The Third Word – O, Disciple, O Brother, Sister!
The Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Grace Episcopal Church of Traverse City, Michigan
Delivered at Central United Methodist, Traverse City, Michigan
There is a move in the Gospel of John that is both unique and in complete keeping with the other Gospels. In John, Jesus’ disciples move from being merely his servants to being friends 15.12ff and here from being friends to being his very family: brother, sister to Christ. This move should not come as a surprise to us, but if you are like me, it is always a complete surprise to think of this move in personal terms.
“Me the brother of Christ? It cannot be.” Like Peter with Jesus at his feet, I say, Never. I want to propose a way of reading the Gospel of John. I want to propose that you are the beloved disciple. That I am too. We when we hear and read the Gospel are that Disciple. It seems bold to trust it, but I am going to ask you to. So here we are. The Son of God in the hour of his Glorification on the cross, turns to us and says, “Behold your mother.” This adoption is the epitome of following Christ.
This indeed is the Mystery of Discipleship. I wish that I had some better words for it than that. I wish I could adequately describe what happens to the us in that moment. But what I know is this, that in the moment of Christ’s crucifixion, we become more than servants, more than friends. Perhaps that is why the glory of the cross hurts so much.
We are not at a distance anymore watching a God die, we are watching the one who has made us his own die. We are watching our brother on the cross. Our mother at our side, we lament and become more than we were before. What was, who was, the Truth of the World, the Wisdom of Creation that we could learn and learn from, study and judge, is in the shedding of his blood, making us his own blood. It is his blood that fills our veins now. If that doesn’t break your heart, what will?
In the Synoptic Gospels the world at large is changed. Temple veil rent, the earth cracked, and even death broken as the saints rise and walk about. But here it is our personal world that is changed.
In several places in the gospels Jesus talks about a new family with no father except the Father in Heaven. In John this truth is put in the language of event and metaphor. It is confirmed when he says to Mary Magdalene in the Garden:
17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
O, fellow disciples, here at the cross, with our laments and our tears, we also find our glory, His Glory. We follow and he adopts us as his own.
In our Morning Prayer Office, we have a collect, a prayer,
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on
the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within
the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit
that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those
who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for
the honor of your Name. Amen.
We are not like the world, or should not be, merely embraced, but we embrace, joining in the work of Christ of saving the world. We are part of the story.
Let us pray.