Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 1, 2014
Jesus prays for us
Jesus, on the same night that he is arrested, is praying intensely. You might suspect he is praying for his own safety—but he is not. About to be taken into custody and carted off to jail by the Roman police, he is directing his concerns to God on behalf of his frightened disciples, then as well as now. For us he offers this prayer: “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. . . . Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us.” These words tell us that the God we meet in the life and person of Jesus is not locked away in the ancient environment of first-century Palestine, but reaches right into our homes and extends out to every other valued institution in our society.
He teaches that when a bully slaps us on one cheek, we should turn the only other cheek we have and invite the bully to slap it as well. When the bully takes away our best outer coat, the one that was designed and built to provide the wearer with maximum protection from the natural elements, we should offer that bully our inner and less valuable coat also. When the bully forces us to walk one mile, we should walk not only the mile the bully demands. We should walk an extra mile. For Jesus knew that when the bully either slaps us on one cheek, or takes our best coat, or forces us to go one mile, the bully is in charge. But when we either choose to turn the only other cheek we have; or give that bully our inner and less valuable coat, when that same bully already took our best coat; or choose to double the bully’s demand that we walk one mile, then we will have regained our decision-making control from the bully.
To the repentent thief, beside whom he is crucified, Jesus says, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.” It is not easy, listening to taunts from the sidelines directed at him. Nor could that taunting crowd reasonably expect forgiveness. But they hear it, anyway: “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” After that gracious act of penance, Jesus surrenders his last remaining breath to his God and ours, confident that his killers will never have the last word. For he is convinced that all final words, on the destiny of all of human existence and endeavors, his and ours, reside with God and in God’s secure protection, until that ultimate day when we shall all rejoice in the glory of the Resurrection. Amen.
Charlesworth Edwards, pastor on disability, Staten Island, New York