John 17:6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
The magnitude and the simplicity of Jesus’ prayer easily overwhelms us. Having prayed for himself (John 17:1-5), Jesus now turns his attention to his disciples– those given him by his Father out of the world, those who have believed his testimony and received him as from the Father (v6-9). His extended prayer for his disciples asks for four things:
(iii) joy, and
(iv) sanctification for their mission.
(i) Because Jesus’ disciples are to remain in the world, and therefore open to human persecution and from Satan himself, Jesus prays that the Father will protect them by the power of his name (v11-12,15). That is to say, because God ‘owns’ them and seals them with his Spirit, they cannot be harmed without their harm triggering the protective action of God on their behalf. It’s like the little brother in the playground being protected from his class-mate bully: the little brother cannot be touched without the big brother stepping in. God, who has all authority and power, is to be the defender of Jesus’ disciples in a world that will certainly oppose them. This brings us great comfort and confidence today because, no matter what may happen to us, God is our protector.
(ii) This protection with the Father’s name is to have the effect of unifying Jesus’ disciples (v11). They will be identified collectively as Jesus’ disciples: they all belong to him and so are brought together as one. A bit like a group of people huddled together under a single umbrella in a sudden deluge, Jesus’ disciples are brought together by the protection afforded them by God’s name. This also brings us great comfort and confidence today, because we are not alone. Together we belong to Jesus.
(iii) Jesus prays that his disciples knowledge of God’s protection and their shared unity would be a source of joy (v15). The joy Jesus prays for his disciples is actually the fulfilment and completion of his joy. What is that joy? Sharing in the Father’s glory, identity and protection, marked by his name. It is a delight beyond telling that we should be so connected with God. We bask in this relationship. It is a wonder to find pleasure in. God has chosen us, revealed himself to us, given us grace to believe, sealed us with his name and commissioned us for his work in the world (v18).
(iv) Jesus’ disciples are to remain in the world in order to share profoundly in the relationship of the Father and the Son by participating in their mission. What is that mission? To make known the Father, to bring salvation, and to share that salvation with all who will believe. So Jesus’ disciples experience something of what he experienced in entering the world and carrying out the Father’s will. And for this purpose, Jesus prays that we will be sanctified by the truth (v17-19). Sin is to be removed. Impurity is to be reversed. Sanctified, we are given over wholly to God’s use. We are set apart from other objectives and obligations. One thing (God’s thing!) takes priority over all others. Commissioned and enabled, we find our greatest delight in participating the work of God in the world. Hallelujah!
Lord, just as you have prayed for my protection, unity, joy and sanctification; may it be so. Amen.