John 17: 6 – 19 Jesus prays for his disciples
‘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. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 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. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 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. 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.
‘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. 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. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
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This passage is written in the form of a prayer to which the disciples would have listened. It’s perfectly possible that Jesus may have prayed these exact words. However, it’s also quite possible that St John is using a prayer format to express truths that Jesus had expressed and that we need to know. I say “We need to know,” because this passage is written for all subsequent Christians – for us, in other words.
By putting the words into Jesus’ mouth as a prayer to the Father, St John is saying, “This is teaching you can rely on.”
The passage is telling us that we can trust what the disciples tell us, because Jesus says:
- ‘I have revealed you (the Father) to those whom you gave me out of the world.
- They were yours; you gave them to me
- They have obeyed your word.
- They know that everything you have given me comes from you.
- I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.
- They knew with certainty that I came from you
- They believed that you sent me.’
St John is saying that we can trust what the disciples say with as much confidence as we trust what Jesus says. I’m not altogether sure that I feel confident about that. It depends on the reliability of the written texts passed down to us. But, in a sense that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have confidence that the risen Jesus is with me.
‘My prayer is not that you take them (the disciples) out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.’
Jesus prays for his disciples, not that they should be taken out of the world, but that the Father will protect them from the evil one. That’s important, and teaches us two things.
The first is that our life in this world is important. God wants us in the world; one could say there’s work to be done here.
Secondly, it suggests that the disciples will continue to be subject to temptation, and will occasionally fail – as indeed we see in Peter’s betrayal. We, too, will remain prone to failure. We, too, need to pray that the Father will protect us from temptation.
Thank you for the presence of Jesus in my life. Please help me to do your work in this world. Please help me to resist temptation.
In Jesus’ name, Amen