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At the ascension we, like the disciples in today’s reading in Acts, are left looking at the sky. But in the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), Jesus brings us back to earth. In the prayer he speaks not only from the perspective of the risen and ascended one, but as the Word of God, now made flesh. The prayer anticipates the accomplishments of this Word, which does not return empty (Isa. 55:11), namely in the fulfillment of the “hour” of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It is as if Jesus has already ascended “to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17), and has returned to tell us something vital.
As we overhear Jesus, we learn that God’s character and motive are identical to those of Jesus, who has now, fully and completely, “made God’s name known.” We no longer have to speculate about the nature of God. God’s purposes and love are made known in Jesus. But we also learn about ourselves. Jesus’ prayer frequently mentions the “world”—the world at once hostile to God and God’s anointed, and yet also beloved of God (John 3:16). With Jesus’ commissioning today we have our work to do, to make God known in and through Christ Jesus. The Living One works through us as “words within the world,” who no longer seek meaning among the dead, but are empowered to make known the vibrant, new reality of Easter.
Gospel: John 17:1-11
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, asking that those who continue his work in this world will live in unity.
1After Jesus had spoken these words [to his disciples], he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”