The text for todays lesson does not include ekklesia or the English translation church. The text is actually a part of a prayer prayed by Jesus the last day (perhaps the last night) of his earthly ministry prior to his arrest. His statement is specifically prayed for those men who would serve as the resurrected Jesus apostles. This request on behalf of these men is based on the same concept of church. He prayed they would be in the world but not of the worldvery much the concept of church (people who are called out of the world to live in Jesus Christ by embracing Gods values as they exist to do Gods will).
In this request that Jesus made to God the Father on behalf of the men who would serve as his apostles, there are two paradoxes you are asked to consider. Paradox #1 focused on Jesus joy (my joy) declared in verse13. Jesus said he was coming to God, and he had informed these men of Gods values and purposesfor the purpose of giving them his joy.
The concept of joy when combined with all that would happen in the next 24 hours was strange!
Jesus is within a few hours of his arrest, his physical torture, and his death. History declared that all these men but one was killed because they served Jesus Christ. The one who was not killed endured exile. In no way did Jesus or his apostles live desirable physical lives. How could Jesus know what was before him physically (John 17:1, 4, 5) and understand the physical destiny of these men (John 17:14) and speak of joy?
Please note this joy had nothing to do with physical experience. The joy involved an experience that was beyond the physical. A good physical reality and the accompanying physical experiences were not a key to having Jesus joy. A good physical reality still today is not the key to Jesus joy!
Paradox #2 is the in but not of concept in John 17:15, 16. Jesus had no desire to take these men out of a world that would misunderstand and kill them. Jesus loved them with unquestionable love, and he would not resent them even when they ran from him shortly. Yet, he wanted them to represent God in this rebellious world in spite of the consequences.
In a powerful statement, Jesus declared to his disciples in Matthew 5:13-16 that they were to be Gods light and salt in a world that rebelled against Gods influence. To grasp the power of this statement, we must visit that world. Lets begin with salt. Salt was one of the few preservatives available to their world. There was no refrigeration or canning. Freezers did not exist, and there were no Mason jars, can lids, or pressure cookers. Furthermore, their lack of quality control in food stuffs would be appalling by many of todays standards. Meager food supplies often meant people had to eat what was available. Salt was one of the few things they had that could improve the taste of poor quality food.
Consider light and darkness. Begin by realizing all the things that could not be done without light. First, understand there were no petroleum distillates availableno lamp oil, no kerosene, no man-made (by modern technology) means of providing lighting. If you were rich you might afford torch sticks, but very few were rich. The lamps of most people were small and operated with wicks in olive oil. They provided such a dim light they had to occupy an elevated place in a room to keep people from stumbling. Second, understand most people went to bed shortly after dark. Night travel was dangerous! There were no batteries, no flashlights, no streetlights, no store lights, and no parking lot lightsin short there was no common means of seeing at night! The sun went down, and people went to bed. The sun came up, and people begin working. Why? The sun provided lightthey could see! Without sunlight, they could not see how to do things!
In the first century, a discussion of salt and light was a discussion of essentials. Today, we take both salt and light for granted. To them, both were critically essential. To achieve Gods purposes in this world, Jesus disciples are essential. Without those who are Jesus disciples, there is no light in a black world of darkness, no salt for bad-tasting food. Without Jesus disciples, the worlds decaying food tastes terrible in a hopelessness that dreads death.
A critical truth: JESUS DISCIPLES MUST LOOK LIKE JESUS DISCIPLES, AND NOT THE UNPRESERVED WORLD OF DARKNESS. If we look and act like the dark, unpreserved, rotting world, we cannot be Gods light and salt!
Years ago I was teaching Jesus parable of the prodigal son. An active member of the congregation expressed major dissatisfaction with the parable and its lesson. Why? The prodigal son had all the fun while the older brother had nonehe just stayed at home and did his duty. The parables point was missed! The prodigal son did not have funhe experienced lifes misery, not lifes joy. When Christians conclude fun is found in darkness, they do not understand discipleship with its hope.
The hopelessness of fun in a dark, unpreserved world profoundly affected my life. I have spent too many hours seeking to consol people whose life is in tatters or helping people find hope in the midst of their disgust with themselves and people. In the worlds fun, there is no hopeonly consequences that terrify life. The worlds pleasure and escape are temporary and often deceiving. Aging results in fearful questions that produce terrible answers. The worlds fun produces consequences that leave a bitter taste that lingers. For God to extend forgiveness is one thing. It is quite another to forgive yourself.
For Thought and Discussion
1. Does todays text include ekklesia? Then why use it as a text?
2. What is the first paradox Jesus used in John 17:12-16? Why was it a paradox?
3. You are asked to note what in regard to this joy?
4. What is Jesus second paradox in this text?
5. In Matthew 5:13-16, discuss salt as a preservative and a flavoring for food.
6. What two things are you asked to note about light.
7. Discuss the importance of sunlight in the first century world.
8. Salt and light were what in the first century world?
9. State the critical truth given in this lesson.
10. What is absent is what the world calls fun?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 2
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