Year B Easter 7 John 17 2012
The Meaning of Life
John 17:6-19 and Luke 24:49-53
In Act 5 scene 5 of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the character Macbeth has heard that the queen is dead and he knows his own death is imminent. At this time he delivers his famous soliloquy:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, Out, brief candle
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury
Is Macbeth right? Is life nothing but a shadow having no substance, no meaning? Writers and philosophers since recorded time have tried to answer the question. I don't think any of them have been successful in answering the question to everyone's satisfaction. Some one once said that "Trying to speak about the ultimate reality is like sending a kiss through a messenger." I understand their point: Something of its truth is lost in the translation.
What is the meaning of life? A philosophical question to be sure but this is not only the philosopher's question. It is a genuinely human question and therefore a question that we all ask. It might be a question that is asked in despair or hope, out of cynicism, or out of sincere curiosity and a deep desire to have goals and guidance in life. However we raise the question about the meaning of life, it is our most basic and fundamental question.
And so it comes as no surprise that Jesus deals with this question and answers it. Surprisingly, the answer is not given in the context of an argument with the Jewish leaders or in a discussion with his disciples, and it is not given in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus deals with so many fundamental issues. It is telling that Jesus deals with the meaning of life in the context of prayer.
In the context of what has been called, by many scholars, Jesus' High Priestly Prayer. [Pause] The Disciples are in the upper room, now. They have just finished the Passover meal and Jesus is thinking about his crucifixion which will occur within the next 24 hours. He knows he is about to leave his disciples alone in the world and he goes before God as a priest would, to intercede for them, to pray for them.
- He Prays for Our Protection from the World.
- He Prays That We Might Know God.
Don't Get Into Things!
Luke 24:44 53 and Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
"Don't get into things!"
How many times did you hear that directive as a kid. Mom had to run to the store for a minute or Dad was tied up on a project in the garage. Knowing what children will do when left to their own devices, the last ditch effort of "out of sight" parenting is the generic and ultimately unenforceable order — "Don't get into things!"
Like that ever stopped kids from burrowing into the back of closets as Christmas closed in. Like that ever kept the curious chemist from testing things like putting Mentos in soda bottles or trying to melt chocolate chunks into "hot chocolate." Being empowered by freedom coupled with being unsupervised makes it far too tempting for any and all of us to "get into things."
Jesus' resurrection was the miraculous "happy ending" his disciples had never imagined possible. His physical presence in their midst, eating and talking with them, filled them with wonder and confused joy. Then his "opening up the Scriptures" opened their blurry eyes to read God's drama of salvation, of which they were now a part. Receiving Jesus' blessing and witnessing his ascension finally brought these disciples to a place of faith that they had never before inhabited. They were first-hand believers in the resurrection. They took to heart his promise of the gift of the Spirit. Their faith went almost overnight from being unhinged to being untinged and untroubled by doubt...