John 17.14-16 cont.
14 I have given them Your word, and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I do not ask that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world even as I am not of the world.
We may be surprised that the request of Jesus to the Father is not that He would take His disciples out of the world, but that He would protect them from the evil one.
We all face situations in life that give us a lot of heartache, which may make us want to be taken out of the circumstances. During times of severe hardship and persecutions it may seem understandable if Christians pray to be taken out of the world, because their conditions are unbearable.
The disciples were about to face a seemingly unbearable situation with the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. They would be faced with terrible dilemmas, not knowing whether or not they too would be arrested and killed.
The prayer of Jesus is not that they should be delivered from this, but that the Father would keep them from the evil one.
There was work for the disciples to do. They were to be the foundation stones of the Church. They were to be the ‘apostles’, the ones sent out to preach the gospel. They were about to realize what Jesus meant when He called them with these words:
“Come follow after Me and I will make you to become fishers of men” – Mark 1.17.
If the disciples had have been taken out of this world, they would never have achieved the task to which Jesus had chosen and called them for.
This will also be true for us, since we do not belong to the world, but we remain in the world, and will do so until our God given task on earth is complete.
We have already seen that the word ‘keep’ means to protect, to watch over, to guard, as well as to keep. This is what Jesus was praying for His disciples. It would seem as though there is a distinction in the attacks of the evil one from the attacks by the world. It is from the attacks of the evil one that Jesus prays that they will be protected from.
This is also in line with part of the prayer of Jesus in Matthew 6.13:
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (NLT).
Let us pray for the strength and courage to enable us to be His faithful servants in whatever circumstances we are in, whilst also praying to be protected from the evil one.