“All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.” John 17:10
The Gospel reading, Saint John Chapter 17 Verses 6-19, is full of pronouns. At least a dozen different pronouns, some of which appear a number of times, appear in these fourteen verses of Scripture. There are first person pronouns, I, me, my, mine, we, in which Jesus talks about himself and his Father. There are second person pronouns, you, your, yours, in which Jesus addresses his Father. There are third person pronouns, they, them, themselves, their, those, in which Jesus talks about those who have been faithful to him. What can be learned from each set of pronouns?
Jesus uses the word “I” twenty times in a few sentences, he is saying that his mission is to be himself. He has not come as a representative of a religion, he has not come as part of an organization, he has not come as part of a group, he has simply come to be himself. Jesus’ mission as been about himself and his work has been about what he has done. As he prays to the Father, we see Jesus reflecting on his mission and work, in Verse 6, he says, “I have made your name known”; in Verse 8 he recalls, “for the words that you gave to me I have given to them”; in Verse 12, he says, “I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them.” Jesus is saying that this is what he has done, that he is responsible, that the burden has been upon him, and that he has fulfilled his mission.
Thinking about faith and thinking about the church, these verses are important. Being a Christian is not about a religion, it is about a relationship. Christianity is not about the church, it is about the person who should be at the heart of any church. Thinking about personal faith, what is it that people believe? Jesus says faith should be in he himself, in Verse 8, Jesus says to the Father that the disciples “know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” Is our faith in Jesus? Or is it, too often, about the church, or tradition, or community?
Thinking about the first person pronouns in the Gospel reading, is a Christian’s trust in the person who is the first person?
The second person pronouns, you, your, yours, appear more than twenty times in the reading. Jesus is who he is because he is his Father’s Son. Jesus recognizes that his relationship with his Father is the basis of his mission, in Verse 8, he says, “I came from you”; in Verse 10, he says, “all mine are yours, and yours are mine”; in Verse 11, we read, “I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one”. Jesus is emphasizing that his mission has been the mission of his Father in heaven, that his work has been his Father’s work, that there is no difference between what desires and what his Father desires.
If faith is in Jesus, if faith is in the one who is in the first person pronouns in the reading, what does that say about a personal relationship with the Father, who is in the second person pronouns? “We are one”, says Jesus in Verse 10, but in faith do Christians sometimes divide them? Sometimes there is a subconscious split between Father and Son and a loss of a sense of the reality of both. The Father becomes a remote and distant God in a far off heaven, a terrifying deity who may only be approached with fear and trembling, while the Son becomes the man in the Bible stories, the man who walked in Galilee twenty centuries ago, but not someone who could be present or powerful in individual lives. Remembering Jesus’ words, “we are one”, there is a sense of Jesus with the power and presence of the Father and of the Father as someone who is a friend and companion to believers.
How do Christians think about the one who is addressed as “you” in the reading?
The third person pronouns, they, them, themselves, their, those, are used thirty times in the reading as pronouns for Jesus’ disciples. Jesus’ ministry has not been about a religion, but has been about people who have a relationship with him. It can be seen how important to Jesus that relationship has been in the words he uses. “They were yours, and you gave them to me”, he says in Verse 6; “I am asking on their behalf”, he says in Verse 9; “I have been glorified in them”, he says in Verse 10. Jesus talks about protecting them, about guarding them, about sanctifying them. Jesus’ ministry has been about what he himself has done, but it has been about what he has done for the people who are behind the third pronouns in the reading.
What does Jesus’ concern for those described as “they” and “them” have to say to Christians now about their faith? Jesus says that he has protected and guarded his people, is there still that sense of God protecting and guarding his people? Jesus’ ministry has been about what he has said and done, but it has not been about what he has said and done for himself, it has been about what he has said and done for those he wishes to save from the evil one. Jesus’ ministry has been about saving ordinary people, reading that passage of Scripture and put one’s own names where it says “they” and “them”, there is a sense of what Jesus is saying to his people about his love for them. Is this the way Christians see their faith?
First person, second person and third person pronouns; Jesus, his Father and ourselves; the relationship between Father and Son, and their relationship with us. Understanding what Jesus is saying can change the way people see God, the way they see themselves and the way they live their lives.