John 13: 1-30
Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
As we find ourselves in this familiar scene of Jesus’ final Passover meal on earth, you can feel the momentum building towards the looming dark events leading up to His crucifixion. As we walk this journey of lent again, I am struck by a remarkably simple phrase I have missed on this well-trodden path. Right here, in the middle of this last supper, we read that the disciple whom Jesus loved rested or ‘reclined on Jesus’ chest’ … or shoulder … or breast, depending on the version you are reading!
It would be easy to miss this beautiful moment of love amidst the pending betrayal. Earlier that same evening, we read Jesus ‘showed them the full extent of his love’ when He washes their feet, and even more intimately as He takes the time and energy to embrace one whom He loves dearly. John must have felt the very breath of Jesus breathing in and breathing out as he rested on His chest! Imagine it for a moment (this image may help).
What must it have been like?
What might John have felt in that moment?
Amid Jesus’ own impending darkest hours, He offers rest to one of His dearest disciples. Now, insert your name here as the disciple whom Jesus loves …. and pause!
‘My soul is restless until it rests in you, O God’
Can you hear His invitation to rest on His chest… not for a quick few seconds, but resting here for ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty minutes?
Now perhaps for some of the Northern Irish men in our midst, even the idea of a man resting his head on another man like this causes a sharp cultural intake of breath! Perhaps it would be fine for a fleeting moment, followed by a manly pat on the back to ease away the awkwardness. If we move beyond this unease, there is an opportunity to find deep rest and assurance as a son and daughter of the Beloved.
Take a moment to imagine yourself resting on Jesus’ chest.
How does it feel?
What is on your mind that you can now let go of?
What will you whisper to Him as you rest here?
What do you hear Him whisper back?
God’s rest is not circumstantial.
Like a child finds reassurance and security in the comforting embrace of a mother or father, we can find the same in His embrace. In our world of relentless doing, what would the regular practice of ‘being’ this close to God be like?
What if we could find inner silence and rest, not just outer silence for fleeting moments?
What would it change in you?
Jesus’ invitation to you today is one of inner rest and surrender. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. As the disciple whom He loves, He invites you to rest on Him, not just during lent, but everyday.
As we breathe in the very life and love of God, we receive His oxygen of life, giving us rest and recuperation for our whole being. As we approach the easing of lockdown and we return to a ‘new normal’, could your willingness to constantly respond to this invitation of surrender, letting go, and finding rest in God be part of your new normal?
Centring Prayer is one way I respond to this constant invitation. In that time of being with Him, I have learned to set aside my thoughts and internal commentaries to meet with God as He is, not as I am.
‘For in Him we live and move and have our being’
Acts 17 : 28
As we breathe in this rest and love on the chest of Jesus, we in turn are invited to breathe out in the same way Jesus models for us here. At the dawn of this chaotic chapter in Jesus’ life, He makes Himself available to His disciples who need solace in His presence. Jesus practised this pattern of breathing in from His source, the intimacy and communion with His Father, then breathing out as He gives this intimacy and communion to His disciples. As you lay close to Jesus’ chest, I wonder who else around you might need to know the rest and embrace of Jesus too?
Who might you encounter today, for whom you can embody the restful shoulder of Jesus?
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
Disturb us, O Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, O Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, O Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
In the name of our good and faithful Lord we pray,
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.