Summary: Easter 7: Here we find Jesus praying for his followers. He doesn’t ask for wealth or prestige or power for his followers. In this prayer, Jesus shows the extent of his love for his followers before He dies.
This is Memorial Day weekend – a time to remember and honor military men and women who have given their lives in service to this country. It is an opportunity to give thanks for those who paid the ultimate price – their lives – in order for us to enjoy the benefits provided by this country and this society. Now, I’d like to ask you to think about something: What if you had the opportunity to interview one of these soldiers or sailors or airmen just before they entered into the battle that claimed their life? What do you think that this person would say or do? Do you think that we would hear soaring rhetoric about patriotism and honor? Would we hear laments about the need justice? Would we hear talk about love so great that it surrenders all – even life?
Let me ask you a question: if you knew that you didn’t have much longer to live – what would you do? Would you talk about how much you love your family? Would you focus on making sure that your financial affairs were in order? Would you visit people that you haven’t seen in a long time? Would you return to wherever you consider home in order to be close to where you want to be buried? Would you call your family around you in order to see them together one more time? I would suspect that much of who we are would come through when we are near life’s end. The things that we value and hope for and love would become clearer.
Just before King David died he said these words to his son, Solomon: “I am about to go the way of all the earth… So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go…” (1 Kings 2.2-3) These words show that the core of David’s being revolved around being a servant of God.
Here’s another important last will and testament. One of the principal defenders and promoters of the work of Jesus, a man whom today we know as Saint Paul, faced certain death. Nero had him imprisoned in a cold Roman dungeon. He knew that he didn’t have much longer. And so from this prison, Paul writes to his beloved spiritual son – Timothy. This last letter of Paul’s is known as the Bible book named 2 Timothy. It is, in effect, Paul’s last will and testament.
What does Paul say in this letter? Believe it or not, the major theme of this little letter is encouragement for Timothy to continue proclaiming the message of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Then, as Paul focuses on his own situation, he writes:
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4.6-8)
Paul’s personal focus is on the Kingdom of God. His eye on the future, Paul looks at heaven and the wonderful joy that there awaits – not just for himself, but for all who look forward to meeting Christ.
Today – in our Gospel lesson – we heard Jesus praying just before He was arrested. Jesus knew that He was going to die very soon. And so we find Him praying for his disciples – and not only for them, but also for us. In the verse that immediately follows the Gospel reading for today… Jesus said: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (John 17.20) So in effect the Gospel lesson for today is part of Jesus’ last will and testament for all who would believe in Him. We get to hear what Jesus asked for just before He died.
Let’s think about this for a second. We say a lot of things during our life. I’d venture to say that most of what we say is very worthy of forgetting. But if we were on our deathbed, our words would come much closer to being memorable. They would reflect who we are and what we believed. That’s what we’re hearing from Jesus today!
Now, Jesus could have asked for anything. He could have asked God to keep the disciples comfortable - but He doesn’t ask for this. He could have asked to make sure that they would be well-fed and clothed – but He doesn’t ask for this either. He could have asked for the disciples to be given important positions – for God to make them governors, princes, kings – but Jesus doesn’t ask for this either. Jesus could have asked that his disciples have long-life and health – but He didn’t.