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The Great Theme of the Bible

Tom Pennington John 17


When I was in college, I read for the first time a book that was and still is a great classic. It was written by a man named Mortimer Adler. You may not recognize his name, but you've almost certainly been influenced by his work. He was the Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He also is the General Editor of a large collection that I have in my library called the Great Books of the Western World. I was assigned a book that Adler himself wrote, simply entitled How to Read A Book -- very appropriate book for students in college.

The basic premise of Adler's book was this: that what seems obvious and intuitive (that is how to read a book) is, in fact, not obvious and not intuitive. We need to learn the skill of how to read a book. His point was that all good writing, all great literature, has a unifying theme. Every great book to which you turn has one big idea that the author intends for the reader to get. And if you really want to read a book for comprehension, you need first to get that big picture of where the author is going. He suggested in his book a variety of ways to do that.

But I think as I reflect on it, Adler was entirely right, that's the best way to read any non-fictional book. There is great value in having the big picture, the unifying theme, the central theme, before you read all the specifics.

The same is true with the Bible. We too can benefit, as students of the Bible, from having that sort of comprehensive view of what it's all about. The question is, where do you find a succinct expression of the Bible's purpose? There's no inspired foreword in our Bibles. There's no inspired preface. There's not a dust jacket where the publisher has summarized in an inspired way the contents. You can't go to the store and buy an inspired set of Cliff Notes or Sparks Notes. So, what do you do? Well, of course, there are clues scattered here and there throughout the Bible. But it makes sense, doesn't it, that when you want to discover the central message of the Bible there really is only one place to go?

And that is to the most strategic point in all the Bible, indeed the defining moment in all of human history, and that is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. But with that said, even when you come to that conclusion rightfully, that to find the central theme of the Bible you go to Christ and His life and ministry, there are four inspired records filled with parables and sermons and actions of Jesus of Nazareth. So where do you go even within the context of the gospels to find the mind and purpose of God most concisely expressed? Well, it comes from the mouth of Jesus, Himself. The great eternal plan of God, the great message of the entire Bible is laid out for us in the longest recorded prayer that we have of our Lord's. It's in the prayer that He prayed just a couple of hours before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, less than nine hours before His crucifixion. It comes at the very apex of human history, of redemptive history, of Christ's own personal history.

It's in John 17 where I invite you to turn with me this morning. At some point we will study this chapter in great detail. My purpose this morning isn't to give you a thorough exposition, not even to capture all the points that are here, we can't do that. But I want you to see that how out of the prayer of Christ emerges this concept that was in His own mind and that we need to have of the great sweeping plan of God for all of history and that's recorded in the Word of God.

Now when you look at this prayer there are three movements. The first movement comes in the first five verses. We could call it Jesus' prayer for Himself. Not Himself in a selfish way as we will see, but for Himself.

Secondly, in verses 6 running down through verse 19, you have Jesus' prayer for the remaining eleven apostles. Remember, now, this is on Thursday night of the passion week, and Judas has already left. We don't know exactly where it was Jesus prayed this prayer, but it was either just before they left the upper room or on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, perhaps on the temple compound. We don't know for sure, but Judas is already gone. So, Jesus then, in these verses, the second movement, prays for the eleven remaining apostles.

In verse 20, running down through the end of the chapter, verse 26, we have Jesus' prayer for all who would ever believe in Him.

Now, my own approach as I've studied the Bible over the last few years with this in mind, and as I've studied this chapter; my own approach has been inductive. That is, I first observed the details and facts and from that was able to establish this theme sort of flowing out of it. But for our purpose this morning, and to make it simpler for you, I'm going to reverse the process. I'm first going to give you the theme and then walk through the passage together and I hope by the time we're done you will agree that the details and the facts of the chapter support the theme that I'm going to give to you as we begin.

From Jesus' prayer then we discover the great theme of the Bible, and it is this: God is rescuing a people by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory. Let me give that to you again. God is rescuing a people by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory. Each of those words is carefully chosen and absolutely essential, I think, to understanding the Bible's great theme. I want us to look at the evidence together, and we're just sort of looking at each word or each phrase as we work our way through that statement and see it unfold out of the contents of Jesus' prayer.

