6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that[a] you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost,[b] so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.[c]14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.[d] 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
This is the last week of what we know as the Easter season. Next week is Pentecost. Remember to wear your red colors next Sunday as we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit with a rushing wind and flaming tongues. But before we get there we need to pause this week and see where God is leading us today. In this 7th Sunday of Easter the ascension has occurred. Jesus has been taken up to heaven, the two angels appeared and asked the disciples what they were doing still looking up when there was work to do here on the ground. The theme for this week is what work are we to do here and now while Jesus is sitting at the right of God the Father to judge the quick or the living and the dead according to the Apostle’s Creed.
Gospel reading today is what we have come to know as the High Priestly Prayer. Jesus is praying for the disciples, which by the way is you and me. Jesus prays for us and seeks God’s blessing upon us. In verse 17 Jesus says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” What does the word sanctify mean? According to the google dictionary I found these 3 definitions: “set apart as or declare holy; consecrate. Make legitimate or binding by religious sanction. Free from sin; purify.”
Jesus is asking God in the High Priestly prayer to set the disciples apart, make them legit as they say today and free them from sin and purify them. This is pretty big deal. The 12 are being separated from the rest of the world because Jesus asks them to be sanctified for a specific purpose, to tell the truth. The truth of the good news or the gospel that Jesus lived, died and was resurrected. Now we know that the disciples at the Ascension are told to start spreading the news just like the song New York, New York. But the first thing they do is get together in the Upper Room and find a replacement for Judas Iscariot, the trader.
Acts story is a very interesting story. The plot line follows the Ascension and when they return to the house after seeing Jesus taken up, Peter addresses the crowd. All the disciples are named and we are told that Mary Jesus’ mother and brothers are there as well as close friends numbering around 120 people. Peter tells the crowd it is time to replace Judas and this was how they were going to do it. He asked who among them had been with Jesus from the time of his baptism with John until now. This is a very interesting moment for the group.
Prior to this time Jesus had picked all the disciples. He chose them from knowing their hearts, even the heart of Judas. Not all of them had been with Jesus since his baptism, but since Jesus was gone, since the Holy Spirit had not arrived yet Peter wanted the replacement to have full knowledge of everything that had happened to Jesus from the beginning of his ministry forward.
It also seems the 12th disciple had to be chosen before the Holy Spirit could come. They did this before the day of Pentecost. It seems that the 12 needed to be ready to receive the Holy Spirit when it arrived. Jesus told them right before he was taken up into the clouds to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Spirit. The 12 disciples represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus tells them earlier that they will sit on the 12 seats of judgement in the kingdom and judge the world.
Only 2 people it seemed fit the bill and they were not even Jesus’ brothers. Two guys one named Joseph Barsabbas also called Justus and Matthias. The other disciples were to cast lots for these men. They picked Matthias as the replacement. We never hear of either of these two men again. Yet Matthias and the other 11 had still been sanctified by God. They had been set apart to tell the truth. We just don’t know what else they did. We don’t know if Justus got mad and started kicking rocks down the road saying who would have thunk it or not? Did he stay with them or did he take his tunic and go home?
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been upset because you were up for a job or promotion, something new was about to become yours and you lost to someone else? The hurt and pain of the disappointment that for whatever reason you were not chosen, you were not picked? Today I have some good news for you. You have been picked. You have been chosen to receive the sanctification by God. God has set you aside, forgiven your sins, God wants you and loves you. It seems strange that we never hear of Justus nor Matthias again, but how many people throughout history have been sanctified by God that we don’t know their names? Yet they still served God and God loved them.
All of us who have gathered here today and our friends in churches all over the world have been set apart by God to tell the truth, not just this day but every day. Jesus prayed to God in the High Priestly prayer that the disciples would not be removed from the world but to live in it with God being with them. Just as Jesus was set apart, just as the twelve were set apart, we today have been set apart by God for something amazing. The thing is you are doing it right now. You have come to worship God, you have come to hear about the Way and the Truth and the Life, and you are willing to try and live that same truth.
It is not easy and it includes living in obscurity. But every time you help someone, you pray for someone, you study the scriptures, serve in the church or in benevolent organizations you are proclaiming your sanctification. You are loving others as Jesus commanded the disciples to do. Sure, there is always more we can do. Yes, it seems there is never enough time or space to get it all done. Yet, when we act on behalf of others we are doing the work that God called us to do. Some times we beat ourselves up over things that would of, could of, or should of. Don’t beat yourself up. Embrace the power of God’s sanctification. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. It is the same calling that called Matthias that is calling us to serve, not as famous do gooders like some people but in our own little neck of the woods.
You are sanctified by God for the purpose of telling the truth about Jesus and his love. Live boldly in that truth and share the good news. You are loved by God and that is really, really cool. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.