Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras
John 17:6-19… May 16,2021
"Boarding the SS Dorchester on a dreary winter day in 1943 were 903 troops and four chaplains, World War II was in full swing, and the ship was headed across the icy North Atlantic where German U-boats lurked. At 12:00 on the morning of February 3, a German torpedo ripped into the ship. "She's going down!" the men cried, scrambling for lifeboats.
A young GI crept up to one of the chaplains. 'I've lost my life jacket,' he said. 'Take this,"' the chaplain said, handing the soldier his jacket. Before the ship sank, each chaplain gave his life jacket to another man. The heroic chaplains then linked arms and lifted their voices in prayer as the Dorchester went down." They "died because they gave up their life jackets to save others." "Congress established February 3 as "Four Chaplains Day" to commemorate this act of heroism." I was wondering what these chaplains were thinking as they gave their lives for the soldiers. What their final statement was. Did they think of their families? We do not know.
This morning, I want to look at one of the final statements we have from Jesus. Thanks to the gospel writers, we know what Jesus's concerns, thoughts, and prayers were in the moments before he died on the cross. And we can learn a lot from this prayer. Likewise, I think Jesus wants his followers to learn from this final prayer. In this prayer, we notice that he did not concern himself, but he concerned his disciples and those who believe their testimony; that is us.
Knowing that he would be crucified on the cross to atone our sin and save us from death, Jesus assured his disciples that they belonged to him, not to the world. He knew that Peter would deny him, Judah Iscariot would betray him, and the rest of the disciples would run away. Jesus knew that only his beloved disciple would be with his mother, Mary, at the time of his crucifixion. Despite his sadness, heartbroken, and suffering, Jesus assured his disciples and us that we belong to him and that we are a gift from God to him. Jesus's prayer intends to calm his disciples' anxiety. I invite you to meditate with me on his prayer.
First, Jesus prayed for protection from the world and evil one. What is the difference between the world and the evil one? Is there any difference? The world is not the cosmos or the earth but the place where Satan is at work. The world manifests itself in systemic evil, which arises from structures within human society, like slavery, human trafficking, and discrimination. The world expresses itself in our own sins, too. God created a perfect world, but sin subjugated people, pushed down and marginalized the poor, and launched war. This world crucified the Son of God, rejects Jesus, and promotes secular ideology and culture. This world mocks Christians and encourages attending sports on Sunday rather than the church. We indeed need protection from this world of sin, war, death, injustices, and darkness.
As Jesus was leaving the disciples, he asked God, the Father, to protect them from the world and that they become one as God the Father and Jesus Christ are one. Jesus also asked that his joy may be made complete in his disciples (v. 13). The evil one aims to destroy your joy by tempting you and bringing hardship to your life. But, despite all his evil deeds and power, he cannot strip you from Jesus's joy because you belong to Jesus alone.
Jesus prays for his disciples' protection from the devil, and that they are not taken out of the world. But, ultimately, just as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so too, Jesus sent the disciples and us into the world to continue his mission and spread the good news about forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
Second, Jesus prayed for his disciples' sanctification in the truth. Sanctity does not imply or claim a godly status. It is described as being in the truth, which is the word of God. Sanctity has to do with our mission to be sent to the world to share the word of God. Your sanctification does not come by isolating yourselves from the world but by being sent into it.
Our sanctification is connected with Jesus's suffering on the cross (v. 19). This sanctification is not cheap because it cost Jesus to lose his life for us. It also comes in the experience of losing our own lives. Jesus says, "Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).
Jesus also says in John 16:33, " I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world, you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!" In this era, where atheism and secularism target Christians and more people are less interested in church, keep in mind that Jesus prayed for you. Take courage; Jesus Christ defeated this world and its master, the devil. Jesus will give you the strength and wisdom to continue his mission in this world.
My church family, I beseech you, do not hesitate to express your faith in words and deeds. Do not put your light under a bushel, but put your light on a stand, that those who come in may see the light ( Luke 11:33–36).
"And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6).