into the story itself to be active participants in the ongoing drama of God’s love for all the world. We got one of those doors a few weeks ago when Jesus, in his encounter with Thomas, blessed all those who believed in Jesus even though they/we hadn’t seen him. And that included John’s community and us. And now we get another, as we hear Jesus on this significant night take time from everything else he was doing and had to say to take time to pray for us.
What difference might that make this week? As we struggle with challenges at work, home or school; as we deal with setbacks in our profession or personal lives; as we deal with stress and illness; or as we face an uncertain future? This is a reminder, I think, that whatever we may face, we do not face it alone, because Jesus was praying for us back then and promises to accompany us through the Holy Spirit even now, all these years later.
As we continue into this week, may we remember, that on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for us.
That Jesus continues to walk with us.
That Jesus will accompany us through all that may come, holding onto us through the highs and lows of this life, even through death to new life.
This is the promise of resurrection, one we so desperately need to hear.
Commentary provided by Barbara Lundblad, David Lose, Karoline Lewis, F. Scott Spencer and Philip Browning Helsel.