11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.
The “now” here refers to Jesus’ imminent death and resurrection (proleptic).
I am no longer in the world,
Jesus looked ahead a few hours to when He would be crucified. Although He would rise from the dead and walk among His apostles for a few weeks, He would no longer be with them in the same way as while He lived on earth.
The words “no longer” are emphatic. The apostles would remain on earth, but Jesus would return to glory at His ascension.
but these [apostles] are in the world,
The apostles would still be alive after Jesus left earth. It would be their responsibility to carry on His mission. Their mission would be to spread the gospel and plant churches.
and I come to You.
Jesus would return to His eternal place with the Father at the ascension.
Jesus particularly addressed the Father as unique and set apart by His use of the word “holy.” The word “holy” indicates that the Father is completely separate from any other being; He is totally unique. There is no one like Him. He is wholly other, absolutely awesome. The apostles needed to understand the uniqueness of God’s sovereignty and His ability to care for them under extreme duress.
keep through Your name
The prayer was for the Father to keep the apostles “through Your name” from trouble. This was a prayer of protection for these men as they faced trouble at the cross and following. Forces would attempt to break up their unity.
The “holy” Father would protect the apostles during their ministry. The Father’s name stood for His person and revealed character. It had been the responsibility of Jesus to this point to protect the followers of Christ; now it was the Father’s concern.
those whom You have given Me,
The Father would “keep” those He gave to Jesus. The apostles were His love-gift to Jesus on earth.
that they may be one as We are.
The Lord’s prayer was that the apostles would have unity of purpose and unity among themselves. Note that the phrase is not “become one” but “be one.” The idea, then, is not that they would become progressively one but that they would continue to be one.
The word “one” is neuter, indicating the purpose behind the Father’s mission for the apostles (Jn 17:21). They were to keep their strategic mission in focus.
We can keep the strategic focus of our mission in view by depending on God’s sovereign protection for our ministry.
God’s uniqueness, His awesome ability, is the basis for the believer’s sense of calm under duress. We can count on His providential care in times of trouble and when we face hostility in the world.
We often lose the strategic focus of our mission. By looking at differences that we have with others rather than our singular mission, we allow ourselves to become divided and lose the impact of what we can do for Christ.
It is important to recognize that this passage is not dealing with ecumenical union of all churches. Neither does this refer to union of evangelical churches. The union is one of strategic mission. The church is not to lose sight of its mission on earth.