May 20, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.”
On this Seventh and final Sunday of Easter in 2012, you hear Jesus praying for His disciples. You have heard a portion of Jesus’ prayer offered to His Father on Holy Thursday, the night on which He was betrayed by Judas. Jesus prays for His disciples as He reaches the culmination of His redemptive work on earth, including His death, resurrection, and ascension.
In His prayer, Jesus refers to what He had done among His disciples during His time on earth. Jesus says to His Father: “While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Jesus summarizes His work. With authority Jesus had kept His disciples in the Father’s name. He had acted like a shepherd, guarding or keeping watch over those put under His charge. And like a good shepherd, Jesus had not lost any of the sheep, any of the disciples except for Judas, the one whose treachery the Scriptures had foretold.
From Galilee to Judea, Jesus had led the Twelve. He had taught them the Father’s will. He had given correction and rebuke when necessary. He had commended and praised right belief and action. Jesus had given the disciples a new identity by calling them to follow Him and to know what He reveals. He mentions this in the prayer: “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” The eleven faithful disciples had a new origin: they were born of God, born from above, born anew. Now they stood against the world and those who were not of God.
But something was about to change in this relationship that Jesus had with His disciples. It is the reason for Jesus’ prayer. After speaking of what He had done while with His disciples, Jesus says: “But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” Jesus is leaving His disciples. That would transpire in the next weeks, beginning with His betrayal. Jesus is meant to suffer, die, be buried, rise again, and to ascend to the Father. It is what the Church has celebrated during these past weeks of the Easter Season.
So what would this change bring to Jesus’ disciples? They would not have Jesus there keeping them in the Father’s name. They would not have Jesus there guarding them. Their shepherd was leaving them. But He was not abandoning them. That is seen in the words that Jesus speaks. Though He leaves, Jesus does not let His disciples fend for themselves. No, He establishes a continued protection for His disciples, turning them over to the care that His Father provides: “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Now Jesus’ disciples were under the protection of their Father in heaven, the One who had given them new birth and received them as sons of His divine household.
What Jesus does for the Eleven has also happened for you. It has happened in the way established by the Father and enacted by the Son. You have not had Jesus with you as the first disciples did. But what Jesus says about the Eleven has been done for you: “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” The word of the Father has been given to you. You have received the testimony of God about His Son. That is what Jesus’ disciples have deposited into your possession.
You heard Jesus pray for His disciples, but you also heard of what they were charged to do. Jesus’ prayer said: “As You have 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.” Jesus sent His disciples into the world with a purpose: to bear witness to what they had seen Him do and to hand down the word that He had given them. When Judas, the son of destruction, was replaced, Peter makes note of that task: “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until all the day when He was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.” That was the disciples’ mission, the charge given them by Jesus.
Sanctified in truth and bearing the word of the Father, the disciples did so. They proclaimed the testimony that the Father gave about His Son. The divine testimony about Jesus’ identity and the work that He did was the content of their preaching. In that content there is truth and life—the truth and life that you have received. John makes that clear: “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that He has borne concerning His Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar, because He has not believed the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” That is what the disciples carried into the world despite its hatred of them. That is what the disciples brought to others, so that they would receive the word of the Father and be sanctified in its truth.
So that word has come to you. What it did for the Eleven, it has done for you. The word of the Father has been given to you. You have received the testimony of God about His Son. And what Jesus says about such people stands true for you: “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” You have a new origin. You have a new identity. You no longer belong to the world and its antipathy toward God. That’s what you once were. Dead in sin. Blind to righteousness. Ignorant of God. But now you belong to God. Now you are of God. Now you share the life of God.
What happened to you? You received the word of the Father: “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life….” You possess the life that Jesus earned by His death and resurrection for your sake. But that does bring opposition. What Jesus says is true: “the world has hated them because they are not of the world.” Yet, you are not left to fend for yourselves. No, Jesus’ prayer to the Father is offered on your behalf: “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.” And how is that keeping done? By what Jesus petitions His Father to do for you: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
The Father’s testimony about His Son sets you apart for life. Its truth brings you holiness. It establishes a right relationship between Him and you. Holding fast to that word, you will possess the life that it brings: “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life….” It is how you fulfill the description given of those who are blessed, as the Psalm declared: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates day and night.” Receiving that testimony and word, you live under the Father’s protection.
What Jesus prays for you actually is done. And not only is prayer offered on your behalf, you have the ability to ask for yourself: “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” The Father’s word made known to you discloses His will. So you can ask Him according to His will. Ask for guidance. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for protection. Ask for the trust and confidence in His promises. It will be given to you. For you have the Son and have life. You have the testimony about the Son and His work for you. And you have the word of truth that sanctifies and sets you apart.
The Father’s will is for you to be united with Him and His Son. The Son’s will is for you to be united with Him and each other. So you are prayed for: “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” It will be so, as you abide in His word and believe in the testimony about Jesus. You are not left alone, but have God on your side. The world may hate you, but the Father has sealed you in His love. The evil one tries to deceive, but you are preserved from him. So it is as the Father keeps you in the name that He bestows to you. Sharing the same faith as the apostles, receiving the same word of truth from the Father as the apostles, believing the same testimony of Jesus proclaimed by the apostles, you will be one, sanctified for eternal life, kept in the faith, and never lost.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.