If you could eavesdrop on Jesus, what would you want to hear?
Today’s reading from the gospel according to John 17:6-19 is portion of Jesus’ final prayer during John’s version of the Last Supper. For the last four chapters, Jesus has been preparing his followers for his eventual death, resurrection, and ascension. He’s showing them how they will live when he is with them in a new way. Through acts of love (foot washing), community (a meal), teaching, and prayer, Jesus is putting together a vision of their life will look like. And so Jesus wraps up this section with a prayer that everyone hears.
As you listen to this prayer today, it might sound a bit like word salad. Thoughts, ideas, and phrases are repeated in an almost haphazard way. Jesus talks about what he has done, what he wants the Creator to do, and what he hopes his disciples will do too. The words spiral around, leaving us confused and a bit upside down. But this spiral does end. The spiral, unlike a circle, is taking us somewhere. When we are confronted by a text like this, we are invited to spend less time figuring it out and, instead, letting the words take us to someplace new.
In the words of Mark Hoffman, a professor at the United Lutheran Seminary, this passage “functions better as a meditative prayer than as a spoken text. It is like a fabric woven with repeating words and themes.” As you listen to the text and read it again at home, what words and themes speak to you? Where is the text taking you? Are you drawn to Jesus’ relationship to the world and his call to break out of your comfort zone? Or are you hearing Jesus’ truth, his call to be sanctified (made holy), or wondering what word God has given you? Either way, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is not meant for us to read once and assume we have figured it out. It’s designed for us to eavesdrop on, over and over again, so that we can discover what life with him, right now, actually looks like.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, 5/13/2018.