Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PRAYING FOR HIMSELF” Part 4

John 17.1-5 

My text for this message is John 17.4. So we can better understand the context in which our text is found, let us read verses 1-5: 

1  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:

2  As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3  And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

4  I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

5  And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 

Recall that this prayer offered to His heavenly Father took place the night before our Lord’s crucifixion after He had celebrated Passover with His twelve apostles after He had washed their feet after He had inaugurated the communion of the Lord’s Supper after He had dispatched Judas Iscariot to complete his plans to betray the Savior, and after the first portion of the greatest conversation ever recorded in John chapters 14, 15, and 16. The prayer of John chapter 17, beginning with the five verses we have just read, is the second portion of the greatest conversation ever recorded, the Lord now directing His remarks to His heavenly Father.

So that we can settle our minds with the reality of what we are dealing with, does it need to be said that the Lord Jesus Christ was really born of a virgin, that He was indeed raised in Nazareth, that He actually lived, and that He most certainly died on the cross of Calvary? These things are well-attested by sources outside the Bible, which include not only Gentile secular sources but also Jewish sources.[1]

Therefore, you need to settle the matter in your mind once and for all. There is no such thing as your truth and my truth. There is only the truth. And despite the fake news and propaganda that we are continually exposed to that assumes real history and real facts are nonexistent or irrelevant, facts are stubborn things. Truth is real.[2] And truth can be known if you are intellectually honest and willing to put forth the effort to learn it.[3]

If you have the moral courage and determination to discover and know the truth, I suggest you visit the Church website and look up the footnotes I will upload with this sermon (www.CalvaryRoadBaptist.Church). After reading the footnotes, I would be more than willing to discuss these issues with you. But for now, let us proceed based on the Biblical account of my Lord’s high priestly intercessory prayer, offered the night before His crucifixion and preserved by the Gospel writer and apostle, John, being a true record of the events.

You will notice at the end of verse 1 that the Lord Jesus Christ’s initial statement of His prayer request for Himself to the Father in this high priestly intercessory prayer reads, 

“Glorify thy son, that thy son also may glorify thee.” 

The Savior asks the Father to glorify Him so He can glorify the Father.

In verse five, the Lord Jesus Christ completes His petition to the Father by restating His initial request: 

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” 

The final message in this series of sermons focusing on the Savior’s prayer to the Father for Himself will deal with verse 5. But for now, let me state that the Lord restates His initial plea, though slightly expanding it. This is all about glorifying the Father, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ as the means to that worthy end.

Verse 2 records the basis for the Lord Jesus Christ’s authority granted to Him by God the Father. He rehearsed His authorization (translated “power” in our Bible) to His Father, and in the presence of His apostles listening as He prayed, to state in words and establish in history the basis on which He grants eternal life to as many as the Father has given to Him.

We recognize that the authority granted to Christ, and the gifting to Christ of the elect were transactions that took place in the council chambers of the Triune Godhead in eternity past. There can be no doubt with one who reads the Word of God with faith that not only were those men witness to, but we are also witnesses to, a rehearsal in prayer to God of a portion of God’s plan for the ages. God’s plan for the ages is a concept many people have never thought about.

Some people are convinced that such a notion as luck exists. But the idea of luck is a superstitious holdover from Greek paganism and the insanity that the Fates spun, measured, and then cut lengths of string to affect people’s lives.[4] Then there is the fiction of astrology, tied to the notion that orbiting planets affect people’s lives. Excuse me, but the gravitational tug of your refrigerator has more influence on you than Jupiter or Saturn, even when they are aligned with Mars.

What is real is not the Fates. Or luck or coincidence. Or astrology when Jupiter is aligned with Mars. What is real is God and the outworking of His divine plan of the ages. Indeed, the late W. Graham Scroggie, former pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, reflected this reality when he titled his commentary on the whole Bible The Unfolding Drama Of Redemption, The Bible as A Whole.[5]

God wrote the script of this drama, and He is both producer and director of the events as they transpire, with the Lord Jesus Christ being the central and most prominent member of the cast of characters. Those of us who believe the Bible accept that the events of time proceed according to the plan of the all-wise and all-powerful God. We catch glimpses of God’s plan in His Word, with particular insights gathered from our study of the Lord’s prayer in John chapter 17. The Bible teaches, and therefore we believe, during each of the elect’s ordinary course of life on earth, in conjunction with the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, the faith-generating preaching of the Word of God, and the drawing of the sinner by God the Father, that the Lord Jesus Christ gives eternal life to elect sinners the moment they repent of sins and trust Christ for salvation and forgiveness.

