Jesus prayed to the Father for the disciples and us, too:
I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:15-17
The disciples hear Jesus praying for them. For them! And for us!
Jesus is praying a prayer of love!
After the betrayal, knowing the denials to come, hearing the disciples questions and “I don’t get this” and “what do you mean people aren’t going to like us.” And at the end of the next day, they will be all hunkered down in an upper room, hiding and thinking – three years and all we get is a cross – this was a pointless waste of time.
A pointless waste of time.
We’ve all be there at one time or another, in that space –
- after a long day’s work,
- after yet another meeting where people are just not listening and just not understanding because they are so mired in their own fears and are content to spin their own wheels,
- after another argument with a toddler or teenager or parent or teacher or boss rehashing the same thing again and again,
- where we wonder if the small things that we do to save the environment are worth it because no one else is doing it,
- where we wonder if the kindness that we show means anything because no one else is.
What’s the point? What’s! The! Point!
What if I told you that Jesus gets us, that he knows that we will say or perhaps scream to the top of our lungs, “this is pointless and I am so done.” And he prayed that it might not happen.
It happened to the disciples. After the resurrection, even after Jesus appeared to them. Jesus finds them back to their old professions – fishing and making a living off the water – and that’s why he shows up on the beach in chapter 21, demonstrating to them that they missed the point, saying to them this is not what I hung on a cross for, and says “feed my sheep…” essentially get back in the world, there’s work to do.
Jesus didn’t ask God to take the disciples – or you or me – out of this world. He asked God to keep us in this world. Not to be of this world. But to be in the world because we can make a difference because we are different.
And Jesus asks God to protect us. Here is where the Greek can get a bit interesting, depending on which scholar you read.1
Three words: “protect” and “evil one” and “sanctify.”
Protect: can also mean “cherish” or “guard.”
It’s the same Greek word that is used to describe what Mary did with all those memories of the boy Jesus, when they lost him for three days, when Jesus said, I was in my father’s house – she cherished the memories and guarded them so that they would always be with her – she loved and embraced the memories.
Evil gets translated as “evil” or “wicked” can also mean “pointless.” In the Greek as it is constructed in this sentence, can be translated as “extracted from the pointlessness.”
Jesus, who knows us inside and out, prays to God that God cherish us, love us, embrace us, guard us and take us out of that space and feeling when is just seems so “pointless and we wonder why we even bother, so just forget it, move on.”
Jesus does this because there are times when, doing what God has lead us to do, that the world hates it and pushes back really, really hard.
It is for these times that Jesus asks God to sanctify us in the truth because Jesus, the word, God’s word is truth. That word, “sanctify” – same word that Jesus uses in the Lord’s Prayer – hallowed be your name… sanctified is your name. We are sanctified, hallowed for the work that Jesus has called us to do.
I have found that when people push back really, really hard that I’ve gotten very close to something that they are afraid of, a truth that they don’t want to face, an identity, a personal silo. We all do it.
Jesus is saying to not retreat, not hide, not give up.
It is for these times that Jesus asks God to sanctify us because Jesus sends us out into the world, to be in the world but not of the world. To be doing God’s work. To make this world a better place even when we feel the pointlessness.
Share the Jesus in us so that the world will know that God so loved the world – all the world – the good, the bad, the ugly – and even us.
Jesus finishes his prayer: I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.
May the Jesus in me love the Jesus in you and that our joy be complete!
1Swanson, Richard W., https://provokingthegospel.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/a-provocation-seventh-sunday-of-easter-may-13-2018-john-176-19/