Dear friends, just listen to this extended prayer of Jesus when here on earth as given to us in the Gospel of John chapter 17. Jesus prayed this prayer to God His Father in the last evening before the day of His crucifixion. Listen to Jesus’ assurance of faith in God His Father concerning all His salvation work on behalf on sinners. We read in John 17, “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
You should know this is Jesus’ longest recorded prayer. It is often referred to as His high priestly prayer for it is a prayer of such earnest loving intercession. This is the real Lord’s Prayer, with the prayer “Our Father Who art in heaven, etc” being more the disciples’ prayer that Jesus taught us to pray. With the prayer of John 17 we are given to look as it were into Jesus’ mind and heart as Savior of sinners. I encourage you to read it yourself over and over in the weeks ahead. One preacher wrote about this prayer: “Oh, how we should thank God that our Lord offered this prayer out loud, and how we should thank God that it has been recorded...[Here we learn what Jesus interceding for His people is all about]. “I know”, said this person, “of no wealthier place than this”….and indeed, what riches both inexhaustible and eternal are to be found in this prayer of Jesus that He prayed the night before His crucifixion.
The prayer of John 17, while altogether one beautiful harmony of intercession and prayer to God, can be divided into three main sections: in verses 1-5 Jesus prays for Himself for the Father’s blessing upon Him as Saviour; in verses 6-19 He prays for His disciples; and then in verses 20-26 for all His people and the Christian church unto the end of the world. Last week we looked especially at the first three verses, and now we come to vs. 4- 5 where we hear Jesus pray: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
Here Jesus is still praying for Himself, you might say. Yet at the same time it is not for Himself but more asking for God the Father’s approval and crowning of all Jesus’ saving work on for sinners. That work especially that Jesus was about to do also when He would lay down His life for His sheep. In this message the one main gospel matter I call you to notice with me from these two verses is Jesus’ own assurance about His salvation work as Saviour of sinners. Will you observe this and take note of this with me now?
Jesus tells us that God the Father had given Him a work to do here on earth. Even when He was a twelve year old boy, we hear Him say to His anxious parents who had been looking for Him, finding Him after three days in the temple, as recorded in Luke 2:4, “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” In John 5:36 Jesus testifies, “…the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” Also in John 9:4 Jesus relates, “I must work the works of Him that sent me.”
Jesus came to this earth to do a work for His Father and what was that work then that He came to do, that His Father wanted Him to do? Oh, who can summarize in a few words Jesus’ work on behalf of the Father, on behalf of sinners? How would you answer that question? Would you not agree Jesus’ ministry given to Him by God the Father was to seek and to save the lost? Was it not as Jesus says in vs. 2 that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given to Him? Oh, but why did Jesus have to come down from heaven for that and what did He have to accomplish to give everlasting salvation and eternal life to people like you and me?
Well, here we need to know what happened to man after God created Him perfect and good in the Garden of Eden. As the Bible tells us, and all history so miserably proves over and over, mankind in Adam fell into sin and became wholly corrupt and of themselves hopeless guilty and separated from God and most certainly by nature headed only for just and eternal punishment on account of our rebellion and sinfulness against the most holy and righteous God. But now the gospel message is, and God made it known even the very day man fell into sin, God would Himself provide a Saviour from sin Who could and would pay the punishment for sin on sinners’ behalf. And He would live the holy life before God for sinners and so perfectly reconcile them to God. He would make way that once again those deserving only eternal death may yet justly and eternally, trusting in Jesus as their Savior, find forgiveness of sins and be restored to God and be given eternal life with Him.
And this was the Father’s work for Jesus, for Him to accomplish perfect salvation from sin on behalf of sinners. So Jesus came to this earth and from His conception on lived a perfect holy life in total obedience to all God’s commandments, never once, not in thought, word, or deed, violating any detail of God’s holy law but, in fact, totally living by it’s demands in every respect. This may be called His active obedience, something Jesus consciously and constantly resolved all during His life.
At the same time Jesus was given the work of paying for the punishment of sin due to sinners like us. So He in the sinner’s place was given the task to suffer not only some bad consequences of sin, the sins of others against Him, but Jesus had to suffer too the whole of God’s righteous punishment and wrath against sin. He was given the task of suffering and enduring nothing less than the anguish of eternal hell, in the place of sinners, even for as many as would be saved. This we sometimes refer to as His passive obedience. On the one hand, you see to be Saviour of sinners, which was the work the Father gave Him to do, Jesus had to live the sinless life that we have become incapable of living; and on the other hand, Jesus had to take all the punishment that is justly deserved by all sinners. He had to live spotlessly, perfectly so, while at the same time He would be treated as a very wicked guilty sinner, the Lord laying upon Him the iniquity of us all, as Isaiah says. Jesus came to live as the Just One and to be treated by God especially as the Unjust One, all in the place of sinners, that God might also freely offer salvation to sinners like you and me.