In verse three, the Lord Jesus Christ clarifies what He means by the phrase “life eternal.” Understand that it is a crucial phrase. The Savior certainly did not in this prayer clarify the phrase “life eternal” for the benefit of His heavenly Father, Who knows all. Rather, the Savior clarified the meaning of the phrase “life eternal” for His eleven companions’ benefit and for subsequent readers of the Gospel down through the centuries.

We understand that “life eternal” is not knowing about God or even knowing about Jesus Christ. “Life eternal” is knowing God the Father and knowing Jesus Christ, Who was sent by God. Indeed, no one can know God the Father who does not know Jesus Christ.

“Life eternal” becomes the individual’s possession and experience when a sinner responds to the Gospel of God’s grace and comes to faith in Jesus Christ is justified by faith and is born again by the Spirit of God. The person who Paul described as formerly dead in trespasses and sins, who walked according to the course of this world, has by grace been saved through faith, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.

These things being true, let us not forget that the essence of this portion of the Savior’s prayer deals with Himself. This explains why personal pronouns are found three times in verse four of the five verse part of the Savior’s high priestly intercessory prayer where He prayed for Himself: 

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” 

Have you noticed two phrases in verse four that are declarations of fact, in which the Lord Jesus Christ states forthrightly what He has done? Our Lord does not declare His feelings. Neither does He make mention of our feelings, the feelings of those who belong to Him. He declares facts that we are well-advised to attend to.

The first statement in our text causes no initial difficulty for most people who read it. The second statement, however, is a bit perplexing and requires careful consideration.

We look at the two phrases of John 17.4 in turn that are statements of fact: 

STATEMENT OF FACT #1 

The Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the Father, 

“I have glorified thee on the earth.” 

Would you please pay careful attention to the way the Lord Jesus Christ crafted this statement? Notice that He was very particular in claiming that He glorified the Father “on the earth.” This specificity should provoke thoughtful consideration and some reflection on the whole issue of glorifying God. We know from Revelation 4.11 that the reason for everything is somehow related to God being glorified: 

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” 

Thus, the whole purpose for God’s creation of the time – space – matter continuum, and everything in the immaterial realm as well, is to show forth His glory. That is a good thing. And since God is good, He does this thing. Further, we know that throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity past the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead indeed must have glorified His Father.

However, our present consideration is how God has been glorified since the dawn of creation, since the beginning of the time – space – matter continuum. We know that God is glorified throughout His creation, Psalm 19.1: 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

Every aspect of creation has God’s fingerprints on it, displaying by its beauty and artistry the touch of the Master’s hand. We also understand that God is glorified by His providences, Exodus 15.6-7: 

6  Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.

7  And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. 

What do I refer to when I refer to God’s providence? Those of you familiar with my ministry may recollect that I have frequently defined God’s providence as “The unseen hand of the living God, working in the lives of His creatures to fulfill His plan and program.” However, I recently came across the late Alva J. McClain’s insightful contribution to our understanding of providence. Perhaps he provides more clarity than I when he writes, 

“By the term ‘providential’ we mean control by means of second causes; for example, the accomplishments of God’s purpose at the Red Sea by using a ‘strong east wind’ to sweep aside the waters from the path of Israel (Exod. 14:21).”[6] 

Though it is frequently not noticed through our sin-distorted eyes, all creation, immaterial and material, was brought into existence to glorify God. Therefore, even though “we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” Romans 8.22, everything exists to glorify God. That is the goal of providence! How foolish it is, then, to be estranged from God and, therefore, be on the wrong side of providence.

Having taken overall looks at Christ’s glorification of the Father, we now need to narrow things down. Consider both the word “glorified” and the words “on the earth” in our text. Taken together, there is the strong suggestion that the Savior’s activity of glorifying God the Father in His incarnation is in mind in this portion of His prayer.[7] The Lord Jesus Christ refers in our text to something far beyond those revelations of God’s glory in nature and by providence. We recognize Christ has glorified God the Father in His Person. Consider Hebrews 1.3: 

“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” 

Did He not also glorify the Father by His miracles? Matthew 9.8 informs us of the aftermath of the Lord healing the man sick of the palsy: 

“But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” 

And, of course, He glorified the Father by His words, continually giving all praise to Him, even after He had pronounced woes on Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin. Matthew 11.25: 

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” 

As well as doing and saying these things, the Lord Jesus glorified the Father by His holy life. Therefore, when He said, “I have glorified thee on earth,” He referred not to His glorification of the Father in eternity past before time began, or the glorification of the Father in the natural order and using the non-miraculous. He refers, by this statement, to His personal and direct activity of supernaturally glorifying God the Father since the time of His incarnation, His virgin conception, His sinless life, and by His representation of God the Father amid humanity by all that He said and did.

