Sunday, March 21, 2010

John 17: Given through the Cross

John 17 is what many call Jesus' "high priestly prayer." In it he prays for himself (vv. 1-5), his present disciples (vv. 6-19), and all who would come to believe through the disciples (vv. 20-26). Throughout this prayer, Jesus refers to believers as those whom God has given to him (vv. 2, 6, 9, 24). It is said that these people belonged to God the Father (v. 9), which is implicit in the fact that he is the one who gives them to Jesus. These people are also given to Jesus "out of the world" (v. 6), that is, not all of the world's people are given to Jesus. We know this because of verse 2: "For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him." We already know that not all people will receive eternal life through Christ, for not all will repent and embrace him as Lord. This is the clear testimony of Scripture. But note also that Jesus, while possessing "authority over all people," only uses his position to give life to "all those you have given him." Being given to Jesus overlaps with receiving eternal life (cf. John 6:35-40; 10:26-29); they are one and the same.

Why are these people given to Jesus? Or how does he obtain them from God?

Acts 20:28 encourages overseers to "be shepherds of the church of God [some manuscripts have of the Lord], which he bought with his own blood." In Revelation we hear worshipers sing of Jesus the Lamb: "With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation" (5:9; see also 14:4). And Paul instructs the Corinthians that they now belong to Jesus because they were "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). So the answer is, Jesus bought the church with his blood shed at the cross. The goal of his death was to receive his bride.

Does this contradict all this talk of being "given" the church in John 6 and 17? No. Rather, having lived a perfectly obedient life for his Father and dying to cleanse the stain of guilt and shame upon the world, Jesus is not only vindicated and given life in his resurrection. He is also given the church as his reward. This is hinted at even in the Old Testament: "Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him [Jesus]; / he has put him to grief; / when his soul makes an offering for guilt / he shall see his offspring . . . . Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:10, 11 ESV).

This transaction between Jesus and his Father, that Jesus would come to save the elect and win them for himself so that they would glorify God forever, is sometimes called the "covenant of redemption." It is an eternal pact within the Godhead planned before the world existed (2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8 NIV). But for what reasons are we given to Christ? What does that do for us? I'll turn to this in my next post.

No comments: