“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also 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. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.’”
The Lord’s Last Words to His Disciples
Warm greetings to you the saints of God! As you know Easter is not too far off, and so since last week I have been preaching about ‘the passion of Jesus’. So as I continue today, I would like to continue preaching on John chapter 17.
Jesus said in the previous chapter: “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33). This is what Jesus told His disciples before His impending death on the Cross. We need to realize here that Jesus knew that He was going to be seized and killed on the Passover Day, the greatest festival of Israel, and that He mentioned these things to His disciples beforehand in order to plant peace and faith in them.
My fellow believers, when you face a sudden tragedy, it’s natural for you to be greatly distressed. Jesus had led His disciples and done various works with them, and so you can imagine just how shocked the disciples would have been when they saw Him being violently seized by the Jews and then being crucified to death by the Roman soldiers. You can also imagine just how despondent they would have felt, how they would have lost their faith, and how they would have fallen into a deep hole of despair. But Jesus already knew about these things, and that’s why He forewarned His disciples by telling them, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33). With His impending death on the Cross, Jesus gave the disciples enough forewarning about many things to come, and when this happened, He was indeed crucified. After being crucified and died, He then rose up from the dead, and then bore witness for 40 days before He ascended to Heaven.
But even though the disciples had followed Jesus for no less than three years, and when these events prophesied by Jesus became a reality, they lost their minds and were panic stricken. This happened despite the fact that Jesus had already taught them beforehand what would happen to them and had given them enough guidance. Nevertheless, our Lord told us clearly, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” By these words the Lord is admonishing us that just as He overcame the world, we should also overcome our tribulations by trusting in Him. We should not just give up and capitulate to this world; we the saints who trust in the Lord can surely overcome it. It is because we have faith in the Lord that we can overcome all difficulties and win our victories in the end.
Today, taking such faith in the Lord as an example, I would like to preach to you about this passage in John chapter 17. After praying on the Mount of Olives, the Lord was arrested by Roman soldiers led by Judas Iscariot and the Jews, and was subsequently put on a trial. Even though our Lord was sinless, He had nevertheless borne all the sins of mankind by being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, and had to receive the punishment of crucifixion to pay off the wages of these sins. After dying on the Cross, He rose up from the dead in three days just as was prophesied, and He through this became our true Savior. What Jesus said in John chapters 16 and 17, which were spoken of just prior to His crucifixion, can be characterized as ‘His last words.’ It was akin to a last will and testament that people give to their children before they pass away by saying to them, “My beloved sons and daughters listen carefully. I have written my will in a way so as to distribute my possessions among you equally.” Likewise our Lord also gathered His disciples around and said to them, “If you know that I have come from the Father, then from now on pray in My name. If you do this you will receive everything you ask for. I am your true Savior and Intercessor.” Like this, the Lord made His divine status known to all mankind regardless of whether they believe in Him or not, and He also explained to them how they can obtain eternal life. He then prepared for His death, asking God the Father not to let Him succumb to cowardice before His death.
So we see this passage in John chapter 17 being akin to the Lord’s last words. He explained everything to the disciples and everyone else as well. But we need to know that His heart was by no means light when He spoke His last words here.
Let’s turn now to John 17:1-3: “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also 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. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Jesus prayed in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify you.” This means that the Lord already knew beforehand what was to come. Our Lord already knew all about how Judas would betray Him and to whom he would sell Him out and how He would meet His death; how He would rise up from the dead and save the entire human race from sin; and lastly who would truly believe in Him.
Who Can Receive All the Heavenly Blessings Bestowed by God?
When we turn to Genesis in the Old Testament, we see God speaking to Rebekah around the time she conceived Jacob and Esau: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). God when He speaks knows everything beforehand. He knows who among the countless people in this earth would truly believe in Him as the Savior. This does not mean that God has chosen certain people whilst rejecting others arbitrarily. Although some theologians make such hypothetical claims, their teachings by itself is no more than an irrational conjecture that makes a mockery out of God’s justice. This is because they do not understand the Bible correctly.
What God said about Esau and Jacob, that Jacob would rule over Esau and Esau would serve Jacob, was fulfilled exactly as God foretold. Why did Esau then come to serve Jacob, while Jacob received and enjoyed God’s blessings? It’s because Esau trusted in his own power, rather than relying totally on God. So God knew in advance that Esau would reject His help and love and perish without being saved, this is because God had told his mother about it beforehand. What is obvious is that God is truly a just God. So we see through this that whether you are blessed or not is really your own choice.