There is so much more to be said about this saving work the Father had given to His Son. Jesus in His saving work all His life on earth had to battle with Satan, the archenemy of our souls, and conquer him once and for all. Jesus had to swallow up death, the wages of sin, and transform that last enemy from something terrible to something triumphant. Jesus had also not only to work perfect escape from hell for as many as the Father had given to Him but also He had to bring about sure access into heaven eternal for all. Jesus had so to work that the guilt of sin and the power of sin, the punishment of sin and the realm of sin could and would forever be removed in us and from us; and instead, the forgiveness of sin, everlasting righteousness, and eternal life might be freely and totally given to us, even for as many as would believe. When Jesus was born, God the Father gave Him specifically the name ‘Jesus’ which means Saviour - Saviour of sinners - and that was the work Jesus was given by the Father to do. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation,” Paul exclaims in I Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners” and that is what He is all about! To save sinners not just a little bit but completely, and not for a price but freely, without money and without price, and not just for in this life but forevermore, and not just in spirit but He came to save us soul and body, in life and death, for time and eternity.
And now, dear friends, just listen to what Jesus prays in our text. He says to His Father, “I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Here Jesus declares in prayer to His Father, “What You have sent Me for, O God, and asked Me to do, I have done, and now Lord, crown the work I have done according to Your promises to Me.” Do you see with me that is really what Jesus here prays?
I ask you particularly to notice with me Jesus’ assurance about His saving work on sinners’ behalf. We need to remember here that Jesus prays this the night before His crucifixion! But you see here, so sure is the Saviour about the saving work He would accomplish on behalf of sinners that even before it is totally accomplished He already speaks of it as an accomplished fact. As one commentator put it, the verb tenses in vs. 4 are “in past tense with future sense indicating absolutely certainty—it’s as good as done.” Jesus could say that before it was done even because you see with Him, as with God, as we can read in Isaiah 46:10, He knows the end from the beginning, and without doubt His counsel and His pleasure shall be accomplished. So in the Old Testament too sometimes you come across prophecies that were to take place way in the future, written in the past tense as if they had already occurred, long before the fact. Psalm 22:16 is an example where we read in prophecy of Jesus and His sufferings, “they pierced my hands and feet.”
Jesus is facing yet the most difficult night of His life and the terrible ordeal of His crucifixion but in prayer to His Father, knowing He would fulfill all that God had given Him to do, being so humbly sure of Himself, Jesus prays, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Up to that point Jesus had perfectly fulfilled His task and now as the hour had come, the time for the ultimate battle and ultimate sacrifice and ultimate suffering unto death, even the death of the cross, in Jesus’ mind so resolved was He to go through with it all that it was as good as done. In Jesus’ expressed assurance here of the completed task before the fact we need to see His unending love and gracious commitment and resolve to accomplish all that had to be done to save even such undeserving guilty sinners like you and me. Do you see that too in Jesus’ ‘words of vs. 4?
In vs. 5 we see Jesus’ assurance about His saving work on behalf of sinners climb even to higher heights as He asks the Father on the basis of His finished saving work to glorify Him, Jesus Christ, with the glory which He had with the Father in heaven before. Here we are reminded that Jesus came from the Father in heaven with Whom He had always been in most intimate communion and glory from eternity. But now with this prayer Jesus is asking, ‘Father, let me now as Son of God and Son of man, as Saviour God, be taken up again into the highest place of honour and glory with You once again’. Jesus is praying here then, ‘Father, I have done the work You asked of Me which also had this intention according to Your promises, that as Saviour God I may be exalted and that there in the place of highest intimacy and glory with You, I may take also all those saved by Me, even as many as You have given to Me.’ In the first verse of the prayer of John 17 Jesus prays for the Father to glorify Him too but in this fifth verse Jesus’ prayer is even richer for now He is praying to be glorified not only as the Son of God but as the one and only Saviour God. Do you hear the note of Jesus’ assurance about His saving work on sinners’ behalf?
