As Jesus drew more to the end of His life on earth, His Spirit became more troubled. He had always known how His end was going to be--the suffering He'd encounter and the brutality with which He was going to be killed. How does a man live with that kind of weight on Him? Not only was He going to die like that, He KNEW it! Apart from this horrible end to His life, He had another major concern.
Even though His death was going to be brought about by the most cruel means, He knew His Father awaited Him with glory, such that at the mention of His Name, every knee will bow (Philippians 2:10). What troubled Him the most was those He was leaving behind. These people were His friends. He had shared a lot of beautiful memories with them, He had watched them grow in their desire to know and obey God. His heart was torn for them because He knew what the world had in store for them and all those who will come to believe in Him later on.
Being so grieved, He turned to do the one thing that has always worked, pray. He poured His heart out to God the Father concerning His sheep. While He prayed, He said,
Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth. - John 17:17, Amp.
This world is basically a no-comfort-zone for anyone who believes in Jesus. The world system is corrupt, it's dirty, evil and filled with disgusting/horrible stains of darkness. And Jesus was asking the Father to separate His friends from the world, to keep them apart; somehow, He knew the world could influence them to go astray and forget all that He taught them while He was with them and He pleaded, oh God, make them holy, make them righteous, keep them holy.
In praying, He made known how we can be made holy...the Word. The world system is a pack full of lies, so Jesus knew the antidote would be the Truth found in the Word of God. Every spoken word of God is true, every word written down in the scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and therefore, is true.
The system that grieved the Lord's heart then is still in place today. Fortunately, the antidote too is still available and highly potent.
But why did Jesus ask the Father to sanctify us with the Truth when we can easily pick up the bible to read? It's because we could never understand it on our own. We need to be taught and the eyes of our mind enlightened, so that we can come to an understanding of the Word. Secondly, we cannot implement/put into practice what the Word teaches us on our own, we need God's strength to become doers of the Word.
As much as we desire to please God, let us not forget that it is something we could never achieve on our own. So many a time, we think we can live a faultless life by our own strength and when we fail, we turn in on ourselves and hate on us because we failed and on God because He let us fail. Whereas the truth is we didn't ALLOW Him to sanctify us; rather, we sought to sanctify ourselves. We forget we are still IN the world, we still have the flesh to battle with and we forget that our human strength does not equal the power of darkness. We must stop trying and start letting God have His way in our lives.
Sometimes, He'd like to take it slow and we feel He's wasting valuable time; at other times, when He starts taking it a bit fast, we complain that we can't keep up. But He's not asking us to. How can we be complaining of not being able to keep up when He is carrying us on His shoulders? The truth is, we could never live holy lives without the grace and strength that comes from God.
When it's bitter, we need His strength to hold on; when it sweet, we need His grace to stay put. We must let God do the sanctification; it's His job, not ours.