John 17:15, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.”
Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane stands evocative in our mind. The night before His arrest, He kneels in the garden and prayers to His Father for hours. This prayer we read in John’s gospel, then, is only a small portion of what Jesus prayed that night, and a portion the Holy Spirit granted us to hear and know. Suffering with extreme anxiety, Jesus prays for His disciples. Then He prays for you and me. That’s right: in this garden—and on the cross—Jesus was thinking about you.
The world is full of evil. There are mass shootings, forest fires, hurricanes and floods, and now infants can be aborted as late as 9 months. Lord, have mercy! I often find myself wishing to sequester myself from the rest of the world and just keep to myself with my God and my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know I’m not the only one; but Jesus does not want us out of the world. He does not want us in isolated monasteries with our holier-than-thou attitudes; He does not want us living in antiquated ways away from the rest of the world like the Amish. No, He wants us to remain in the world, and instead He prays that God the Father keep us from the Devil.
Why? Why does Jesus want us in the world? “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world,” He says (v. 16). If we are not of the world, why should we stay in the world? Why does He want us in the world? He says, “As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (v. 18). Why did God the Father send His Son into the world? We can go to various places in Scripture and find out why, but sticking with Jesus’ prayer here, He concludes, “I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (v. 26).
God the Father sent His Son into the world to make Himself known to us. Likewise, Christ sends us into the world that we may make Christ known to them, and thus God the Father known to them. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, Jesus said, and we are to let the light we receive from Christ “shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). Light—particularly God’s light—does not hide itself from the world; God’s light sets out to illumine the darkness of the evil one. It is this task Christ sets us out to do that others may know and receive the light of Jesus Christ we have received.