No other time of year brings the same spectrum of emotions to the faithful Christian as does Holy Week. During Holy Week we celebrate at the gates of Jerusalem we gather pensively in the Upper Room, we mourn at the foot of the cross , and we are awe-struck as we peer into the empty tomb. But one overriding question holds the varying emotions of the week together in tension: “Who is Jesus, really?” Every Holy Week, if we think seriously about Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, we are forced to wrestle repeatedly with just exactly who Jesus is.
In John’s gospel, we are presented with what scholars call a “high Christology.” In the Johannine tradition, Jesus is described as co-eternal with the Father, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, light, truth and life. More than any other gospel tradition, the Johannine tradition emphasizes the divinity of Jesus and his identity as Christ, the Son of God and savior of the world.
But in the middle of all that high, conceptual talk about light and truth and life, we also get a remarkably human portrait of Christ. In John’s gospel, as Jesus prepares for his death, he has an intimate, extended conversation with his disciples—person to person, friend to friend.
This conversation, set right in the middle of Holy Week, is commonly referred to as the farewell discourses because Jesus uses it to prepare his disciples for his departure. The conversation begins in John 13 with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and continues through John 17. If you want to know who Jesus is, there’s no better place to start.
So who is Jesus really? Cosmic redeemer? Very God of very God? Co-eternal with the Father? Light and truth? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Easter is an especially appropriate time to understand Jesus that way.
But John also makes it clear that Jesus’ desire is to be a friend and confidant to you and to me. Even more, in the farewell discourses, Jesus demonstrates his human need–and understands our human need–for personal relationship and reassurance even as he prepares to take on the sins of the world.
Imagine Jesus wanting to share Holy Week with you. Imagine Jesus taking the last of his free moments on earth to explain himself to you, to confide in you, to call you friend. In the gospel of John that’s exactly what Jesus does. The miracle of Holy Week is that the cosmic redeemer calls us his friends (John 15:12-17).
But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus concludes the conversation by praying specifically for the first disciples and then praying specifically for you. The last words Jesus speaks in John’s gospel before he is arrested are words of prayer for you. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s pretty awesome.
You were the last thing on Jesus’ mind before he was arrested. Jesus prepared for the cross by praying for you. His prayer is printed below. How will you prepare for the weekend?
“My prayer is not for them (the first disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those who you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” -John 17:20-26
May it be so. Happy Easter.