In our western culture, Christmas remains the season of giving gifts, even though most people have little interest in Christ or Christianity. Many people light up their homes, go to parties with coworkers or friends, attend Christmas plays and pageants, watch Christmas movies, and have a family celebration, in which giving gifts is one of the featured activities.
To a true Christian, Christmas ought to be a far richer experience, because we celebrate the greatest Christmas gift of all, the Father sending his Son to be the Lord and Savior of people in desperate need of salvation from sin and the glory of eternal life in God’s kingdom. So then, we ought to celebrate the matchless gift of the Son of God.
Our text does not speak of the gift of God the Father to us, but of a gift that the Father gave to the Son. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus remembers this gift. It is not surprising that Jesus thinks about this gift, because it is intimately joined to his mission of glorifying the Father. In his great prayer, Jesus has just prayed for the Father to glorify him. Now he prays for the people with whom his glorification of the Father is connected. Before he comes to specific requests, he states some reasons why God the Father should meet those requests.
Exposition: The Son acknowledges the Father’s gift and tells him what he did with what was given to him.
I. Jesus speaks about the identity of those that prays for (cf. 17:9).
A. He prays for people that the Father gave him.
1. The mission of the Son involves the people the Father gave him. It was a designed, specific mission to save some people. God decided to save some out of mankind that was ruined by sin and in the dregs of death. (Remember that sin is rejection of God as God, refusal to love God and give thanks to him, and rebellion against God and his ways.) Mankind sinned (Rm 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Rm 6:23). The Father gave his Son specific people to rescue from the dust of death. When Jesus was born, Life invaded a cemetery of walking dead people.
2. This gift of people is part of the larger reality that true Christianity is personal and relational, not formal and ritual. Jesus did not come to save people that are smarter than others or more committed or more religious or more spiritual, or any other comparative term someone might concoct. He did not come to save people who could do something to save or to help save themselves. The text does not say that the Father gave the Son some people who are qualified in some way. No, the Father just gave some to his Son. The Son came to save the people the Father gave him.
B. He mentions two significant facts about the people given to him.
1. They came from the world. The term world is used in various ways by the apostle John. Sometimes he uses it in the sense of the whole universe or the earth or the people of this world or of all nations. But John also uses it in the sense of the people or the system of life that is hostile to God, to Christ, and to his ways (cf. 7:7; 12:31; 14:17, 30; 15:18; 16:11, 20; 17:25). This is the meaning here. The wonder of God’s love is that he would choose people who were hostile to him, who were powerless, ungodly, wicked sinners that were his enemies.
2. They belonged to the Father. They belonged to him because he set his love on them and selected them. This is important to keep in mind. The Son of God did not come to find a people that he could somehow or other induce the God the Father to love. No, they were first the Father’s, who loved the world (Jn 3:16) and the Father gave these people to the Son as a gift. Believer in Jesus, God the Father loves you. He gave you to his Son to save from sin.
Apply: All this speaks to our identity as the people of God. As a Christian, you ought to view yourself as chosen by the Father out of the world and given to the Son by the Father. Then you live a life of love for God’s honor, as someone loved so deeply should.
II. Jesus speaks about what he did with those given to him.
(Now there is much more that Jesus did, but we are concentrating on this one verse. Here is some advice from your pastor. When you listen to, read, and study God’s word, first of all pay attention to the passage before you. Too many get distracted by always wondering about something else, and so they lose much because of their sidetracked mind.)
A. What Jesus did for those given to him by the Father
1. Since Jesus is the Word or “message”, the action of revealing was always part of what he did. As he went about doing good (Ac 10:38), he also announced that God’s “kingdom” or saving reign had arrived. In his sermons, he talked about the Father to his disciples (e.g. Mt 6:25-34).
Apply: Read through the Gospels over and over again next year. As you do, keep track about his revelation of God the Father to people. Listen to how Jesus talked about God and about how he showed God’s love. This will also help you with the “L” in the BLESS pattern of action.
2. Literally “you” is “your name”, as you can see by the textual footnote in the NIV. “God’s ‘name’ embodies his character; to reveal God’s name is to make God’s character known” (Carson). The Lord Jesus revealed who God is constantly during his ministry. We can think especially about 1:18; 10:30; and 14:9. From there, we can think about how Jesus talked about God the Father throughout the Fourth Gospel and his “I am” sayings in it.
Apply: What are you learning about God the Father as you listen to Jesus? How is the teaching of Jesus to you about the Father changing your outlook on life?
B. How they responded to what Jesus did for them
1. Notice carefully that Jesus is talking about God’s message in the comprehensive sense, since he uses the singular with the verb to keep. When he uses the plural “words” he is talking about specific commands to obey (cf. 14:21-24).
2. So then, those given to him by the Father, hear the word or message that Christ says, and they keep it; that is, their world and life view is transformed according to it, so that they look at God and his world in conformity with his word, rather than human ideas. For example, when the crowds walked away from Jesus because of his hard teaching, the Twelve remained loyal to Jesus (Jn 6:68-69). This attitude continued, even when they saw that it was dangerous to follow Jesus (11:16; 13:37).
Apply: This attitude about Jesus’ word is absolutely essential to following Jesus. Unless you are convinced that his words are life, you will never deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him (Mk 8:34). Since our mission is to make disciples (Mt 28:19), it is necessary for us to make the supremacy of Christ’s word or message known to people.
Anyone will accept a message that promises them an easy or prosperous life now. A message of faith in and commitment to Jesus and the eternal life he promises is far, far less appealing to worldly-minded, self-absorbed people. Are you are fully committed follower of Jesus Christ?
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.