The Bible Has One Message

John 17

Tom Pennington  •  May 22, 2016
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In college I was required to read a lot of different books, as you were. And some of them I enjoyed. Others, not so much. There was one book I was forced to read in college that I really enjoyed. It's a classic, written by a man named Mortimer Adler. You may not recognize his name, but you have probably been influenced by him. He was the chairman of the board of editors for the Encyclopedia Britannica. He also was the general editor for a series of books that I have in my own library at home called the Great Books of the Western World. A brilliant man.

But I was assigned to read Adler's book entitled How to Read a Book. Not a very auspicious title, and yet a very insightful one, because the basic premise of Adler's book was this: that what ought to be obvious and intuitive, how to read a book, in fact is not obvious nor intuitive. We have to learn how to read good books. Adler's basic point was this: behind every great piece of literature there is a unifying theme. And before you set out to read the details of that book, before you immerse yourself into sentences and paragraphs and chapters, you first need to understand the big idea, where that book is going. And his book, How to Read a Book, is about exactly how to grasp that theme, how to get the big picture before you wade into the weeds.

Adler was exactly right. Every great piece of literature is united by a solitary theme, a great idea, a wonderful message that brings it together. And the same holds true for the Bible that you hold in your hand this morning. And yet, sadly, much of the church has forgotten that the Bible has one central theme. Most Christians, and frankly far too many pastors, treat the Bible as if it were a sort of collection of random verses about self-help themes.

That's why we need to address this issue today as we continue our series entitled Hold Fast: The Forgotten Truths We Must Always Remember. It's a title I borrowed from Tyndale's translation of the New Testament. Back in the 1500s, five times in his translation he used the expression "hold fast" in translating from the Greek into the English. That expression was eventually adapted and adopted by the English sailors, the great sailing ships, meaning "hold fast to the ropes." Hold on tightly to the ropes of the ship, especially to the lifelines. When the waves and winds threaten to toss you overboard, hold fast. There are lifelines in the Christian faith. There are truths that today's church has forgotten, but to which we must always hold fast.

Today, I want to urge you to hold fast to this forgotten truth: "The Bible Has One Message." The Bible has one great message, one great theme. Now, the questions is, where do we go to find a succinct expression of that theme? There is—unlike Mortimer Adler encouraged us to do—there is no preface to look at. There is no forward to read. There's no dust jacket that gives us information about the author or the intention of the book. There is no inspired set of Cliff Notes or Spark Notes.

If we want to discover the central message of the Bible, we have to come to the Bible itself. But where? Sixty-six books, where do you begin to find that concise message, that theme, expressed? Well, obviously, you come to the most strategic time in all of the Bible, indeed, the defining moment in all of history. You come to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament looked forward to that point in time, and the New Testament looks back to explain that reality. And so clearly that is the center point. But we have four inspired records of Jesus' earthly life and ministry. We have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Where do we look in those books to find this big idea? Where is the purpose of God concisely expressed?

Well, as you might expect, it comes from the mouth of our Lord Himself. The great, eternal plan of God, the great message of the Bible, is laid out for us in our Lord's longest recorded prayer in all of Scripture. It's the prayer that He prayed just a couple of hours before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, just nine short hours before His crucifixion, a long prayer, the longest of His recorded, because it shows us the mind of Christ. It shows us the mind of God. It brings us to the center of God's great, eternal plan. It's recorded for us in John 17. It is the Lord's prayer. We talk about "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Your name." We talk about that as the Lord's Prayer. No, that's the disciple's prayer. That's our prayer.

This is the Lord's Prayer. It's His high priestly prayer for His own. It unfolds in three movements. In verses 1 to 5, Jesus prays for Himself. And then in verses 6 to 19, Jesus prays for the remaining 11 apostles. Judas has now left. He is about to bring the crowd of soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane in His betrayal. And so, Jesus here prays for the 11 remaining apostles. But in verses 20 to 26, Jesus looks down through time, knowing all of those who would come to believe in Him, and He prays for all believers of all time.

