Beginning in Chapter 13 of the book of John, Jesus begins what is referred to in biblical scholarship as the farewell discourse. It is the last teaching that he gives to his disciples and he holds forth for four chapters worth of material. The discourse leads up to the culmination that is called Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” which is his final prayer for his disciples before he is betrayed, crucified, and put to death. The prayer includes a desire that the disciples be protected from evil, and that God’s name might be glorified through Jesus’ death and the disciples’ testimony. It also includes the following lines where Jesus expresses a desire that all may be “one”:
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.” John 17:20-23 NRSV
I have often heard this interpreted as Jesus expressing a desire that we as Christians might be united in purpose and that the purpose we are united in might be the purposes of God. This is not a bad interpretation, but I would like to push us a little further down into the layers of meaning that John’s Gospel contains. I would like to suggest that another possibility of what Jesus is alluding to in his use of the word “one” is that of a mystical union. We recognize that Jesus is united with God in an inseparable way; the actions, thoughts, and desires, of one, are the same as the other. Our doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the foundation of our Christian beliefs says this. So, when Jesus says he want’s us to be one, “as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be completely one,” his desire goes well beyond a unification of purpose, his desire is that we might be connected to him (and the rest of the Trinity) as he is connected to it.
This connection means many different things, it is a mind-bending field of exploration that we can take our whole lives exploring. What I’d like to focus on in this particular prayer, is how this connection means, our pain (emotional, physical, and mental) and Christ’s pain are one and the same, and that Christ’s breath and our breath is also one and the same.
We begin our prayer by settling in to where we are, getting ourselves comfortable, closing our eyes if it helps and then setting the scene in our mind of gathering with the disciples behind closed doors on the evening of Easter Sunday. We have received news earlier in the day that Jesus’ tomb was empty, and that Mary Magdalene and several of the disciples have seen Jesus alive, but there are still many unanswered questions and there is still grave danger about.
As you sit in in your locked room, sit with these questions: What are you hiding from at this time? What danger is in the world? And as locks work in both ways, think of these questions as well: What are you keeping hidden from the world? What are you locking away because it feels safer? (Take a few moments for quite reflection)
As you sit with these things, let it come to your attention that Jesus has entered the room. Though not invited, he comes anyway, because you are united with him, your fears are his fears, the danger you are hiding from is his danger, he is there to be with you in all you are going through.
As you meet with Jesus, you notice the nail prints in his hands, they are still open wounds, they are still raw, but you are drawn to touch them. As you do, in your mystical connection to Jesus, you become aware of your own pain, and your own wounds. As you sit there with Jesus, feel the pain that you are holding, but do so knowing it is not yours alone to bear, that Jesus carries it with you, and is willing to take it from you. (Take a few moments to sit with Jesus)
As you sit with Jesus, you realize that he is close enough to feel his breath on your skin. Feel Jesus breath by taking your hands and cupping them together. Then raise them to your forehead, and exhale deeply into them, your breath as his breath. As you breath out, feel the breath of Christ wash over you. As you feel Jesus’ breath, hear his words as well, “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit” (Repeat for 3 breaths)