Let me now briefly apply this gospel message to you and me. Our theme for this sermon is “hearing and trusting Jesus’ assurance.” It can sometimes be in the Christian life that people may struggle with the question of assurance of faith. Maybe you too are a confessing Christian but you are troubled often even with lack of assurance about being saved. I want to say to you, look to Jesus and His assurance of faith also to grow in assurance of faith in Him for yourself. God is not requiring you to have assurance of faith to be saved but do you trust Jesus’ assurance about His saving work on sinners’ behalf? Can you not be assured trusting Jesus when Jesus Himself so trusted God His Father about Himself as Saviour and His saving work on behalf of sinners? Do you agree and see why indeed Jesus could be so sure about His saving work even to pray as He does in vs. 4 before His actual crucifixion, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Jesus was so sure of His saving work on behalf of sinners and so I say, let your faith and assurance of faith be ever directed to Jesus and also to Jesus’ own assurance of faith to help you in your own assurance of faith. Do you not find this helpful too, dear struggling believer in Christ?
Oh there is so much reason time and again to doubt yourself, yes, indeed. But do you see there is so much reason, yes, endless reasons, never to doubt Christ as Saviour of sinners? Truly, Jesus is able and willing to save totally all that come to God by Him. Jesus couldn’t be deceiving Himself with His assurance about His saving work on sinners’ behalf, could He? On the cross we know He also did cry out, didn’t He, “It is finished.” Truly and rightly coming in true faith to Him means confessing ‘I never can trust myself but I surely always can trust Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, and it is to Him I look and depend upon for all my salvation from beginning to end. I know for sure He is endlessly reliable. And I always need Him as a lost sinner in myself and I love Him as my one Hope and Saviour. And I pray and hope ever to follow after Him and serve Him for as long as I live.’ Is such also your confession of faith, dear friends? You are safe ever looking to Jesus. Your and my salvation is never dependent on anything about us, not even our assurance of faith, but on our ever looking to Jesus Christ, the one and only Saviour of sinners. All who trust Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, living by grace through faith in Him, will also by Him most certainly be brought to perfect eternal salvation in everlasting glory as also Jesus’ prayer of John 17 later expresses. You are safe, my friend, in the arms of Christ the Saviour. As a psalm song puts its, “To live apart from Him is death, but t’is good His face to see.”, good now and forevermore for all who call upon Him in true repentance and faith.
Let me end just emphasizing two points yet. One, about this word ‘finished’. Jesus says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” It is all done now, whatever needs to be done to save someone like you and me! Being a Christian is all about realizing Jesus has finished the saving work God gave Him to do, and relying upon that once for all work of His for real and yes, more and more. The gospel message is that there is just nothing more that needs to be done for the complete salvation of sinners like you and me then what Jesus has all done. This is what makes continued unbelief and not being converted so wicked and foolish and fatal while it makes faith and repentance so blessed and wonderful beyond words! Do you see this with me?
Then the second and last point yet is clearly the mark of true believers in Jesus is that they don’t only trust in Jesus’ finished saving work on sinners’ behalf for themselves but then they also long for and aim for the perfect application and reflection of Christ’s finished work in their own hearts and lives. You are living the lie when you say you trust and believe in Jesus and His finished salvation work but at the same time you go on in life living in sin and ungodliness and neither sorry for sin nor turning from it. No, as Jesus relates also in this prayer His people saved by grace for Jesus’ sake, are also “not of the world, even as [Jesus] was not of this world. [vs. 14&16] And in vs. 17 we hear Jesus pray for His people saying, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Truly looking to Jesus in faith shows itself in the fruit of godliness and sanctification and daily repentance for so much remaining sin still in our lives on this side of heaven. Do you know and show this genuine Christianity, dear friends? Don’t be content with a superficial Christianity that only consists in religious rituals but doesn’t seek and trust Christ Jesus as only Saviour and Lord with heart and lip sincere. As one wrote in connection with true Christianity, “Genuine faith never rests content with being convinced of the reality of God but presses on to take refuge in God…..It isn’t just a matter of correct belief but of desperate need. Saving faith is always like this. It never stops with brooding over the nature or activity of God but always runs to take refuge under His wings.”
The whole prayer of John 17 also proclaims what wisdom so to seek and follow after the Saviour. For think of it, how Jesus gave Himself entirely to be the perfect Saviour of sinners, even to the death of the cross, also following this prayer of John 17. What an almighty ever faithful and sure Saviour of sinners Jesus Christ is and remains still now in this time of grace. He that has ears to hear, let him hear! How infinitely blessed to trust and obey Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour, and how endlessly sad and foolish to turn from Him, the only true and God-approved Mediator between God and man.
“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Jesus prayed. Are you one who hears and trusts Jesus’ assurance about His saving work? Amen.
Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor