In But Not of the World
Easter 7B John 17:20-26
When you hear the word, “world,” what do you think of?
World. World. What do you think of? What do you see?
When I hear the word, “world,” three songs immediately come into my mind.
How about the song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got the whole wide world, in his hands, he’s got the whole world, in his hands, he’s got the whole world in his hands.”
By world, it is the whole wide world. Our globe. Our earth. Our endless universe. This whole wide world, this whole universe, is in the palm of God’s hands.
How about the hymn, THIS IS MY FATHER’S WORLD. You may recall the words.
“This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.”
World. It is the world of nature. All nature sings and around me rings. Rocks and trees, of skies and seas. It is the world of nature all around me. God’s hand created them all.
A third song. When I hear the word, “world,” I think a third piece of music, of one of my favorite songs by Louie Armstrong, IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD. I wish I could sing it like Louie. Whenever that song comes on the radio when I am driving the car, I always smile inside, sit back, relax, and enjoy the voice of Louie and the words of this song. And his growly voice about our wonderful world.
You may know those famous words:
“I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky…”
All three of these songs sing about the world that God made. These are all positive definitions and positive associations with the word, “world.” Trees of green, red roses too. Yes, it’s a wonderful world.
BUT…BUT…BUT… there are also negative associations with the word, “world.”
Such as “This world of our is going to the dogs.”
“There is so much corruption in the world. Wars, Starvation. Killings. Murders. This world of ours is a sick place.”
As Einstein said, “Our world is drifting to catastrophe.”
In the Gospel of John, the world is symbolic of the dark side, the evil side, the nasty side, the warring side of human personality in each of us.
This world in the Gospel John is not so much a wonderful world at nature at its best but a wandering world of humanity at its worst. This wandering world is a world that has wandered far away from God and the ways of God and the love of God. In the Gospel of John, the world is symbolic of people who have wandered from God, drifted from God. The world loves darkness rather than light.
For the Gospel of John, the world is not (sing?) “trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom for me and you.” Rather it is, “People is mean, and nasty too, I see them hate, and kill folks like you. And I say to myself, “It’s a dark, messed up world.”
And both themes are true: It’s a wonderful world. It’s a dark, messed up world. God loves them both.
And we hear that Bible verse of John 3:16, the most famous verse from the Bible: For God SO LOVED the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will never perish but have everlasting life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
As God loved the world, you and I are called to love the world that God so deeply loved.
As God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, so you and I are sent into this world of ours not to condemn the world.
As God sent his Son into the world to save the world from sin and darkness, so also God sends you and me into the world…so that the people in the world around us can be saved, and made whole and begin to walk in the ways of God’s love.
In the gospel lesson for today, we hear the word, “world,” thirteen times. Yes, thirteen times.
The big question in the gospel text for today is what is our relationship with the world around us to be? What is our relationship to be to this dark, messed up world in which we live?
Let’s do a Bible study of the text for today. We believe that God nourishes our lives with spiritual food as we study God’s Word.
As we do this Bible study, every time you see the word, “world,” underline it and put a number by it, numbers 1-13.
Immediately, we see that this text is from John 17. John 17 is called the Highly Priestly Prayer.
Jesus taught us about prayer in three specific instances in the gospel story.
Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer and you and I pray the Lord’s Prayer at every Sunday worship service and daily as well. The Lord’s Prayer is deep within every one of our psyches. Yesterday, I was calling on the shut-ins and I visited Mae Nelson Hanson. She was paralyzed by a stoke sixteen years ago, has been in bed ever since, and I have never heard her speak a word. Yesterday, I again said the Lord’s Prayer to her, as she woke up from her nap. When I finished the Lord’s Prayer with her, she said AMEN. AMEN she said. It was the first time I heard her speak in all these years I called on her. The Lord’s Prayer is not only deep within Mae but is deep within every one of us.
The second prayer that Jesus taught us to pray was from the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was contemplating the nearness of his painful death. Jesus prayed that well known prayer, “Not my will be done but yours.” You and I have prayed that prayer on several occasions, especially when life gets especially tough. We ask God to help us accept the nastiness of our given situation and we often pray, “Not my will be done but yours.” We finally begin to accept God’s will, rather than pushing for own will to be done.
The third prayer that we learned from Jesus is today, from John 17, which is called the High Priestly. Jesus was interceding for us, praying for us. Following Jesus’ example, we intercede to God our Father and pray to our heavenly Father for others. In this particular prayer, Jesus was and is praying for his disciples, including us today. Sometimes, people telephone my wife and ask her to pray for them. My wife is better at intercessory prayer for others than I am. In this prayer today, it is not your spouse who is praying for you nor your pastor nor a fellow church member. In the prayer for today, it is none other than Jesus himself who is praying for you and me. Who is praying for you is important, especially when it is Jesus.
