“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 …
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (verses 11-12, 15)
Three things stand out to me in these verses.
Firstly, it’s apparent Jesus wants us to remain in the world. “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world … My prayer is not that you take them out of the world” (verses 11, 15). The immediate implication is that he’s got work for us to do. He’s got a strong purpose in mind he wants us to fulfil. Indeed, lifting our sights beyond these verses the fact is confirmed – he wants us to carry on his work. “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). “You should pray … your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:9-10). “Give to the poor” (Luke 12:33). “You should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). “Love one another. As I have loved you” (John 13:34). “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19). All of this, and more, is to be lived out right here on Planet Earth. He says to the Father, “I am coming to you” (verse 11), but we are to remain. This is where he wants us while there’s work yet to be done.
Secondly, he clearly thinks we will need to be protected while we remain. He had provided protection for his disciples during his own ministry and now asks the Father to carry it forward. But what does “protect” mean? Jesus gives an example of its antithesis: Judas Iscariot who was “lost … doomed to destruction” (verse 12). In contrast to Judas’ experience, to be “protected” means to be preserved to the end. Positively, Jesus says protection is “so that they may be one” (verse 11) – he wants us preserved from division and in-fighting and back-biting. How often down the centuries, and in our own experience, have we not submitted to this “protection”? Beyond all of this it’s clear that protection does not include freedom from all hardship and trouble. Jesus is praying in the shadow of the cross and knows it will bring the disciples much trauma and grief. He’s also praying on the threshold of the church’s Spirit-filled launch into mission, knowing that along with much joy, there will be persecution, struggle and martyrdom. The Father’s protection won’t remove us from such trials, but it will preserve us to the end and make it possible for us to live in unity in the midst of ongoing mission.
Thirdly, I notice that Jesus counts “the power of your name” as being sufficient to provide the needed protection. The “name” represents the totality of the Lord’s being – his divine character and power, his compassion and wisdom and might. As we abide in him, we are kept safe. “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe”, as Proverbs 18:10 states.
So, lean into Jesus’ prayer. He prayed because we need it. Accept his call to mission for each and every day we remain in the world. Acknowledge your need for protection, trusting him to preserve you till the end, even in the midst of hardship, and to use you right here and now for unity in his Body. And abide in him always, pressing into the whole of who he is, confident as if dwelling in a well-fortified tower.
May it be, Lord. Amen.
Yes, Lord Jesus, may it be. May your prayer cover and guide me all the days of my journey in this world. To your glory. Amen.
Pray: Take Jesus’ prayer in hand and pray it for yourself and your church community. Mission. Unity. Protection. Abiding. Pray it all. In his powerful name.