He prays for you, Christian. He prays for me. We sang this morning about Jesus's deep, deep love causing Him to intercede before the Father on our behalf. What does Jesus pray for you? What does Jesus pray for me? The answer is here in John 17. This is a glimpse into what's happening right now in the presence of God on our behalf.

Now, my approach as I studied this chapter was inductive. I first observed the details that are in this chapter, and then arrived at a theme. For our purposes this morning, I want to reverse that process. I'm going to first give you the theme, and then we're going to walk through this passage together. And I hope by the time we're done you'll see that the details here, our Lord's words, support the reality of that theme.

From Jesus' prayer then we discover that the great theme of the Bible, the one message of the Bible, is this: God is redeeming a people, by His Son, for His Son, to His Own glory. God is redeeming a people, by His Son, for His Son, to His Own glory. Now each of those words I've chosen carefully. And each of them is absolutely essential to understanding the Bible's grand theme as it's unfolded here in this magnificent prayer of our Lord's. So, let's look then at the evidence together and work our way through word by word.

Let's begin, as we have to, with the word "God." God is the subject of the sentence, summarizing the great theme of the Bible, because it is God who initiated the plan. Jesus understood that. He understood, even in this prayer, that He was here on earth on a mission from God, sent by God, a mission the Father had initiated. Look at verses 4 and 5. He says,

"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished [or by accomplishing] the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."

Now, I want you to look first at verse 5, because Jesus makes two bold claims. First of all, He claims that He existed before He came into the world, He existed before He entered into the womb of the virgin Mary. In fact, notice what He says in verse 5. He says, I existed before there was anything but God. "The glory … I had with You [Father] before the world was." Think about that for a moment. Jesus is claiming that before there was anything that's around us, when there was nothing but God, He existed.

But He makes another bold claim in verse 5, not only that He existed before He came into the world, before the world was created, but that He enjoyed equal status with God Himself. Notice what He says: "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Jesus existed before the world existed, and He enjoyed equal glory with God Himself. Folks, verse 5 includes an audacious claim to be deity. There's no way you can say that Jesus was just a good man. No good man makes this claim. He had to be what He claimed to be, or He was a liar or a lunatic.

But Jesus left that glory that He enjoyed with the Father. Obviously, He's praying this prayer after a 33-year life in Palestine. He's praying this prayer from a garden just outside the city walls of Jerusalem. So, He left the glory and came into the world on a mission. And that brings us back to verse 4. He came in the world to do the work which the Father had assigned Him, and for which He had gladly volunteered.

You see, on that Thursday night as Jesus anticipated the cross within just a few short hours, He was able to say, I have accomplished the work You've given Me to do. He could see the end in sight. Of course, it wasn't officially done until 3 o'clock on Friday afternoon (less than 24 hours from this prayer), when He would cry out in a loud voice, "It is finished!"

But notice verse 4. In light of the mission accomplished, Jesus here asks the Father to be restored to the glory that He'd known before. It was a prayer to return to the glory of heaven, a prayer to return to the Father's presence. Don't miss the point of verses 4 and 5. Jesus is acknowledging that God had initiated a great, eternal plan of redemption, and that Christ was here on assignment to accomplish that plan. This same idea permeates this prayer of Jesus. Let me just show you. Look at verse 8, "You sent Me," verse 18, "You sent Me into the world," verse 21, "You sent Me," verse 23, "You sent Me," verse 25, "You sent Me."

We are here on holy ground, because Jesus gives us a glimpse in this prayer back into eternity past, back into the eternal counsels of the triune God as they create an incredible, inconceivable plan. Some theologians call this a covenant, although the Bible nowhere explicitly calls it a covenant.

But regardless of what you call it, Jesus is here clearly alluding to the fact that in the eternal counsel of the Trinity, several amazing decisions were made. God decided to create man. And He decided to create man with a capacity of choice, of will, to choose evil. God's not responsible for man's evil. But He did determine to create man, and He determined to allow man to fall into sin. And then God determined to rescue some of those sinners from their sin, and to send His Son on a search and rescue mission to accomplish their rescue.

