In the world Jesus saw

Published 4:43 pm Sunday, May 23, 2021

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In the Camp David Peace Accords of 1978, president Jimmy Carter had middle-eastern leaders Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat there. It was the 13th day of the talks and everything had broken down. The end appeared to be nearing, with no resolution. Everyone was about to go home. Carter went to Begin and took with him some photographs taken during the days of effort. That’s where perhaps a little known chat, at least at the time, changed history.

Begin had asked him to autograph the pictures. Carter had signed them to all of Begin’s grandchildren. He had named all of them at the tops of the photos, and the prime minister started reading the names out loud. Carter said, “I had wanted them to know, one day, how their grandfather had brought about peace.” 

Lawrence Wright, in his memoir of this episode, observes that “Begin the fighter became Begin the grandfather as he read the names of his own family legacy. That moment changed his view of what was happening. Rather than being so ready to fight again, he told Carter that if some wording could be changed, there was a chance they could still reach an agreement. That was the day Begin helped to make peace.” 

History, as well as art in its many forms, have depicted private conversations at key moments. Little words exchanged that no one recorded, but that we know happened. These legends have captured a moment or even explained history once they did come to light! 

In the world Jesus saw, a world he was about to exit, he saw three groups of people: those who believed already, those who didn’t believe and those who didn’t believe yet but would one day. Even you and me. We may not always be privy to a lot of conversations, but this one we do get to hear about. This is one of the best known of Jesus’ prayers recorded in the Bible, and likely the longest.

Somehow, John learned (perhaps from Christ himself) of this prayer our Lord lifted on behalf of the Disciples in John 17: 6-19 and by extension on our behalf still to this day. As we listen over Jesus’ shoulder, we hear him lamenting Jerusalem and humanity as it has responded to him. In today’s segment, we learn that the world He envisioned was intended to be so much more. Instead, it was becoming what humanly speaking was so easy to become. Jesus was in anguish over it, and over what the Disciples were left to do.

Jesus also says that he has made God’s name known. This was revolutionary to first century Jews, who were not allowed to speak the name of God aloud. That challenges me in the deepest way, and I hope for the most obvious of reasons. That is, like Jesus, we are supposed to at least bear a resemblance of the God whose name we claim. 

I read or hear occasionally that in the food service world, servers have consistently reported that Sundays are their least favorite day of the week to work. That’s because of all the church people that get unleashed onto the restaurants. Sadly, they report that sour attitudes and bad treatment are common from those who are so conspicuously dressed up. Meager tips, grossly under what is customary in our country, seem too often come from those churchgoers on Sundays. Most embarrassingly, some Christians have even taken to leaving tracts or other religious writings instead of a tip. As in, “Here’s what you really need.” That makes me so humiliated on the Kingdom’s behalf. 

I wonder how I do at representing or making God’s name known? Jesus has taken on a tall task, because he was sent to do this. Now, we are the called who are sent to continue his ministry of making God known. In the world as Jesus saw things, he recognized that he approached now a juncture in which he would no longer get to lead his followers in-person. Now they would be subject to their own choices, and the forces that may come to act upon them. 

The fact that we serve a Lord who is concerned about our well-being without him right here to watch and guide us is encouraging to me. That’s a source of hope. In the world that Jesus left for the Disciples, in the world that Jesus envisioned, my challenge and yours is to represent God’s name as faithfully as we can, and to do no harm to it.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.