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

Here Jesus continues his prayer, now asking the Supreme Being to protect his students and disciples. From what? And who is "the evil one"?

Let's get it straight what Jesus really said. The reality is that Jesus did not even say "evil one" according to the original Greek.

Here "evil one" is being translated from the Greek word πονηρός (ponēros), which means according to the lexicon: 1) "full of labours, annoyances, hardships;" and 2) "bad, of a bad nature or condition."

And there is no word in Jesus' statement in the Greek that could be translated to "one" either. It is just ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ - "from the [hardships or bad nature]."

While asking God to protect his students from hardships seems plausible, it is more likely Jesus is discussing "bad nature" or "badness" or even "evil."

We can derive this from other statements Jesus made that used this word, πονηρός (ponēros). For example, Jesus used this word in these two statements:
"A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." (Matt. 7:18)
and
"A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!" (Matt. 12:39)
In these verses, "bad" and "wicked" are both being translated from the word πονηρός (ponēros).

So now that we have more dimension to this word πονηρός (ponēros) - just what is it?

Consider the "generation" and the "fruit" - what are wrong with these?

It is about self-centeredness. The type of "badness" or "evil" Jesus is referring to is about ones interest being only about oneself - and disregarding the interests of others - or the Supreme Being.

This approach to life is what drives all the crime, hatred, envy, violence and wars within the physical world. It is, in fact the key driver of the physical world. Even economists admit this when they say stuff like "greed drives the economy."

Thus we find that Jesus is not asking God to protect his students against some outside party. Jesus is asking the Supreme Being to help protect them from becoming self-centered and envious.

This is, in fact, why we are here in the physical world. We are here because we rejected the environment of the spiritual realm. And what is that?

Love.

The spiritual realm is a place of unconditional love. Every citizen of the spiritual realm is in love with the Supreme Being, and they each exchange loving relationships with God and God's other children.

Yes, the spiritual realm is a feast of love. It is a love-fest.

Sometimes we dream about such a place, and we each hope we can make earth such a place. But no matter how hard peace-loving people try, there continues to be violence, bloodshed, greed, envy, crime, hatred and so on here in this world. It never seems to stop. Why?

Because this is where those of us who rejected the love-fest of the spiritual realm go. This is the place where all the people with πονηρός (ponēros) in their hearts get put.

Yes, the physical world is like prison. And we are the hardened criminals of God's creation. We are the ones who rejected our loving relationship with God and wanted to chase after our own dreams instead. We didn't want to love and serve God anymore. We didn't want to care about the welfare of others anymore.

We wanted to love ourselves and serve ourselves.

And with this, we naturally became envious of God. We wanted what He has - we wanted to be the center of attention and be served. We wanted to be the greatest.

Since those in the spiritual realm are tender and soft-hearted, our new-found selfishness and envy had no place in the spiritual realm. There we would be like elephants in a crystal shop. This is why the Supreme Being set up the physical realm.

So the physical realm is like a prison (better - rehabilitation center) and these physical bodies are our individual jail cells. Except not only did God set up the physical world to get us out of the spiritual realm - He set it up with the illusion that our identities are these temporary physical bodies and minds. (It is like tricking someone into believing that he is the identity of his Halloween mask).

But this illusion has a purpose. This effectively allows us to forget about God completely and chase our self-centered dreams around. It even allows us to deny God's existence all together.

This is God's programming - set up to enable us to get what we desire (to be away from Him and pretend we are the greatest) - while also teaching us lessons that hopefully raise our consciousness and help us to decide to return home. In other words, God set up the physical world to be a rehabilitation center as well as a place for us to exercise our quest for freedom from Him.

And as far as the illusory nature of the physical world, yes, this is organized and created by the Supreme Being, and yes, it is also managed by some of His servants - as God's universe is a personal universe, and He delegates many operations to His various servants.

But the illusory nature surrounding each of us is perfectly tailored to fit our particular self-centered desires.

And those who help Him manage the illusions of the physical world are His servants. God never has a challenger - as many have attributed to this notion of a devil or satan. If we want to define someone who helps God carry out His illusory nature - yes there are personalities that we can look to.

But if we are talking about the classic devil or satan story - about rejecting God and being thrown out of the spiritual realm - well, that is the story of each of us. That story - of rebelling against God  - is what each of us did to get tossed out of the spiritual realm. Yes, in that metaphorical sense, we are each the devil.

You see, God is a gracious and caring person. He wants us to love Him, but out of our own choice. Therefore He gives us the choice to love Him or not. And should we decide not to, He sets up this world so we don't have to see Him or be with Him. We can completely escape His existence while we are within these physical bodies.

This is the "world" that Jesus is discussing here in this verse and the previous, when he said:
"I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." (John 17:14)
And we can see that Jesus is using the word "world" in two respects here - one (in 17:14) to indicate the consciousness of the physical world - one of self-centeredness, trying to avoid the Supreme Being. The other (in 17:15), is the reality that they are still physically within the physical world, and Jesus is saying that they - his students - will be remaining within the physical world for the time being ("My prayer is not that You take them out of the world...") - but their consciousness is not "of the world." Their consciousness is not "of the world" because they are focused - at least in this prayer as he is giving them the benefit of the doubt - on pleasing Jesus and thus pleasing God.

So yes, while Jesus' students remain in the physical world, Jesus wants them to pass on to others this consciousness - in the form of his teachings. This is expressed in coming verses, such as:
"As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." (John 17:18)
Jesus is saying that God sent Jesus to the world to try to bring us back to the spiritual realm - and Jesus is sending his students out with the same mission.

And what is that mission? To inform us that we will never be happy chasing our self-centered dreams around this lonely prison of the physical world. We will only be happy when we resume our natural position as the loving servant and playmate of the Supreme Being. Yes - despite our self-centered past, and all the crap we've done - God still wants us to come home, because He loves us and knows only this will make us happy.

And this is why He sent Jesus - to invite us back home. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)



(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus  - translated from the original Greek texts.)