Sunday, May 10, 2015

Overhearing the Gospel

The above picture is, of course, an artist's rendition of the story in Genesis 18 when Sarah overhears the conversation between Abraham and the angels when it is revealed that Sarah will have a son. What we have before us this week in John 17:6-19 is another example of overhearing good news; we overhear Jesus talking to his heavenly Father as Jesus, in his high priestly prayer, asks the Father to "protect those in his name who were given to him."  This is a great example of Jesus' amazing concern for us all.

(Note:  The following questions are taken from the appendix to my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted;  A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching, available from or  This book is not meant as an exhaustive method, but as a companion book to many other fine exegetical helps.)

1. How does the Word function in the text?  Jesus, the Word in this text, is doing one thing: asking the Father to protect those whom he is leaving behind.  He reveals a number of things about these "left behind" ones:  They belong to the Father (vs. 10), the world hates them (vs. 14), they do not belong to the world (vs. 14), and they are sent into the world (vs. 18).  This concern of Jesus is pure Gospel.  The things revealed about these left behind is a word of Law, reminding us of our need for Jesus.

2.  How is the Word not functioning the text?  Of the three functions of the Word in any text - Law (You need Jesus), Gospel (Here is Jesus) or the call to obedience (Follow Jesus) - the one missing in this text is the call to obedience.  The nearest thing we have to this is the reminder that we have been sent into the world that hates us and to which we do not belong.

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  We are those for whom Jesus prays.  We are the ones who overhear this prayer.

4.  What, if any call to obedience is there in this text?  As said above, the call to obedience is hard to find here.  We will need to go to other scriptures to include this call.

5.  What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text?  Belonging to the world/belonging to God.

6.  Exegetical work:  There is a nice article in Kittel's TDNT, (vol. III) about "kosmos" the Greek word for "world."  We are reminded that "the komos is now understood as the theatre of salvation history, as the locus of the revelation of Christ, and in consequence it appears in a wholly new light." Also, in the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures (vol IVb) we hear from Augustine, who in talking about those left behind, says, "They were no more of the world, because they were born again of the Holy Spirit."  See Col. 1:13  "transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son."

7.  How does the Crossings Community model work with this text?  As always, you can go to and see the 7th Sunday of Easter for models.  Here's one to try:

      D1  We are afraid of not belonging to the world.
      D2  We depend on the world, not God.
      D3  Not trusting God, we are separated from the one we belong to.
      P4  In Christ God reconciled the world to himself (and us).
      P5  Reconciled to God, we trust God and no longer fear being not of the world.
      P6  Not belonging to the world, we can freely serve the world.

8.  Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic?

This might be a great text for taking Rice's advice and seeking out the "shared story" of those who have set their heart on the world only to find themselves separated from the One to whom they belong.

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