The point is, man's redemption was not some kind of afterthought. The great theme of the Bible is that God has always had a plan to rescue sinful men from His own justice against our sin. In eternity past, He graciously created the plan. In human history through Jesus Christ, He executed the plan. And in the future, He will bring that plan to completion.

God is doing these things. That's why in Philippians 1:6, Paul writes, "He who began a good work in you." That's God. God began the work in you. In Philippians 2, he says, God is continuing that work: He works "in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." And then he says back in Philippians 1:6, "[God] who began a good work in you," the God who is continuing that work, will bring it to completion. So, the first word of the Bible's great theme has to be "God," because it was God who initiated the plan.

That brings us to our next two words: God "is redeeming." God is redeeming. This is what God intended His eternal plan to accomplish. God is redeeming. Or we could use the word "rescuing." That's a very common concept in the Scripture. That's why God refers to Himself as a Savior. He's a "rescuer." Or you read in Scripture about someone being saved. The word "saved" just means rescued. Or "salvation," "rescue." Now what does that imply?

Imagine, if this morning as you sit there, someone walked into this auditorium, came up to you, grabbed you by the shoulders, and said, "I'm here to rescue you!" What would you say?

"Why? From what? I don't feel any sense of danger." You see, behind the concept of our spiritual rescue, which Jesus was sent to accomplish, is a very sobering, disconcerting reality: we "need" to be rescued. I need to be rescued. You need to be rescued. And listen, this is crucial. It doesn't matter whether or not, as you sit here this morning, you feel like you need to be rescued. That doesn't matter. The real issue is, are you, or are you not in danger whether you feel like you're in danger or not.

You see, again, imagine that person who comes in and grabs you by the shoulder and says, "I'm here to rescue you." If you said to them, "Go away, I don't need to be rescued, I'm fine." What is going to be their first task before they can rescue you? They have to convince you that you're in danger.

That's what most of the Bible is written to do. It's to show us that we are in imminent danger, not physical danger, but spiritual, eternal danger. You see, God is a gracious God, and He warns us again and again. You read those sections of Scripture that are doom and gloom and judgment and destruction, and you just want to skip them. Don't skip them. It's God's grace saying to you, "You're in danger," whether you feel like you're in danger or not.

Read the Bible. The first two chapters of Genesis will tell you that God made the world and everything in it. And at the end of chapter 1, it says God looked at all He'd made, and He said, it is "very good." That all changes in chapter 3. Something tragic happened. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the one, straightforward command He gave them: don't eat of that tree. And they acted in our place. They did exactly what you would've done, exactly what I would've done, because it is what we do, day in and day out. We choose, knowing what God wants, to disobey.

What happened? They brought physical and spiritual death into the world. They severed their relationship with God. They were banished from the garden. Their sin brought God's judgment. The entire Bible echoes with those same themes. God reveals His will through His Word. Man, knowing God's will, chooses to disobey. And God, because He's just, has to punish.

The same pattern is true for you, and it's true for me. God has revealed His will to you. You know it. How many times has your conscience said "don't do that," and then you have chosen to do it anyway? You knew, and you still rebelled, just like Adam and Eve. You also had His Word. You're sitting here this morning; you have the Bible. You know what God wants, and yet all of us have made the same choice they made. We've chosen to disobey God, to go our own way.

And therefore, God, throughout the Bible, warns us that our willful choices to disregard Him, to disregard His Law, is stirring up His justice. And He can't help Himself. It's who He is. He has to be just. And so, He writes the Bible with these ominous tones of warning and warning and warning, saying, "It's coming, you're in danger, please listen to the warning!" The Bible's filled with bad news: it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment. We need to be rescued. That's the bad news.

But the Bible is also filled with good news, because God goes on to not only warn us of the danger we're in, but to show us that He Himself is a gracious God, that He finds joy and delight in rescuing us from the mess we have made of our lives, in rescuing us from our sin, from the judgment our sins deserve. And He provided for our spiritual rescue in Jesus Christ.

Now in John 17, Jesus' rescue of us is captured in three biblical concepts. Let me give them to you briefly.

