This set is fantastic, providing each for each lection, four wonderful treatments. You do not get a commentary on the whole Bible, but the revised common lectionary covers a significant portion of the holy scripture, and has two tracks... Semi continuous OT readings and the typological one. This series as it comes to you includes both. The original set did not contain both OT streams but focused on one and then the other and back again for the third year. The editors commissioned the completion of the OT lections and have brought them into this wonderful product. If you preach from or worship in a church that uses the RCL this will be invaluable to you. If you do not use the RCL this is still a gold mine of help on much of the Bible.
Here is a product description...
With this new lectionary commentary series, Westminster John Knox offers the most extensive resource for preaching on the market today. Now complete, the twelve volumes of the series cover all the Sundays in the three-year lectionary cycle, along with movable occasions, such as Christmas Day, Epiphany, Holy Week, and All Saints' Day.
For each lectionary text, preachers will find four brief essays—one each on the theological, pastoral, exegetical, and homiletical challenges of the text. This gives preachers sixteen different approaches to the proclamation of the Word on any given occasion.
The editors and contributors to this series are world-class scholars, pastors, and writers representing a variety of denominations and traditions. And while the twelve volumes of the series follow the pattern of the Revised Common Lectionary, each volume contains an index of biblical passages so that nonlectionary preachers, as well as teachers and students, may make use of its contents.
____________________And here is a sample of one treatment___________
20 "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 "Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."
How do we pass on the message of faith to those who did not share the original connection and numinous grace of a direct encounter with Christ? Will we ever be able to be truly one, given the diversity of our religious experiences?
In the last words of the farewell prayer for his original disciples, Jesus foresees that their circle will some day expand to include many others. Hence his prayer is not only for them but for those to follow—all of us! His words anticipate a tough dilemma. Will later generations of Christians, who were not part of the circle who first encountered Jesus, be able to experience the same kind of unity with God and with Christ as those through whom they came to faith (vv. 20-21)? That completeness of sacred experience and communion among believers across the generations is Jesus' expressed desire.
Verses 22-23 indicate that Christ's glory is given both to his first disciples and just as fully to their later sisters and brothers, a unity not merely for its own sake, but as a witness to the whole world. "The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
The purpose of Jesus' prayer is unity not for its own sake, but for the sake of witness to the love of God and the authenticity of Christ as the one "sent." It is a prayer needed as much in the divided and fragmented world of twenty-first-century Christianity as in the churches of the first centuries after Christ.
Such a prayer has been perennially relevant in the feisty history of Christianity. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople in the late fourth century, paraphrased Jesus to say that if disciples would but keep the peace among themselves that they had learned from him, the people around them "would know the teacher by his disciples." He went on to suggest pointedly that the quarrelsomeness of those same disciples would cause others to "deny that they are the disciples of a God of peace and will not allow that I [Jesus], not being peaceable, have been sent from you." The bishop, no stranger to church fights, seems to have spoken with the wry voice of experience.
In the ancient world and in ours, the very prayer for unity with God and with one another has had the power to divide. At the heart of long-standing controversies have been questions such as whether communion with God and other people is a product of human will or divine grace or both. The quarrels have included sometimes bloody debates over whether Christ's nature is the same as the nature of the One who sent him (fully divine) or the same as that of the humans whom he is bringing into communion with God.
Yet, despite differing and sometimes sharply conflicting theological perspectives, a longing for a deeper unity among followers of Christ keeps surfacing. As early as the third century CE, Origen of Alexandria, bringing together Greek philosophy and Christian faith, suggested that church unity prefigures the future unity of all humankind. In other words, the unity of the disciples is a "form" of the eventual restoration of unity for all of humankind.
When Christians are one with one another, their unity surely allows the world to see the "peaceable" teacher, Jesus, as one embattled bishop of Constantinople suggested. We glimpse with Origen the ways in which unity among the followers of Christ may offer a model of a better world for all of humanity, a healed human race, yet to come. Our moments of unity with God and with our neighbors allow us hope for the eventual reconciliation and unity of all humankind. The modern ecumenical movement has sought both to live into a vision of united church and into a vision of a reconciled, just, and peaceful humanity. Both efforts are in keeping with the spirit of Jesus' prayer. Even as we work ardently for unity among Christians, and for a more just and peaceable world, we need to be aware of the costliness of the unity Jesus prays for. Two words in this brief passage deserve to be underlined: "glory" and "love."
Jesus speaks in this passage of sharing his glory with his disciples. Yet as we look in John's Gospel at the placement of this prayer, the final words before the account of the betrayal of Jesus, we remember that Christ's glory is inseparable from Christ's suffering and cross. The unity that Christ is invoking for his disciples may include the disciples' cross. Unity with Christ throughout history has often meant suffering at the hands of unjust powers, for the sake of love and of integrity. Christ's glory is not always the world's glory. At the cross, it is a shattering reversal of all our conventional expectations of glory.
