Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Last Words of Jesus...

It’s worth thinking about these words. And of course it depends which Gospel you look at. St. Mark’s Gospel doesn’t record any speech of Jesus following the Resurrection - at least if you follow the view of most scholars that the original end of his account is Mark 16, verse 8. St. Luke has two cracks at it - not only the last words of the Gospel which bears his name, but also his account of the Ascension   as we find it in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The gist here is that the disciples need to stay in Jerusalem, to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit - and to recognise that the Holy Spirit will empower them in the lives they are to lead as Christians. As we celebrate the Feasts of both the Ascension and Pentecost this month, it’s a vital reminder of how we should live - waiting on God, dependent on his power and ability to guide us.

St. John’s Gospel ends with a conversation and even a note of dispute. Here Jesus’ words are spoken not to any group of Christians or to a crowd, but to one man - the apostle Peter. But they are words that he speaks to anyone who wishes to be faithful in discipleship, “Follow me.”

Take a look at these “last words” - ask what they say to you.

I started reflecting on them myself because of the last words which St. Matthew’s Gospel records: Jesus’ assurance that he will be with his disciples “to the end of the age” - and an instruction: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...” That seems to be a large part of my calling at present. We may not record any baptisms for this month of April in St. Cuthbert’s, but there were three baptisms on Easter Day in St. John’s - and more before the month’s end. And in May I’ve booked six baptisms in St. Cuthbert’s with more in St. John’s. We know that Baptism is something people want for their children. But - as people ask me - when will we see them again?

In Jesus’ last words baptising goes along with “teaching people to obey everything that I have commanded you.” I can only do my best in encouraging parents and godparents to take seriously the responsibilities they take on at Baptism. And all of us do well to reflect on what we see in Baptism. Something fundamental going to the core of our relationship with God - vows we renew at Easter and affirm in Confirmation. How can we live out the message of Baptism? - and share it with others so that they live it out with real meaning?


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