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Gospel of John 17: 13-19 (NIV)
13 “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. 14 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. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
The ones to whom Jesus had given the Father’s word (verse 14) were those the Father had given him (verse 2). They were in his company, even as he spoke, listening to this prayer he was praying to the Father. Why would Jesus have said that the world hated them?
Jesus has given as a reason for the world’s hatred that “they are not of the world any more than I am of the world” (verse 14). Is not the world God’s own creation? Why would the world hate both the Son and those given to the Son by the Father?
The influence of the evil one, referred to by Jesus in verse 15, seems to be pervasive though not quite all-pervasive. Not only is the evil one’s presence as evident in the world now as it was in the first-century, it manifests itself not only in individual human beings but in human institutions as well.
Should God have an arrangement in place to take out from the world those whom he has given to the Son? Should there be a progressive evacuation from the world of those who have committed their lives to Jesus? That would insulate them permanently from evil; without the evil one to harass them, they could be guaranteed a post-earthly life in which trials and temptations were no longer a threat!
Jesus clearly does not want the Father to remove his Church from the world. His verse 15 prayer is “not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” And then Jesus said, “I have sent them into the world” (verse 18).
R. V. G. Tasker explains it this way*:
The society of the Church has been created by God for a specific purpose. Its raison d’etre is to convey to the world the revelation imparted by Jesus, and to reflect the self-sacrificing love manifested by Jesus on the cross.
The world seems to have its own agenda, at odds in almost all circumstances with God’s agenda for his people, the Church. Have you considered the extent to which you are moulded to conform to the agenda of the world? If you and I are willing to regard our foremost reason for living as being to know Jesus Christ and to make him known, what parts of the world’s agenda do we need to jettison today? Are we willing to do that, despite the personal cost? Jesus was willing, regardless of the cost. How then can a true disciple be less willing than the Master?
* R.V.G. Tasker, John: an introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, IVP, Leicester, 1979, p. 189.