Thursday, April 1, 2010

Leave-Taking

Have i ever mentioned that I love the gospel of John?  For the narrative of Jesus' life, the other three might tell the story more--with angels coming to Mary and Joseph, the birth in a cow-dung-filled out-building somewhere in the backwater town of Bethlehem, the flight to Egypt because of the wicked king.  All that stuff (well, come to think of it, that's all Matthew and Luke.  Mark starts with John preaching in the wilderness).  However, the poetry of John.  The metaphor and intentionality of those metaphors they grip me.  I can read it and read it and read it.  Just the prologue alone grips me enough that I could read it every single day of my life and never get over it--
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made that has been made...
"Yet to all who received him to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God...
"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have see His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
I never read that without feeling a lump in my throat, and a catch in my chest. And in John are all those glorious, connective tissues we call the "I AMs".  The seven great phrases that tell us who Jesus is,  the great I AM in human flesh:  I AM The bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Resurrection and the Life, the Gate, the Great Shepherd, the Way and the Truth and the Life, the Vine.  I once wrote a Mission trip devotional on the I AMs, and maybe someday I'll 'borrow' from it for this blog, but not today. 

At His last, lingering meal with His disciples, after He's dispatched Judas to his demonic work, after he's told Peter how far he'll stumble, Jesus saves plenty of time for some good stuff.  Great stuff, actually.  I can just see Him, like a father with his children, yes, exactly like a Father about to leave His children, wanting to make sure He gets everything said He needs to before He goes.  And He has quite a bit to tell them.   Jesus' discourse in John 14-17 is the longest in John's gospel.  He talks a while--like all of 14, where He tells them He's going to His Father's house, and Thomas, the worry-wart, wants to know how they'll know how they'll possibly find Him if He leaves them behind.  Like it might be their job to go hunting for Jesus, like it ever had been.  Hadn't He searched them out in the beginning?  Doesn't Jesus always do the looking?  But these are human fears, human reactions.  Jesus has patience this last night--at least early on.  He explains things carefully--even when the disciples can't understand.  And at the end of chapter 14, He says, "Come let us go from here."

Now it's possible, of course, that John simply thought of more that was said.  Or perhaps, they went on to the Garden and Jesus continued talking from there. But when I think of these words, and the next 3 chapters that follow with Jesus speaking, then praying, I am reminded of what often happens at the end of a great time with friends or family.  Especially when the leave-taking is for a significant length of time.  We linger.  Think of other things we need to say.  We get out the door and come back.  Stop at the car for a few more words.  Pray together.  Make the moment last before the final goodbye.  It always happens with us.  Usually, Beve ends up with his hand on my shoulder, gently pressing on me to remind me that we have a drive ahead of us. I'm a talker, you know.  And find leave-taking hard. 

And find that often the last few minutes bring the most significant words of the entire time together.  I don't know why this is, but there it is.  So paying attention to these final words in that upper room make sense to me.  So what are they?

Peace.  That's last last word.  The last word before Jesus first says, "We need to get going."--"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
And the last word before He begins to pray?: Peace. "I have told you these things that in me you might have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33)
And the last portion of His prayer, the part where He slices through the veil of history as completely as if the temple veil would be rent the very next day, to pray for all of us--ALL OF US?( I have to tell you, this brings another camel-sized lump to my throat.  That He was praying for US the night before He was killed, because He was killed for US--it kills me, it really does.) "...I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in You." (John 17: 21)

PEACE.  Three times, three ways.  All encompassing peace.  The first--peace that He gives, not letting our hearts be troubled--is peace within, peace from the internal striving and worry that the enemy, the world would want us to feel.  The second--overcoming peace--is peace without, peace from the things that the world tries to do on the outside to push at us, emnities, strife, etc.  And the third--Oneness--is peace between.  Peace with other believers.  No matter what our differences dogma-wise, ritual-wise, etc.  If a person believes that what we celebrate tomorrow is the death of their Savior, and what we celebrate Sunday is His resurrection--and it's for US--that person is our sibling in Christ.  The END.  No matter what. 

And if they don't believe that, that person is still someone God loves so much He sent His only SON to die for.  And these verses tell me, we are to be One as Jesus and God are One, which means loving as they do.
From where I'm sitting, there's no one left out here.  NO one.

The last things He had to say...pretty important, don't you think?

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