The last word is love. Jesus does not call for doctrinal unity, organizational unity, or political unity. So often, Christ's prayer for his disciples has been used to sanctify those ends, and even to justify the harsh imposition of artificial unity. Yet this prayer is for unity that grows out of the love of God, received and shared among his followers, leading to an experienced unity in love between Jesus and his followers, and with the one from whom Christ comes. In moments of communion, surely the debates about the nature of God and humanity, the questions of whether divine grace or human will is the means of unity, all of these must fade away, leaving only the burning vision of a cross and the words "For God so loved the world …"
If we were to take such love to heart, would our divisions and hostilities melt away? Would we be willing, for love's sake, to embrace a more costly glory? Such are the hopes that course through Jesus' prayer for us.
Peter J. B. Carman
Jesus draws his high-priestly prayer to a close by returning to the theme of unity among his followers introduced earlier (v. 11b). We do not know whether division threatened John's community or what the cause of such division might have been. We do know that Jesus is interested in making clear the unity and continuity between the present and the future (post-Easter), between the disciples with him in Galilee and those who will later come to believe through their proclamation (v. 20). These disciples, present and future, are in continuity with one another, even as Jesus is in continuity with the Father. This same unity and continuity will be perceived by the church in relation to the Holy Spirit to be poured out at Pentecost.
Before moving too quickly to the modern use of this prayer to address the reality of divisions among Christians and the scandal of disunity in the face of Jesus' missionary imperative, it may be helpful as a pastoral matter to spend some time holding up a vision of unity that transcends historical boundaries. These are complicated subjects that do not lend themselves to easy description in the homiletic form.
According to John, Jesus' historical reality within creation is in unity and continuity with the Creator, and the proclamation of later disciples is in continuity with the proclamation of those who walked with Jesus in his ministry before Easter.
Some images may be helpful. This is the same unity that the living enjoy with the dead and the church professes in the classical creeds. Time and place are part and parcel of creation. The Creator transcends the created order and is therefore, in some sense, outside of time. We might say that all moments in history are accessible to God at once or "in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:51-52). We sometimes talk of the "nearer presence of God" as what we will know after death, the firstfruits of which we sometimes taste even now. Few have grasped this notion of God being outside of time (and so our being in continuity with all that has been, is, and is yet to come) more eloquently than T. S. Eliot in his Four Quartets. Such thoughts, inherent in Jesus' high-priestly prayer, lend themselves to reflections on death, on our continuity with those who have gone before, and on the communion of saints in whose midst we worship.
The unity for which Jesus prays (v. 21) is founded in reciprocal love (v. 23, 26), the kind of self-giving love seen in the life of Jesus. This mutual and reciprocal love is the kind of love that is as much a decision and choice as it is a feeling. It is the kind of love that can be commanded (13:34; 15:12, 17), love that is sometimes easy and graceful, having the character of a gift, and is at other times more about being faithful to our commitments through decision or choice. The difficulties Christian communities experience staying in visible unity with one another are mirrored in the difficulties that many people have in keeping their own vows of commitment to one another.
A pastor might reflect on the essential reciprocity of the love revealed in Jesus' prayer, with its challenge to be enough of a self to engage in self-giving love. Helpful here may be the image of a dance, in which couples sometimes dance together and sometimes apart. A failure to live in unity is usually a failure of reciprocity. A pastor may wish to examine some of the things that lead to such failure and how often those things revolve around issues of power or control. For couples, this might include differences over anything from housekeeping to managing money. Differences between Christian communities flow from notions of doctrinal purity and consequent practices of church discipline. "It would be easy for everyone to live in reciprocal love and unity if only everyone would follow the rules that I lay down."
The unity that constitutes the glory given to the disciples (v. 22) is the unity of God-given love, which, to borrow from Paul, "binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col. 3:14). Our awareness of disunity, brokenness in relationship, and the pain that accompanies such may serve to call us back to recognizing our dependence on God for life and to embracing repentance, divine forgiveness, and restoration. Our manifest difficulty at living into our God-given unity may lead to pastoral reflections on such themes as loss and restoration, exile and homecoming, wilderness and promised land, repentance and forgiveness.
As Jesus draws his prayer to a close (vv. 24-26), he sets everything in the context of hope of life with God. Many commentators assume that the state of being with Jesus (. 24) is the state that inheres after death, but in any event it is a state to be fully realized in the future, even though it has been revealed in the present (v. 26). An old psychoanalytic rule of thumb suggests that if a person tends to depression, her or his fundamental issue is meaning. If a person tends to anxiety, her or his fundamental issue is death. Jesus' prayer—found in John immediately before the story of the passion and resurrection and read here in light of yet another departure following Ascension Day—can become an occasion to address anxiety by pointing to a reasonable and holy hope of life in the nearer presence of God. One way to point to the reasonable reality of such a hope is to discuss the nature of God as trustworthy, revealed in history, with such revelation notably recorded in Scripture and made manifest in Jesus. In other words, we can give people permission to find unsatisfactory some of the classical depictions of "afterlife" (including angels, harps, and streets of gold) while still affirming the faith in God that gives rise to such visions.
