Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | May 24, 2009

Sermon on John 17:11b-19

Jesus Sends Us Out Into a World that Hates Us

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

John 17:11b-19: Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.  While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.  I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  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.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Even though today’s Gospel lesson is from John 17, I’d like to begin with a portion of John 15:  If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ These words which Christ spoke to His apostles earlier on Maundy Thursday sound a lot like the ones He prayed concerning them in our text today, don’t they?  He prayed:    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.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one….Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. As we all learned at school, repetition is the mother of learn.  Things that are important get repeated.  The Holy Spirit operates that way, and so does Jesus.  Over the course of one evening He repeats Himself frequently, which means we need to listen to what He’s saying.

Two items are especially striking in this prayer.  The first – Jesus knowingly sends us into a world that hates us.  He’s aware of the hatred that the unbelieving world has for the disciples, for the Church, for all believers, a hatred that goes back to Eden, when the LORD announced to the Devil, I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers.  Cain displayed this hatred, when in a fit of rage over God’s love for Abel, smote his brother.  The Jewish leaders displayed this hatred as Christ’s miracles drove them to Pilate’s door and cross’ nails.  Atheist and secular groups display this hatred as they blame Christianity for every evil, denigrate the Bible, and call Jesus the son of a whore.  Millions of Christian corpses, made corpses for being Christ display this hatred.  This is the depraved world we live in, a world that hates Christ, and hates his associates.  It’s the world into which Jesus sends the apostles and us to live and work.

This leads to the second striking item.  He doesn’t ask the Father to take us away from this.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Wrestle with that.  This is what makes the Rapture appealing, isn’t it?  Those who teach a Rapture are convinced that just before things get their worst, God will sweep up to heaven all true believers and spare them from the Great Tribulation before the final judgment.  Jesus says the opposite.  He doesn’t ask for rapture, only protection.

Does this rub you the wrong way? Does this irritate you?  Has it in the past?  Such a prayer runs counter to our natural theological inclinations and much of theology today.  The damnable idea of a Rapture is proof of it.  Many who are not swiftly lifted out of trouble draw the conclusion that God hates them, God is not just, God is wicked, or God is not there.  They drive themselves to anger, and deny God when things don’t work out the way they feel they ought.  Or worse, seeing the world go on as it has since Noah, with shame and perversion and degradation going unchecked, even in our churches, some become indifferent.  Their confession, He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, has tacked on to it, “Fine, as long as He doesn’t bother me.”

We find in this prayer the opposite of our heart’s desire.  We desire happiness, joy, success, acclaim, love, popularity, and outward, superficial proofs of God’s love for us.  We desire the Rapture, “Spare me, Jesus!”  We have a Savior who can be betrayed by the one doomed to destruction, a Savior whose followers are outsiders, a Savior who doesn’t ride it out with us, a Savior who doesn’t (can’t?) remove the hatred of the world, a Savior who seems to say, “They didn’t like me, they won’t like you, good luck!”, a Savior who assures us that things will get worse and worse and worse and worse right up to the end.

But that’s the thinking of the one doomed to destruction.  It’s that that condemned Judas in his own heart.  He was overwhelmed by the foolishness of the cross.  He stumbled over it, stumbled right into betraying his Lord for a few dollars more.  It’s that that confused the disciples on the Mount of Ascension, “Lord, aren’t you going to restore the power of Israel now?”  It’s that that confounds us too.  We hear this prayer.  We see the cross.  We watch Him ascend.  We hear of Him sitting at the right hand of the Father and wonder, “What is He doing?!?!”

And it’s here that we tell our sinful brains to shut up and listen to Jesus.  Yes, He sends us into a world that hates us.  Yes, He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.  But He didn’t abandon us.  He didn’t leave us at the mercy of the Evil One.  Hear the epistle for Ascension:  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.

Christ is head over everything for the Church.  For your benefit He received this “promotion,” if we can speak of it in such human terms.  For your benefit He accepted this divine call to serve for 33 years on earth and then eternally at the place of most power and influence.  Not for His glory, but yours.  And so He prayed, not for His benefit, but ours.  He took Peter, James, and John deep into the Garden so that they could hear this.  He moved the Holy Spirit to remind John about this prayer so that He could write it.  He didn’t have to.  He could just do these things without telling us.  But we, weak as we are, would not believe it if we did not see.  But so that we could hear what our sitting at the right hand of God Savior does for us, He prayed.  As He said, I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name. He speaks to His Father on our behalf.  Not for the first time, not for the last time.  For, as the writer to the Hebrews says, He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. He enlists the ultimate protection, God the Father Almighty, the only Holy Father.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. To be sanctified is to be set apart.  Jesus asks His Father to set us apart for Himself, to set us apart by the truth, the truth that sets us free, the truth that makes us wiser than our teachers, smarter than our enemies, more insightful than our elders. the truth of the Word:  Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church. He sets us apart with His Word of promise – “I love you this much!”  And He doesn’t just pray on our behalf, He acts.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. I sanctify myself. Jesus sets Himself apart.  He’s not a master that is above the fray.  He is, like the great military leaders, the first on the field and last off.  He entered the field from eternity, setting Himself apart as the sacrifice to be offered in atonement of our sins.  But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. And still He fights.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Until that day when it will be said of us, These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. For us.  Christ went not as an executive who forgets his fellow laborers.  Rather, He ascends as a parent preparing a will.  He loves His Church.  He loves His pastors and teachers.  He loves the sheep under their care.  He says to His Father, “I want My children to want for nothing.”  And if God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Amen.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for this encouragement as we deal with church ‘stuff’. I posted this on my blog today under Ascension Day sermons with a link back to this site. Thank you.


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