Thesis: Disciples are kept by God from evil for mission.
Last week we ended our time of worship together by marveling over grace; all that we are is because of the fact that we have been given by the Father to the Son. We are the personal property of the Triune God and because of that ownership Jesus has revealed the Father to us, we are convinced of the divine person and mission of Jesus, we receive Jesus’ words as truth, and we glorify Jesus in our lives. We rest in the grace that Jesus already sees us as what he is making us. As we read this week in 2 Peter 1:2, we are a people upon whom grace and peace have been multiplied in the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Now, in John 17:11 Jesus makes a transition in his prayer. He goes from making statements concerning who his disciples are to making requests concerning what those disciples need. In simplest terms Jesus prays that his disciples would be kept by God from evil for mission.
So here is what I hope happens this morning: I hope you will clearly see and understand what Jesus wants. In response to the word of God I hope your wants will become more like his. I hope you will pray for and desire what Jesus prays for and desires. I hope you will become what he wants you to become and do what he wants you to do. I want to see Jesus’ prayer answered in our midst this morning.
Let’s dive in: John 17:6-19
I. Jesus prayed that the disciples would be kept
This prayer is needed because Jesus is leaving (11a)
While Jesus was with them he kept them. The physical presence of the person of Jesus Christ provided protection for his disciples. In many ways the physical presence of Jesus was a wall and a shield. Now that Jesus is going to the Father that physical wall and physical shield is being removed. No longer Jesus himself take the brunt of the world’s hatred and opposition. Up to this point the only hatred that the disciples felt was the hatred that splattered off of Jesus and onto themselves. Not so any longer. Because Jesus is leaving that necessarily means that the persecution experienced by the disciples will increase. Since Jesus is no longer in the world but going to the Father this prayer becomes a necessity.
Because Jesus is leaving he offers this first prayer request
Jesus asks that the disciples be kept in accordance with the Father’s person, power, and purposes (11b, 12)
Look at the middle of verse 11, “Holy Father, keep them in your name.”
We talked about what it meant to pray in Jesus’ name when we were looking at John 16:23-24. I told you that prayer in Jesus’ name is prayer dependent upon the power of Jesus Christ and in agreement with the person and purposes of Jesus Christ. When you link up with the name of the Son or the Father you are linking up with the power, person, and purposes of the Father and Son.
So when Jesus prays about those given to him and asks that the Father keep them in his name, the name given to the Son, Jesus is praying that the Father protect and sanctify his people according to his character. Jesus expects all that the Father is to shape all that you are. Being kept in the Father’s name is to be conformed to the Father’s image. It’s so much more than just making it into heaven by the skin of your teeth. We know this because
Jesus’ disciples are kept for the purpose of unity (11c)
Do you see that Jesus sees a specific purpose of all this keeping? He prays in verse 11, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
Jesus wants the Father to protect and sanctify his disciples so that those disciples who experience a supernatural unity with one another. It is true that Jesus wants his disciples to experience a supernatural unity with the Father, Son, and Spirit; he prays for that in verse 21. But that’s not what he’s asking for here. He’s asking for a unity in the church that accurately reflects the unity of the Trinity. Jesus expects his disciples to be united to each other just as the Son is united to the Father and the Father is united to the Son.
So let me ask you? Do you want to be deeply and personally connected with your brothers and sisters here at Mambrino? Do you want to give yourself to and for those who sit in these pews with you this morning? And Jesus isn’t praying for a superficial tolerance of one another. Jesus is praying for a radical interpersonal joy and dependence to well up between you and me and you and he and you and she.
Do you want what Jesus wants? Do you want to be radically fundamentally “at the core of who you are” united with your brothers and sisters here at Mambrino? If you don’t, if you want to stay disconnected and independent, you have misunderstood the person of Jesus Christ. If you are content to come and take from us without giving yourself to us then you have missed what it means to be kept in the Father name. Those people who know the Son and the power of the Gospel are those people who experience an ever deepening unity in the church.
Judas was not kept in the Father’s name. Judas was not kept or guarded by the Son. He did not desire unity with the church or unity with the Son. He wanted money. He wanted for himself. And God, through Scripture, decreed this to be so. The Father would use the selfishness of Judas, the judged wickedness of Judas, to bring about his good purposes. Judas was not lost by the Father or the Son. Judas lived out the wickedness of his heart and this son of perdition is right now cut off from joyful unity with the Son and his people. Judas is judged.