Geoffrey M. St. J. Hoare
Today's text is the culmination of Jesus' Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John (13:1-17:26). Just as scholars have suggested that John 14 could stand on its own as a rhetorical segment, so scholars believe that John 17 could stand on its own and might have been a unified discourse. The discourse divides into two sections:
13:1-16:33words/"the word" addressed to the church
17:1-26words/"the word" addressed to heaven
In turn, the second segment of the discourse further divides:
17:1-19words/"the word" addressed to the disciples
17:20-26words/"the word" addressed to future generations
Today's text forms an appropriate conclusion to Jesus' Farewell Discourse. It ends not only by looking to the past as a summing up, but by looking to the future of the Johannine community as house churches were being expelled from the synagogue.
The discourse describes this moment of conflict as the confrontation between "the world" (kosmos) and the "word" (logos) given to the community. In the parlance of John's Gospel, "the world" is not a geographical term as much as it is a theological term to describe all the forces, spiritual and historical, arrayed against the work of the Father through the Son. The world, whether the world of the Roman Empire or the world of a temple-laden urban center like Ephesus or the world of the synagogue, is implacably opposed to the work of the Father. This is why Jesus says, "Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you" (17:25). This is the central conflict the community of house churches must face.
Being under siege by "the world," a community may become more cohesive or more splintered. This is why Jesus is so concerned about the unity of the community. Throughout today's text, Jesus' speech reflects a wordplay in Greek between "in" (en) and "one" (hen). Unity begins with the mutual indwelling between the Father and the Son, "that they may all be 'one' … as you, Father are 'in' me, and I am 'in' you" (v. 21). It is easy to misconstrue Jesus' words here, converting them into a personal mysticism or spiritual formation, but Jesus' words are addressed to the community. If there is any mysticism in John's Gospel, it is a community-oriented mysticism, not mysticism for the individual believer.
John is concerned about the spiritual formation of the community, for the distinctive witness of the Johannine community is rooted in the nature of the community itself. The indwelling of the Father and Jesus models the unity needed by the community "so that they may be 'one' as we are 'one'" (v. 22). The community's cohesion bears witness to its divine origin "so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (v. 21). If the community breaks into fragments, its chaos will undermine its mission to the world.
We often think of mission as individuals going to mission fields for their work, but John speaks about another witness in which the community itself is missional. Therefore, to attend to the well-being of the community is part of its mission to the world, and to nurture its unity is a form of witness to a divided world. Nurturing healthy communal life is an expression of an outgoing mission. The two imply each other.
John's Gospel has been characterized as a Gospel of glory expressing a theology of glory. So when Jesus says, "The glory that you have given me I have given them" (v. 22), it sounds as though this is the case. A closer look reveals that Jesus' glory is seen most vividly and vibrantly on the cross. The theology of glory incorporates the theology of the cross; they cannot be separated in John's Gospel. This is particularly important since this culmination of the Farewell Discourse looks to the future proclamation of "the word." Indeed, John 17:20-26 could be seen as an abbreviated manual on discipleship and witness. What appears to be a triumphal community wrapped up in glory is, in truth, just the opposite. It is a place where the "word" brings together the theology of glory (Jesus' peculiar glory) and the theology of the cross (where Jesus' peculiar glory shows most clearly).
John's Gospel and its Farewell Discourse raise serious questions for church communities. Do we proclaim as full a gospel as John does? Have we been faithful to the vision of this community and the fullness of its gospel? Do we balance the theology of the cross and the theology of glory as well as John did?
The concern for future generations reminds us that this is not just a Farewell Discourse but a transitional discourse as well, for it witnesses to an imminent change. Just as Moses's farewell led to the emergence of Joshua, and Elijah's exit led to the entrance of Elisha, so the departure of Jesus will lead to the coming of the Spirit. What matters most for John is that the experience of the indwelling remains available to the community, for the unity of the Johannine community is based not on dogma but on a communal experience of indwelling that is analogous to the relationship between Jesus and the Father. This is what the community witnesses to the world. Their mission is to keep this experience of faith alive in the community, so that they can offer it to a broken and fractured world.
