17 May 2015

John 17:6-19

“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” (v. 15)

Psalm: Psalm 1


This passage from John's Gospel is part of chapters 14-17 which are often referred to as the Farewell Discourse. These words were spoken after the Last Supper on the night before the crucifixion. In chapter 17 we have the longest prayer of Jesus in any of the Gospels and this prayer is known as the high priestly prayer. It brings together all that the Gospel has been about up to this point. It takes us into the intimate relationship between Jesus and his Father and invites us to enter into that relationship, too.

We need to recall that Jesus is about to leave his disciples. He has told them this but they have not grasped what is going to happen. They are almost in a state of denial. So in this prayer Jesus entrust his disciples to the care of his Father. Jesus knows that the disciples are going to suffer for their beliefs - they will be hated and reviled, just as he has been, for speaking a message that many people don't want to hear.

Jesus uses the term "world" often in this passage and it has a very specific meaning (vv. 6, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18), which can be a bit baffling to us. The word is not used to refer to the physical universe but to all in creation, including human beings who have rebelled against God. The disciples are called out from that to live in another world - God's sphere, God's kingdom. Jesus is concerned that his disciples are at risk of being drawn back into that other, rebellious world. So Jesus prays to God that he will complete the work he has done in his disciples. Some Christian leaders use this prayer to pray for those in their pastoral care.

To Ponder

  • The term 'backslider' was used in Wesley's time. There is a whole section of the 1780 Hymn Book on 'backsliding'. Do you think that is a good description of being drawn back into the "world"? Why do you think we no longer use the term much these days?
  • Are there times when you feel yourself being drawn back into the 'world'? If so, what sorts of things pose that temptation?
  • Do you think that being involved in mission is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.