Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jesus's prayer for us

Personal reflection based on John 17 (Jesus prays for himself and his disciples):

Whenever I have read this passage I have got a little bored, feeling that Jesus just was saying the same things over and over again as He prays for His disciples. I knew it was definitely much more than that, and so this day I prayed that the Holy Spirit may shed His light to enable me understand the passage and the depth of what Jesus wanted to convey. These are the train of thoughts that came to my mind:

When we speak to someone about something that we feel so strongly about, don’t we do this too – say the same things over and over again? As we pour our hearts out to someone, don’t we find ourselves desperately trying to phrase and rephrase the exact same statements, just wanting to make sure they really understood us? The depth of Jesus’s prayer slowly started to dawn on me. Here is the gist of what He says – ‘I was here with them till now, but now I am going. But they are here (in the world). Father, protect them and keep them from the evil one.’ Jesus knows what it is like to be in this world; He knows what His people will have to go through. So He tells His heavenly Father to keep them, to protect them - over and over again.

I thought about how worried we parents are, as we send our children to school for the very first time. We are concerned about how well they will eat; whether they will know when it’s time to go to the bathroom; whether they will miss us; whether they will cry; whether the teachers will know how to handle them, so on and so forth. The children, on the other hand, may not worry as much, because it’s their first time and they really don’t know what to expect. This thought helped me relate to Jesus’s concern about us as He prays this prayer. He knows what it’s like, and so He prays with all sincerity…He has been through every single emotion/situation that we have or will have to go through in this world. To start with, He didn’t even have a proper place to be born! He has experienced temptations, was scoffed, neglected and falsely accused; He has experienced great stress and tension – so great that his sweat became drops of blood!; He has carried the heavy cross and endured great physical pain and suffering all the way up to the cross on Calvary. He knows what awaits us, and He prays to the Father for our protection.

In His prayer, Jesus says ‘When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them...’ (v 12) Yes, Jesus walked with His disciples and protected them while He was here…By His daily life, He taught the disciples and let them learn from Him….... A few examples from His life came to my mind – examples through which he conveyed valuables lessons on forgiveness, and on listening to the Spirit’s promptings in the various situations we face:

- The story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the tax collector. He climbed up the sycamore tree to see Jesus. He had not repented, not turned away from his wrong ways – not yet. He was up in the tree just as he was. He just wanted to see Jesus. Jesus did not wait for him to come ask for forgiveness; Jesus did not wait for him to repair his wrongs. Jesus sensed his repenting heart, and went out to him rightaway – accepted him just as he was. Jesus, our master, set an example for the kind of forgiveness that He asks of us – as soon as we sense a repenting heart, we are called to go forth and forgive, accept and embrace. Isn’t that much higher than the forgiveness that the world teaches us?

A few instances where Jesus speaks out against wrong practices and outlooks:
- When the scribes and Pharisees accuse the disciples of not washing hands, Jesus explains to them that ‘It is not what enters one's mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.’ (Mathew 15:11)
- When the scribes and Pharisees accuse Jesus of healing a man’s withered hand on Sabbath, he explains to them that ‘it is lawful to do good on Sabbath’ (Luke 6)
- On yet another occasion that he’s accused of healing on Sabbath, He says ‘Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?" (Luke 13:16)
In these situations, we see Jesus offering explanations to the scribes and Pharisees, helping them understand the truth. When we come across situations that we can use to offer counsel and advice and thus bear witness to Jesus, we are called to stand up and do it, trusting the Holy spirit to guide and enlighten us.

And then, the picture of Jesus in the Sanhedrin came to my mind. As Jesus is questioned by Pilate, we see him keeping quiet (Mat 27:13, 14) – not speaking out against the injustice, not even defending himself! Here, Jesus teaches us that there are times when we need to speak out, and times when we need to keep quiet...( desperately we need the grace to discern this!) When we stay close to Jesus, we will learn to recognize and listen to His voice in all that we say and do. We will be able to discern His will, and think, speak and do according to the prompting that the Holy Spirit puts in our hearts.

- ‘I gave them your word,…’ (v14) : This verse got me thinking again about our children at school…: we feel comforted when we think about the instructions/advice that we have given them. We know we have told them to go ahead and use the bathroom when they need to, and not wait too long; We know we have told them that we will be there to pick them up right after school – ie; we find comfort/solace in the fact that we have ‘given them our words’. And we hope they will remember those words. Just the same way, Jesus says to the Father ‘I gave them your Word’. He hopes that we will remember them, and use them. He hopes that we will read and keep the Word of God close to our hearts, and will be able to use it as we live this life in the world. He knows that this Word that is sharper than a two-edged sword is all we need to fight the evil one. ‘Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.’ (v 17) Jesus prays to the Father to keep us holy , keep us sacred (consecrate) in the truth, which is the word of God.

Think about how happy we feel when someone says that they will pray for us. If so, how great should our joy be, knowing that Jesus our Lord and Savior prays for us to God the Father!

Praise God for his unending love for us!

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