Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sanctify Them in the Truth (John 17:12-19)
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 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. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
Here Jesus again affirms that he has kept them in God’s name (for the meaning of this, see my notes on verse 11). Note also how Jesus again is thinking in a futuristic manner (the first time his words show this is when he said “I have finished the work you have sent me.”). The Lord is speaking of his exit from the world as if it had already happened: “While I was with them in the world.” Here Jesus uses the word kosmos (world) to mean simply the earth, not the part of humanity that is opposed to God (as he had used the word in Ch. 15 and 16).
“The Son of perdition” of course refers to Judas. In saying “that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus is probably referring to passages like Psalm 109. This Psalm speaks of one who “repaid evil for my love” (verse 5) and who receives curses such as “Set a wicked man over him, And let an accuser [literally a “Satan”] stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him be found guilty, And let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few, And let another take his office” (verses 6-8). That the early Church saw this prophecy as referring to Judas is clear from Acts 1:20-21.
There are also other Psalms that speak of the Messiah’s betrayal by a friend and loved one. See Psalm 34/35 for example.
Note: Just because Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was foretold in the Old Testament, this does not mean that Judas was forced to do it. Judas still had free will. He could have chosen not to betray Jesus. God sees all time—past, present, future—at the same time; all is present (in reality, there is no such thing as time to God, but this is the best way I can think of to explain it). Because of this, no one can say that God’s foreseeing of Judas betraying Jesus meant that he had to do it. This is a great mystery and is unfathomable to us on this side of eternity.
In Fr. Farley’s words, “Christ here says that all that could be preserved were preserved” (291). Judas could not be preserved, because he did not wish to follow God’s will.
Note also that Jesus again wishes for joy for the disciples: “that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”
In verse 14, Jesus again speaks about how the world (and now he is using the word to mean all those in opposition to God) has hated the disciples, and how they are not of the world, meaning that they are not in rebellion to God, but are rather lovers of God who seek to follow and obey him through his Son Jesus Christ.
Even though the disciples are not of the world (verse 16), they are in and among the world. And they are going to stay in the world, so as to be participants in the world’s redemption. If God were to remove them from the world, then the world would not be able to hear the Gospel and be saved. So, Jesus does not pray that they be removed from the world, but only that they be protected from the evil one. As Fr. Farley writes, “The Lord refers here to the power of Satan to divide the disciples, to sow discord and hatred and to tear down their love for one another. By the power of the Father, his followers are to remain united in love” (292).
In verse 17, Jesus asks the Father to “Sanctify them by Your truth.” The Greek word translated “sanctify” is agiazo, which is the verb form of the adjective agios, which of course means “holy.” Agios is a compound word coming from the Greek prefix a, which means “not,” and ge, which means “earth” or “world.” To sanctify them, or make them holy, therefore, means to make them not of this world (even more so than they already are), to set them apart from the world for godliness and for God’s service. This setting apart will be accomplished by God’s Word (here, I think meaning the teaching of Jesus, which expressed the word and will of the Father). “If they will abide in that, they will indeed be separate from the world, wholly dedicated to the Father” (Farley, 292).
In verse 18, Jesus says “I sent them.” Notice again how Jesus speaks of a future event as if it had already happened.
Finally, in verse 19, note that Jesus says “I sanctify myself.” By this, of course, he does not mean that he makes himself holy, for he already was and is. Rather, he means that he is setting himself apart, dedicating himself to the mission that the Father has given him. Fr. Farley clarifies this quite well:
“[Jesus] sanctifies himself for them, preparing to die on the Cross for the will of the Father (Compare Deut. 15:19 LXX, which speaks of sacrifices being “sanctified” or consecrated to God.) By this saving self offering, the disciples also will themselves be sanctified in truth…Their self-dedication is thus the fruit of His own saving self-dedication” (292-293).