Number one. The rescue consists of salvation; that is, rescue from the penalty of sin. Look at the first 3 verses. Jesus spoke these things after the upper room discourse, chapters 13 to 16.

… and lifting up His eyes to heaven. [This is, by the way, one of the acceptable postures of prayer. I personally find it a lot easier to concentrate in prayer when my eyes are open and I'm looking up than when my eyes are closed. Jesus does that here. Notice He said the first part of His prayer], "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You." ["The hour" was Jesus' short hand—as you discover back in the first couple verses of John 13—it was Jesus' shorthand for His death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father. "The hour."]

[ And notice in verse 2, He connects "the hour," His death and resurrection and exaltation, with providing eternal life. He says,] "glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You," [because of this hour that's approaching,]} "even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life."

You see, Jesus, in the hour of His death, makes eternal life possible. That's His point. Eternal life is crucial. According to the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, if you don't have eternal life, you're perishing. It's not optional.

What is eternal life? Most people, when they think of eternal life, they think of the duration of life. They think of the quantity of life. And that's of course included. But listen, every single person here this morning, whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not, you will live forever—somewhere. So, that's not all that there is to eternal life. There's more. He defines it in verse 3. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Jesus says, eternal life isn't about a quantity life, primarily. It's about a quality of life in which you can actually know God your Creator. You can have the relationship that was broken by your sin, restored.

You see, the focus of Jesus' life, of human history, of redemptive history, was on that hour that Jesus mentions in verse 1 (that is, the events surrounding His death and resurrection), because it was that hour in which He accomplished our spiritual rescue by overcoming our spiritual death and giving us eternal life, by enabling us to truly know God our Creator, and by absorbing the wrath, the justice of God, our sins deserve.

In Romans 5:9, Paul writes, "… having now been justified by His blood [that is, by His death], we [will] … be saved [we will be rescued] from the wrath of God through Him." Jesus rescues us from God's wrath, His anger against our sin—how? By absorbing it Himself. On the cross, He took God's anger in the place of every person who would ever believe. He absorbed the justice of God against your rebellion, Christian, so that there's none left for you.

First Thessalonians 1:10 says, "Jesus … rescues us from the wrath to come." So, Jesus' death then accomplished our spiritual rescue. But this invites a really important question. Obviously, not everyone is going to be rescued. The Bible makes it clear. There're going to be a lot of people that God will judge forever in a place Jesus called, again and again, "hell." But how do some benefit from the death of Christ, while others don't?

Well, the answer, right here in this prayer, is how you respond to Jesus' message. Notice how His true disciples respond to His word. Verse 7: "Now they have come to know [speaking of the 11 disciples] they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You." What is He talking about here? Look at verse 8. He's talking about the words which the Father gave Him. Now look at verse 7 again: they have come to know that all of the words You gave Me are from You. So, the first way the disciples responded to Jesus' message is they accepted Jesus' message as the very words of God.

But He goes on. Verse 8, "for the words which You gave Me I have given to them." Now notice a second response of true disciples to Jesus' word. Middle of verse 8, "And they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You." In other words, they embraced the truth about who Jesus really was. He didn't begin in Bethlehem. He was sent by God as God to take on flesh. They believed that. They embraced that.

And notice the third way they responded to Jesus' words. The end of verse 8, "And they believed [that] You sent Me." In other words, they believed in Jesus' mission as He had explained it to them, that He'd come as a ransom for sinners, that He was dying in the place of sinners. They understood it. They accepted it. They believed Jesus' word.

But believing is more than just accepting the facts. Look at the other way Jesus describes their faith in this passage. Go back to verse 6. "I have manifested Your name [that is, I have revealed who You are] to the men … You gave me out of the world;" And notice the end of verse 6. "And they have kept Your word." Here is the great proof of genuine faith in Jesus' message. Do you believe Him enough to obey Him? If not, what you have isn't true faith. It's damning, unsaving faith. True faith believes Him enough to keep His word.

So, Jesus rescues us from the penalty of sin. That's the first aspect of His rescue. It's salvation.

Secondly is sanctification. He rescues us from the power of sin. Look at verses 14 to 17:

"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."

