1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11/ Acts 1:6-14/ John 17:1-19
In the World, Yet Not of the World
Jesus and John the Baptist
What is the difference between Jesus and John the Baptist? It is very possible I have already told you this. A lot of scholars believe that Jesus used to be John’s disciple, which means they started from the same theological position. They both preached about the kingdom of Heaven (or “kingdom of God”), and believed in spiritual purity. The reason why Jesus left John’s group and started a new movement is explained in the difference between those two.
What did Jesus do that John didn’t do? John and every religious sect that stayed in the desert away from the villages and towns did so because they believed that they had to be separated from the society in order to maintain spiritual purity. Jesus, on the other hand, believed that God’s people should live in the society, yet not belong to it.
The long prayer that we read in John chapter 17 reflects this theology of Jesus. We read 19 verses and the prayer is not over; that’s how long this prayer is. It is a very long prayer with a lot of reflections that Jesus said before leaving his disciples. Among the many things said in this prayer is the plea that God would protect his disciples from the evil of the world, to keep them spiritually pure and holy. This is called “sanctification” and is a core Methodist theology.
Jesus says, “They do not belong to the world as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Just like Jesus prayed for our spiritual purity, we should also pray for God to sanctify us and to protect our spirits from the evils of the world.
We also read from 1 Peter a message of encouragement to live in the world without belonging to it. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s suffering, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.”
Discipline Yourselves and Stay Alert
Even though our ordeals as Christians today are not in the same league as what the Early Christians suffered, the message is still encouraging. We may suffer minor persecution or our faith may be put to test. There are people and circumstances that test our faith. We are also constantly tempted to make a choice that is not Christian. We may perpetuate racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia and hurt beautiful people of God. We may choose comfort and money instead of faithful Christian values.
There are many ways in which the world easily tempts us to stray away from the teachings of Jesus. That is why we have to discipline ourselves and keep alert. As 1 Peter chapter 5 teaches, we should resist evil and keep our spirits pure by humbling ourselves under the mighty hands of God.
In the World, Yet not of the World
Before we receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which is next Sunday, God reminds us that we should live IN the world but not be OF the world. Jesus did. So should we. Let us constantly pray that we might be unaffected by the evil influences of our society and always make Christlike choices. Before Pentecost, we let Jesus ascend to heaven while engraving his last message deep in our hearts and souls:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And we end this Season of Easter with Jesus’ last message from the Gospel of Matthew: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And may the Holy Spirit fall on us like tongues of fire on Pentecost. Amen.