A person’s last wishes are indicative of his imperatives, as this is inevitable if he is of sound mind and cares about those he leaves behind. Jesus’ final prayer for His disciples, before His arrest and crucifixion, pinpointed some important matters that preoccupied Him. The kernel of His appeal to His Father concerned the spirituality of His followers – our holiness: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth” (v.19). Jesus’ sanctification of Himself for His selfless mission was one of the most significant commitments on Yahweh’s part.
The term sanctification is used synonymously with holiness, in the context of being completely set apart or to be separated specifically for a single purpose, with all other competing priorities becoming secondary. It is referenced to objects, places, days, as well as persons; eg., every firstborn (Ex 13:2), the sabbaths (Eze 20:20), and objects of the Tabernacle (Ex 26:33-34). The priority of holiness was cast in stone by our Maker as He commands us to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:14-16); so, a sanctified life is the litmus test of the roots of our identity, where an unconditional obedience to God in holiness would be the only solution to overcoming the world’s temptations and values (vv.11-17). Our Lord modeled for us during His earthly sojourn as He set His face like flint to complete His assignment from His Father. If we are to be heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16-17), the way to holiness is not entirely a nebulous spiritual journey that totally negates our responsibility. After all, when we grow in Christ, and in Paul’s parlance, become ‘meat-eaters’ and not merely ‘milk’ guzzlers, the implication was that believers ought to have their foundations in the Word secured (as obedience to God’s truth is always related to intentionally studying and meditating on the word of God; vv.6-11) so that they will become sanctified people (1 Cor 3:1-3).
Jesus then went a step further in developing the concept of His body as the future holy church community: “that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (v.22-23). Everything about Christ’s community was meant to be markedly so different from what we see in the world, that God’s glory and unity within her would attract anyone irrespective of their convictions. Jesus desired that the sanctified dynamic that provided the direction for His life on earth would be ours for the Kingdom’s sake after His demise (v.18-19), as this holiness reflects Yahweh Himself to the world. Much later, the apostle Peter identified the church as ‘a holy nation (ethnos)’ – a holy race or a culture (1 Pet 2:9; cf. Gal 3:28; Col 3:11), where her high calling is to be distinguished as the new humanity “so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (v26).
“For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” Although the process of corporate holiness boils down to individual holiness, a sanctified personal journey for us needs a consistent commitment of time and energy, where we learn to keep pace with God’s Holy Spirit as He takes centre-place and walks us through life hand-in-hand. This is the most worthwhile and safest journey we will ever make!