Anomaly, Ambiguity or Ignorance?

I came across a statement of Jesus in His priestly prayer from John 17—"For their sakes I sanctify myself...." It reminded me of a similar statement about Jesus in Hebrews— "He learned obedience through what he suffered...." [] Things like this catch my attention, seeming almost contradictory. Are they an anomaly, an unusual occurrence creating a theological conundrum? Perhaps there's a different construction in the original language making the statement appear ambiguous for translators. Then again, it may be simple ignorance on my part. I typically figure it's the latter before getting too worked up about other possibilities.

I came across this doing a short devotional reading with my wife. When I mentioned it to her, she thought it meant the Lord is our example. Indeed, He is. Yet I still wondered, is being sanctified as Jesus was just a matter of following His example? If so, are we making ourselves holy? How does that work? Most of the time, it seems those doing holy things, to make themselves holy, end up being isolated in their holiness or self-righteousness. There is a bit more to deal with considering sanctification and how it gets worked out in our lives. The whole idea of being sanctified—being holy—tends to be a bit troubling for most of us. I mean, if we're truly honest with ourselves, who even comes close to the example of Jesus?

There's a saying that goes, "perception is everything." We can always find someone better than ourselves in pretty much any category, including holiness. Unfortunately, in that area, there are an abundance of examples (at least in my case). If we look hard enough, we can find others to compare ourselves with making us shine a bit brighter. This seems to be a dilemma in itself—this whole idea of comparisons and measuring up.

Yet, being holy—becoming sanctified (the process of becoming holy)—isn't about quality or quantity of holy behavior. The reality is no one will ever measure up to Jesus' example. I suppose someone might say Jesus didn't measure up because He had to sanctify Himself. Ridiculous. Misses the point completely. The simple idea is one of function—internal transformation—rather than quality. Purpose rather than external performance in our case. In His—He's our example, going ahead of us so we can follow Him.

Jesus wasn't speaking of becoming more holy in character or behavior—He was God incarnate—God in human form. In John 17, He's preparing for the completion of His mission on the Cross—His death and resurrection. In His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus struggling with the reality of surrendering Himself to the Father's will, which was dying upon the cross as a reconciling sacrifice for all people.

I know my sense of holiness and sanctification gravitates towards living and being an example of Jesus. Problem is—I fall woefully short. But again, who doesn't? So, there's got to be a much simpler resolve. The Lord knows how difficult these things can be for us. Sanctification is more about being dedicated for God's specific purpose for our lives, rather than a form of behavior. It is not a show of righteousness others can see. It's not a matter of being better than others in anything. Nor having a better life or being a better person. It's not about us, it's much simpler than that. Perhaps looking at sanctification from a more objective example helps this come into focus.

When certain items in the (Jewish) Temple were said to be sanctified, it meant they had been prepared and properly dedicated for a specific purpose. Sanctification is more about being dedicated to Him who's created and redeemed us, and His preparing us for what He's purposed us for—dedicated (sanctified) us for. What's our part? First, submitting ourselves to the Lord. Then, committing ourselves to do the best we can at whatever we are given to do now, whether it is mundane or extraordinary. When circumstances change, doing what is set before us. This means, being an excellent scientist, janitor, businessman, mother, carpenter, student, or whatever role we may have.

God makes things simple—simple enough for children. Jesus sets an example and says, "Follow Me." He knows our weaknesses, our temptations, our failures, our fears—all the things we see as disqualifying us from perfection (aka sanctification). He calls us to follow Him by walking hand in hand with Him through faith—childlike faith—sheer trust and reliance upon HIm. He even said we must become like little children to enter His kingdom. One day, beyond faith, we'll be with the Lord face to face having fulfilled His purposes for our life. What's God's purpose for you right now? Think simple! Just do the best you can with His gracious help—trusting Him every step of the way. What is God dedicating you for in your life?