Seventh Sunday after Easter
(readings Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19)
There are two “Good Fridays.” On the first, Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. The loss destroyed hope. What would the apostles do now?
The second “Good Friday” is the day after the Ascension. This time the loss of Jesus is uplifting and exciting. There is sadness, but also hope and joy. Jesus is returning to His Father; but after Ascension Thursday the mission begins. What they would do now is clearer. "Wait for the power from on high" (the Spirit is coming!). However, the Holy Spirit will not come to evacuate them from the hostile world. He is the reinforcements for the battle. We do not abandon our post…
I am no longer in the world (Jesus tells His Father), but they are in the world. Let the words sink in. Jesus is not here in the same way. Jesus’ absence is real. Jesus’ victory is not yet completed.
We live (like Hebrew slaves) in hostile territory, under the dominion of sin & death (world, flesh, devil). “The world” has a technical meaning in this Gospel, it refers not to the earth, but rather to whatever opposes God’s reign. It is also called the Kingdom of Satan. It has its citizens just as the Kingdom of God does. They are sinners, but so are we. They are not terribly different from us in many ways. They are not always worse sinners. However, they do not love and trust Jesus. They are cut off from God.
All creation is in a fallen state as are all creatures. We are all contaminated. Salvation is God’s rescue work. Part of that redemption is our response. God has called us out of the world. The Greek word, to call out, is ekklesia=Church (Those whom God has called out of the world to belong to His Son.) We are called out of the world but we still live in it! We are in the world, yet we belong to Jesus.
The world is a dangerous place. We are at risk because we are seduced to turn aside. There is a war for our mind and heart, our home and family, our workplace and neighborhood, our church. So Jesus asks His Father to protect us from the haters. Those who hate and oppose Jesus will ask us to compromise. We cannot compromise with the enemy, even if love and pray for them.
The Exodus story may be helpful to illustrate this. Moses announced Good News. His message was “God sees, God hears, God remembers His covenant, God calls His people out of Egypt, out of slavery, to the place He has called them.” Pharaoh was not invited to join the people, he was invited to believe the message of salvation and get out of God’s way. Moses worked signs and wonders to demonstrate God’s sovereignty. It was JUDGMENT. Pharaoh refused to repent and believe, he did not submit to God and his foolishness cost him!!!
(Like Moses) Jesus also proclaimed Good News, He also confronted the principalities and powers. He also worked signs and wonders. He did battle with the World and the Demonic. He was victorious. Now it is our turn. There are many antichrists, and the world hates Jesus so it hates the Jesus People. Raymond Brown says it better than I can (commentary on John, vol 2, p 764)
"If the disciples are sent by Jesus into the world, it is for the same purpose for which Jesus was sent into the world--not to change the world but to challenge the world. In each generation there is on earth a group of men given by God to Jesus, and the task of the disciples is to separate these sons of light from the sons of darkness that surround them."
You and I, struggling in the world, are God’s chosen ones. He will win, He always does. We are protected. So face the hate with hope and joy. The battle rages on, let’s do our part in the war of healing and exorcising, in teaching and sanctifying, in reconciling and renewing, in praying and worshipping-- and above all in loving, trusting and living as children of light