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Imagining the Lectionary: Confronting the reality of evil (Easter 7B)
Reflection accompanying image “Demon locked within

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  
(John 17:15)

Jesus never prayed that his disciples would form an exclusive gated community of the godly. He never prayed that they would cut themselves off from the world for fear of being contaminated by it. He never prayed that they would shut themselves away from the social complexities and demands of expressing faith out in the community. Neither did he pray for or promise them that their lives would
be easy, straightforward or trouble free. Jesus prayed for none of these things. Instead Jesus' prayer focussed on evil as a tangible reality from which his disciples needed to be protected. This was not an off the cuff whim or a concern tangential to the direction he had set for his disciples' mission and ministry. Somehow this prayer gets to the heart of the matter for Jesus. As he prepares his friends for discipleship by themselves, without him being physically alongside, upfront and in the lead, it is clear that Jesus knows they are going to need the same level of protection from the forces of evil intent that he has given them up to now. And he takes this very seriously indeed. Of all the prayers he could have spoken, this is the one he actually offered up to God.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

And then he sends them into the world to transform it through the power of God's love. During his ministry Jesus confronted the same set of issues concerning the power of evil within individuals, networks and groups to diminish and despoil others that we recognise today.


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