Now the key word in that section is the word "sanctify." It means "to set apart." Set apart from what? Well, first of all, to set us apart from the world's system. Notice, twice He says, (in verse 14) "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world," (verse 16) "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." He's not talking about that we're not people like the people around us. He's saying we're not connected with the world's system.

Listen, if you're a true believer in Jesus Christ, just like Jesus didn't belong to the world's system, you don't either. You just don't feel at home. You don't feel comfortable. These are not my people. These are not the things I love.

He also has set us apart from Satan, verse 15. "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." Meaning Satan. Now the irony of that is back in chapter 8. Jesus said, before our conversion, we were all children of the devil. And now He says, I want You to separate them from their old father, protect them from their old father who means them harm.

He also sets us apart from the power of individual sins in our lives. Notice verse 17, "Sanctify them" This is talking about being made progressively holy, being made more like Jesus Christ. Jesus prays for His disciples, Lord, I want you to make them increasingly like Me. I want You to "sanctify them [and notice] "by means of "the truth; Your word is truth." You understand the primary instrument God uses to make you more like Jesus Christ is His Word? You know, I'll talk with people, and they'll be talking about, "You know, I just have this huge struggle with sin in my life." And I ask them, "So tell me about your interaction with the Word."

And the first thing they want to say is, "Well, well, that's not important. Let's talk about this thing in my life." It's like, no, no, you missed the whole point. Jesus' prayer here makes it clear that the way we are made more like Him is through an increasing knowledge of, meditation on, and application of the Truth to ourselves. So, don't expect as a Christian that you're going to sort of overcome these patterns of sin in your life if you're holding this book at a distance. Jesus isn't praying for you to be sanctified in some other way. He's praying for you to be sanctified through the Truth.

So, God rescues us in salvation from the penalty of sin, in sanctification from the power of sin, and in glorification, He rescues us from the presence of sin. Look at verse 24. I love this. Jesus prays, "Father, I desire that they also, whom [You've] … given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." You know what Jesus is praying? Let them join Us in Heaven. Well, that doesn't happen unless we are made like Him. That's glorification.

I told you every word in our statement of the Bible's theme is important. Notice I say, God "is" rescuing. It's a continuing process. We were rescued from the penalty of sin at the moment we believed and repented. We are being rescued from the power of individual sins through the Spirit and the Scripture in our lives day by day. And we will be rescued in the future from the presence of sin and—I love this—from the possibility of sin.

You see, we're not going to be like Adam. Adam was innocent, but he could still choose sin. Someday we're going to be like Christ who can't sin. God is going to make all things new. God "is redeeming:" that's salvation, sanctification, glorification.

The third part of the Bible's great theme is that God is redeeming "a people." A people. God's plan was to save a specific group of people. This begins to unfold right after the fall of man in Genesis 3. It begins with Adam and Eve, where the second person of the Trinity kills an animal, and He clothes them in the skin of that animal to picture the sacrifice that would one day come. He regenerates Adam and Eve. You'll meet Adam and Eve in heaven.

Then in chapter 4 it's Seth and his line. Then beginning in chapter 5 and following you meet Noah and his sons, and in terms of his sons, God specifically (in Genesis 11) chooses Shem. And then from Shem eventually comes a man named Abraham in Genesis 12. And then God chooses, not Ishmael, the son of Abraham, but Isaac. And then He chooses, not Esau, but Jacob, whom He eventually renamed Israel. And as you walk through the Old Testament, again and again you see God, out of the morass of idolatry and sin that was Israel, you see Him pulling people to Himself, drawing sinners to Himself.

But in the Old Testament we also are reminded that God wasn't just saving Jews. He was also saving Gentiles. Gentiles like Ruth, the Moabitess, the idolatress, like Rahab, the prostitute, both of whom end up in the line of Christ, like the Assyrians in Nineveh who responded to the preaching of Jonah. This same message resounds in the New Testament. I love the way James puts it in the Book of Acts. In Acts 15 at the Jerusalem counsel, James, Jesus' half-brother, says this in verse 14, "[Peter] has related how God first concerned Himself [I love this, listen carefully] God … concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name." This is what God's about. He's about taking a people for His name.

