The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
John 17:11b Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. (NASB
Separatism has always been a problem in and for the church. The monastic movement of the early church, the church of the middle ages, to the radical reformers of the reformation there were sects within Christendom that separate themselves from the world. In the early church there were men who dwelt as hermits in caves and men who sat atop of poles to get away from the world. During the middle ages, the Roman Church built grand monasteries in which men lived to remain separated from every day life. During the reformation the radical reformers arose and created communal communities so they could avoid contact people who did not share their believes and the temptations of the world. From the pole sitting monastics of the early church to the Amish of our day some have sought to purifying themselves from the world and its temptations.
Now considering how difficult it is for Christians to think, speak and live as Bible based faithful Christians amidst such a pagan and hostile culture running off to a community that consists of good people of Christian faith and traditional values might seem like a good thing to do.
But once again Jesus proves to be rather counter culture to His own day. Jesus lived in a day when Jews, especially Jewish leaders did all they could to remain separate from the Gentile world. They didn’t eat with them. They did what to could to minimize their business dealings with the Gentiles. They stayed with their own kind; people who believed what they believed, lived the way they lived, and did the things they did. In their minds that was how they remained clean and worthy before God. Keep the law, as they understood it and avoid the outside world. Think of Transfiguration Day when the disciples wanted to build three tabernacles on top of that hill, above the cares and struggles of the world below.
Yet this is the kind separatism that Jesus speaks and prays against in the Gospel lesson this morning. He doesn’t want Christians to cloister themselves away in little communities by themselves. He doesn’t want people of Christian faith and Christian ethics to disconnect from the rest of the world.
Thus, Jesus prayed in the High Priestly Prayer, 14 “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” While it is not a direct quote from the Bible, it is an accurate summary of Jesus’s teaching regarding our relationship to the world. Christians are to be in the world, but they are not to be of the world.
It was Maundy Thursday. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemene and Judas is in the process of betraying Him. It wouldn’t be long after Jesus finished the prayer that they arrested Him, put Him on trial, tortured Him, and ultimately put Him to death.
Jesus was about to leave the disciples, at least in the form they had known for the past three years. In light of what was about to change, Jesus prayed for His disciples; the same disciples who would forsake Him and separate themselves from Him in order to save themselves from Jewish wrath.
In the section of the High Priestly Prayer before us this morning, Jesus prays for three things.
1. He asks His Father, keep them in His name, the name which God the Father had given God the Son, that they may be one even as God the Father and God the Son are one. To keep them in His name means to keep them in true faith, in true understanding, and in the body of Christ.
2. That God the Father not take the disciples out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one because they are not of the world, even as He is not of the world. Here we learn that the Christian has a different relationship to the world than everyone else. Thus you ought not think and act like the rest of the world.
3. That God the Father would sanctify [make them holy] them in the truth, that is in the Word of God, (thy Word is Truth) and that they would be sent into the world with this Truth.
Note all depends on the Truth. Without the Truth, a person is not and does not remain one with the Father and with the Son. The Bible makes it clear that we are to be a people born in and born of the Truth–the Truth of God’s Word. 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”
All depends on the Truth. That’s the reason we are sent into the world. We are not sent into the world to be “do gooders” in the sense that most people think of good deeds. Christians and the church exists in the world for the purpose of speaking and living the Truth. To take Christians and the Church out of the world is to take God’s Word of Truth out of the world. Yet, fewer and fewer Christians and church people know the truth. More and more are importing the world and its ways of thinking and doing business into the church.
But here in the High Priestly Prayer we learn that all depends on the Truth of God’s Word. Without the Word of Truth, we remain in sin. We are not sanctified. We are not made holy in God’s sight. As the Son of God came into the world to make us holy, we, that is the church, exists in the world so that others will be sanctified, made holy in the Word of Truth.
Christ came into the world to save the world by His life and death. St. John began His gospel by writing, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:4 and John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
All hangs on Truth, even access to God Himself. But what do you know of the Truth? How good are you at thinking and speaking theologically? Do you mirror what God’s Word says about this or that subject, or do you just shot from the hip echoing the standard replies of those who do not believe. Can you prove with will of God as Romans 12:2 instructs us to do. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The High Priestly Prayer is about God’s Truth dwelling in and among us. The church and Christians remain in the world so we can speak, live, and defend the truth.
We live in a day of non-reason where everyone but a conservative Christian is urged to speak “their own truth,” even if what they speak doesn’t even come close to the facts of the matter.
Folks we ought not be mirrors of the world. We ought not think and speak and act as they do. If your views line up with the world’s views, then there’s something wrong. You are becoming of the world and not living as a Christian in the world.
I used the word “becoming” because in the waters of Holy Baptism, in the gift of faith, God the Father created a second nature in you in the image of His Son Jesus Christ. You have the mind of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:16 St. Paul asks this rhetorical question, then answers it. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” That is, we have the Truth. It is in His Word, which He has given to us. It’s here in the Bible, which is His written Word. It is in right preaching and teaching. It’s here in the liturgy. It is in Holy Baptism. It is in confession and absolution. It is in Holy Communion. All too many Christians and former Christians fritter way the mind of Christ that has been given to them. They don’t know and don’t posses the Gospel Truth. Apart from the Truth, there is no holiness, no justification, and no oneness with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When all is said and done, whether it be at Christ’s Second Coming or at each person’s death, the only truth that matters, is the Truth that is true. If folks don’t like it, take it up with Jesus. He is the One Who prayed to God the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” We are, in this sense to be billboards of the Law and the Gospel– of God’s entire Truth. Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
To pastors God says (1 Timothy 2:15) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
In Ephesians 4:14-15 God says that “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
We are to be a people of faith, hope, love, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness, but all of these depend and flow from Truth. We are to be first and foremost ambassadors of the Truth in a world that exists of and in lies.
From the Epistle lesson this morning. 1 John 5:11-13 “And the testimony [that is the truth] is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
John 4:23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
“Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent [you] m into the world.” The Church is the dispenser of God’s Truth, which results in the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Jesus ascended into heaven on Ascension Day. But He did not take His Word of Truth with Him. He left the Gospel Truth here for Christians and the Church to speak, teach, and apply. He continues to send His Truth into the world through His church and through you.
You are holy, made so in the Truth that is Jesus Christ. And in Him your sins are forgiven and that’s the Truth.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.