“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship.
Psalm 68:29-30, 33-36AB
Summon your might, O God;
show your strength, O God, as you have done for us before.
Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings bear gifts to you.
Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;
sing praises to the Lord, Selah
O rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
listen, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel;
and whose power is in the skies.
Awesome is God in his sanctuary,
the God of Israel;
he gives power and strength to his people.
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said,
“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 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 except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 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. 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. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
The scriptures are poignant today in this interim between Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus and His ambassador Paul both deliver their final prayers and exhortations to their followers, as they will soon be leaving them, and leaving the world, for good. Both Lord and servant offer wisdom and guidance to live by, and both issue warnings.
Jesus and Paul make clear to the their disciples that they are being sent into the world where the Holy Spirit has work for them to do, and urge them toward responsibility and unity. Jesus asks the Father to make His disciples one, as They are One, and to sanctify them in the truth. Paul commends the disciples to God and the message that is to build them up, and give them an inheritance among the sanctified. Jesus prays that they may have His joy complete in themselves, and Paul urges them to work to support the weak. So it is essential for these disciples and us going forward to remain in the word of God, to work to uphold their community and preserve the bond of unity, and to have joy in the word and being one with God and with each other.
Jesus and Paul also warn their disciples that they will have enemies, both within and without, from the world and the evil one. Those who follow Jesus can expect to be at odds with the world. Status, wealth, popularity and power are the game of the world but worthless to the believer. Truth, salvation, and the healing power of the Holy Spirit are the goals of the believer, and seem like pointless foolishness to the world. Those who follow Jesus can expect the evil one to try to deceive them with lies and to tempt them to covet the things of the world like wealth and status. And they can expect some of their own to be deceived and become their own enemies. So we all must remain alert, guarding our hearts against lies and covetousness, and discerning those in our own church to see what spirit is truly in them.
As we wait for Pentecost and expect our God “whose power is in the skies” to rain on us again, we can take these parting words of our Lord and His servant to heart. Do I meditate on the word of God, and seek to grow in holiness through understanding this truth? Do I work to build up the church, especially the weak, and find my joy in God and in His church? What temptations and distractions pull me away from my relationship with God toward sin and worldly mindsets? Today let’s bring all these questions to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to give us more of Himself and His Holy Spirit and to make us holier and stronger in the truth.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for sanctifying me in the truth of Your word and in Your love. Help me to live into this love, to know You more and be more like You, and to be on guard against all that is false and of evil. Holy Spirit, come into my heart and bring me, and all You would speak to through me, into the joy of Your kingdom.