Jesus now moved from praying for the protection of the Father for those whom Jesus had faithfully kept and guarded, to praying for seven specific spiritual requests. Three are featured here today: Joy, Spiritual Protection, and Sanctification.
But now I come to you, and these things I say in the world in order that they would have my joy, my calm delight filled to the full within themselves. I myself have given to them your word (logos).Jesus to the Father, John 17:13-14
This is an abiding enjoyment of God and God’s word, an inward spiritual resource, the kind of joy found in the fulfillment of our work, doing as you and I were designed to do, reaching our full potential and seeing the good fruit of our efforts, the successful end to what we have been striving towards as the Lord empowers and enables us.
Jesus gave them God’s word, a richly layered meaning.
- One layer is scripture itself, the written Word of God as God’s continuing gift to the world, and to us, God’s own. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, scripture has a divine origin. We can only know God’s character and person through the words of scripture as God’s revelation to us.
- The gospel is another layer, the good news of rescue, redemption, and restoration, made known through scripture, the written down words of God.
- God’s living word, Jesus is the third layer. The word of God, Jesus, and through the word Jesus has given, brings God’s joy and love, and imparts God’s way of protection and holy living.
I do not intreat you in order that you would lift them up out of the world, but rather in order that you would watch over, guard, preserve and keep them out of evil.Jesus to the Father, John 17:15
Jesus knew the danger to his disciples, supporters, and followers—and all believers—comes from the hostility of the “world,” and the schemes of Satan. There is a villain in the story of every believer’s life: God’s enemy, evil.
Evil comes in many guises, and Jesus mentioned their two categories: the world that has rejected God, and the evil that fuels that rejection. In Greek, this could mean simply evil, or it could mean the Evil One, God’s enemy, the ruler of the world, who would be motivated to disrupt the profound, organic unity believers have because this is the very thing that reveals God’s glory to the world.
Jesus knew those who rejected him would also reject his followers, and would fight them and undermine them every way they could. The Apostles Paul and John, and the writer James would all later claim the world’s systems, cultures, and philosophies are, a priori, opposed to God.
The church is founded upon the witness and the word that was given to the apostles, including the apostle Paul. That word, given by Jesus, would become the Christian Testament, the words of the gospel, the rescue plan Jesus would make available to everyone.
God’s enemy, evil, Satan, the Evil One, is set to destroy, or at least twist and dilute this gospel, to empty it of its redeeming power.
They are not of the world, even as I myself am not of the world.Jesus to the Father, John 17:16
So there is a tension here, a conflict.
Jesus was not asking the Father to create a bubble around Christians, to take them out of the world so that they can live in a Christian subculture of their own.
Jesus was asking the Father to protect believers as they are in the very midst of an evil world, surrounded by those who are opposed to Jesus, but also surrounded by those who have no other way of receiving the gospel.
Over the centuries right on up to today many Christians have mistaken what Jesus was praying for in this chapter. Many Christians have completely separated themselves from the world so they have no contacts with nonChristians.
To create an enclave of like-minded people is distinctly human—it is creating an “in-group” that feels safe, warm, and comforting. But it also creates an “out group” of others, bringing a false dichotomy that splits families, friends, workmates, neighbors, nations, and continents.
This is not what Jesus was praying for!
Jesus was praying that you and I will be protected by the supernatural power of God as we intentionally engage the people around us, whoever they may be, with the goodness of God’s love, the gentleness of God’s goodness, and the good news of God’s gospel.
Jesus made it clear that you and I are not to isolate ourselves from the world.
We are to be in the world, just not of it, not adopting those philosophies and mindsets that undermine the Word. Whereas it is true we will have unsettling, even disturbing experiences from time to time, in situations and with people who reject God (and therefore may reject you and me, too) Jesus has made a commitment to keep and protect us from evil.
Consecrate them and make them holy, purify them in the truth: your word is truth.Jesus to the Father, John 17:17
To consecrate or sanctify is to be set apart for a specific purpose, and to be used for that intended purpose.
As Jesus prayed this, he was acknowledging God has something in mind for those who put their faith in Christ, both to be made holy and to be set aside for a particular mission. Believers are made holy by
- Learning God’s truth through God’s revelation in scripture.
- Loving the truth, of God’s recorded word, and of loving Jesus who is the Word.
- Living by the truth, yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit who guides into all truth, keeping in step with the Spirit on a daily basis.
The ancient Hebrew understanding of sacredness and purity had to do with domains. When God created all that is, God placed each thing in its proper domain—birds and flying things in the canopy of the sky, fish and swimming things in the waters, plants and herbaceous things covering the face of the earth, the celestial orbs into the heavens. Humankind also has a domain, and so do the people of God.
Purity laws had to do with all things being in their proper place, their appointed domain, and being used in their proper way. Understood through this lens, then sin becomes all that is out of place and used wrongly.
Those who belong to God are made sacred unto God, God is our appointed domain, and service unto God is the right use of our time and resources.