Protect, Guard, Sanctify – Wednesday, 7th Week of Easter – Acts 20:28-33/ John 17:11b-19
As I prepare to leave the parish of St Stephen’s Church as its shepherd, I find my prayers for the parish similar to the prayer of Christ in John chapter 17. Perhaps having read these words of scripture in the past, these words of Christ have subtly been imprinted on my soul. I pray with Jesus that every parishioner of the parish may be protected(verse11), guarded(verse12) and sanctified(verse16).
Jesus is praying to Father and his disciples are around him. They can not only see his lips move but can hear the words of his prayer loud enough to remember and record them. Cleary, Jesus is concerned for his disciples. He will no longer be in this world, a world ruled by satan. (14:30) Yet clearly, Jesus also tells us, that while satan is the ruler of the world he has no power over Christ. This means that satan has power over us if we are detached from Him, “the vine.” This is why he asked us to abide in him, to be attached to him and emphatically said, “apart from me you can do nothing.”
The prayer of Jesus, found in this section of the text, is comforting. Jesus has guarded every one of the flock given to him by the father; he has lost not one except the one who wanted to be lost. (17:12) While on earth Jesus protected the disciples from satan and he did this in the Fathers name. But now he has to return to the father (verse13) for his hour has come (17:1) and this is the moment satan has been waiting patiently in the wings for.
Twice in this text Jesus proclaims that the disciples “do not belong to the world.” (17:14&16) Clearly, the disciple lives in this world but he is not of the world. There is no clearer teaching than verse 15 that emphasizes that Christianity does not insulate us from the trials and struggles and temptations of this world. Jesus says, “I am not asking you (Father) to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.”
It is in this context that Jesus prays that we are protected, guarded and sanctified in the truth. He wants us to be protected in the name of Jesus; a name given by the Father himself. When we are assailed by the evil one, we simply need to call upon the powerful name of Jesus and satan will be forced to release us.
Jesus prays that we be guarded. As long as Jesus was in the world, he protected us from the evil one but now that he will depart from this world satan will come in full force to attack the disciples. The doors of the disciple’s hearts need to be bolted and shut confident that just as Jesus guarded the disciples from satan so also now, they will be guarded in spite of the attacks to come.
Finally, Jesus prays that the disciples may be sanctified in the truth. To be sanctified (haggios in Greek) is to be set apart. The disciples are to be set apart in their manner of life; in standing for ‘THE TRUTH’ not just ‘a truth’. The word of God (Jesus) is the truth. It is in Jesus’ name that they are set apart and not just a blessing that is given to them as protection.
Today, sign yourself with the triple protection of Christ; that you may be protected, guarded and sanctified.