Were it not for Jesus’ prayer we would all end up like Judas. Praise God for the grace and power of the prayers of this righteous man. The prayers of Jesus are powerful and effective to work unity in the church. Jesus prayed for unity
II. Jesus spoke for their joy
In verse 13 Jesus prays, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. Aren’t you glad that Jesus is concerned about our joy? So, how has Jesus set things up? How is his joy fulfilled in us?
The words of Jesus produce the joy of Jesus in us (13)
Jesus is speaking these things to the Father before he gets to the Father because he wants his disciples to have joy. In John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” So what is joy? What does Jesus want for us?
Joy is the product of abiding in commandments and love of God. Joy is not mainly a euphoric ecstatic experience. Joy is the experience of peace and contentment because we are kept in the Father’s name. We’re depending on him and he’s meeting our needs. Nothing grown or manufactured in this world can produce the joy Jesus promises. So where do we get joy?
The words of Jesus produce the joy of Jesus in us. Jesus wants you to be at peace with God and Jesus wants you to be content in God. How will it happen? Christian, do you want joy? Listen to his words. “If you abide in [him] and [his] words abide in you ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Ask for joy. Jesus asks for joy. So should we.
We are introduced to joy as we read the word. We experience joy as we allow that word to remake us into the image of the ever-joyful Son. Read the bible; supernatural joy is impossible without it. The bible has been given to us for our joy.
Jesus prayed that his disciples would be kept. Jesus spoke for their joy. And
III. Jesus prayed that the disciples would be kept
That’s not a typo. Jesus is again praying that we would be protected. Get this: we are a people simultaneously filled with joy and peppered by hatred. Why are we hated?
Verse 14, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
The words of Jesus produce hatred from the world (14)
The words of Jesus call us out of the world, clean us up, and send us back to the world.
The words of Jesus that produce joy in us produce hatred for us. This truth helps us define joy also. Joy is not the absence of difficulty and joy is not being loved and appreciated by all. Joy does not equal ease. Joy is the experience of peace with God and contentment because of God come what may in this world. Joy is God-dependent.
So know this: when you depend on the Father and rest in the Son and listen to his words you will find joy and you will experience hatred. The world will hate you because you are not like them. The world will hate you because you have joy.
This is what the word of God does: it makes us different. Church, when will we wake up to the fact that the world promises us joy but cannot deliver? The world says, “Be your own man, be independent, and you’ll be happy.” And God’s word says “Be one with the church, be one even as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one and you’ll be happy.” Who will you believe?
Look at how happy Judas was. He got more money and was so happy that he committed suicide. The things of this world cannot produce happiness.
Instead of being like the world be like Jesus. Be who you are. Jesus says that his disciples are not of the world, just as he was not of the world. I would encourage you to read the gospels knowing that the way Jesus acted toward the world is the way you are to act toward the world.
Know this: you will change the world but those who do not want your joy will hate you. Jesus is praying.
He’s praying this in verse 15, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
This prayer is needed because our enemy wants to devour us (15)
We need to be recreated in the image of God (Rom 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Colossians 3:10). We need to be strengthened with the power of God. We need to spend our lives for the purposes of God. That means we must love the world (John 3:16). Jesus doesn’t want us to abandon the world that the Father loved. Jesus doesn’t want us to come out of the world or to only touch it with a ten foot pole. There is a mission to complete in the world but that mission is full of danger.
Jesus prays that his disciples will be guarded or protected from the evil one. Verse 15 could be translated as a prayer of protection from evil. But judging by the use of the word “evil” with the article elsewhere in John’s writings (1 Jn 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18, 19) it’s best to understand this as a prayer of protection from our enemy who seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus prays that you and I would love the one who hates us and serve the one who would kill us (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus does not give us an excuse to run scared from the battle. Instead Jesus prays that we would stand secure when it comes time to battle for the lost around us.
