1 June 2014John 17:1-11
“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (v. 11)
This passage comes before the Easter narrative. Jesus has been celebrating the last supper (Mark 14:12-25) and warning his disciples (without giving any details) of what is to come. Whilst it is spoken this side of the crucifixion, the message is clearly for the other side of it. Here he prays for his disciples in terms reminiscent of the Lord's Prayer, and for their changing role.
The disciples have recognised Jesus as God, but they still do not know what is going to happen to Jesus, nor what is going to happen to them. Jesus does not mention his death, resurrection or the coming of the Holy Spirit. But through this prayer, as well as what he has been saying to his disciples, they must realise that something is going to change - indeed, both John and the other Gospel writers make it clear Jesus had forewarned them about both his death and resurrection.
Jesus says he is "no longer in the world" (v. 11), but his disciples will still be in the world. What does this mean to his disciples and to us today? How are we meant to be in the world, but part of a bigger story which means we are not of the world but of God?
One clue to answering this appears a few chapters earlier (John 14:6-18), where Jesus talks of not leaving the disciples "orphaned" (John 14:18) and of asking God to send them another "Advocate" (John 14:16) who will be with them forever. Jesus also, of course, spent time with them between his resurrection and ascension. But they were clearly to have a new role after the events of Easter, one for which they needed protection and a strong sense of unity.
If we see Jesus' resurrection finally vindicating the 'kingdom' which he had come to announce - a way of being which, as he was to tell Pilate (John 18:36), was not rooted in the values of this world but which challenges those values - we get a picture of the mission his disciples, including his followers today, were to undertake: to "strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).
- How do you think the disciples felt hearing Jesus praying for them in this way?
- What does it mean to be in the world, but not of the world?
- Following Jesus and being a disciple can be difficult and even dangerous. What challenges have you faced?