-I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. In John 17, Jesus is praying to God for his disciples, including praying for us. The “I” at the beginning of the sentence is Jesus. We need to imagine Jesus now seated at the right hand of God, right next to God, interceding for each one of us. John, chapter 17, is called the High Priestly Prayer because Jesus is our High Priest, who is interceding with God on our behalf.
“Make your name known to his disciples.” Jesus made God’s name known to us. God’s name is The Lord, I am With You. Jesus made known to us that God is our loving Father who loves us as a loving father. The world does not believe that about God. The world out there doesn’t care much about God, especially that the Lord is our loving Father.
There is that word, “world.” For the first time in this text. Write the number “1” next to the word, “world.” The word, “world,” occurs twelve times in this short text. Underline the word, “world,” every time that you see it in our Bible study and you will underline it and number it.
Near the word, “world,” write, “the dark side, the evil side.” The world symbolizes the worst of humanity.
-They were yours, and you gave them to me, Circle the word, “they.” “They” means disciples. The first twelve disciples. But also you and me. We too are disciples. We too are part of the “they.”
God gave us disciples to Jesus.
-and they have kept your word. Kept your word. The disciples that God gave to Jesus kept/obeyed/followed the teachings and commandments of God and put them into action. Underline the phrase, “kept your word.” Write down, “God’s commandment to love God and neighbor.” In this section of the Gospel of John, there are repeated assertions that disciples are people who keep God’s word.. A crucial aspect of discipleship is not only to hear and understand God’s commandment to love but to do it, to keep that commandment. Keep means obedience and actually doing the commandment to love.
God’s word is also the word of eternal life. Jesus said, “I have the words of eternal life.”
The world out there, the world around us, neither believes in the commandment of love nor eternal life. The world out there, the world around us, lives by the principle of “take care of yourself” and this world is all there is. When you die, you die.
The world out there, the world around us, does not keep nor accept God’s word of truth.
-Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; All the teachings and wisdom living inside of Jesus has come from God.
for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, The words of Jesus are words from God. Those words are God’s commandments to love as Jesus has loved us. Those words are the words of eternal life.
-and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. Like any good parent often repeats the truth to his/her children, so Jesus also repeats the truth to his disciples often and repeatedly, as if they did not comprehend it the first times.
A particular important aspect of Christian discipleship is to know and believe that Jesus Christ came from God, that Jesus was sent by God to earth and also that Jesus will return to God where he was initially, before the world began. Jesus repeats this theme again and again. This was another way of Jesus claiming his divinity, that he was with God before the world began; that God sent Jesus into the world and that when his work was done here on this earth, Jesus will again return to God from whom he came in the first place.
-I am asking on their behalf; Underline. Highlight. Emphasize. It is important to realize that Jesus prayed for his disciples and also prays/intercedes for us as well. Just as you and I pray for each other, so also Jesus prayed and prays to God on our behalf. Jesus, whom we picture at the right hand of God, is talking with God, conversing with God, interceding with God, his heavenly Father and ours, on our behalf.
-I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, The world is not interested in Jesus interceding with God on its behalf. The world lives selfishly for themselves. The world lives for the moment, for today, because there is no hereafter.
Underline “world” and write a number 2 by it. The world is the dark side, the evil side.
because they are yours. Wow. Underline it. Highlight it. Claim it as your own. The disciples, including you and me, belong to God. We are “yours.” Near the word, “they,” write in, “That’s me.”
All mine are yours, and yours are mine; The disciples belonged to both God and Jesus. We disciples today belong to both God and Jesus.
and I have been glorified in them. We disciples glorify God by keeping the commandments to love God and neighbor. That is the primary way that we glorify God. Not by singing hymns and praying prayers and looking and smelling religious. The way we glorify Jesus is by keeping his two commandments and knowing that we shall live with God our Father eternally.
-And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, See the words, “world” and write the numbers 3 and 4. We disciples are in the world. Jesus never takes us out the world with all its tensions and desires, but leaves us to live out our lives in the middle of a culture which is hostile to God, the values of God, the ways of God.
Jesus is no longer in the world; that is, Jesus is soon coming to God the Father.
and I am coming to you. This is a reference to Jesus’ coming ascension, where Jesus will ascend back to God the Father, from whom Jesus originally came. Jesus will be coming back home to his Heavenly Father. Jesus is praying to his Father and is telling his Father that he is coming back to him.
-Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, Circle the words, “Holy Father.” God is our father, but is our sacred Father, our holy Father, our revered Father.
Circle the word, “Protect.” What does it mean “to protect them/the disciples in God’s name?”
Does that mean that God protects us from disasters and trials of life?
Sometimes, when we are in the midst of a disaster, we wish that God would protect us from the pain that we or our loved one(s) are going through. We, as suffering human beings, see the word, “protect,” and we grab onto it, erroneously thinking that the Lord God promised to protect us from the pain of life.
The protection that God offers us is the protection from sin. The Lord God offers us the armor of the Spirit whereby we stand strong in the testings of the flesh and testings of the spirit.
The word, “protection,” or “guard” is used three times in this text. We think of numerous images of helmets that are given for our protection and need to be used while engaged in physically dangerous sports: a football helmet, a bicycle helmet, a ski helmet, a skating helmet, a skate board helmet. It would be foolish to engage in these sports without the proper protection of one’s head. It also would be foolish to live within this world of ours without needed protection for our heads and hearts.
so that they may be one, as we are one. Jesus intercedes for us and prays to our heavenly Father for our protection. But for what purpose? So that the disciples are one. Circle the word, “one.” This is the first of four times in this section where Jesus prayed for his disciples to be “one.” Why was this so important for Jesus? Why was it so important for Jesus that his disciples be one with each other and one in Christ? What did Jesus know about the future factions and divisions that would evolve around religion and Christianity?
Next year, on this Sunday, Easter 7, we will focus on the last section of this chapter, John 17, and Jesus’ desire to have his disciples perfectly one with each other.
-While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost. Jesus guards and protects us his disciples, not from the trials of life, but from falling away and becoming lost.
It is important that you realize this. So many of us have a hidden expectation that God is to protect us from the pain and misery of life here on earth, rather than protecting us from falling away from God and becoming lost.
-Except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. Write down the name, Judas. Except for Judas. It was Judas’ God given destiny that he would betray Jesus … for money.
-But now I am coming to you, Jesus is getting ready for his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, where he will be coming back to God. Jesus originally came from God who sent him to earth and is returning to God.
-and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. See the word, “world,” and write number 5 next to it.
Underline the phrase, “they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”
Circle the word, “they” and write disciples above it.
Circle the word, “my joy.” We know that Jesus wants his disciples to have hearts filled with joy. We also know that there are “joy stealers” around us who would just as soon that we would wallow in misery, imperfection and sinfulness. But Jesus wants us to be filled with joy, to be overflowing with joy that is not based on material prosperity or physical health.
I remember a retreat about JOY. Those letters stand for Jesus, Others, Yourself. That is what joy is: to love Jesus, others and yourself. JOY is really quite simple.
-I have given them your word, Jesus has given his disciples, including your and me, God’s word, his commandments to love God and each other and to believe in Jesus. Your word is also eternal life.
and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Underline the word, “world” three times. Write the numbers 6, 7, 8.
The world out there around us is going to hate us, resent us because we do not belong to the world and its values.
Underline the phrase, “do not belong to the world.” Jesus has said this to us endlessly, repetitively, repeatedly. Jesus is like a parent who repeats the same truth/advice/perceptions to his/her children over and over and over again. Children need to hear the truth over and over and over again. It is in the repetition that a person comes to realize the importance of what is being said. There are some basic mathematical tables that are endlessly drilled into our minds so that we can remember them and put them into practice. This is also true of several of Jesus’ fundamental teachings. He repeats them over and over again until we finally begin to learn them.
The word, “world,” (kosmos) is used numerous times in this whole chapter. The disciples’ relationship with their world and we contemporary disciples’ relationship with our world is the primary focus of this text.
That is the question of this text: what is to be our relationship with the world in which we live?
“The world” does not refer to this planet Earth nor to our universe but the world, the culture, the civilization around us which is permeated with evil, imperfection, injustice and sin. In the Gospel of John, the world is always hostile to God but God still loves the world.
The world in which we live is incredibly beautiful. Skies of blue, red roses too. But this world is also permeated with evil and injustice.
Followers of Christ do not belong to the world. To the world of sin, the world of darkness, the world of evil that surrounds us. The world around us does not know what it means to love God with all one’s self and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do not belong to such values.
We remember that God/Jesus loved the world. We remember John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
We Christians are to love the world as God loves the world. Jesus did not condemn the world around him and we are not to condemn our world either.
