Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jesus High Priestly Prayer

The Gospel Reading for Wednesday May 11th, of the Seventh Week of Easter

John 17:1a, 11b-19 ~ Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer Part II
 (see Part I)

1a Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: ... 11b “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. 12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share in my joy completely. 14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. 16 They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. 17 Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. 19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

"We continue with Jesus’ prayer to God the Father for His disciples that began in 17:1 at the end of the Last Supper. In verse 11b, knowing the temptations the disciples will face to reject Him in favor of the world, Jesus prays that the disciples will be kept safe from those temptations and the contamination of the world. He prays that they will persevere, that they will remain true to the Father’s commandments, and that their bond to each other will be a unity that is a reflection of the oneness of the Most Holy Trinity (see Jn 10:30).

In verse 12 Jesus refers to having guarded and protected His disciples, keeping all of them except the one who was destined to be lost. The literal Greek translation is “except the son of perishing.” This Semitic expression, in the literal Greek text, is a play on the word “to perish” = “not one has perished except the son of perishing,” sometimes translated as “the son of perdition” as well as “the son of destruction.” It is a reference to the traitor Judas Iscariot.

Judas was a man from the Judean town of Kerioth. The surname “Iscariot” is literally “ish” (man) “Kerioth” (town of his origin). The betrayal of the Messiah was prophesized in Old Testament Scripture, as Jesus says in verse 12 (see Gen 3:15; Ps 41:9; 69:25 and Zec 11:12-13; also see reference to prophecy of his betrayal in Jn 6:64; Mt 27:3-10 and Acts 1:16-20). You may recall that during the Last Supper Jesus referred to Judas and quoted Psalms 41:9 in John 13:17-18. The literal Greek is, “He who eats bread with me lifts up against me his heel.” It is interesting that the “son of perishing” carries the name of Jesus’ tribe, the tribe of Judah or Yehuda. The Hebrew name Yehuda means “Yahweh’s people.” Isn’t it ironic that it was Yahweh’s people who rejected Him, with the exception of a faithful remnant who answered God’s call and remained faithful? It is also ironic that within the Apostles there was both a “true Judah” and a “false Judah”? The true Judah who believed in the Messiah was the Apostle Judas, son or brother of James, also called Thaddaeus or Jude to distinguish him from the other Judas (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:19; Lk 6:16; Acts 1:14), and the false Judah was the Judah from the town of Kerioth.

In verse 13 Jesus prayers to the Father, “But now I am coming to you.” As in verse 11, Jesus knows that His time on earth is limited and soon He will begin His walk to the altar of the Cross that is the necessary prelude to His Resurrection and Ascension. He petitions the Father to help Him prepare for the climax of His earthly ministry. He also asks the Father to preserve His disciples for the temptations and the sufferings they must endure through that experience, and later when His mission to save the world becomes theirs.

15 “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One.” In his commentary on the Gospel According to John, Fr. Raymond Brown writes, “The word ‘poneros’, “Evil One,” is capable of being translated as an abstract noun, “evil”; but on the analogy of 1 John 2:13-14, 3:12, a personal application to the devil is probably intended” (The Gospel According to John, page 761). Jesus is referring to Satan—the Evil One who is the prince of this world. Jesus will refer to this fallen angel as “the ruler/prince of this world” three times in St. John’s Gospel (Jn 12:31; 4:30; 6:11, also see 1 Jn 2:13-14 where St. John reminds us that “the whole world is under the Evil One”). Jesus’ petition in John 17:13-16 may be a parallel to Jesus’ seventh petition in the “The Lord’s Prayer” found in Matthew 6:13. In that last petition, Jesus literally prayed “free us from the Evil One” (see CCC 2850-511) which is more often, but less accurately, rendered “deliver us from evil.” Jesus won victory over Satan, “the evil one,” for all of us when He freely gave Himself up to death to give us His life (see CCC 2853).

Verse 15 generates a question we must ask ourselves: “Is it possible to belong both to the world and to Christ?” This is, of course, the great struggle, and the answer is “No!” In this discourse, Jesus has repeatedly made the distinction between belonging to God or to the world; there can be no compromise between the two. But God doesn’t want Christians out of the world in order to escape persecution and conflict—He wants the ungodly out! The Christian’s mission is to convert the world not to flee from it. Jesus is praying that Christians should NOT be taken out of the world. This is the consistent message of the Bible: God’s covenant people are destined to inherit all things on earth and in Heaven (see Prov 2:21-22 and 10:30).

In Hebrew the word for “salvation” is y’shuah. This word comes from the Hebrew root word yasha which means “to bring into a large, wide, open space.” Through God’s gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, that is exactly what Yahweh has prepared for mankind. His covenant people will inherit the entire new earthly creation (Psalm 37) which will be restored to them as the New Eden. This is the last vision of St. John in the Book of Revelation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea” (Rev 21:1). It is what Jesus tells St. John in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making the whole of creation new.”

In verses 17-19 Jesus prays, “‘Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.’” In His prayer, Jesus petitions the Father to give His disciples five spiritual gifts:
1. Unity: “so that they may be one just as we are one” (vs 11).
2. Joy: “so that they may share in my joy completely” (vs 13).
3. Preservation: “that you keep them from the Evil One” (vs 15).
4. Holiness: “Consecrate them in the truth” (vs 17).
5. Consecrated mission: “… so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth” (vss 18b-19).

In verse 18 it is Jesus’ desire to send His disciples into the world to continue His mission to transform the world with the Gospel of salvation (Mt 28:19-20). In verses 17-19, the Greek word “hagiazo” means “consecrate, sanctify, or to make holy,” and the Greek word “aletheia” is the Greek word for “truth.” Notice that both words are repeated 3 times. This is another set of double threes that points to the theme of Jesus’ prayer. The word “hagiazo” indicates spiritual cleansing, but the word “aletheia” has power as in John 8:32: “truth will set you free.” So what is the active power of “truth” in John 17:17 to “consecrate them in the truth”? The Greek word translated “in” can also mean “by” and “for”; therefore, the answer is that “truth” is both the active force of the consecration as well as the sphere into which the believer is placed. In being consecrated by the Word, one is to be united with Christ, who is Himself the Truth: “I am the Way and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6). It is Jesus’ prayer for His disciples then and for you today to live in His Truth and to be consecrated (made holy) by truth faith in your Savior and Redeemer who consecrated you with His very life."

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016

“Holy Father …. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.”