Let's start with the very first word, "God." God is rescuing. You see God has to be the subject of the sentence because it's God who initiated the plan. Jesus understood that. He understood that He was here on a mission from God; a mission that God the Father had initiated. This comes through immediately as you read this prayer, but I want you to look down in verses 4 and 5, and you see it explicitly. Jesus says, "I glorify You Father on the earth, having accomplished (or you notice the marginal reading) by accomplishing the work which You have given Me to do." Jesus says, I have brought You glory, Father, in what I have done on earth and what I have done here on earth is a work You gave Me to do. You assigned Me something to accomplish.

Notice He goes on in verse 5, "Now Father glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Now that is a powerful verse. and in it Jesus makes a couple of provocative, bold claims. Jesus claims in this prayer as the disciples listen in that He existed before coming into the world. None of us claim that. None of us claims that we existed before we were born. That's what Jesus is claiming here. In fact, He says He even existed before the world itself. Before there was anything else when there was only God, He says I was there. Notice what He says, "the glory I had with You Father before the world was."

In that statement He also claims to have an equal status with God Himself. He says, "the glory which I had with You." So then, Jesus here existed before the world existed and He enjoyed equal glory with God Himself. Folks, that is nothing less than an audacious claim to deity. And Jesus says, I left that glory, and I came into the world on a mission, on an assignment that You gave me, the work You assigned me to do and for which I gladly volunteered. As Jesus anticipates the cross within just a few short hours of this prayer, notice He is able to say, Verse 5, "I have accomplished." Or verse 4, rather, "I have accomplished the work You gave me to do."

And in light of that mission accomplished, notice what Jesus prays for. He asks to be glorified. He says restore the glory that I had. Jesus is essentially asking to return to the glory of heaven, to be in the Father's presence. So, the point then is that God had a great eternal plan, and Christ was here on an assignment to accomplish that plan. Now, lest you think I'm reading into this chapter, let me show you that this same idea comes up again and again and again in these last hours of our Lord's earthly life before His death.

Notice 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." You see this was in the mind of Christ on that night before His crucifixion. I'm here Father, and I'm here on an assignment for which You sent Me. Now understand what's going on here. Clearly the implication is this: that in eternity past, before there was a world, before there was anything, in the private counsels of the trinity, an incredible inconceivable plan was created. Some theologians call this plan a covenant, that is a legally binding promise, but the Bible nowhere explicitly calls it a covenant.

Regardless, whatever you call it, clearly in the eternal counsel of the trinity, a number of significant decisions were made. God in the counsel of His own being determined to create. To create a universe, to create a world, to create man. He determined then to allow that man to fall into sin; to give that man a will, the ability to choose, there in the garden of Eden, good or evil; and to allow him to choose evil. But then God determined to send His Son on a search and rescue mission to rescue men from their sin and its penalty.

The point is folks, this wasn't some kind of afterthought. The great theme of the Bible is that God has and has always had a plan to rescue sinful man from His own just anger against our sin. In eternity past He created the plan, in human history, He executed the plan, and in the future, He will complete the plan. This is something God initiated, and God is doing. The Bible is about that from cover to cover.

I love Philippians 1:6 which makes it very personal when you think of God having this plan and working it out. Paul says to the believers there in Philippi and to us, he says, "God who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." God started the work. He initiated the work. God is working out that plan now and He will bring it to perfection. God has a plan. So, the first word of the Bible's great theme has to be "God" because it's His great plan.

That brings us to the next two words: "is rescuing." God is rescuing. There lies the core of the Bible's theme. This is what God's eternal plan was meant to accomplish. This is the core of what God is doing. God is rescuing. That's what the Bible means when it often refers to God as Savior. We sang about that this morning. He is Savior. In other words, God is by nature a rescuer. That's why the Bible talks about being saved or salvation. You are very familiar with those expressions. It simply means to be rescued. But think with me for a moment. If God's major plan involves rescue, what does that imply about us? What does that imply about you? The implication is we need to be rescued.

Imagine if tomorrow, wherever you will be, at work or at home, school, whatever that might look like for you. If someone came running up to you and said, "It's okay. I'm here to rescue you." What would your first response be? From what? I don't think I need rescue. What are you here to rescue me from? You see behind this concept of spiritual rescue is a sobering, disconcerting reality: we need to be rescued or saved. And this is very important for you to understand. It doesn't matter whether you feel like you need to be rescued or not. That's true on the human level, that's true on the spiritual level. It doesn't matter whether you feel like you need rescued -- to be rescued or not.

