Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 5-12-24  “Priestly Prayer”

denrob14Events, News, News & Events, SermonsLeave a Comment

John 17:6-19

          The gospel this morning narrates a moment of transition in the life of Jesus and his disciples. Let us remember that they have been together for about 3 and half years. They have walked together, ate 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 where he came from; he will return to his Father. At this point in the gospel, He knew, he will not be present among his friends to encourage them, teach them, support them, and hold them together. They on the other hand soon will be losing their master, their friend and protector. At this point –even when they do not know it yet- the disciples were receiving the torch from Jesus, who was sending them as the Father had sent him. This Sunday is a transition Sunday. Jesus was moving from earth to heaven and his disciples from being a little group to becoming a church.

          According to the gospel of John, Jesus prayed for his disciples prior to his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. That prayer contains a much-needed request for a group of men and women who soon will face what appears to be their greatest disappointment ever. Soon they will see the light of hope extinguished on the cross; soon they will see the Messiah, the long-expected son of David die on the cross; soon they will be frightened and will face persecution and many, even  execution. Let’s not forget that Jesus is about to die 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 is a prayer that goes beyond time and geography. In this prayer Jesus included not only the early disciples, but all disciples in all times and places including you and me. This prayer contains three requests, three petitions. Three requests from God the Son to God the Father.

  1. Protect them by the power of your name…so that they may be one as we are one.
  2. Take them not out of this world… but protect them from evil.
  3. Sanctify them in your truth…your word is your truth.

          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 in order to go and continue with what Jesus began, 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 together give Jesus’s disciples identity, because of these three things we are Jesus’ church; these three things give us a name. Because of that unity, that protection and sanctification we are God’s children.

          Today that we are celebrating Mother’s Day, I would like to think that at that moment Jesus had a mother’s heart because that is a prayer that a mother would do for her children. Father, keep my children together, Father, protect my children and Father, sanctify my children. This is not the first time Jesus was showing a mother’s heart. Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

          Now, let’s see these requests made by Jesus on behalf of his disciples that could as well be made by a mother on behalf of her children: Protect them by the power of your name…so that they may be one as we are one. Prior to this in John 13:34, Jesus asked his disciples to love one another as He loves us; now He is asking them to be one as He and His Father are one.

How Jesus and his Father are one? Well, they are one in purpose, in nature and still two different beings, two different entities. The kind of unity Jesus is praying for, is the kind of unity in which we as individuals are “a part” of a whole; the unity where we have a personal purpose within a greater collective purpose. That kind of unity only comes thru God’s protection and by his name; only comes when Jesus is the center of this group called church, when our hearts are His throne, and our lives means of His love and grace. That kind of unity makes us a unique people, God’s people. I know some mothers that have the same request for their children after they die. They pray for them to be together, to remain visiting and helping and supporting each other.

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 and use us. This verse is also telling us that evil is stronger than we as human beings, that we need a stronger force by our side, and that force, that strength only comes from the Almighty God, the One made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. Paul knew that power and he said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” It is also important to notice that Jesus reminds His disciples that they don’t belong to this world, therefore, we, Jesus’ followers don’t have to live according to this world values but according to the values of His kingdom. Protection for her children is also a prayer that God listen every night from millions of mothers.   

Sanctify them in your truth…your word is your truth. For us “sanctify” or “sanctification” is synonymous of holiness and purity, and it brings to our minds, images of a sinless, perfect, and faultless person and seems something impossible to accomplish and that’s right because sinless, perfect, and faultless only God.

     Sanctification comes from the Greek word Hagiasmos that can be translated as set apart, or separation from the common or profane, and someone or something separated to God and His service. Therefore, when Jesus prayed for sanctification, He was asking the Father to set all his disciples a part, He was asking for us to be consecrated, separated from the common or profane. A mother, especially Christian mothers have the same prayer on behalf of their children,   

This prayer from John 17 is called the High Priestly prayer, and if we pay attention to it, we will see that this is a consecration prayer. Jesus was asking the Father for our sanctification, our separation from the common, Jesus was praying for us to be priests and ministers of His church and as the God the Father did with Abraham, Jesus is inviting his disciples and us to leave everything behind and be His people. It’s important my sisters and brothers to remember this because that consecration is the seal of our identity. Peter in his first letter chapter 2 verse 9 say, “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.” All these described by Peter is what we are and that is the result of Jesus’ prayer. Also, what we are is the result of God listening to our mothers. I remember one member of Trinity UMC who fought in Viet Nam. He always said, my mother prayed me back home, I am here because God listened to her prayers.

     Brothers and sisters, Jesus prayed for us, and he also sent us the same way the Father sent him. Let us be one, as they are one, let us live under his protection and let allow his holy presence to sanctify us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *