Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 5-21-23 “Priestly Prayer”

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John 17:6-19

            The gospel this morning narrates a moment of transition in the life of Jesus and His disciples. They have been together for about 3 and half years. They have walked together, eat together, they have spent great moments together. However, everything is about to change. Soon Jesus will face execution and will no longer be with them as a human companion; soon He will go back to where he came from; he will return to his Father. At this point in the gospel, He knew, he will not continue being present among his friends to encourage them, teach them, support them, and keep them together.

The disciples on the other hand soon will be losing their master, their friend and protector. At this moment –even when they do not know it- they were receiving the torch from Jesus, who was sending them as the Father had sent him. At this moment a transition was happening. Jesus was transitioning from earth to heaven and his disciples from being a little group who followed Jesus, were transitioning to become what we know now as the church of Jesus.

            According to the gospel of John, Jesus prayed for his disciples prior all these changes that were coming. Jesus prayed the Father asking for something this group of men and women would soon need. Let us remember, soon they will face what appears to be their greatest disappointment ever. They will see the light of hope extinguished; soon they will see the Messiah, the long-expected son of David dying on the cross; soon they will be frightened and will face persecution and execution. Let’s not forget that Jesus is facing death and with his soul overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, as Mark said in chapter 14:34, He took a moment to pray for his disciples. His prayer was simple and profound as well. This was a prayer that goes beyond time and geography, in this prayer Jesus included not only the early disciples, those who walked with him, but all disciples in all times and places including you and me. This prayer contains three requests, something the disciples would soon need. Three requests from God the Son to God the Father.

  1. Jesus prayed for unity. Protect them by the power of your name…so that they may be one as we are one.
  2. Jesus asked his father for protection from evil. Take them not out of this world… but protect them from evil.

And third, Jesus asked, “Sanctify them in your truth…your word is your truth.” The Baker’s dictionary of Biblical Theology defines sanctification as, “to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer.” When Jesus said, sanctify them in your truth, He was asking the Father to set the disciples apart for what he called them to, He was asking for his disciples to be consecrated to him and his cause, for him and his kingdom. With this prayer Jesus Christ was making all his disciples in every time and place priests, priestess. He was making all men and women and ministers of His church. And as God did with Abraham, Jesus was also inviting all his disciples to leave everything behind and be people sanctified by the truth and consecrated to him only.

It’s important my sisters and brothers to remember this, because this sanctification Jesus is praying for, make us, you and me, priest and priestess and this priesthood is the seal of our identity. Later, Peter reminds us that in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

What Peter wrote in his first letter chapter 2 verse 9 describes -I believe- what he heard Jesus praying a few hours before his arrest. “Chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” describes the sanctification Jesus prayed for; “God’s special possession” describes God’s protection and “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” describes the unity and purpose of our call. 

Now, If Jesus asked this for His disciples to the father in prayer, let me assure you that He knew His disciples needed that to fulfill Jesus’ expectations; they needed that to be what He wanted them to be, which is His church. Jesus knew that His disciples would need unity, protection from the Father against evil and sanctification. 

These three things: Unity, God’s protection and sanctification give us identity, because of these three things we are church; these three things give us a name. Because of that unity, that protection and sanctification we are God’s children.

            Now, let’s see these requests one by one: Protect them by the power of your name…so that they may be one as we are one.

This brings the question, how are Jesus and his Father one? Well, they are one in purpose, in nature, in essence and still they are two different beings, two different entities. The kind of unity Jesus is praying for, the unity he wants us to have, is the kind of unity in which we are “a part” of a whole; the unity where our personal purpose is part a greater purpose. Jesus was praying for his disciples at any time and at anywhere to be one even when they are different, when they think different. That kind of unity can only be reach when Jesus is the center of his community, when our hearts are His throne and we do his will and not ours; that unity Jesus prayed for can be real when our lives are means of His love and grace.

Take them not out of this world…but protect them from evil. Within this little verse, there is an implicit truth: If Jesus is praying for protection from evil, it means that we will be attack by evil, evil will try to destroy us. This verse is also telling us that evil is stronger than us, that if we want to defeat evil, we need a stronger power, and that power, that strengthen only comes from the Almighty God when we pray in the name of Jesus, God made flesh. It is also important to notice that Jesus reminds His disciples that they don’t belong to this world. Therefore, Jesus’ disciples do not live according to the values of this world but according to the values of God’s kingdom. 

Sanctify them in your truth…your word is your truth. If sanctification isTo set a person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer.” Jesus wants to set us apart to continue doing what his father sent him to do; Jesus wants us to be his hands and his feet; he wants us to continue doing what his father sent him to do 2000 years ago. What did Jesus was sent to do? Luke 4:43 says, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” He was sent to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

 In Matthew 28:16-19, Jesus told his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:15, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” That is what Jesus wants us to do, to “preach the word; to be prepared in season and out of season.” As Paul told Timothy in his second letter.

The early disciples of Jesus did what they were asked for, amid heresies, they kept united and sharing the message of God’s Kingdom; amid persecution, they kept trusting God and sharing. About 2,000 years ago a group of men and women took seriously when Jesus consecrated them to do his will. This church is proof of that. Now is our turn, because Jesus included us in that prayer too. In John verse 20 and 21, Jesus said, My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  

I believe that every morning when God’s people wake up, Jesus Christ, who intercede for us, repeat the prayer we read this morning for our sake: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”  

 So, always remember everyday Jesus himself is praying for you and for me. Everyday Jesus sanctifies us, set us apart to share his message of love and unity. Now is our turn. Will we continue with what Jesus begun? Will we continue being obedient as the first disciples.?  

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