Text: John 17:11b-19
Date: Easter VII + 5/13/18
For forty days we have been amazed celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. The Lord is risen from the dead, alleluia! Ever since His rising the Lord has opened the minds of His disciples to understand the scriptures and His words. We got to expect Him to continue, mysteriously, to appear and speak to us, then to disappear. But now, this past Thursday He announced the end of all that and the new beginning of something new; the end of His visibly appearing to us but the beginning of His remaining in us. In these ten days when He told us to wait in the city, we begin wondering what if anything we should be doing. The hint was in those hands when He lifted them and blessed us before ascending into heaven.
Remember those hands? It was wonderful to receive His blessing, But those hands still bore the wounds of His crucifixion. It was as if He was saying the gift of salvation is finished, but the mission is not. The mission is that His triumph is not complete until it is proclaimed and believed on by every human heart. He said it would still be His mission, but His mission now through us. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). So do we remember His words when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).
Recall how we have been remembering His words concerning the vine and the branches. He told us the point is we are to bear fruit. Or, last Sunday, His command to love one another and how this love is no mere feeling or emotion but His continued mission of salvation in the world, now through His body, the Church. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (Jn 15:9-10).
Today we recall the last words He spoke in that Upper Room in His High Priestly Prayer to the Father, especially these words. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (Jn 17:17-19). When He said, “I consecrate myself” it is actually the same word translated “sanctify.” To sanctify means to set apart for a holy purpose, to be holy. Jesus set Himself apart for His great work of salvation through His holy death and resurrection. This salvation is for all people. Therefore when He sanctifies us, He sets us apart for His continuing mission of bringing saving repentance and faith to all people everywhere. And He does that through our witness.
We are to be sanctified “in truth.” He says to the Father, “your word is truth.” It is the truth about everything from our creation to our sin to our conversion, our faith, our perseverance, and our promised resurrection to new life. In the court room, you know, we are required by oath to “tell the truth,” which is further defined as “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” The whole truth, not a half truth or just “sort of” truth, everything whether we think it speaks to our benefit or not. “Nothing but the truth” means nothing false, to not mix the truth with lies. This is how we are to receive and to treat God’s word and also our preaching, teaching and witnessing to His Word; the whole Word and revelation of God not allowing it to be mixed with any contradicting word.
The world is constantly contradicting God’s Word. Creation or Evolution? Sin or just a little error? Faith alone or works required? The resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come or just nothing, the end? Look at how many contradicting philosophies or practices want to grow like weeds. The ordination of women to the pastoral ministry because we’ve advanced beyond the superstitions and social norms of the Apostle Paul’s time. Then there’s the whole homosexual agenda from serving as pastors to marriage itself. The loosening of St. Paul’s warnings against unworthy reception of the Lord’s Supper. The early church would actually close the doors for communion of Christians only, called closed communion. Now many want to redefine it as only “close” communion which leads to leaving the doors wide open and exercising no spiritual discipline at all.
To continue in Jesus’ word is to know it, believe it and follow it even and especially in times when it is not popular. The Word of God does not need “help” or “additives” to make it more acceptable. It is the Holy Spirit working through that Word that causes people to repent of their objections and believe what the Word says.
In the resurrection of our Lord He has been teaching us that it means His ongoing mission of calling sinners to repentance and giving them the gift of saving faith. In these resurrection days He does that through His Body, the holy Christian Church throughout the world. In these days since the Day of Pentecost we receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us making us His witnesses to the ends of the earth. See yourself as called to and equipped for this task in whatever your vocation or station in life. We are not “of” the world anymore but are sent into the world to bring the light of eternal life to all who will believe. God grant the continued growth of His Church.