May 16, 2021
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: John 17:6-19, The Message or John 17:6-19, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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It might be helpful to preface the reading of this text with an introductory comment that these words are part of Jesus' prayer that concludes his last meal with his followers before his arrest. In a way, these words are Jesus' last will and testament.
We are concluding the Easter Season with Jesus' concluding prayer.
Malina & Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on John, pages 243 - 248, offer a number of helpful insights on this rather dense text from John.
A few interpretative keys are:
- John's stress on relationships - bonding, trusting, being loyal, honouring.
- John's stress on SEEing Jesus - seeing how what Jesus has done in this world is a sign of who Jesus is in God's world.
- John's stress that God - not the authorities of this world - is the author of all that is about to happen.
Verses 6 to 8. Note the stress on everything being from God: Jesus himself, Jesus' followers, and "the words that you gave me." In particular, the emphasis in verses 7 and 8 is not that "they know everything you have given me," nor that "they have received the words that you gave to me," but that "everything ... is from you," and "they have believed you sent me." (my emphasis)
Verses 9 and following are Jesus' last request before his execution.
As usual with John, John is very specific that the requests are for the in-group of those bonded with Jesus, and more specifically, for those who remain in the world.
And though these words are in the form of a prayer of intercession, because they are requests from the Word made flesh, from the Son sent from the Father, and on behalf of those who are the Father's, they have the weight / substance of Jesus' declaring his estate / his blessing - the "goods" his followers will inherit after his death. They are:
- Jesus is honoured (glorified) in us (verse 10)
- We are protected so that we may be one as God and Jesus are one (verse 11)
- We are guarded from ever being lost (verse 12)
- Jesus' joy is made complete in us (verse 13)
- God's word is given to us (verse 14)
- We are protected from the evil one (verse 15)
- (We belong to God) and not to this world (verse 16)
- We are truthfully and truly set apart (sanctified) (verse 17)
- We receive the mandate / mission / purpose that Jesus had - we are sent into the world (because God so loves the world ...) (see John 3:16)
- For our sakes, Jesus sanctifies himself. That is, sets himself apart / dedicates himself wholly for God's purpose of loving the world.
However, lest we rejoice too quickly and easily that Jesus does this "so that (we) also may be sanctified (set apart / dedicated) in truth," recall that in a few short hours, Jesus' dedication to truth will end with him before Pilate, and then on a cross.
Whenever we are offered a blessing in the Bible, we might be tempted to run and hide - because a blessing never comes without a God-sized mission. And God-sized missions never come without a cost.
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, pages 243-248; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See below.
John 17:6-19 (NRSV)
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. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 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. 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. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 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. 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. 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. 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. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 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. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
John 17:6-19 (The Message)
6 I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
7 They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
8 For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
9 I pray for them.
I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
10 Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
11 For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world;
They'll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
12 As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).
13 Now I'm returning to you.
I'm saying these things in the world's hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
14 I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn't join the world's ways,
15 Just as I didn't join the world's ways.
I'm not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
16 They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
17 Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
18 In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
19 I'm consecrating myself for their sakes
So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.