17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;
17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.
17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
17:12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
17:13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
17:14 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.
17:15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
17:16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
17:18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
A Question or Two:
- Why does joy matter so much?
- What does it mean for joy to be “fulfilled?”
Some Longer Reflections:
One small observation this week: Verse 15 is not about “the evil one.” And it’s not about building a wall against whatever we are being protected from.
The prepositions are wrong, for one thing.
If the notion were that we need to be protected AGAINST something, the preposition would be κατα, a word that directs its energy combatively, taking aim against an enemy or measuring itself against a standard. That is not the preposition that the storyteller uses.
The storyteller uses ἐκ, which is a word that extracts itself from something (you can even hear the ἐκ in “extract”).
The verb is also wrong.
If the point were that there is a force, or even a single entity, that threatens us, there is a perfectly good Greek verb that expresses that kind of protection: φυλάσσω, which establishes a defensive perimeter that bristles with weapons, all aimed at any enemy that might appear.
But the word here is τηρήσῃς, which is the word (with the addition of a prepositional prefix) for what Mary did with all the things she had heard and seen about her son after they found him in “his Father’s house” after being missing for three days in Jerusalem. It is the word for how Jews cherish and guard the teaching of Torah. It is a guarding that relies on loving and embracing, not on going to war against.
And, finally, the last word in the phrase does not mean evil.
That is why there is no “evil one” in this scene. Jesus asks, in Greek, that his followers be extracted τοῦ πονηροῦ. The word πονηρος does not mean “evil.” It means “pointless.” Jesus is asking that his followers be extracted from pointlessness, from work that, when you finish, all you get is tired. This, by the way, is what Genesis 3 says is the consequence of the actions of Eve and Adam in the garden of Eden: human beings work hard, and the soil yields only thistles. I’ve had jobs where the only good thing was that they paid me to show up. Pointless work is something everyone experiences, sometimes for an entire career. Jesus asks for deliverance from such work.
But he is praying also for freedom from a deeper kind of pointlessness, from the kind of waste that consumes an entire life: hard work with no good outcome, relationships that add up to nothing, hopes that starve to death, dreams covered with the dust of repeated disappointment, abilities ignored, and potentials exhausted.
So, how does a protective embrace extract a person from such pointlessness?
It is worth noting that Jews understand that embracing Torah does precisely this. Torah observance wraps all of life in pointing to the God who orders the world in love. The embrace of Torah, therefore, gives a pattern and purpose to everything, and this embrace pulls the people out of pointlessness.
So what if Jesus is talking about Torah observance?
It is, to be sure, a distinctiveness to the storyteller’s notion of the Torah of the Messiah. It embraces the cosmos with the promise of healing and balancing, of comfort and wholeness. The Messiah is God’s act to turn the cosmos right-side-up. This is the promise that kept God’s people alive in all the generations since the Exile. Promises like this draw their energy from an honest awareness of the way the world really is, and at the same time such promises validate that awareness. Promises like these allow you to say: “This is NOT the way the world is meant to be.” Or, as Tim O’Brien wrote when describing life in a war zone: “You are filled with a hard, aching love for what the world could be and always should be, but now is not.”
The Torah of the Messiah tells Jesus’ followers that that hard, aching love is finally being answered.
The result, says Jesus, is that joy is finally fulfilled.