If you're a Christian this morning, there were probably many years before you were a Christian when you really felt quite okay with how things were between you and God. After all, I mean, you tried to go to church when you could, perhaps, maybe you went often, maybe you were very involved. Or even if you didn't go, at least you tried to be a good person and do the best things you could and you thought God would be just okay with that. You didn't feel like you were in any danger. It doesn't matter what you feel.

Again, imagine the scenario, that tomorrow; wherever you are, this person comes running up to you and says, "I'm here to rescue you. Come with me." But you say, "Why?" Or maybe you say, "Now wait a minute, I don't need to be rescued. I don't feel like I need to be rescued. Just go away and leave me alone." At that point then what will the rescuer need to do? The rescuer will need to convince you that you are in life threatening danger. So maybe the person says to you, "Listen, you're in danger, come with me, the first floor of this building is on fire. It's going to collapse. You're going to be killed. Come with me, we got to get out of here." So, when we don't sense danger, the person that's trying to rescue us has to convince us that we are in danger.

What you need to understand is that much of the Bible is written to do just that. Much of the Bible is written to show us that we are in imminent danger. Not physical and temporal danger, but spiritual and eternal danger. Read the Bible from the first three chapters of Genesis and what do you discover? God created the universe and everything in it, and when He finished creating, what did He say? "It's very good."

But then something tragic happens. Adam and Eve choose to disobey God's word to them. They sin and what happened? They brought death into the world and physical and spiritual death. They severed the relationship that they'd enjoyed with God. Their sin brought God's judgment upon them. The curse on the earth and on them and on the serpent and they're banished from the Garden never able to go back again.

Listen, do you understand that the entire Bible echoes with those same themes, time after time after time? God reveals His will through His Word. Man chooses to disregard God's will in His Word and chooses his own way and chooses to sin against God, his creator. And then God, because of His own perfect character, must bring justice, which means eternal punishment. That is a pattern that is over and over and over again throughout the Bible. And the same pattern is true for each of us. God has revealed His will for us, in our consciences as well as in His perfect Word. Throughout the Bible God warns us that our own willful choices are stirring up His just anger against us.

So, the Bible is filled with this bad news. The bad news, folks, is there to show us that whether we feel like it or not we are in imminent danger. We need to be rescued. There's a day coming soon, the Bible says, when each of us will stand before God and in and of ourselves we would be found guilty and the sentence of eternal wrath be cast on us and carried out, and so, the Bible is echoing with these voices, warning us, "I'm here to rescue you. You need to be rescued. You're in imminent danger." That's the bad news.

But the Bible is filled with the good news: that God delights to rescue those who need to be rescued and that He's provided for our rescue in Jesus Christ. That is captured here in John 17. Look at verse 1. Again, remember the context. This is the night before His crucifixion. Jesus spoke these things and lifting up His eyes to heaven, this is what He prayed, "Father, the hour has come." The hour meaning His death and resurrection and exaltation. "Glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You."

And notice verse 2 connects the hour of His death and resurrection with the provision of eternal life. Verse 2, "Even as You gave Me authority over all flesh that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life." Jesus here connects His death, the hour that's come, verse 1, with providing eternal life.

And then He explains what eternal life is all about, verse 3, "This is eternal life that they may know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." You see when we think of eternal life, we think of life that is eternal, a quantity of life. And that's true, but you know what? That's not what differentiates what Christ is doing because every human being will live forever. Every human being will have a quantity of life that is the same. Eternal life, what makes it unique, is that it is life of a different kind; it is a different quality of life. And what makes it distinct is it enables the person who has it to know God and to know Jesus Christ, Jesus says. And all of that is made possible by "the hour," verse 1, that's coming. The hour of His death. The focus of Jesus' life was on that hour, on his death and resurrection, and that was to accomplish our spiritual rescue. How? By overcoming the spiritual death with spiritual life, by enabling us to really know God, our Creator again.

And in other New Testament passages we learn, by shielding us. His death was to shield us from the wrath of God that our sins deserve. I love Romans 5:9, "… we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." First Thessalonians 1:10, "… Jesus … rescues us from the wrath … [that is coming]." So, Jesus' death, then, accomplished our spiritual rescue.

