They were His joy and delight. His greatest treasure. At times, the disciples tried Jesus’ patience but He was steadfast in His commitment to them. They failed Him but He never gave up on them. Their love for Jesus was riddled with their human nature but His love for them was unconditional and immeasurable.
So it makes total sense that after Jesus prayed for Himself, He focused on His disciples. Intimately speaking to the Father, Jesus appealed for the ones who “knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me” (John 17:8).
Jesus desire was expressed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one…I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (vs 10-17).
Jesus was obviously concerned about His loved ones who He knew would soon be left behind. He prayed for their protection but I think He was asking for something other than physical protection. Jesus knew the inevitable viciousness of persecution. And He had spent a considerable amount of time preparing the disciples for certain persecution so why would He now be asking for protection of their earthly bodies?
No, I think Jesus was asking for protection of their souls. They would need courage, conviction and strength to firmly stand in the truth. They would need protection from the lies of the evil one, the one who desperately wants to steal, kill and destroy the faith of committed believers. The evil one wants more than bodies. He is after souls. Jesus knew that evil would pursue His beloved disciples.
God answered that prayer with a resounding yes. A countless number of disciples faced brutal deaths, without wavering in their faith. And John, the one who wrote the gospel of John, the three letters of John and the book of Revelation would see it all take place and then be exiled to a penal colony on the island of Patmos.
When one’s faith is placed in the hands of Christ Jesus, we are no longer of this world. This is not our home. And we will never again feel “at home” here. For that reason, we can follow the example set before us. Whatever comes our way, we can have a loose grip on this world because our Father has a tight grip on our eternal souls. That’s a good word for today’s times. Hold on loosely to things and issues of the day. Hang on tightly to Him and our great treasure of faith.
Thoughts to ponder:
How do I exhibit my confidence in God’s protection of my soul?
Where should my grip should be loosened?