Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 12, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 17. Before we begin today I want to address a question that some of you may have. Why does Phil preach what he preaches? For example, last week I preached on the peace and the joy that flows out of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two weeks ago I preached on Christians being chosen out of the world to bear witness of Christ which leads to persecution. The sermon prior to that I preached on Jesus’s command to love other Christians sacrificially and specifically. Why did I preach on those topics? The answer is simple, because that was the text.
Each week I do not sit down and ask myself what do I want to preach on this Sunday. Each week I sit down and look at the Scripture that is before us and teach what it says. Today is no different. What I will preach on is based upon the Scripture that is before us. Why do I do this? The answer actually lies in our text we will read today, John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” God has designed his Church to be made holy through the teaching, preaching, and studying of God’s Word.
My guess is that there have been some people who have come and gone from our Church, and perhaps even some of you who sit here today, who do not necessarily enjoy the topics that are being presented week in and week out. In fact 2 Timothy 4:3 says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” My guess is that some of you have ears that itch and you want me to scratch them. Instead of being taught the Word of Jesus from the Upper Room discourse you would rather hear the words of this world.
Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The man who is blessed is the one who delights in the Word of God. Is that you? Do you delight in the words that Jesus has been speaking to his disciples? Or would you rather hear the counsel of the wicked?
Several weeks ago we unpacked John 15, the famous “I am the vine you are the branches” text. In that text God is the vinedresser and he takes away every branch that does not bear fruit. How does God do this? How does God take away a false Christian from the Body of Christ? It is through the pruning shears of His Word. People will come and maybe they will stay for a little while, but if they are not saved there will come a sermon or series of sermon’s that will cause them to leave and go back to the World. Why? Because the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and eventually God cuts them off from the Vine of Christ.
Sometimes I think people think I am stupid. They watch as people come and go and say, if you didn’t preach so hard, perhaps more people would stick around. But is that the goal? Is our goal to fill this building with warm bodies? Or is it to make disciples, teaching them to obey ALL that Christ has commanded?
Will this Church ever be large? I don’t know, that is not my call. Christ builds his Church, not Phil Parsons. The command on my life is to preach the Word and let God deal with the growth. So with that said, let us read the infallible and inerrant and Word of God and listen to what he has to tell us this morning. It is my intent to spend 3 weeks unpacking this chapter, however, each week we will read it in its entirety.
The Hour Has Come
Chapter 17 is known as the High Priestly Prayer, and it is the pinnacle of all prayers. For it is a window into the Trinity. It is the Son talking intimately to the Father, and we have been granted a front row seat. As it says in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us.” God has chosen to reveal to us this prayer and this is for us to hear. God wants us to see how the Son prays to the Father in this moment.
On the death bed of the great Scottish Theologian John Knox this was the chapter he requested to be read every day during his final illness that eventually led to his death. And the reason for this was because this was “the place where I first cast my anchor.” I can relate to this statement somewhat. Luke 9 was where I first place where cast my anchor, however, John 17 is the chapter that I first cast my anchor anchor in Calvinism.
Let's begin by asking the question, why is this prayer of Jesus called the High Priestly Prayer? The High Priest was the one person in Israel who, once a year, would enter into a location in the Temple that was called the Holiest of Holies. The Holiest of Holies was the most sacred location on the planet for it was where God declared would be his dwelling place on earth. And the day in which the High Priest would enter into the Holiest of Holies was called the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was the holiest of all days for Israel, for it was the day that the High Priest would intercede on behalf of the nation of Israel and symbolically atone for Israel’s sins.
All of those years of the High Priest performing that particular ritual was merely a shadow of what Jesus was about to do upon the cross. As it says in Hebrews 2:17 and 4:14 Jesus is the true High Priest. All those High Priests that went before Jesus were just shadows, Jesus is the substance. John 17 is the moment that everyone has been waiting for Jesus to enter into the Holiest of Holies located in the tabernacles of Heaven.
And you can see this in our text, for it says in verse 1, “Father, the hour has come.” This moment was THE hour. If you recall Jesus has been talking about this hour through the entire book of John. In John 2:4 Jesus says, “My hour has not yet come.” John 7:6 he says, “My time has not yet come.” In John 8:20 it says, “but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” After 17 chapters, we have finally reached THE hour. However, the reality is that the world had waited a lot longer for this hour then just the life span of Jesus. The world had been waiting for THIS hour since Genesis 3, with fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. However, we can go back even farther then this to a time before the foundation of the world in what is called the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son. For THIS hour was a part of the agreement within the Trinity that Jesus would come and die that planned before time begin.
And as this hour has finally come, as it was destined to do, what do we see Jesus doing? Praying. How amazing is this? Jesus who has spoken of and lived out the providence of God was not a fatalist. Even though this moment was his destiny, it did not prevent him from praying. Jesus embraced his Father's sovereignty, yet recognized the necessity to pray upon the brink of the greatest hour ever to unfold. If the sovereignty of God over all things is undermining your prayer life, then you are not thinking of the sovereignty of God properly.