But clearly, not everyone is going to be rescued. So, how is it that some people benefit from the death of Christ and others don't? The answer is how they respond to His message and to Himself. You see this here; the disciples are in because of their response. Notice verse 7 -- He's talking here about the eleven -- "Now they have come to know that everything You have given me is from You." What's He talking about? Well, He explains in verse 8, "… the words which You gave me…." That's what He's talking about. They, the disciples, have come to know that the words You gave me, that those words are from You. They've accepted them as, in fact, Your words. Verse 8 goes on to say, "… they received them," [that is they accepted them as the very words of God,] "… and truly understood that I came forth from You…." In other words, they believed that I was or am who I claim to be. He wasn't just saying they said, "Yeah, well you came from God we know that." No, He's saying they came to believe that Jesus was everything He claimed to be. And verse 8 goes on to say, "… they believed that You sent Me."

That's not the same -- that's not just another way to say exactly the same thing. That's totally different. Here in this last phrase, Jesus is saying they came to believe that My mission, as I explained it, was true. That the reason I told them I came was, in fact, truly the reason I came. That's faith. These people, the eleven, came to benefit from the rescue because of their faith in Jesus. But believing the facts or believing -- I should say -- is more than just accepting the facts. Look at the way Jesus further describes their faith up in verse 6, "… they have kept Your word." They manifested their true acceptance of My words as Your word by keeping them, by following them, by obeying them.

So, let me put it all together for you. The only rescue for the penalty of our sins is in Christ. He accomplished that rescue in the hour of His death and resurrection. And individually we are rescued when we believe in Him, as did the apostles did here. The only kind of faith that truly benefits from Jesus' spiritual rescue is the kind of faith that accepts the message of Jesus and His apostles as the very words of God, embraces the truth about who Jesus is, and believes in His mission as He explained it. And that kind of faith will demonstrate itself in obedience. So, God rescues us, it includes salvation, that is a rescue from the penalty of sin. God is rescuing, that is He is rescuing people from the penalty of their sin.

But that's not where His rescue stops. He's also rescuing us from the power of sin in our lives. This is called sanctification. To be rescued from the penalty of sin, salvation; to be rescued from the power of sin in our lives, sanctification. This is taught in a number of places in this chapter but in the interest of time let me take you to the key one. Look down in verse 15, "I do not ask you to take them out of the world" (now still praying about the eleven) "but to keep them from the evil one." That is from Satan and his influence, as Satan wanted to destroy them. He was like a lion; remember Peter said, who wants to destroy God's people? I want You, Jesus says, Father, to keep them from his destructive influence. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

Now watch verse 17. This is a key verse, one of the most foundational verses in all of Scripture. Jesus says, I want you to "sanctify them." That is, set them apart into real personal holiness, in "or by means of" is another way to translate the word "in." Set them apart into real holiness by means of the truth, "Your Word is truth." Jesus says, listen, I'm here to rescue these men not only from the penalty of their sin, but I'm here to rescue them from the power of sin in their lives. Father, I want You to progressively be ridding their lives of sin, be sanctifying them by means of the truth. Jesus came to do that. He came not only to us from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin in our lives. You don't have to be a slave to sin if you're a Christian. In fact, in Revelation 1, Jesus is described as the One who loosed us from our sins in His own blood. He came to rescue us from the penalty of sin. He came to rescue us from the power of sin.

God's rescue also includes rescue from the presence of sin. Theologians call this glorification. Look down in verse 24, as Jesus finishes His prayer. He says, "Father I desire that they also whom You have given Me be with Me where I am." Where's that? In heaven. He's asking that we be enabled to be with Him which includes as part of the package, our own perfection. "So that they may see My glory which You have given Me for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." Jesus said, listen, Father, I'm here to rescue them from the penalty of sin and give them eternal life in place of their eternal death. I'm here to rescue them from the power of sin and to sanctify them, to set them apart from their sin, day by day. And I'm here to ultimately rescue them from the very presence of sin itself and to have them be in Our presence forever, Jesus says.

Notice, I told you that every word of my statement of the Bible's theme is important. I purposefully included the word, "is." God "is" rescuing. I included that word "is" because it is an ongoing process, this rescue. It's not yet complete. You and I were rescued from the penalty of sin at the moment we believed. We are being rescued from the power of sin in our lives, day by day, until Christ returns, or we die. And we will be rescued in the future from the very presence of sin, even the possibility of sin. God is rescuing.

The third part of the Bible's great theme is the "people." God is rescuing a people. God's plan involves a specific group of people whom He will save. I know this counteracts the normal thoughts of man. It feels unfair to man, but it is very clearly biblical.

