Seventh Sunday of Easter

by Crossings

I am The One Who Will Be With You
John 17:6-19
Seventh Sunday of Easter
analysis by Carolyn Schneider

6″I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

(Note: Although the exact year of the writing of John’s gospel is not known, it is thought to have been written around the turn of the first century A.D. Already by this time it was not legal in the Roman Empire to trust in Jesus as Lord, and those who did were subject to arrest. In writing this gospel, John is trying to help Christians understand what they have in Jesus and figure out how to support one another in these times of extreme tension so that they do not let go. To do this, he brings it all back to the time in which Jesus anticipates his own arrest. In John 13-17 Jesus is preparing himself and his disciples for their time of trial.)


Step 1 – Initial Diagnosis: Losing brothers and sisters
The glimpse we have of Jesus’ last evening with his companions is not a happy one. Their solidarity has a big crack in it and they are about to be separated from each other. One of them, Judas, has already left to bring the arresting officers to Jesus. The other followers of Jesus had failed to notice their brother’s despair. They did not know why he was leaving, but thought that he was going in obedience to Jesus to feed the poor. They had lost each other, and Jesus, too, was about to leave them.

Step 2 – Advanced Diagnosis: Losing one’s self
As John tells the story, Judas’ troubles with Jesus began when Jesus called himself the bread of life from heaven (chapter 6, especially verse 71), and came to a climax when Mary poured expensive pure nard on Jesus’ feet (12:1-8). Judas was angry: Why must Jesus focus everything on himself? (Judas was unaware of the truth that he had really focused everything on himself!) Jesus had called people to join him and had interpreted everything recorded in the story of his people’s relationship with God as a part of his own life. Judas left his place with Jesus to find “his own place,” as Acts 1:25 says it. But once separated from Jesus, Judas found that he was of no good to anyone; his action against Jesus had produced no benefit to anyone, but only destruction. He could see no further than the cross. All the disciples were afraid for their lives, and Judas, despairing of his life, his friends, his world, and his God, ended it.

Step 3 – Final Diagnosis: Losing Everything
This passage has Jesus claim that God has given him God’s name. The elusive divine name spelled out in Exodus 3:14 has been interpreted in many ways. One way that seems helpful in its context is: “I am the one who will be with you.” Not only God’s name is credited to Jesus here, but everything that is God’s. 1 John 5:11 includes God’s life (eternal life) among these things that are in Jesus. To separate one’s life from this life is fatal, to try to separate others from it is criminal, and to try to kill it is futile. To effect this mistrust, separation and desperation is the powerful work of evil in the world. Judas’ action is said to fulfill the scriptures (vs. 12) because the scriptures (as in Psalm 1:4-6) record again and again the same reaction so embedded in our fearful nature, which does not trust that God’s life is really with us in Jesus and that it is really ours.


Step 4 – Initial Prognosis: Raising Lives to God
Judas is not there to see a further act of audacity on Jesus’ part as Jesus claims for himself yet another role, the role of Aaron, the high priest. Exodus 28:36-38 describes the part of that role that John focuses on here: “You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ . It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take on himself any guilt incurred in the holy offering that the Israelites consecrate as their sacred donations; it shall always be on his forehead, in order that they may find favor before the Lord.” John shows Jesus recognizing out loud that all life is God’s, and Jesus dedicates to God the first fruits of his labors, the people whom he has gathered around himself. There are fatal consequences for Jesus because he has made himself holy (made himself the center). In directing all things to himself, Jesus includes the hatred of the world, shielding his disciples from it in the Garden of Gethsemane (18:7-9). In absorbing in himself all roles, Jesus includes the sin and the death of Judas, who offered Jesus to a world subservient to evil through fear. Then, having taken on all things, Jesus raised them all to life, as God testified again through the resurrection that life is in Jesus.

Step 5 – Advanced Prognosis: Being Raised to Life
This passage in John entangles together Jesus, the disciples, and God’s word, encompassing all in God’s name, “I am the one who will be with you.” Jesus gives his companions as many roles as he himself has. They are God’s children, placed by God in the world; they are offerings to God, representative of the life that God has given to the world; and they are recipients of God’s word that life is in Jesus. In Acts 1:22 they are called witnesses to the resurrection. They carry this witness “in their hearts” (1 John 5:10), that is, they live. This life is described as one full of Jesus’ own joy (vs. 13). Those who are with Jesus live in confident hope, expecting their own resurrection, and not giving up too soon in despair. They trust in Jesus as the living Lord who gives life. This claim can only be proved by taking the risk of living one’s life out to the end as if it were the truth.

Step 6 – Final Prognosis: Living Together
Jesus sends his disciples into the world, just as he was sent into the world. In fact, this passage has Jesus asking explicitly that God not lift the disciples out of the world. They have a common family name, God’s name, “I am the one who will be with you,” and this is a name for the world. The world is the place where evil hurts. It is temporarily inseparable from the earth, the place God has created, but the two will not be merged forever. This is clear from Jesus’ own resurrected life as the one who is with us but is no longer “in the world.” It is trust in this Jesus that will keep the community together even as they face the trial and the cross. Their high priest prays for them, that God keep them from withering in the heat of evil and being driven away in all directions, like chaff (Psalm 1:4). Their lives are to be a testimony to God’s name so that many may be taken from the world and planted in the earth. “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither” (Psalm 1:3).


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