By Robert Halsey Pine
Jesus reports to His Father: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one…Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…” (John 17:1-26 NRSV).
We learn a lot from Jesus in this prayer. He teaches us how to have a conversation with the Father. He offers God information, history and reasons for His petitions. God knows these things before Jesus tells Him, but there is a sense of partnership in the conversation. Jesus is saying, “Hey dad, I’d like to run a few things by You if You have a moment.” So He teaches us how to talk to God.
The context of this portion of Jesus’ prayer is that of a good send-off for His faithful as they embark on their journey to carry forward His message of love and forgiveness. He also prays for those who will believe in Him through their word. He goes on to get everyone hooked up together in the Lord. He covers all the bases with His “He’s in Me and I’m in Him and you’re in Me and they’re in us” kind of descriptions. In one sense this is kind of a report and recommendation to God.
Jesus requests that God protect His faithful from the evil one, for He knows that they cannot be removed from the world even though in worshipping Him they do not belong to the world. He asks that the faithful be set aside and filled with the truth of God’s word. He prays for them to be in unity in the word of God. This prayer on the eve of His death is a prayer for all times. This is a prayer that we can participate in because Jesus was praying for us as well.
Jesus’ whole reason for coming to us in human form was so that we might know God His Father. We can go about in our religion in any way we want, but in the final analyses it all boils down to how well we know God our creator. We come to know God by loving Him, and He spreads the knowledge of Himself through us in our love for others. Jesus was praying for us then and is praying for us now. We really are special to Him.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.