For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:19)
When Jesus said, “I sanctify myself,” we are not to understand the word sanctify as it would apply to sinful humanity. Jesus was not talking about personal sanctification — that is, the putting off of the old, sinful self and the putting on of the new, Christlike self — for Jesus had no sin. Rather, Jesus was making it clear that He was setting Himself apart for the work His Father in heaven had sent Him to do.
Read on, and may you be greatly encouraged today!
Jesus consecrated Himself completely to the service of God. He willingly separated Himself from His throne in heaven to take on flesh and dwell among us. He willingly separated Himself from His inherent power as the second member of the Trinity and served completely in the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, in spite of all this, it is vitally important that we understand that Jesus never separated Himself from the society of sinners. To be sure, Jesus was separate from fallen and sinful human nature, but He never separated Himself from human beings, other than those times when He withdrew alone to pray.
When we read through the gospel accounts regarding the ministry of our Lord, we see that it was the ones society disregarded and discarded that Jesus invested Himself in . . . so much so that the religious leaders continually condemned Him for it.
When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16)
In the religious Jewish society, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law avoided sinful society in the very same way that they avoided lepers. As strict adherents to the Law, they believed that even being physically near sinners would defile them. What they absolutely refused to acknowledge, of course, was their own sin and their need of a Savior. Jesus replied to the Pharisees’ objection that He was eating with sinners by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Our Lord was not saying the religious leaders were in any way righteous, but rather He was pointedly stating that the Pharisees were blind to their own sin because of their religious traditions and their belief that they could attain righteousness through their own efforts.
Is it not a great encouragement to know that Jesus came to save sinners just like you and me? And it is not an even greater encouragement to know that, unlike the Pharisees, Jesus does not require us to change before coming to Him for salvation? You see, Jesus first meets all of us sinners right where we are, refusing to separate Himself from us, and then He graciously leads us to where He is calling us to be.
Jesus expressed it very clearly in our verse for today: “For them I sanctify myself.” Jesus did indeed set Himself apart . . . for us! And He never separated Himself from us. No, the amazing, glorious truth is that while we were still sinners, Christ drew near to us and died for us.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!