And in this moment, what does Jesus pray for? Glory. Look at verse 2, “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” This hour was all about glory. Whose glory? The glory of the Son and the glory of the Father. These two things, however different, are perfectly and entirely intertwined. Just as is the Trinity itself. The Glory of the Son is the Glory of the Father, likewise the glory of the Father is the glory of the Son. This is why it states in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the radiance of God's glory. Jesus is the manifestation, the display, of God's glory, and in this moment Jesus prays that this would be so.
What is amazing is how the glory of God will be displayed through Jesus. Normally when you think of glory you think of majesty, and splendor, and power. You do not think of a humiliating bloodied cross. But this is exactly the hour that is upon Jesus. Jesus is about to be led away like a sheep to the slaughter. How will a Galilean carpenter being hung on a tree in the outskirts of Jerusalem glorify Jesus or his Father in Heaven? I believe the answer lies in the word “given.” Look at verse 2, “since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”
It is interesting, the word given, give, or gave is used 17 times in chapter 17 if my counting is correct. The act of giving seems to be the primary component to this hour and the covenant between Jesus and the Father. It is used three times in verse two, and this is the foundation to the prayer for the Son and the Father to be glorified. So let us tackle this one at a time.
Given Him Authority
Verse 2 starts out with “since you have given him authority over all flesh.” What does this mean? It simply means what it says. God is the Creator of all things, and he has handed over every last aspect of Creation to his Son Jesus Christ. The Universe, including humanity, is a gift to the Son. In John 3:35 it says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” We can actually go all the way back to Daniel 7, which written almost 600 years before THE hour, to see the truth of Jesus statement. Daniel 7:13 says, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” The Father had given the Son dominion over all things. Just as it says in Colossians 1:16, “all things were created through [Jesus] and for [Jesus].”
But what is the basis for this gift, yes we read in John 3:35 that it was based upon the Father's love for his Son, but this love was a two way street. The Father loved the Son and the Son loved the Father. This is a perfect love that exists within the Trinity, and this love that Jesus had for the Father produced in Jesus obedience. And you can see this in verse 4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” And this hour was the pinnacle of Christ's obedience to his Father and the pinnacle of the display of His love.
In Philippians 2:6 it says, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,b 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
All authority was given to Christ before time began on the guaranteed condition that he would reciprocate the love of his father in emptying himself to the point of death on the cross. And as Jesus lifts his eyes upon heaven and speaks to his father, he says “Dad, remember our covenant, glorify your Son so that I may glorify you, just as we agreed.”
To Give Eternal Life
The authority that Jesus is thinking about in this hour is not the authority of calming storms, healing the sick, or casting out demons. The authority he is thinking about is the authority to give eternal life. Look again at verse 2, “ you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life.” This is why Jesus said a few chapters ago in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the only one in all existence that has authority to give life. This is why a week prior to this night Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Likewise this is why John begins this Gospel in John 1:4 by saying, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
And once again, on what basis did Jesus have the authority to give eternal life? Did Jesus have the authority to give eternal life just because he was the Son of God? No, once again the foundation of this authority is found at the cross. This authority finds it roots at Calvary. As Paul cries out in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The hour of Jesus' death was the hour that Christ overcomes our most pressing problem, sin and death. Without the death of Jesus, we have no hope. This was the moment that our Great High Priest would once and for all atone for the sins of God's people. Hebrews 10:12 says, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” Why did he sit down? Because the act of his death secured the authority to give life. There is nothing left to do, Christ had done it all.
To All Whom You Have Given Him
Lastly, who shall receive this gift of eternal life? Verse 2, “to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” Who are those given to Jesus? They are the sheep who here Jesus' voice. They are those who the Father draws. They are those who Christ has chosen. They are those written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the World. They are the elect. In Jesus' prayer He is a broken record when it comes to the reality that the elect have been given from God to Jesus. He mentions those whom God has given him in verse 2, verse 6, verse 9, verse 11, verse 12, and verse 24. In this final hour before he lays down his life, who is he thinking about? The ones that God has given him. This hour is for giving life to them.
As I stated to you earlier, John 17 is where I placed my anchor when it comes to Calvinism. As I have said many times, I am a Bible guy. I believe this book is inerrant and inspired. Therefore when Jesus says he gives life to those who God has given him, I believe it. The condition of the eternal life as applied to me rests upon the Father gifting me to His Son. And once again it is through the cross that this gift is secured. Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. This is the greatest of all loves, to die for your friends.
And these three truths are the foundation of the glory of Jesus upon the cross. This is the radiance of who God is. This is the pinnacle of God's glorious grace. Our God is the giver. And this giving displays the greatest of his glory.