Be in the world, love the world, but don’t be like the world
Being a disciple of Jesus means to be different like Jesus (16)
In verse 16 Jesus prays, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
This is where we get that helpful phrase “be in the world but not of the world.” With the joy of Christ and in submission to his word we are to love the world. Jesus doesn’t want most of us to quit our jobs and become fulltime ministers or missionaries. No, instead Jesus wants us to go joyfully to our jobs as fulltime ministers or missionaries.
Work hard. Make a profit. Be successful. Do all things to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). In all that you do may God be glorified through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11). You are being kept by God from the evil one for the mission. Don’t sacrifice the gospel for a promotion. Don’t trade the word of Christ for a good joke. Don’t give up the mission in order to be accepted. If you do you’ll give up your joy.
Christians it’s time to take back laughter and fun from the world. We shouldn’t laugh at what the world laughs at but we should be full of joy. We should be in the world full of joy laughing more than the world. Don’t come out of the world, love the world. Be in the world but not of the world. Be different like Jesus.
Jesus prayed that his disciples would be kept and
IV. Jesus prayed that the disciples would be sanctified for the mission
Verses 16&17 go together, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
Disciples are set apart for God by the Word (17)
Sanctify, in some contexts, means to become more holy. We talk about progressive sanctification; becoming more like Jesus every day. But elsewhere in Scripture sanctify means to be set apart for special use. This is the way ‘sanctify’ is being used in verses 17-19.
In verse 17 Jesus makes the prayerful statement,
“sanctify them in the truth”. It’s in the imperative mood; it’s a command. Father, do this: sanctify them. Its pretty important to Jesus that you be set apart from the world yet remain in the world for the salvation of the world. How is it that you will be able to go to work and live among your neighbors and build relationships with your extended family but not be like them? How do we live winsomely among the world?
We will be sanctified in the truth. We will be set apart for God’s use in the world as we listen to the truth. And where do we find God’s truth? Is it lost? God’s word is truth. You want joy? You want fruitfulness? You want a love that is deep? God has revealed all that we need in his word. Listen to him. As we listen to him we’ll become like him.
He was sent and his disciples are sent into the world (18)
Here’s some brass tacks. Let’s get down to them. Verse 18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
I know some of you read the bible. I know most of us are familiar with the life of Christ. We’ve read some or all of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Who does Jesus rebuke and who does Jesus party with?
Jesus rebukes the hypocritical religious people who have come out of the world and Jesus eats and is in the home of sinners. What do we do? We rebuke the world and eat with hypocritical religious people. And then we wonder why we’re not making a difference in the world? Could it be that we’ve changed the mission?
Like cockroaches we’ve run from the world and huddled ourselves in buildings where we sing about joy but don’t have it. I’m becoming more and more convinced that the reason we Christians do not have the joy Jesus promises is because we’ve abandoned the mission that produces joy.
We’ve been sent as a unified body into the world in order to joyfully bring salvation to that world. Jesus is telling us these things so that his joy would be fulfilled in us. We’ve been set apart for joy. We’ve been sanctified for a mission.
And again lets marvel over grace
Our sanctification depends upon his sanctification (19)
Verse 19, “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
You want some grace for this joyful unified mission? Listen to this, 1 Corinthians 1:28-30, “God chose what is love and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Who is your holiness? Who is your sanctification? The very Son of God who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). Listen to Jesus as he talks to the Father. He says that it was for your sake, for your benefit, that he sanctified himself. He set himself apart in order to fulfill the mission the Father sent him on. And that mission was the work of the cross. He willingly came to do your will. He joyfully obeyed the words of the Father and the outcome is your salvation.
Now the One who sanctified himself for us has this goal: “that they also may be sanctified in truth.” As we listen to the God who speaks in this word, as we focus our attention on the Son who perfected reveals the Father, we will find ourselves set apart. The truth moves us. The trust sanctifies us. Church we must listen. The Father’s mission and our joy hinge on the word.
V. Where do we go from here?
We go joyfully to the word
1. Open your bibles and read them. Follow our read through the bible schedule. Commit to knowing Christ Jesus by reading a gospel a week. Memorize the word. I am convinced that when we get into the word we will joyfully change the world.
We remain joyfully in the world for the mission.
We are kept from the evil one for the mission. We have been sanctified for the mission. And what is that mission? Listen to the word so that we are joyfully united as the church and sacrificing for the salvation of the world.
To the word, to the church, and to the world; all for joy