So, on that dark night before the crucifixion, it's not surprising to hear Jesus using this same kind of language. Go back to John 17, and look at verse 2, "even." He's talking about Himself as the Son here. I want to "glorify You [verse 1] even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life." That is a monumental statement. The Father gave the Son authority to grant eternal life. To whom? "All whom You have given Him." This concept was really important to Christ.

Look at verse 6. "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world." And then He makes a remarkable statement. "They were Yours." You see what Jesus is saying? Before these apostles were redeemed, they were God's. They belonged to God. Why? Because He had set His love on them. He had chosen them. That's why, in the Book of Acts, Jesus appears to Paul and says, I want you to stay in the city, and I want you preach the gospel, because I have many people in this city. People who had not yet been redeemed, but they were God's. Jesus says in verse 6, "They were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word." Look at verse 9. This is remarkable. Jesus says,

"I [pray on behalf of My disciples; I don't pray] … on behalf of the world, but of those whom [You've] … given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them."

You say, "Well, wait a minute, Tom. Jesus here is talking about the disciples. That's all He means. Jesus is saying the Father gave Him these disciples. He's not talking about salvation." Is that true? No, it's not. Because in the final section of this prayer, Jesus uses the same language.

Look down at verse 20: "I do not ask on behalf of these [eleven] alone, but [I'm also praying] for those … who [will] believe in Me through their word;" [That's us. And notice how Jesus describes all of us in verse 24.] "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me [same expression], be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which [You've] given Me." This is all believers.

We have been given by the Father to the Son. The Bible makes it clear that God's plan of redemption included those on whom He had set His love, those whom He chose in eternity past. They were His, and then He gave them to Christ in order for Christ to ensure that He would accomplish their rescue.

This is what is called sovereign election. This is what the Bible teaches. In fact, it can't be said any more clearly than Paul said it in Ephesians 1:4, God "chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world." You see, God is redeeming a people, a specific group of people, on whom He has set His eternal love.

Turn over to 2 Thessalonians 2, the passage we read in the Scripture reading this morning. Look at verse 13. "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation…." God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation. Now, if you struggle with this issue of sovereign election—and many do, I understand that, I once did as well—if you struggle with this, let me encourage you to listen to the six-part series I preached on Ephesians 1:4-6 entitled Sovereign Selection. I think it'll answer many of the questions that you have and struggle with. But what you can't deny is that this is what the Scriptures teach.

Now maybe you're tempted to ask, "Well, that complicates things, because how do I know if God chose me?" That's easy. Are you willing to turn from your sin and embrace Jesus as Lord? That's the question. That's the answer to the question, "Did God choose me?" Are you willing to turn from your sin to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?

You see, if you live your entire life, and you come to the end refusing to believe, refusing to repent, you alone will bear the responsibility, because throughout the Scripture, God says, whosoever will let him come. God invites you to come. And if you don't come, it's your responsibility for not coming. It's because you loved your sin. It's because you didn't want God to tell you what to do. But if you do turn to Christ, if you do put your faith in Him as Lord, your willingness to come to Him proves that the Father loved you and gave you to Christ. Here's how Jesus puts it in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me." All that the Father gives to Me will come to me. The fact that you are willing to put your faith in Jesus Christ makes it clear that He has already chosen you. So, God is redeeming "a people."

The fourth of the Bible's theme is, God is redeeming a people "by His Son." This is the message of all of Scripture. Throughout His 3 ½-year ministry, Jesus often said, "My hour [or the hour] has not yet come." You see this in John 2:4, John 7:30, John 8:20. The hour hasn't come. But in John 12:23, on Tuesday of the Passion Week, Jesus said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."

And then look at back in John 17:1. We're about midnight on that Thursday night. We're about nine hours from the crucifixion. And "Jesus … lifting up His eyes to heaven … said, "Father, the hour has come." By "the hour" Jesus meant His death, His resurrection, the work of redemption. The Son, in that hour of His death and resurrection, accomplished God's great plan of redemption. And He could only accomplish our spiritual rescue by dying in our place.

