John 17 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It’s simple in that not much happens. In fact, only one thing happens: Jesus prays. But it’s what Jesus says when He prays that makes the chapter so remarkable.
Throughout Jesus’s earthly life, we see Him interact with a lot of people, every sort of person from lepers to Pharisees to rulers. And we know He interacts with God. (I would imagine that’s a fairly big part of being the Son of God and the Messiah.) But in John 17, we see Jesus sharing an extremely intimate moment with His Father. We see Jesus praying, talking to God.
It’s a big deal because we’ve read where Jesus prayed, but those prayers aren’t like this one. First, it’s much longer than Jesus’s other recorded prayers, which means that something is really resting on His heart here. Second, much of the prayer is specifically for what will happen in the future, both near and far. It’s not such an immediate issue like most of His prayers. Third, Jesus’s prayer is for multiple people. We usually see Jesus pray for or perform a miracle for one person at a time, but here He prays for many. He prays for His disciples and for future believers.
John 17:6-24 (NLT) says, “I have revealed to you the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.
“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.
“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!”
Jesus’s love is so evident here, both for His Father and His followers. What He says is so protective, and the way He says it is so caring and respectful.
What I want to focus on is verses 13-18, where Jesus is saying that He’s leaving, and He wants God to protect and watch over His disciples, to make them holy and teach them the truth.
It was very clear to Jesus that His followers would stand out from the rest of the world, and the world has never liked people who stand out. Jesus knew that better than anyone. But as much as the disciples stood out from the world, they couldn’t physically stand apart from it.
Jesus knew that there were many people the disciples would be around, some by force and some by choice, and He wanted God’s help in keeping them away from the world and those who would try to drag them into it. He understood the power of what surrounds someone.
What you surround yourself with is important because it influences you, and that includes your family and friends.
A few years ago, I surrounded myself with some people I thought were my friends. And I do truly believe their intentions were good, but it wasn’t terribly long until I realized that they were bad for me. They thought they were guiding me in a positive direction and helping me grow. What they were actually doing was judging me and trying to change who God made me to be.
In short, I was miserable. Where my heart should’ve been filled with love and happiness, there lived anger and bitterness. When I should’ve been gaining confidence in who I was, I was developing even more insecurities.
I can’t say I regret my experience because some good came from it, and that good is immeasurable. I can say that I’m thankful God helped me get out when He did because it would’ve been awful otherwise.
The real question is: Have you put yourself in a position to grow and prosper or are you surrounded by people and things that are holding you back?
God has you where you are for a reason. But are you choosing the spiritual nutrients and vitamins you need and those who’ll help you get them over what’ll ruin you?
Your life is yours alone, and when you stand before God, you will be the only one responsible for how you lived it. The atmosphere of than dingy bar that provoked you to drunkenness and later alcoholism won’t be there. That alluring, seductive person that caused you to cheat on your spouse won’t stand. Your fun, rebellious friend’s charm that sent you speeding down the wrong path will have zero effect on anything. Even the judgmental jerk who claimed to be a Christian and ultimately turned your heart into a lump of bitterness won’t make a difference. It’ll all fall to you.
So it’s now up to you. Consider the things and people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Are they good to you? Are they good for you? Do they promote growth? Where would you be without them, better off or worse for wear? If the answers give a negative report, is keeping them around worth jeopardizing your relationship with God?
I’m moved every time I read John 17. The idea of Jesus praying for me melts my heart, let alone reading the prayer He prayed. To be aware of His heart’s desire, His concern for us, and to disregard the legitimacy of it or the cause behind it would be foolish. We need to be aware of who and what surrounds us and be sure that they’re really worth keeping around.
By Carrie Prevette