I was keeping them in Your Name…I guarded them John 17:12
This is the fourth essential practice of the pastoral ministry – to guard the flock.
Jesus said to His Father, “I was keeping them in Your Name…” One of the meanings of the word ‘keep’ is to guard a prisoner to prevent escape. The prisoner is put somewhere and is meant to remain there. It is someone’s job to guarantee the prisoner stays put. Jesus had made a revelation of the Name of God to His disciples, and they had seen and learned and appropriated something of God’s Name as they accompanied Jesus. They had desires which developed into characteristics of personal godliness as they remained with Jesus and obeyed His Word. In short, they were transformed by being with Jesus. In a similar fashion, whatever the Holy Spirit works into us to remain with us. The Lord doesn’t want to see the work of the Holy Spirit escape or diminish through neglect and lack of faith.
The transforming work of the Holy Spirit is meant to be a permanent work and not a transient one. The changes we experience by being with Jesus are not meant to be weekend wonders and mountaintop miracles, but permanent possessions in the valley. Jesus is laboring to keep you in His beauty – the beauty of holiness. He is directing you to Christlike responses in the circumstances and challenges of life. We know how the correctional officer keeps the prisoner – bars and guns, handcuffs and barbed wire. How does Jesus keep the believer in the Name of the Father?
Jesus keeps us in the name of the Father in the same manner as He kept His disciple – He guards us. James and John wanted to call fire down upon a Samaritan village because they weren’t gracious to Jesus and the apostolic band (Luke 9:51-56). The ungracious snub of the Samaritans was met by the unmerciful request of James and John. Jesus had been a living example of the grace of God toward sinners and the patience of God toward His enemies. How He longed for these two men to remain in the name of the God of grace and mercy – to extend mercy to those who would do them wrong. When they spoke this unmerciful word, Jesus rebuked them, saying, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
Please note how Jesus kept them in His name – He rebuked them and He reminded them. He rebuked them not merely for what they said, He got to the heart of the matter. James and John not only had a bad choice of words, they gave expression to a bad spirit. “You don’t know what spirit you are of,” Jesus said. Christ came to save, but the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Jesus doesn’t destroy, the devil does. They were giving expression to the spirit of the devil and not the Spirit of Christ. Jesus had said elsewhere, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. In the rebuke is a revelation – Jesus revealed their judgmental hearts to them. They saw how far from Christ their hearts were in what they said. Following the rebuke there is a reminder and in the reminder there is a revelation of the heart of Christ: “…for the Son of God did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” In the rebuke there is a revelation of the heart of man and in the reminder there is a revelation of the heart of God.
In this fourth essential practice of ministry of Jesus He examples a methodology for keeping believers in the name of God – rebuke and reminder – revealing their hearts in contrast to the heart of God.
The Lord’s guarding ministry is seen throughout the Bible –
Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant, when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus tells him to put his sword away. “Don’t go there, Peter”, is essentially what He meant. We don’t fight against flesh and blood and Jesus doesn’t want Peter to do battle in that realm. How easy it is to think that people, and not spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places are our enemy.
David wanted to take out his anger on Nabal, a man who had shown disrespect toward him. Nabal had refused to give David food and drink so that his men could enjoy one of Israel’s feast days. This angered David because he and his men had been guarding Nabal and the farmers and ranchers from the marauding bands that would steal from them. David and his men mounted up and were riding to kill Nabal and every male in his home when Abigail, Nabal’s wife, heard of what was unfolding. She quickly went to intercept David and persuaded him not to shed innocent blood and not to seek vengeance on those who had wronged him. Abigail says:
…the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil will not be found in you all your days. 1 Samuel 25:28
She reminded David that the Lord was fighting for him and that he was not to take his own revenge. David was guarded from making a horrible mistake. Here’s how David responded to Abigail.
Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. “Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.” 1 Samuel 25:32-34
As Jesus rebuked Peter in order to keep him from a sinful course of action, and as Abigail reminded David of truth in order to keep him from a sinful course of action, you and I are to rebuke and remind those the Lord has given us to care for – we are to keep them in the Name.
Not only does a prison guard keep the inmates from breaking out, he also keeps outsiders from breaking in. After Jesus had fed the 5,000, the crowd wanted to make Jesus king and so Jesus removed His disciples from the scene so they wouldn’t be swept away and caught up with the crowd. He told them to get into a boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
Satan demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat – Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would stand firm. He prayed that the devil, while breaking upon Peter, wouldn’t break in to Peter.
At Women’s Conference my wife attended, one of the speakers had a word of knowledge that someone was thinking about suicide. 15 women stood to receive prayer. Jesus was preventing a break-in!
In addition to rebuking and reminding, you guard by the three pastoral practices already mentioned: manifesting His Name, declaring His Word, and praying for the Body of Christ. As pastors, we need to discern who needs personal attention. Close encounters of the pastoral kind are often called for. Sometimes, someone needing personal attention can be contacted via e-mail. At others times, e-mail won’t do it and a phone call is in order. Often, an e-mail or phone call aren’t enough and a face to face is necessary. If you haven’t seen someone for a few weeks, an e-mail can communicate that you are concerned. If a brother or a sister has incurred some loss, a phone call can bring the comfort of Christ. I have found that when the sorrow or the sin is at a certain level, a pastoral visit is necessary. The purpose of all this: to keep them in the Name, the love, and the care of God.
Jesus said to the Father, “I guarded them.” May we be able to say the same thing.