John 17:13-16 (NIV) 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
On verses 13-16: In a world where followers of Jesus will have trouble (John 16:33) and will be misunderstood by many (John 15:18), Jesus does not pray that the Father remove his followers from this world. Rather Jesus prays that the Father would protect them from the evil one (v15). Jesus’ heart is that his disciples would have the full measure of his joy within them even as they go through hardship (v13). What can we learn from this?
First, the joy that Jesus has and wants to give to us (v13) is not dependent on our circumstances, but is greater than our circumstances. Just as Paul could greatly rejoice even when he was in prison (Philippians 1:18), so we can find joy in our relationship with God even when the circumstances around us are difficult and trouble surrounds us.
Second, just as Jesus prayed that the Father would protect the disciples from the evil one (v15), so we must remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). Our ultimate enemy is not people but Satan.
Third, don’t expect to win many popularity contests in this world if you are a believer in Jesus (v14). The fact is that the world, influenced by our enemy Satan, is bent against Christ and against Christ followers (v14), and we do not belong to the world just as much as Christ did not belong to this world (v14, 16).
John 17:17 (NIV) 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
On verse 17: People will sometimes argue that truth is relative and that it all depends on your perspective. Jesus did not believe that. Jesus believed in absolute truth and equated the Father’s word with truth (v17).
John 17:18-19 (NIV) 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
On verses 18-19: In this prayer of Jesus in John 17, we get to see how much Jesus identifies with his disciples, and how much he treats his disciples the way that his Father treats him. He sends his disciples just as the Father sent him (v18). So that his disciples can be sanctified and made holy (v19), Jesus says, “I sanctify myself” (v19). How can Jesus, who is already the Son of God and perfectly holy, sanctify himself? Most likely what Jesus means by “I sanctify myself” is that he is setting himself apart for the Father’s purpose even to the point of death, and that in setting himself apart this way, he will make sanctification and holiness possible for all his disciples.
John 17:20-23 (NIV) 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
On verses 20-23: Starting at verse 20, Jesus prays for you and me: “for those who will believe in me through their [the disciples’] message”. Notice that Jesus prays for our unity, that we would be one just as Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus, and that we would be in the Father, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (v21). In other words, Jesus understood that if the world would come to believe in Jesus, it would require that Jesus’ church, His messengers, be united in love with one another and with God (v21, 23). According to Jesus, the way we love one another internally within the church will in many ways determine how effective we will be in reaching the world externally with the Gospel.
John 17:24-26 (NIV) 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
On verses 24-26: Here we see more of Jesus’ heart for us: how he wants us to be with him where he is (v24), to see his glory (v24), and to reveal to us who the Father is so that the Father’s love, indeed Jesus himself, would live in us (v26).
Lord Jesus, through Your prayers to the Father we can see how beautiful is Your heart, how devoted is Your love for us, and how committed You are to the mission the Father gave to You. Today I join in the prayer You prayed here, and pray that Your church would be fully united so that the world would know that You are the Son of God, who died on the cross so that all of us could be sanctified and made holy too. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!