-I am not asking you to take them out of the world, Underline the word, “world.” Write the number 9. Jesus is so clear. God loves the world. Jesus loved the world. And you and I are to love this world of God’s as well.
But we know this world around us is also infected with injustice and cruelty and Jesus wants us disciples to remain in this world that God loves.
A lot of us secretly want God to take us out of this evil world of corruption, injustice and sin. We want God to somehow and some way get us out of this evil world in which we live.
But Jesus does not want us disciples to be removed from the evil world in which we live.
but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. Jesus again tells us that his disciples are not being removed from the world but that God would protect them from the evil one. We remember the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Deliver us from the power of evil that wants to consume our lives.
A friend of mine said that when she sent her kids off to college, this was her daily prayer for her young adult children: “I ask you God to protect my children from the evil one.”
This is the prayer of Jesus. This is the request of Jesus to God our Heavenly Father. Jesus does not ask us to be taken out of the world of temptation and seduction that is all around us. Rather, Jesus asks God to protect us from the evil one by giving us his Spirit, by living inside of us and we living inside of Christ.
-They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Underline the word, “world” and write numbers 10 and 11.
Jesus has told us so many times: We Christians are not to belong to the world, just as Jesus’ heart and mind did not belong to the world but to God. By world, Jesus is referring to those powers of darkness around us, those dark powers of hate and injustice, those dark powers of selfishness and self-centeredness.
I would like to tell you a story. About Norm. Norm Carlsen. He died two days ago. Norm was a person who belonged to God and did not belong to the world. Let me explain. Last Tuesday night, there was a family gathering before Norm’s surgery the next day. I went to the family gathering which quickly turned into a party. It was a ball. During that party, Norm told us all that when he had surgery eight years ago for lung cancer, he had been living on borrow time which was God’s gift to him. He told us all that no matter what happened, it was a “win-win” situation for him. Whether he lived and continued to be with wife, children and grandchildren, that was a winner for him. Whether he died and went to be with Jesus, that too was a winner for him. He really meant it. He knew the Bible verse well, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Much to our surprise, Norm never woke up from his surgery. We were shocked. But Norm won. He is with Jesus. Norm belonged to Jesus.
Some people who belong to the world say to me, “I want to make it through surgery. It’s better than the alternative.” That’s the line I often hear from the world, “It is better than the alternative of death.” The world out there, the world around us, does not get that for “me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Another friend said to me yesterday, “When I die, the first thing I want to do is chat with Jesus, then my wife, my daughter, and someday you as well, Ed.” The first thing that he wanted to do when he died was to see Jesus and chat face to face with him.
The world doesn’t understand that. The world does not understand nor believe in eternal life. The world out there thinks that this short time on earth is the only time around. With the Looney Tune cartoons, they say, “That’s all folks.”
-Sanctify them in the truth; Make us disciples holy and truthful. To be holy is to be set apart of God’s way of living and loving in the world. To be holy is not to be sanctimonious, a “holier than thou” kind of people. To be set apart for a way of living and loving is not to carry a hidden attitude of spiritual superiority, “I am a little bit better than you non-members of the church.” As Christians, we always ask God to make us holy, and to make our lives more loving, to God, to our neighbors in the world around us.
- Your word is truth. This sentence is another zinger. Jesus’ words are God’s words. God’s and Jesus’ words are forever true. His words about God, about grace, about love, about forgiveness, about prayer, about discipleship, about death, about resurrection. His words about eternal life. We could go on and on and we know that Jesus’ and God’s words are true. The way we hear God’s words is on the lips of Jesus. Jesus is the Word. God’ primary word is God’s primary commandment: To love God with all one’s heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This word is forever true.
-As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. Highlight the words, “world.” Write the numbers 12 and 13. This is the eleventh and twelfth time we have seen them in this text. The word, “world,” is used more often in these verses than in any other place in the Bible.
Circle the word, “sent.” As Jesus Christ was sent to this world by God, so his disciples are also “sent” out into the world. The Greek word for “sent” is “apostolos” from which we get our English word, “apostles” or “apostolic.” An apostolic church/community is a community which is sent out in the world rather than waiting for the world to come into the doors of the sanctuaries.
And where are we sent? To the world around us. To people around us who do not know nor live by the values and actions of the Great Commandment to love God with everything inside of us and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We Christians are church members are forever a missionary people. Jesus is sending us today out into our world around us.
-And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. We disciples are made holy in truth.
Yes, we are left in the world. We are left in this world with all its pain and suffering and sorrow.
And so we end this sermon where we began, with a single word, “world.”
Jesus said: Be in the world. Do not belong to the world. You belong to God.
Back to Top