In verse 24, Jesus petitions the Father to let the disciples "be with me where I am, to see my glory," perhaps an allusion to John 14:1-7 or an allusion to the cross. Whatever the case, the disciples never go to the "many rooms" (NRSV "many dwelling places"), but Jesus and the Father come to make their home with the disciples (14:23). This is a reminder that the discourse remains unfinished, pointing in a distinctively Johannine way to an eschatology beyond the indwelling on which it has focused. There is "a glory beyond the glory" of which Jesus has spoken, but that glory can be found only beyond the hour of the glory of the Son of Man.
The discourse ends with love (v. 26). The purpose of the Father's indwelling is the imparting of love to the disciples. Now they carry in their community the experience of that love, a power strong enough to remake the world.
William R. Herzog II
In a red-letter edition of the Bible (with the words of Jesus printed in red), this lesson closes out four chapters of almost solid red. Jesus has defined leadership as servanthood (13:1-20); he has told about the upcoming betrayal (13:21-30). Then John unleashes verse after verse of the teaching of Jesus. Chapters 14-16 have the feel of a dying leader calling together all the followers for one last round of instruction: "Make sure you remember these things."
Then, in John 17, the Lord switches to prayer. A good question for a preacher to ask is, would you rather have Jesus talking to you or praying for you? (That is not a trick question; there is no "right" answer.) Although John's Gospel account continues for four more chapters, this prayer contains the penultimate words of the Lord. Once again, Jesus models the truth that the deepest moments of life are those when our hearts and habits are wide enough to include others. John 17 is called a "priestly" prayer because in that chapter Jesus intercedes for others before God, as a priest would.
Three themes emerge in this prayer: (1) belief, (2) oneness, and (3) love. A preacher could explore any or all of these in a sermon near the end of Easter season. Belief. Jesus prays for those who have believed in him (v. 20), for those who will believe because of the witness of the disciples (v. 20), and for the world, that all might come to belief (v. 21). Here the evangelistic task of the local community of faith begins to breathe. Of primary concern is the nurture and growth of those within the family of faith (v. 26). Next there is an outreach in word and deed to those whom the church community encounters directly (v. 26). Third, there is witness, service, and mission in the world—both the world nearby that does not yet share the heartbeat of Jesus and the world far away that might not yet have a name for the grace in life (v. 25).
Belief here means more than accepting cognitive information. Belief means recognizing that Jesus has been sent by the one he called "Father" (v. 23). John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) argued that the world could come to such belief by observing the transformed lives of the followers of Jesus. He wrote, "And how will they believe this? 'Because,' Jesus says, 'you are a God of peace.' And, if therefore the (disciples) keep that same peace that they have learned (from me), their hearers will know the teacher by the disciples, however, if they quarrel, people will deny that they are the disciples of a God of peace and will not allow that I, not being peaceable, have been sent from you." The challenge of living faithfully is not only a call to personal goodness; it is a call to let our lives invite others to follow Jesus.
Oneness. The unity within the community of the triune God is the unity to which Jesus points (v. 21). Jesus prays for nothing less than oneness for believers (v. 21). Can we imagine what the Lord felt as he moved inexorably toward his own death and still saw squabbling and power plays among his followers? For that matter, can we imagine what the Lord feels today as he observes denominational bigotry and internecine disarray?
The importance of unity among believers is that such oneness leads the world to believe (v. 23). The counterpoint of that truth is that the world does not believe in Jesus because the world sees partitions among the followers of Jesus. Jesus prays that the eleven disciples and those who come to belief because of the disciples be unified into one body (v. 20). There is to be no second-class citizenship among the people of faith. Ecumenism—the economy of God by which God organizes the whole world—becomes the single effort to express the unity to which Christians are called. The ultimate unity of the church is not in human maneuvering but in the oneness of God (v. 21). We find our unity in our common acceptance by Christ. As Fred Kaan has written, "Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us, and bring us to believe we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live."
Love. Five times within these six verses, Jesus names "love" as the key descriptor of divine relationships (vv. 23, 24, 26). Love is the bond within the Godhead (vv. 23-24). Love is the divine gift to the disciples (v. 23). Love is the magnetic grace through which God seeks to attract the world (vv. 25-26). Love is the ingredient that the Lord prays will be within his followers (v. 26).
These prayers might seem like sentimental mishmash if we did not know how the story ends. The love for which Jesus prays is cross-shaped love. There is indeed glory in this loving unity (v. 22), but the glory cannot be separated from the crucifixion. It is self-giving love that is resurrected into new life. The Song of Solomon 8:6 claims that "love is strong as death." The eternal Christ (v. 24) prays that his disciples might be "with me where I am" (v. 24). This is no small matter, considering that he was on his way to his death.
Pentecost. Finally, the preacher might recall that this lection on unity is followed by the Pentecost accounts. Barriers and boundaries fall and unity breaks out when the Holy Spirit comes (Acts 2:1-4).
F. Belton Joyner Jr.
Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.