May 20th: “Belonging to Christ”

If we desire to have God answer our prayers for ourselves and our neighbors, we must listen to Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, preparing them/us for trials in the world.

If these exegetical notes are useful, I would appreciate your encouragement. Please comment on this page, send me a note, or share the link on your favorite social media. — Robert Shaw

This Week’s Passage: Gospel John 17:6-19

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for 7thSunday in Easter

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

9-10 Jesus prays for the disciples even before they know they need prayer.

11-15 Prayer for protection. How does spiritual oneness protect us today?

16-19 Disciples set apart from the world for conveying God’s word.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The lectionary divides this prayer into three parts, each on the seventh Sunday of Easter in successive years.
  • This prayer concludes Jesus’ final meal with his disciples that included the foot washing and handing a dipped piece of bread to Judas.
  • It is followed by Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
  • Worship attendees will need to know the context of this prayer.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • The Synoptic Gospels (Mark 14:32-42, Matthew 26:-46, Luke 22:40-46) Places this prayer at Gethsemane or the Mount of Olives and shows Jesus as anguished and reluctantly accepting the Father’s will. He mandates those with him to pray that they not come into a time of trial.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

/didomi/ “given” appears 17 times in this chapter: 13 times the Father gives to Jesus, 4 times Jesus gives to people.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • Prayer by Jesus about himself and his disciples in their presence.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Jesus requested that God the Father protect the disciples that entrusted to Jesus and provide them unity in the world.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Fred Craddock encourages the preacher to demonstrate by example, even naming those present, what it feels like to be prayed for by Christ.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Fred B. Craddock (Knox Preaching Guides: John, John Knox Press, 1982), citing Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Romans, contends that Scripture does not make a sharp distinction between addresses to people (sermons) and addresses to God (prayer) and neither should preachers. “Good preaching is not solely to the people; good preaching is also in behalf of the people.”

Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John, John Knox Press, 1988): “The prayer is, in the last analysis, a plea for unity among believers. … If the disciples are at on in this fashion, this should provide a motive for the world’s belief.”

Gail R. O’Day (The New Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon, 1995) perceives this prayer as concluding Jesus’ farewell meal. She reminds interpreters that in this prayer, Jesus had stopped talking with/to the disciples (or to the larger faith community), and talked directly to God. By overhearing this prayer readers glimpse life with God.

Brian Stoffregen (Ecunet.org/Sermonshop, May 09, 1999) “”Where I am they also might be with me,” refers more to the relationship with the Father than being at a particular place. Do we have to go to heaven to see Jesus’ glory, or, can we see it here and now by faith and through our relationship with the Father, in “his hour” and his completion of the work God had given him to do (v. 4)?”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus prays for his disciples that the Father would protect them from the world and grant them oneness for their mission in the world.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

If we desire to have God answer our prayers for ourselves and our neighbors, we must listen to Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, preparing them/us for trials in the world.

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