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. 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. 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. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
Sitting close within earshot of Jesus, the worried disciples can hear Him praying for them. They must have clung to every word. They overhear Jesus telling His Father how the world has hated His disciples, and how “the evil one” (Satan) threatens. While living by Jesus’ words will make their joy “complete”, it will also stir the world’s hatred against them. Jesus’ words have changed them; the world hates them for that. They are different from the world. “They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world” (The Message). Surprisingly, Jesus does not ask the Father to take them from the world. They would have been saved so much grief and trouble if only the Father had removed them. Through the centuries some of Christ’s disciples have sought to remove themselves from the world and spare themselves the trouble and grief. But Jesus continues His prayer for protection from the world (John 17:11-12), and asks the Father to “sanctify them”.
This word “sanctify” is an exclusively biblical word that means to be “set apart for God’s service”. The word was used for setting apart, or sanctifying, the tabernacle and temple, along with the furnishings, vessels, and sacrifices (Exodus 29:37; Leviticus 8:10-11). Here Jesus prays for His disciples that they might be set apart for God’s holy service in the world. Rather than being removed from the world, Jesus sends them into the world. “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. Jesus does not want us to retreat from the world, or back down from the threats of the evil one. So Jesus prays not for our isolation from the world, but for our insulation while in the midst of the world (“in but not of”). In this Jesus asks the Father that we might live sanctified, set apart lives for Him, by means of His word: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
What are there in Jesus’ words today to know; to feel; to do?