“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11)
Jesus had been with His disciples for close to three years. In that period of time they had grown to love and depend upon Him. In fact, it was during Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) that Jesus had to continually encourage His disciples, due to their growing grief and troubled hearts because He announced He would soon leave them.
Jesus continued to pray on behalf of His disciples. He prayed that “I am no longer in the world.” Similar to His previous announcement that He had already overcome the world (John 16:33), Jesus stated that His departure back to heaven was an accomplished fact. His death, burial, resurrection and ascension was a certain and sure accomplishment.
However, while He acknowledged that He was no longer in the world, Jesus also recognized that His followers were: “but they are in the world.” Once again, we must recognize that the word “world” does not solely mean this inhabited planet but rather the fallen world system of thought and behavior which is in continual rebellion against God, His Word and His followers.
Jesus, in announcing that He would soon return to the Father, He prayed that God the Father would protect the disciples: “Keep them in your name.” To keep (τήρησον; tereson) means to guard and protect. This is a strong request by Jesus to the Father. In your name refers to the character and person of God.
Bible teacher Robert Rothwell writes, “In the Old Testament, the name of the Lord frequently appears as a stand-in for God Himself or for one or more of His attributes. Thus, to trust in the name of the Lord and not in chariots is to trust in God Himself for protection (Ps. 20:7). Similarly, to say that the name of the Lord is a “strong tower” in which the righteous find safety is to say that righteous people are protected by the mighty power of God (Prov. 18:10). Given that background, for Jesus to pray that we would be kept in the name of God is for Him to pray that we remain united to God through trusting in Him.”
These who Jesus prays for are those who the Father has given to Him. Jesus’ prayer is that believers in Christ would be in unity with one another as they are in union with Christ and with the Father. The unity of which Jesus prays appears to be one of desire and purpose: to glorify the Son.
While the church is composed of many members, we are one body of believers (I Corinthians 12). Every disciple is valuable, protected by God the Father and interceded by God the Son.
Take time today to recognize and acknowledge the scope of our salvation involves both heaven and earth.
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!