He Guards and He Keeps
For about three years now, Jesus has walked and talked, lived and prayed for these eleven men. He has poured his heart into them, forgiven their sins, and lovingly corrected their flaws. They so often misunderstood even his most basic teachings, and yet Jesus was patient and kind with them. In short, Jesus kept them and guarded them as little children, as a mother nursing her young (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
And just like a mother who is sending her young one out into the world, Jesus is understandably concerned for their safety and well-being. Jesus prays, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name.” Jesus has done what he was supposed to do. He gave them the Father’s word, he lost none except the one who was lost, and he has given unto these men his own joy through the word he has spoken to them. But he also knows that the world hates them and will always hate them, and that this is the very world into which he is sending them, and he won’t be there to guard and keep them any longer. And so he says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” They cannot be taken out of the world, for these are the very foundation of the Church. But he can pray for their continued protection by the very One who gave them to Jesus in the first place.
And so Jesus further asks the Father to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The best way to guard and keep these men now that Jesus will leave them is to set them apart, consecrate them, in the truth of God’s word, the very word Jesus had given them. And please note, the Scripture does not say, “your word is true,” an adjective expressing the idea that God’s word must conform to some outward standard of truth in order to be judged true; no, “[God’s] word is truth,” a noun indicating that God’s word is the truth by which all other things (ideas, words, actions, in short, everything else) are judged to be true. God’s word is truth itself, the standard by which all other things are judged. It is this that sanctifies us as the Holy Spirit applies it to our lives. And it is this word that we must share with others. And so that this word should sanctify us, and so that we may go out into the world with the Spirit’s power, Jesus consecrated himself to the task of suffering which was before him and bore the cross. It is the word that sanctifies us for ministry, that makes us fit to go out and bear the hostility of this unfriendly world. His word is truth; may we make it our food and drink.