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The Priest, the Name, and the Word

Rev. Michael Calvert, Ph.D., December 4, 2016
Part of the Advent 2016 series.

As you know we are probing the riches of John 17 during our celebration of Advent. This is the record of our Lord’s great prayer of intercession for His Disciples—a prayer that was lifted out loud in those world-shaking moments before His passion and death on the cross.

What is contained here in the sublime words of this prayer easily exceeds our ability to comprehend. Yet, we are able to grasp enough of its truth to find comfort and joy in our sorrows and tribulations. If we have learned anything so far, it is that this blessed prayer was offered by the Savior in the hearing of the Disciples in order to sustain them in their mission—a mission that would put them squarely in the bullseye of the enemy as they took the Gospel of their resurrected Lord to the world (John 16:32-33).

In this chapter we find Jesus speaking of something that is very mysterious, and even controversial. Our Lord repeatedly refers to those sinners whom the Father has “given” to the Son (vv. 2, 6, 9, 24). And, then Jesus is revealed as the One who grants “eternal life” to these people (v. 2). Indeed, this beloved prayer reveals the Father as the Great Giver:

He gave the Son authority to save (v. 2)

He gave the Son work to accomplish (v. 4)

He gave the Son innumerable blessings (v. 7)

He gave the Son His words (v. 8)

He gave the Son His name (v. 11)

He gave the Son His glory (vv. 22, 24)

But what is most astounding to us is this declaration that God the Father gave to God the Son a people to redeem! God, in eternity past, gave a special gift to His only-begotten Son. And that gift consisted of individuals, sinners like you and me, who would become the objects of the Savior’s mission to the world! The reason the Son became incarnate—and the reason we celebrate Advent— was that Jesus might “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). God gave a gift, and the Son came to get it!

Before Jesus spoke such amazing words in His prayer for the Disciples, He had openly taught this very truth to the multitudes. John records this for us in chapter 6 of his Gospel. There Jesus said this:

35 “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

And . . .

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

And . . .

64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Now, why would Jesus refer to this admittedly mysterious truth in His prayer? How could such a truth comfort the Disciples as they faced the certainty of the tribulation Jesus had promised? And how does such truth sustain and comfort each of us who have believed the Gospel they proclaimed?