17:9-19 "It is for them that I pray. It is not for the world that I pray, but for those whom you have given me because they are yours. All that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine. And through them glory has been given to me. I am no longer in the world and they are no longer in the world, and I go to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you gave to me, that they may be one, as we are one. When I was with them I kept them in your name, which you gave to me. I guarded them and none of them went lost, except the one who was destined to be lost--and this happened that the scriptures might be fulfilled. And now I come to you. I am saying these things while I am still in the world that they may have my joy completed in themselves. I gave them your word, and the world hated then, because they are not of the world. I do not ask that you should take them out of the world, but that you should preserve them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Consecrate them by the truth; your word is truth. As you send me into the world, I send them into the world. And for their sakes I consecrate myself, that they too may be consecrated by the truth."
Here is a passage close-packed with truths so great that we can grasp only fragments of them.
First of all, it tells us something about the disciple of Jesus.
(i) The disciple is given to Jesus by God. What does that mean? It means that the Spirit of God moves our hearts to respond to the appeal of Jesus.
(ii) Through the disciple, glory has come to Jesus. The patient whom he has cured brings honour to a doctor; the scholar whom he has taught brings honour to the teacher; the athlete whom he has trained brings honour to his trainer. The men whom Jesus has redeemed bring honour to him. The bad man made good is the honour of Jesus.
(iii) The disciple is the man who is commissioned to a task. As God sent out Jesus, so Jesus sends out his disciples. Here is the explanation of a puzzling thing in this passage. Jesus begins by saying that he does not pray for the world; and yet he came because God so loved the world. But, as we have seen, in John's gospel the world stands for "human society organizing itself without God." What Jesus does for the world is to send out his disciples into it, in order to lead it back to God and to make it aware of God. He prays for his men in order that they may be such as to win the world for him.
Further, this passage tells us that Jesus offered his men two things.
(i) He offered them his joy. All he was saying to them was designed to bring them joy.
(ii) He also offered them warning. He told them that they were different from the world, and that they could not expect anything else but hatred from it. Their values and standards were different from the world's. But there is a joy in battling against the storm and struggling against the tide; it is by facing the hostility of the world that we enter into the Christian joy.
Still further, in this passage Jesus makes the greatest claim he ever made. He prays to God and says: "All that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine." The first part of that sentence is natural and easy to understand, for all things belong to God, and again and again Jesus had said so. But the second part of this sentence is the astonishing claim--"All that you have is mine." Luther said: "This no creature can say with reference to God." Never did Jesus so vividly lay down his oneness with God. He is so one with him that he exercises his very power and prerogatives.
The great interest of this passage is that it tells us of the things for which Jesus prayed for his disciples.
(i) The first essential is to note that Jesus did not pray that his disciples should be taken out of this world. He never prayed that they might find escape; he prayed that they might find victory. The kind of Christianity which buries itself in a monastery or a convent would not have seemed Christianity to Jesus at all. The kind of Christianity which finds its essence in prayer and meditation and in a life withdrawn from the world, would have seemed to him a sadly truncated version of the faith he died to bring. He insisted that it was in the rough and tumble of life that a man must live out his Christianity.
Of course there is need of prayer and meditation and quiet times, when we shut the door upon the world to be alone with God, but all these things are not the end of life, but means to the end; and the end is to demonstrate the Christian life in the ordinary work of the world. Christianity was never meant to withdraw a man from life, but to equip him better for it. It does not offer us release from problems, but a way to solve them. It does not offer us an easy peace, but a triumphant warfare. It does not offer us a life in which troubles are escaped and evaded, but a life in which troubles are faced and conquered. However much it may be true that the Christian is not of the world, it remains true that it is within the world that his Christianity must be lived out. He must never desire to abandon the world, but always desire to win it.
(ii) Jesus prayed for the unity of his disciples. Where there are divisions, where there is exclusiveness, where there is competition between the Churches, the cause of Christianity is harmed and the prayer of Jesus frustrated. The gospel cannot truly be preached in any congregation which is not one united band of brothers. The world cannot be evangelized by competing Churches. Jesus prayed that his disciples might be as fully one as he and the Father are one; and there is no prayer of his which has been so hindered from being answered by individual Christians and by the Churches than this.
(iii) Jesus prayed that God would protect his disciples from the attacks of the Evil One. The Bible is not a speculative book; it does not discuss the origin of evil; but it is quite certain that in this world there is a power of evil which is in opposition to the power of God. It is uplifting to feel that God is the sentinel who stands over our lives to guard us from the assaults of evil. The fact that we fall so often is due to the fact that we try to meet life in our own strength and forget to seek the help and to remember the presence of our protecting God.
(iv) Jesus prayed that his disciples might be consecrated by the truth. The word for to consecrate is hagiazein ( Greek #37 ) which comes from the adjective hagios ( Greek #40 ). In the King James Version hagios ( Greek #40 ) is usually translated "holy" but its basic meaning is "different" or "separate." So then hagiazein ( Greek #37 ) has two ideas in it.
(a) It means to set apart for a special task. When God called Jeremiah, he said to him: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" ( Jeremiah 1:5 ). Even before his birth God had set Jeremiah apart for a special task. When God was instituting the priesthood in Israel he told Moses to ordain the sons of Aaron and to consecrate them that they might serve in the office of the priests ( Exodus 28:41 ). Aaron's sons were to be set apart for a special office and a special duty.
(b) But hagiazein ( Greek #37 ) means not only to set apart for some special office and task, it also means to equip a man with the qualities of mind and heart and character which are necessary for that task. If a man is to serve God, he must have something of God's goodness and God's wisdom in him. He who would serve the holy God must himself be holy too. And so God does not only choose a man for his special service, and set him apart for it, he also equips a man with the qualities he needs to carry it out.
We must always remember that God has chosen us out and dedicated us for his special service. That special service is that we should love and obey him and should bring others to do the same. And God has not left us to carry out that great task in our own strength, but out of his grace he fits us for our task, if we place our lives in his hands.