05 June 2011

"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 verse, in just a few words, gets to the heart of the extended account of Jesus' prayer for his disciples, given to us by the writer of John's Gospel. It carries within it a number of key themes.

  • This is a prayer. Jesus was praying to his heavenly Father, not for himself, but for those who would continue to bear witness to his message after his death.


  • It is a prayer for protection: not for escape from all the pressures that would come, not even for strength and courage to face them, but for protection within and through them. The verses that follow underline this, as Jesus says: "While I was with them I protected them, ... I guarded them ..." (v. 12). John's Gospel also gives us the "I am" sayings of Jesus, which include his identification as 'The Good Shepherd' (see John 10:11-18) protecting the flock with his life. The image that Jesus chose to use on another occasion was that of a mother hen sheltering her chicks beneath her wings (Matthew 23:37).


  • Jesus offers this prayer of protection for those who have been 'given' as his followers. It suggests that they may not necessarily have been the people Jesus himself would have chosen, but he was committed to working with those "given him" (v. 2) in God's greater wisdom.


  • Jesus' prayer is a yearning for unity. However, the last four words ("as we are one") are significant: the prayer is for the same kind of unity as is found between father and son - albeit divine Father and Son. It points to a unity that is a relational harmony, not a cloning mechanism.


To Ponder

What images of divine shelter or protection do you find helpful?

When has it been helpful to think of those with whom you live and work as being "given" to you?

How would you describe the unity of Christians through the ages, and around the world?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Liz Smith

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