With a heavy heart, Jesus says, “Goodbye.”
My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. — John 17:9-10
The title for this prep could be a theological disaster, so I’d better explain its intent quickly. Jesus never says “Goodbye” with finality. He is always with us, but in this 632-word prayer, which is the longest recorded prayer the Son prays to His Father, Jesus knows what is coming — His death on the cross. This prayer comes just after the Last Supper. The events that lead into Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and death are tiny tremors our Savior might have felt through the soles of his sandals at this point. Death is that close.
Before He leaves to spend three days in hell, however, Jesus prays to His Father in heaven in a poignantly beautiful love language. Jesus prays aloud to God so that His disciples, who are walking with Him, can hear Him.
The “public Jesus” might have said that this prayer is for the world. After all, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son… [emphasis mine],” but Jesus doesn’t say this prayer is for all; it’s for a select few — those whom God has given Him.
“Given Him” makes me think like Jesus thought, that these close-knit followers were, in fact, gifts. This part of Jesus’ three-point prayer is for His ragtag, hodgepodge crew called not just to be His disciples, but His wingmen, His band, His tried-and-true coterie.
We Christians can become BFFs with each other during a three-day retreat. (True dat!) Imagine what three years with Jesus was like.
Wait. You don’t have to imagine. You can feel Jesus’ love for his team when you read this whole prayer.
We grieve when someone dies. Here Jesus grieves because He’s about to die.
He’s about to leave His tightly-bonded cluster. Of course, these guys don’t get Him. Like them, we also struggle to understand a fully human/fully divine Jesus. But through His memories of their questions, confusion, egos and personality flaws, Jesus speaks gently, warmly and tenderly. He will sincerely miss their very close proximity, their bond. Their goofy laughter, inside jokes, sarcasm, memories, joys, squabbles, quiet times, light-hearted times, and teaching moments must have filled His mind and heart as He prayed. He must have been thinking of their tired and usually dusty feet at the end of the day, the meals they shared, and those nights when, in close quarters or maybe even in one room, they bedded down for the night under soft rain or the brilliance of stars.
Jesus. Jesus. How He loved them! How He would miss them!
This is the same love He has for us. What a joy it is that we can know this same gentle, warm, and tender love.
PRAYER: May we bring You glory, dear Son of God. And Jesus? Just so You know, we love you, too. Amen.