If we look back two or three chapters in the Gospel of Mark, we can find readings similar to the themes in today’s Gospel lesson. Twice earlier in Mark’s Gospel Jesus had foretold his suffering. When Jesus told the disciples that, they didn’t seem to get the point of why he was telling them.
John’s Gospel likes to be obscure at times. What was the name Jesus made known to the disciples? The pronunciation of the Hebrew name for God was supposedly only known by the High Priest; he only pronounced it, whispering, once a year on the Day of Atonement inside the Holy of Holies. Is this the name Jesus made known to the disciples? How did he find out the divine name? Does that mean he was conferring a kind of priesthood upon the disciples? Who knows?
In my reflection and prayer on today’s gospel, one phrase jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. Jesus says, “I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” For the Father himself loves you. This is startling in its simplicity but it is the core theme of John’s gospel; the love of the Father for all of us. This simple phrase from the 16th chapter of John: “…for the Father himself loves you, mirrors the sentiment of love from way earlier in the 3rd chapter: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
“You did not choose me but I chose you.” –John 15:16
It is an honor to be chosen. When we are chosen to fill a job opening, chosen to be a friend or partner, chosen to take on a special role or responsibility… it is a sign of affirmation. Someone wants us, needs us, trusts us, believes in us. We feel honored to have been selected. And yet, even the highest earthly honors pale in comparison to the honor that has been bestowed on us in Christ, who has chosen us in love to be his friends.[i] Imagine! “You are my friends,” he says to us, “I have chosen you.”
In order to understand today’s Gospel more clearly we should look back to the middle of this same Chapter 3. There we find the familiar verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)
Br. Luke Ditewig assures us that Jesus Christ comes; the question is not “if” but “how.” In what “surprising yet ordinary” ways have you noticed God calling your name? How might looking for God in the ordinary make you more aware of God’s presence already taking place in your life?
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Tonight we are remembering the words and example of Jesus at his last. What we do with the water basin for washing feet and at the altar for receiving the bread and wine, we do “in remembrance” of Christ (1). The Greek sense of this word “remember” is not so much to jog the memory, like tying a string to our finger so we don’t forget what Jesus said. No, it’s a much more profound remembering. It’s to remember like a surgeon “re-members,” when a surgeon re-attaches and sutures some membrane of the body that has been severed. It’s to take something that otherwise would be cut off, broken, lost, detached from our own life, in our relationship with God, to be reattached, reconnected, remembered. To re-member or be remembered in this way is to quite literally get in touch with Jesus, and at the deepest possible level.
Here we kneel at the tomb once more, watching, waiting, numb and grieving. We stare at love embodied and remember love received. Our song is love unknown, our Savior’s love—to you, to me—love to the loveless shown that we might lovely be.
You may recall that when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, he tried to avoid the call by protesting that he was too young. God reassured him that God would be with him and that he would be given the words to speak. Unfortunately for Jeremiah, the words that God gave him were harsh words: he was to warn the Israelites that unless they turned from their wicked ways, God would deliver them into the hands of their enemies and they would be carried into captivity.
What we call the Old Testament; especially the Books of the Law, the Books of the Prophets, and the Psalms; were the only Scriptures that Jesus knew as Scriptures.