It begins to unfold at the very beginning, go back to Genesis, and in Genesis 4 at the end you begin to see it in the life of a man named Seth, one of the sons of Adam and Eve. Then in Genesis 12 it centers on one of the descendants of Seth, a man named Abraham and then on Abraham's son, Isaac, and then on Isaac's twin son, Jacob, the younger, the second one to be born of the twins, who's later renamed Israel. And eventually, God sets Himself and His love on all of Jacob's descendants, the nation of Israel.

Moses puts it like this in Deuteronomy 7:6, he says, "The Lord, your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." But in the Old Testament, God didn't just choose and rescue those of Jewish descent, there were Gentiles too. They stand out in the pages of the Old Testament. There was Ruth, the Moabitess who ends up being in the line of Jesus Christ. There's Rahab, the harlot from Jericho, who also ends up with incredible influence in the line of Christ. There were all the Assyrians of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah. There was Naaman, the leper. There was the widow of Zarephath, (and on and on the list goes) of Gentiles who were part of that people whom God set His love upon.

When you come to the New Testament, you see the same thing. In fact, you remember Peter began to reach beyond the Jews in the book of Acts. And in Acts 10, you see the gospel going to the Gentiles. And when you come to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, listen to what they said. Acts 15:14, Peter has related how God first concerns Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. God is concerned to take from Gentiles a people for His name.

So, it shouldn't surprise us then when we come to this dark night before the crucifixion to hear Jesus using the same kind of language. The language of election. Look back in John 17:2. As He talks about His crucifixion, He says this in verse 2, "even as You gave Him …" – (He's talking of Himself here) "… You gave Him authority over all flesh that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life." Notice God the Father gave Jesus His Son authority to give eternal life. To whom? Look at verse 2, "… to all whom You have given Him…." There was a specific group of people Jesus had in mind, the ones who had been given Him. Now if you think that's kind of an anomaly, if I'm somehow making that up, the importance of it -- I want you to listen to how important this was to Jesus.

Let's just track our way through a few verses here. Look down in verse 6, "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world," speaking of the eleven here now, "They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word." Look at verse 9, "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me for they are Yours…."

Now you might be tempted to think that this is just the language Jesus uses because He's talking about the apostles. That's not it at all, because I want you to notice Jesus uses the same kind of language when He gets to the final section, and He's talking about us. Look at verse 20. Jesus now turns to the third part or third movement of His prayer for us, for all believers. Verse 20, "I do not ask on behalf of these eleven alone, but (I'm also praying) for those who believe in me through their word…." Who is it that will end up believing in Jesus through the word of the apostles? It's all of us. If you're in Christ that's you. Now notice how Jesus refers to all the other Christians in verse 24, "Father, I desire that they also," [here it is] "whom You have given Me be with Me where I am…." You see that? Jesus is praying for every Christian, and He refers to every Christian as the ones whom God has given Him.

William Hendrickson, the great commentator, writes, "… the eye of Jesus scans the centuries and presses to His loving heart all His true followers as if they had all been saved even at this very moment of His prayer. Jesus prays for every one of His true followers who will ever believe, and He refers to them as they whom You have given Me.

Listen, the Bible makes it clear that God's plan involves those whom God loved and chose in eternity past. They were His as we read earlier in this chapter. And He gave them to Christ to ensure that Christ would accomplish their spiritual rescue. If you're familiar with the Bible at all you know that this is what theologians call sovereign election. When we studied Ephesians 1, we ran into it. This is how Paul puts it in Ephesians 1:4, "God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world." Amazing. God is rescuing a specific group of people, a people.

Maybe you're tempted to ask, How do I know if I'm one of those? How do I know if I'm one He chose? That's not the right question. The right question is this: Are you willing to turn from your sin and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? That's the question. Because you see, if you live your entire life here, and you refuse to do that, then you alone will bear the responsibility; not God, you. But if you at any point in life are willing to turn from your sin to Christ, by your very willingness to come, you prove that you are one of the ones the Father loved and gave to Christ.

I love the way Jesus puts it in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me …" [there's that expression again] "…all the Father gives to Me, [they'll] … come to Me." In other words, if you're one that God chose, He gives you to Christ, you will come to Christ. But then in the second part of the verse He puts it like this, "The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." So, you don't need to ask if you're one of the ones the Father gave. You need to ask, Am I willing to come to Christ? Because if you will come to Christ, He's promised He'll never turn you away. The fact that you choose to come to Him makes it clear that He had already chosen you. So, God is rescuing a people.

The fourth component of the Bible's theme is "… by His Son." God is rescuing a people by His Son. Now, I'm not going to spend a lot of time here because this is evident, self-evident, and it's what we dwell on week in and week out. That God is rescuing people, saving people, through the work of His Son, the Lord Jesus. You know throughout the three-and-a-half-year ministry of Jesus, He often said something like this, "The hour has not yet come." "The hour has not yet come." He says that in John 2:4, in John 7:30, in John 8:20 but then you come to John 12, and it's Tuesday of the Passion Week just a few days before His death and in John 12:23 Jesus says this, "The hour has come…."

And then you fast forward just a few days to that Thursday night when Jesus is praying this prayer, and look at verse 1 of John 17. At that point less than 9 hours from His death, Jesus [or a little more than that] Jesus prays this, "Father the hour has come." By the hour Jesus meant the hour of His death and resurrection and exaltation. God's great eternal plan centered in that hour. Our spiritual rescue was to be accomplished in that hour. Jesus was sent by the Father for this reason. He was sent to die to rescue us. Isn't that what Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:45, you remember it? [He said] … the Son of Man (speaking of Himself), did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many."

By the way, He had to die, but what He was doing in that death was very important. He gave His life a ransom, the payment of a price, for -- and the Greek word translated "for" there is a word that is "Anti." In Greek it always only, always only means "instead of, in the place of." Jesus says the Son of Man came to give His life as a payment to God in the place of, in the stead of, many. Jesus effected our spiritual rescue by dying and not merely dying but by dying as our substitute, in our place, in our stead. So, God is rescuing a people, and He's doing it by His Son, by His Son's death, in their stead or in their place.

The fifth part of the theme is "for His Son." For His Son, and that one may surprise you. God is rescuing a people by His Son -- that you expect, -- "for His Son." This entire plan is designed for Christ. Now, folks, we get some amazing benefits from it, don't we? We get the benefit of life and knowing God and justification and forgiveness of sins, but it's not ultimately about us. In the ultimate sense His great plan of redemption is not about me, and it's not about you. It's about Christ, and this becomes very clear here in John 17. Look again at the expressions Jesus uses. Look back at verse 2. He says, "… all [those] whom You have given Him." So, He's talking about the Father giving certain ones to Him.

Verse 6, "… the men whom You gave me [Father] out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me." Verse 9, "I ask on … behalf; … of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours…." They belong to both of us. Look at verse 12, He uses the same language, verse 20, remember? He transitions to talk about us, all of those who will believe through the Apostles word. Now look at verse 24, He refers to all the Christians as those whom You have given Me.

Now do you understand the enormity of that? The people whom God is rescuing, He has given to His Son, as an expression of His love. "Father, You gave them to Me." The people whom God is rescuing are His love gift to His Son; they are designed to be with His Son, 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 God, you have to come to grips with the fact that it's not about us. It's about the Father and the Son. The Father intends to present to His Son a redeemed humanity. And those whom He has rescued will bring Him glory forever by loving and praising and adoring Him and by reflecting the beauty of His own moral character by being like Jesus Christ. It is for His Son. All of those who Jesus dies to rescue are a gift from the Father to the Son. That includes you if you're in Christ. God is rescuing a people, by His Son, for His Son.

The final phrase underscores the supreme purpose of God, "to His own glory." The glory of God is the ultimate purpose behind this great plan of redemption. You can see that throughout this passage. Look in verse 1, and you see that in the hour of His death and resurrection, Jesus wants to be glorified, not for Himself, "Glorify Your Son in order that the Son may glorify You." The ultimate goal, Jesus says, even in My death, is for You, Oh, God, for You, Father, to be glorified. In verse 4 Jesus says that was His goal throughout His mission on earth, to bring glory to God. That was the entire ultimate great goal of the plan that God created in eternity past, it was His own glory.

We saw this in Ephesians 1, do you remember, when we studied it together? Three times in Ephesians 1, Paul says, "For the praise of Your glory." "For the praise of the glory of your grace." "For the praise of Your glory." He explains there in Ephesians 1 that the glory of God is why the Father chose us. The glory of God is why the Son redeemed us. And the glory of God is why the Spirit sealed and secured us. He did it all for His own glory. So, there it is, the great theme of the Bible: God is rescuing a people by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory.