As we consider this statement, what comes to mind is that as He prayed, His earthly work has not yet been completed. After all, He has not yet died on the cross. Though He will give up the ghost on the cross of Calvary in less than 24 hours, in some measure, how He presently prays anticipates the completion of His earthly ministry. How is this possible? Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is not a time-bound creature. He is not bound by the limitations of time, on the one hand. And on the other hand, He is no creature. Therefore, He prays from the perspective of eternity, making this statement to His Father both understandable and utterly true. 

STATEMENT OF FACT #2 

The Lord Jesus Christ then prayed to the Father, 

“I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” 

We approach this second statement in the verse, being mindful of our understanding of the Savior’s perspective when He made the first statement. He is not time-bound. He is no creature. Therefore, though He has His greatest work to accomplish within the next 24 hours, He has the prerogative to refer to it as a finished work that God had given to Him to accomplish. Accomplish the work He would. Accomplish the work He did. With the God-man, it is all the same.

Hebrews informs us that without the shedding of blood is no remission Hebrews 9.22. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ shed His blood for the remission of sins. He endured the death of the cross. Few events in history are as well-attested as the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. He went to the cross of Calvary, took upon Himself the sins for which He would die, hung between heaven and earth, suffered the full weight, wrath, and fury of God’s punishment, endured an estrangement from the First Person of the Triune Godhead for the first time in history, and welcomed physical death. Three days and nights later, He rose from the grave, ascended as our great high priest to the throne room in heaven, and sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat. Gone, gone, gone, gone. All my sins are gone. They are washed clean away.

Can we reflect just a bit on the consequences of this statement of fact? Christ finishing the work God gave Him to do is the basis for God saying, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” in Hebrews 8.12 and 10.17. If God has chosen to remember your sins and iniquities, Christian no longer, why do you insist on remembering them? And if God has chosen to remember no longer the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ, why do you prefer to remember them? We understand why the lost want to remember the sins of Christians. But why would we want to aid and abet them in doing that? It is also the basis for Paul writing, 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” 

Romans 8.1. It is also the basis for a series of rhetorical questions asked in Romans 8.31-35: 

31  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

God is real. He created this universe and everything in it and the immaterial realm that cannot be perceived with the senses. He then sent His virgin-born Son to this sinful world to live a sinless life and die a substitutionary death. Our text is part of a prayer He offered up to His heavenly Father before that substitutionary death.

Three days after His body was buried, He rose from the dead. He subsequently ascended to His Father’s right hand, where He is enthroned until He returns to this wicked world.

In this prayer, and in that part of His prayer where He prays to the Father for Himself, we have considered in our text two statements of fact.

The first statement of fact is His declaration that He has glorified the Father on earth. The second statement of fact is His declaration that He has finished the work the Father gave Him to do.

No wonder the Savior was willing to lift up His voice on the cross and cry out, “It is finished!”[8] Try to imagine the consequences for all who trust Him of what He said in John 17.4, together with what He would say from the cross.

Do you want in on that? Do you want those statements of fact to apply to you, to your situation, to your eternal and undying soul? Do you want the salvation Jesus Christ provides His Own, a salvation that is complete?

Jesus Christ is that salvation. Trust Him as your Savior, and you have life eternal, as John 14.3 makes abundantly clear. Salvation full and free. That is what my Savior prayed about. That is what you can gain should you trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

__________

[1] Josh D. McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), pages 119-136.

[2] Ibid., pages 585-596.

[3] Ibid., pages 597-610.

[4] https://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/The_Fates/the_fates.html

[5] W. Graham Scroggie, The Unfolding Drama Of Redemption, The Bible as A Whole, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House)

[6] Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God, (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), pages 25-26.

[7] Lidija Novakovic, John 11-21: A Handbook On The Greek Text - BHGNT, (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2020), page 193 writes, “In this verse, the aorist tense is used as a reference to the glorification of the Father through the entirety of Jesus’ ministry, compared to the purpose clause ina o uioV doxash se in v. 1, which refers to the glorification of the Father through Jesus’ impending death.” .

[8] John 19.30

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

[email protected]