GOD’S ETERNAL PLAN OF REDEMPTION
by Bob Wheeler
Jesus’ teaching ministry had come to an end, at least until after the Resurrection. He is on the verge of being arrested, and before the day would be over He would be executed on a cross and buried in a tomb. And yet the last thing He does before this momentous event was to pray for the disciples He was about to leave, and by extension for the whole body of believers who would come to faith in Him through their testimony. It was a remarkable testimony to the love that Christ had for His disciples that He would be praying for them on the morning of His execution.
The prayer has deep significance for us as believers, because it expresses what Christ desires for us. In effect it sets the priorities for the church, and our aim in life is to become what He wanted us to become. His prayer, in effect, is the roadmap for our journey to heaven.
It is significant that Jesus begins by placing the life of the church in the context of God’s eternal plan of redemption. Jesus is about to pray for the church – but why should the Father hear Him and grant the requests? The answer is that it is ultimately all a part of God’s plan for the church, and a critical part of that plan was what Jesus was about to do on the cross.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him” (John 17:1,2; NKJV). We note here at the very beginning that God the Father has given the Son “authority over all flesh.” By coming down to earth and taking on human flesh, becoming both God and man at the same time, and then dying on behalf of mankind, Jesus became the representative Head of the human race (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). This means, then, that all of us as human beings are subject to His authority.
As a part of that authority God the Father has given the Son certain individuals who would be saved: “that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him.” There is a specific group of individuals whom the Father has given to the Son, and they are the ones who become the recipients of salvation (cf. John 6:36-40, 44, 45, 65).
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (v. 3). We sometimes think of salvation as the forgiveness of sins, and that is certainly part of it. But salvation is also much more than that. It is life, and the life consists of knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. It is being alive to eternal reality, and knowing God in a personal way. The great tragedy of human existence is that the vast majority of human beings are spiritually dead – they have no sense of God at all apart from maybe a bare, abstract idea. But salvation brings about a spiritual awakening and makes us alive to the presence of God. The world looks entirely different now.
Jesus then goes on to reflect on His own personal role in the plan of redemption. “I have glorified You on earth. I have finished the work You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory I had with You before the world was” (vv. 4,5). Jesus, of course, was very conscious of being the eternal Son of God, and of having been sent by the Father on a special mission to the world. For three years He had preached and performed miracles. He had now arrived at the climactic point of His earthly mission, His death on the cross. It was a terrifying prospect indeed. But was it worth it? What could He possibly gain by going through with this? The human race was in bondage to sin. It deserved an eternity in hell. And yet God chose to send His Son into the world to die for our sins. What a testimony to His mercy and grace! And by raising Jesus from the dead He showed that Jesus had accomplished the desired objective – His mission was a success!
Many people in our modern, secular world have difficulty finding meaning and purpose in life. We go through life, pursuing our own individual narrow self-interest. But in the end that is likely to leave us empty. As human beings we want to be valued; we want to feel that we have accomplished something worthwhile. But once we remove God from the picture our life becomes meaningless: we serve no useful purpose here on earth.
God is our Creator, and He created us for a purpose. And the remarkable thing is that even in our fallen, sinful condition, God chose to save at least some of us, and at the appointed time in history He sent His Son into the world to atone for our sin. What happened on the cross was the turning point in history. And we who know Christ are the beneficiaries of this unparalleled act of grace and mercy. May we devote our lives to the One who purchased our redemption at so great a price!