Let me ask you this morning: do you have spiritual life? Can you honestly say, (listen carefully) can you honestly say that you know God? You know God. Can you say that? You know Jesus Christ? That's what Jesus came to secure. It's interesting that this prayer in John 17 is the longest one that we have of Christ, and the apostle John is the only one that includes it. Why? Why does he do it? Well, why does John include everything he includes? You remember? Look over in John 20:30. Here's the reason: "… many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these have been written," [John says, I included these] "so that," [in order that] "you may believe that Jesus is the … [Messiah]," [the appointed one] "the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name."

Listen, John the Apostle included this lengthy prayer of Jesus so you could listen in, so you would understand why Jesus was here, He was on a mission. He was on a mission to save anyone who would believe in Him, and that includes you if you'll turn to Him. If you're already a true follower of Jesus Christ, it's important to note that Jesus prayed this prayer to the Father, but He prays it in the hearing of the disciples. He wanted them -- He intended that they hear it, and He directed John to include it in this gospel. That means He intended for us to hear it as well.

Christian, do you understand this is your Lord's prayer for you? He prayed for you in this prayer, and He's still interceding and praying for you in this way. He wanted you to understand. He wanted you to get the big picture that this is what was going on; that God is rescuing a people by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory. Your life has a bigger story than the fact that you were born on some date, and you live today, and do whatever you do, and someday you'll die. Your life has a bigger story than that. In eternity past you were chosen by God the Father, sovereignly chosen and His love set upon you by an unconditional choice of His sovereign will, and He loved you so much that He sent His Son on a mission to rescue you by name. And He accomplished that rescue at the cross, and that rescue was applied to you at the moment you came to turn from your sin and believe. And right now, God is answering Jesus' prayer to sanctify you.

Do you understand that this life with all of its troubles and trials and difficulties -- it's not all about the troubles and trials and difficulties? There's a bigger picture going on here. Jesus prayed that through the sweep of your life God would gradually step by step, day by day, trouble by trouble, through the Word of God be making you more like Jesus Christ. And someday, the Father will answer the rest of Jesus' prayer, and you and I will be with Him, and we will adore Him, and we will reflect His glory forever. Why did God do all of that? Because you and I, who are in Christ, are a personal gift from the Father to the Son as an expression of His eternal love. Do you see there's great hope and comfort in that, Christian?

Don't we worry about -- you know -- am I going to make it? Do I have enough faith? Am I enough of this or enough of that? Listen, you were a part of a much bigger plan. In eternity past, God the Father determined to express His love to His Son by redeeming a people for Himself to give to His Son who for all eternity would adore and praise His Son and reflect His own moral glory. God's doing something much bigger. It's not ultimately about you. Because what He's doing is about Christ, He will finish what He began. It's about His eternal, unfailing, unwavering love for His Son. It's going to happen.

And when you study the Bible; when you read the stories of Abraham and Joseph and David and Paul; listen, remember they are not the heroes. It's not about them. They're not the main characters. The story of Joseph isn't about Joseph. The story of Joseph is about God rescuing a people by His Son, for His Son to His own glory. When you read the law of God; when you see those passages where human sin and all of its ugliness is shown; and you see God pouring out His judgment like on Sodom and Gomorrah; or in all of those Old Testament passages; Or John the Baptist's promise that it's coming in the New Testament, Jesus talking about hell.

Understand that when you see sin and death and judgment, God is warning people that they are in imminent danger, and they need to be rescued, and He's offering that rescue in His Son. When you read the histories, and the wisdom literature, and the prophets; when you come to the gospels, and the New Testament, and the Acts, and the epistles of the New Testament, and even to the Book of Revelation; don't miss the point. Wherever you turn in the Bible, it is an unfolding, either in an individual life or in the life of a family, or the life of a nation of God's great eternal plan. God is rescuing a people by His Son, for His Son, to His own glory. That is the great message of the Bible.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, we are amazed at who You are. Father, we thank You that You are by nature a Savior, a rescuer. We thank you, O God, that in the eternal counsels of Your own being You determined for reasons we will never understand to set Your love on us and to send Your Son on a mission to rescue us; to rescue us from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and someday, by Your grace, from the very presence and possibility of sin; to be forever those who love and adore and praise Christ. Father, thank You, that we are a gift from You to Your Son.

Lord, help us in this life to love Him and praise Him and to live our lives for Him and to make Him known, the very one whom You intend to exalt.

We pray it in His name. Amen.