This is how He explained it. In Mark 10:45 He told His disciples, listen, I didn't come in order "to be served, but to serve, and to give [My] … life [as] … a ransom." And then He uses a Greek word that only means one thing, I came to give My life as a ransom "in the place of" many. It's a remarkable statement, Jesus is saying, I came to die as a substitute for all who will believe in Me. So, at the cross then, God was redeeming a people by His Son, by His death in our place, by His absorbing the wrath and justice of God that our sins deserved.

The fifth part of the Bible's theme is that God is redeeming a people, by His Son—notice the difference—"for His Son." You see, God's plan of redemption was designed for Jesus Christ. Obviously, there are eternal blessings and benefits for us, but in the ultimate sense, the plan of redemption is not about you. It's not about me. It's about Christ. And this becomes very clear here in John 17. I want you to see how Jesus puts it again and again.

Look at verse 2. He says, as the Son, I want to "glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, [so] that … all whom You have given Him." Notice "given Him." Given to Jesus. "He may give [them] eternal life." Verse 6, [all] "whom You gave Me." Verse 9, "Those whom You have given Me." Go to verse 24, those "whom You have given Me." This is incredible.

Do you understand the enormity of what Jesus was saying to the Father? He was saying that the people that He was dying to rescue were the Father's love gift to Him. He designed, God the Father designed, for this redeemed humanity to be with His Son and to reflect the glory of His Son for all eternity. If you're going to understand the great message of the Bible, the eternal plan of redemption, you have to come to grips with the fact that it's not primarily about us. It's about the Father and the Son. The Father intends, as an expression of His eternal love for the Son, to present to Him a redeemed humanity who forever will love Him and adore Him and praise Him and reflect His glory in their characters.

This is a Copernican Revolution, because we learn in John 17 that the universe doesn't revolve around us. It revolves around Jesus Christ. God is rescuing a people, by His Son, for His Son.

The final phrase underscores the supreme purpose of God. God is redeeming a people, by His Son, for His Son, "to His Own Glory." The glory of the Father is the ultimate purpose behind the eternal plan of redemption. You see that throughout this passage. Look at chapter 17:1. "Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour [the hour of My death and resurrection] has come; glorify Your Son, [but notice] [in order] that the Son may glorify You.'" Jesus' goal in all of this was not ultimately His own glory. He only wanted to be glorified in His death and resurrection so that the Father would be glorified.

Verse 4. While He was on earth accomplishing the work that God gave Him to do, He says, "I glorified You." That was My goal, Father, in the mission on which You sent Me. It wasn't simply to redeem a people. It was to bring You glory. Behind the entire, grand plan that God created in eternity past, this was the one, great goal.

I wish I had time to take you to Ephesians 1. In Ephesians 1, from verses 4 down to verse 13, three times Paul says the reason for salvation is "to the praise of His glory," "to the praise of His glorious grace" (ESV), "to the praise of His gloryBut what's interesting about those three expressions is that they all come at the end of a paragraph, and in each paragraph a separate point is made. Paul says in verses 4 to 6 of Ephesians 1, it was for God's glory that the Father choose you. In verses 7 down to verse 12, it's for the Father's glory that the Son redeemed you. And in verses 13 and 14, it was for the glory of God that the Spirit sealed and secured you. He did it all for His own glory.

So, there's the great theme of the Bible. "God is redeeming a people, by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory." Let me just ask you today, do you have eternal life? Do you know God your Creator? Do you know Jesus Christ? You can. It's why He came. It's the mission on which He came to make that possible—if you will believe His message, if you will keep His word, if you'll turn to Him as Lord, if you'll accept His offer of grace.

Why did John include this longest recorded prayer of our Lord here in his gospel? Well, there are several reasons, but one of them is the reason he wrote his whole gospel. Remember, in John20:30, he says, "Many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of [His] disciples, which are not written in this book." He said, look, I had lots of material to choose from, "but these have been written [including John 17] so that you may believe that Jesus is the [Messiah], the Son of God."

