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The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:18-19

John 17:18-19  “As you 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.”

Last time, as we looked at this second main request in this, the Real Lord’s Prayer, we saw what Jesus meant when he prayed that the Father would sanctify the disciples; namely that they would be set apart for God and set apart from sin.  And we also saw the means of that setting apart process – the Scriptures, the truth.

Now we see why they need to be set apart and the basis on which that setting apart is possible.

First, the reason why Jesus’ disciples need to be set apart.  And although the primary focus here is still on Jesus’ initial group of disciples, those eleven men who are physically with him as he prays this prayer, shortly before his arrest, the underlying principle applies to us.

Why do the disciples – why do we – need to be set apart for God?  And the answer is, because we have a mission to fulfil.  Between the two references to the disciples being sanctified or consecrated, Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”  And v20 which, God willing, we will consider next time, tells us why they were sent into the world; so that they might take the good news of the gospel to the nations and through their testimony many – including ourselves – will be saved.  Jesus’ prayer for his disciples has, as its end, their mission to the world.

But it’s important to note how Jesus expresses this.  He makes a direct link between his being sent into the world by the Father and their being sent into the world by him.  As you sent me into the world”, he says, so I have sent them into the world.” (emphasis added)

Your see, what Jesus is spelling out here is that he was sent into the world to carry out his divine commission; the work the Father gave him to do.  We have already seen this is in 17:4.   Now, apart, of course, from the unique work of salvation through his death on the cross, all that Jesus was sent to do he, in turn, was sending – indeed had sent – his disciples to do.  In other words, their commission was to continue his commission.  What the Father sent him into the world to do, he sent them into the world to do.

By the way, Jesus repeats this great commission when he appears to the disciples on the evening of his resurrection. See John 20:21.

Thinking of this reminded me of how Luke begins Acts.  He describes his gospel account as having dealt with “all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when he was taken up.” (Acts 1:1-2)  Notice that word “began”.   This was, in some sense, only the beginning of Jesus’ work.   That work would be taken up and continued by his disciples as they fulfilled what we often call the Great Commission; as they, empowered by the Spirit of God at Pentecost, become “[his] witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

Most of our English language Bibles call the book of Acts ‘The Acts of the Apostles’, but it would be better called ‘The Continuing acts of Jesus through the Apostles’.

You see, when we are set apart for God we are set apart for service.  We are all called to be his hands and feet and voice.   We are called, all of us, to be missionaries and evangelists and gossipers of the good news of salvation.

So, Jesus makes a clear link between his being sent into the world and his sending his disciples into the world.  Then he makes a clear link between his setting himself apart and their being set apart.

Notice v19: “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”  Remember that the words the ESV translate as consecrate and sanctified are actually the same word and refer to being set apart for God’s possession and purpose.

Jesus says that his setting apart of himself is the grounds of their being set apart, and I am convinced that the only way we can properly understand this is in terms of Jesus preparing to finish his God-given mission to redeem his people; his completion of the unique part of the mission for which the Father had sent him into the world.

And the language he uses stresses the voluntary nature of what he is going to do.   He doesn’t pray for himself the same way as he prays for the disciples, asking God to do something to them.  He says, “I consecrate myself.”  He is as determined to set himself apart for his Father’s exclusive service as the Father is to set him apart.

Jesus is determined and committed to completing to the bitter end – and it would indeed be bitter – the mission he was given by the Father and which he had gladly accepted.   As he speaks these words, Calvary and the cross are just a few hours away.  As the shadow of that unspeakable horror looms ever larger and more real, Jesus re-consecrates himself to go through with what he came to do.  But notice what he says.  “…for their sake I consecrate myself”.

Jesus set himself apart to do the Father’s will, which included bringing the knowledge of God and eternal life to all who believe, and laying down his life for his disciples.  And, by laying down his life he also set them apart.  In other words, he cleansed them from sin, separated them from the world, and set them apart as his witnesses in the world.

You see, the cross, by which we mean the atoning substitutionary sacrifice that Jesus makes on that cross, is the basis for everything we are and have as Christians.  Everything flows from and is possible because of that.

Here is how John MacArthur paraphrases this prayer of Jesus:

O Father, give them a consistent, holy oneness, separate from the world. Don’t let them blend in. Don’t let them fall back. Give them a full joy in the knowledge of My love and Your love for them, and Our care. Provide complete and ongoing protection from the evil one and all his forces. And finally, set them apart as pure and distinct, as they come to know and live out the Word of God.

But I want to close with this thought.  This wasn’t just a prayer that Jesus prayed one evening many years ago in a far distant place.  This is still, in so many ways, the essence of Jesus’ prayer for us even today as our Great High Priest.  And now, of course, it is prayed, not on the basis of something that is to happen in a few hours’ time but something that has happened once and for all.  Even today, Jesus continues to pray for our continuing being set apart for the possess ion of God and for the purposes of God and for our protection from the ruler of this world who is the great enemy of our souls.

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