Jesus’ passion and death by crucifixion reveal the depths of his incredible love for each of us. As Paul reflected decades later, “only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). Jesus’ actions speak louder than any words.
But in yesterday’s Gospel (John 17:11-19) for the 7th Sunday of Easter (which most of us didn’t hear, because we were busy celebrating the Jesus’ ascension into heaven), we get a glimpse of Jesus’ love for us through his words of prayer to God the Father. Read John 17 in context. This is no relaxed moment of prayer. The tension and drama are thick as Jesus prepares for the Cross. Yet he takes time to pray on our behalf, asking three main petitions.
1. His first petition is this: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.”
This is what’s most on Jesus’ heart at this critical moment. He wants us to experience oneness with God, communion and love with Creator of the universe, just as he has for all eternity. What love, that Jesus’ first words are an intimate desire for us to share in this love fully. Not just a little bit. Not just a glimpse. But fully.
2. Secondly, Jesus asks his Father to protect us, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.”
Now if we think about it, maybe we think it would have been better for Jesus to ask God to take us out of the world! I mean, the world is full of sin, suffering, injustice, and more. But Jesus’ love is full of confidence in his followers. Confidence that those who believe in him have a positive, constructive role to play in the world. His love is confident enough to give us the gift of free will–to choose to enter into loving relationship with God and remain there, to abide in him. Yet he knows it’s not easy, and he asks God to protect us from the evil one.
3. Finally, Jesus asks for us to be made powerfully holy, praying to God, “Consecrate them in the truth.” To be consecrated is to be chosen, to be set aside as sacred and holy. To be consecrated is our powerful preparation for our work in the world, for remaining in love and communion with God despite the temptations of evil.
And here’s what’s great about this prayer of Jesus. When you and I pray, we sometimes experience doubt. We wonder if God hears our prayers–if they “work.” But this is Jesus praying–God’s only begotten and beloved Son. Jesus is praying on our behalf. Are his prayers powerful? Of course! Be confident and encouraged that Jesus’ love and prayers go beyond our physical notions of time and space. He prayed for you. He prayed for me. That all of us would be one with God the Father, protected from evil, and set apart and made holy for accomplishing God’s work here on earth. Let us respond to this love with ever more joy and confidence!
Copyright 2015, Colleen Vermeulen