God wanted, from this chapter we looked at this morning, to convince you that Jesus is everything He claimed. "And that believing you may life in His name." You can have eternal life, life from God, life that enables you to know God. Are you willing to turn from your sin and to put your faith in Him? The moment you're willing to do that, this will become yours.

If you're already a follower of Jesus Christ, notice that Jesus prayed this prayer in the hearing of His disciples. Now, you know what's remarkable about that? Often in the gospels we read about Jesus going apart into the wilderness to pray. But here, Jesus openly, loudly prayed for the disciples to hear. He wanted them to hear this prayer.

Look at verse 13, "These things I speak in the world so that [here's why I prayed it] so that they [my disciples] may have My joy made full in themselves." Jesus said, Father, I want them to hear this prayer so that they can experience the fullness of My joy. As I see this plan unfold, they see it unfold. And oh, by the way, Jesus inspired John the Apostle to write it here in his gospel so that you would hear it for the same reason. He wants you to be encouraged. He wants you to understand.

Your life is a lot bigger than you were born, and you grow up, and you work, and you die. It's a lot bigger story than that. In eternity past, you belonged to the Father by an unconditional choice of His sovereign will. He set His love on you. And then He sent His Son into the world as one of us on a rescue mission to rescue you, which was accomplished at the cross. And that rescue was applied to you the moment you believed and repented of your sins. And today, the Father is still answering Jesus' prayer as He's using the Word of God to increasingly make you like Jesus Christ, to sanctify you by the Truth. And someday, the Father will answer the rest of Jesus' prayer. And you will be with Him, and you will reflect His glory forever.

Why did the Father do all of this? Because we are His personal gift to the Son as an expression of His eternal love. Christian, there's great hope and comfort in that. Because this whole thing is a lot bigger than you or me, it insures it will happen. because God is not going to fail to give His Son the expression of His love. He's not going to fail in that. He'll complete what He started in you, because it's ultimately not about you.

It's about His eternal, unfailing love for His Son, as well as it's about His unfailing love for you. Because later in this same chapter, notice verse 26 , You have loved them so that "the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." Verse 23, You have "loved them"—speaking of us—Father, You have "loved them, even as You have loved Me." So yes, we are an expression of the love of the Father to the Son, but the Father loves us every bit as much as He loves the Son. How can He not finish what He started?

Understanding the Bible's one message also changes how we read the Bible. When you read the stories of Abraham and Joseph and David and Saul and Moses and Paul and all of the great characters of Scripture, understand that they're not the heroes of the story. They're not even the main characters. God is. And when you read the Old Testament Law, and you see all of that sin and judgment and wrath, remember that God is graciously warning us, "You're in danger, you're in danger, you're in danger!"

When you read the gospel and the gospels and Acts and the epistles of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation, understand, you cannot miss the main point. Wherever you turn in the Bible, it is an unfolding, either in an individual's life or in a family's life or in a nation, of the great, eternal plan of redemption. God is redeeming a people, by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory. Beloved, hold fast to the truth that the Bible has only one great message.

Let's pray together.

Father, we are overwhelmed by Your love and grace to us in Christ. Thank You for allowing us to listen in as at that crucial moment in redemptive history our Lord cried out to You. Thank You for allowing us to see His heart, to see Your heart.

Father, may, for those of us who know and love Jesus Christ, may You use this passage, may You use our study this morning to enable us to experience the fullness of Jesus' joy as we see the plan unfold, as we see how we fit into that plan as an expression of Your love to Your Son. Father, may that give us comfort in the midst of whatever we find ourselves in in this life, that you will complete what you started, because You love Your Son and You love us.

Father, I pray for those here this morning who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. Lord, may You use even this part of John to convince them that Jesus is all that He claimed, that He was sent here on a mission from You, that He was existing before there was anything but You, that He shared Your eternal glory, and that He entered the world on a rescue mission to save our souls from Your justice. And Father, may they put their faith in Christ even this morning, and in that moment of repentance and belief find forgiveness, find that they have eternal life, that they know You, and that you will continue that work that You've begun. Father, may You call them to Yourself through the gospel.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.