Sunday after Ascension Day John 17:1-11 Acts 1:6-14
What would you like to know, right now? What’s the question that’s uppermost in your mind, or even on your lips, as you consider life at present? And where do you hope to find the answer? Whom do you even ask?
We’re probably familiar with the assumption that whenever a question is asked in church, the answer always has to be ‘Jesus’. Like the vicar, asking the children, ‘What is brown, has a bushy tail and eats nuts?’ Children: ‘Jesus?’ … But, surprisingly, the vicar had a squirrel in mind… O well, context is everything, for good or bad.
In our own context, we are reminded every day of our limitations: for going out, for seeing others – basically, not – until the foreseeable future. And that is a contradiction in terms: ‘foreseeable’ and ‘future’ don’t go together very well at present.
So what is there for us to find in today’s message of God’s word? We go back to before the crucifixion:
In what is also called the ‘high priestly prayer’, in John 17, Jesus prays for himself and for his disciples, at a turning point in history. The prayer doesn’t come out of the blue; it’s in context of the Last Supper and has echoes of the Lord’s Prayer:
and protect against the evil one
Are all reflected in the way Jesus has taught us to pray.
The ‘hallowed’ or ‘glorified’ be your name is something he has done in the ultimate way: in his obedience to the will of the Father, for the salvation of his people. He is to finish the work that the Father has given him to do and it’s a crucial moment in time. I can imagine the angels in heaven holding their breath, while the devil is prowling around outside in the dark, waiting to pounce. And the tables are to be turned in a way that nobody could foresee.
We’re coming to the end of the Last Supper here, and none of the disciples will have an inkling of what’s to happen next; except, maybe, Judas Iscariot, who had already left the scene by then, to betray Jesus. Who knows? What if Judas had stayed and heard Jesus pray as he did this prayer? Would he have changed his mind? No. It all happened in accordance with the Scriptures; with all that had been prophesied. God is in control. He was then and he is now. Perhaps the question is not whether and how we ask what we would like to know. Perhaps the question is rather whether we hear what God is saying. Jesus has prayed and is still praying on our behalf. And as his first prayers for us have been answered, so any others will be answered too. You may find it hard to believe, but Jesus, who also promised the Holy Spirit – whose presence was revealed at Pentecost – really has not left us as orphans. The Advocate, the other name for Holy Spirit, is still working on our behalf. That means, sometimes, that one door closes and another door opens. That we are sometimes protected from evil and sometimes given strength to cope with something bad. All to the glory of God. We have a choice, in these days of waiting – to be like stroppy children and kick against the boundaries and sulk, or try to listen while waiting for God’s word to be revealed. Which will you choose? How are you hearing God’s word today? Amen.