Even among today’s people, we find many who trust in their own strength and might of the flesh, rather than accepting Jesus Christ who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit as their Savior. Usually it is those who are strong-willed and stubborn that do this, these very people reject the gospel of Jesus outright by saying that they don’t need it, no matter how much it is preached to them.
Who then would accept this God-given love and blessings, live in happiness be always thankful for these blessings, and attain salvation and eternal life to enter Heaven? It’s none other than those who are like Jacob. But we know that Jacob was a weak man. Nevertheless he was a shrewd man in mind and wit. In his days, hunting and farming were the two main occupations, but Jacob was such a weak man that he was no good at hunting or farming. So because of this he believed in God, (whom his parents also believed in), and trusted in this God and sought His help. Because he yearned for God’s blessings, he was indeed blessed by God in the end. It was on account of his faith in God’s blessings that he actually attained them. Just as God had spoken beforehand about these two different lives of Jacob and Esau; our Lord told the disciples beforehand that the hour had now come, for He knew all about how He would die in a few days.
The Ministry of Jesus That Was Fulfilled for Our Salvation
Since being born on this earth until He turned 30 years old, Jesus grew up under His father and mother of the flesh. And when He reached 30 years of age, He accepted all the sins of mankind ‘once for all’ by being baptized by John the Baptist; and in obedience to the will of God the Father, He saved us the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit ‘all at once.’ It was because He had accepted the sins of mankind through His baptism in the Jordan River that He could bear the punishment of crucifixion. So we see that He had to bear this punishment for this very reason.
Through His three years of public ministry, spanning from His baptism to His crucifixion, our Lord went on to fulfill the will of God the Father. The very first thing that Jesus did at the start of His ministry of salvation was to take all the sins of mankind upon Himself by being baptized by John the Baptist. He then called twelve disciples and taught them personally. He trained them well. He taught them about Himself, being God the Father and about the true salvation. Jesus taught them thoroughly that He was not merely some religious founder, but He was God Himself the Creator and the Savior at the same time. And toward the end of His ministry He also told His disciples that He had to be crucified to death—as mentioned in this Scripture passage, “The hour has come,” this is exactly what He meant, that the moment of His crucifixion was now at hand.
It’s written in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” This passage means that because the Lord had been baptized by John the Baptist as the Savior of mankind, the hour had now come for Him to die on the Cross and thus bear the condemnation of the sin for all mankind. But we also need to know that because Jesus had only come to this earth incarnated in the flesh for a short while, He was also very concerned about physical death. Afraid that He might cry out or succumb to cowardice unable to bear the pain of this terrible crucifixion, He prayed to God the Father: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” This means, “Father, let Me fulfill all the work You have entrusted to me with to save mankind completely that is, by Me taking upon all the sins of the human race through My baptism I received from John the Baptist, and then dying on the Cross, and through this bearing the condemnation of sin on the Cross, and then to rise up from the dead in three days. Let Me thus glorify You.” If we are dragged to our execution by being crucified to death, or when the time of the Great Tribulation comes before the Lord’s return on the last day, you and I would also be able to pray like this: “Father, the hour has come for me to face my martyrdom. Help me not to succumb to cowardice, but defend my faith in the Lord. Give me the faith to proclaim you bravely to everyone.” If this was the Lord’s hearts desire, so our hearts must also desire to glorify God.
The Word of faith that the Lord spoke here is on a completely differently dimension to the faith of those who believe in Christianity today as a religion. Christians who believe in Jesus merely as a matter of religion only ask for carnal blessings and worldly peace when they pray. Their belief in Jesus is limited only for them and their own families to prosper in this world. But this is not why our Lord came to this earth; He came to this earth as the Savior in order to deliver mankind from all its sins. Jesus prayed to God the Father so that He would blot out all our sins, to save us perfectly, make us God’s perfect people and through this fulfill all the work of saving us—that is, He prayed not for Himself, but for the salvation and peace of the entire human race.
In the last chapter of Mark, Jesus said to His disciples that certain signs would follow those who believe in Him. One of these blessings is that they will not die when they get bitten by a venomous snake or drink poison (Mark 16:18). This implies that the truly born-again are immune to the poisonous teachings of Satan, because they possess ‘The Truth’ that shields and protects them from the Devil. But despite this we see during the Early Church period some misguided Christians used snakes to discern whether one really believed in Jesus or not. They allowed a snake bite someone, and if this person did not die, they then considered him to be a true believer in Jesus. As a result of this devious teaching many people swallowed poison and boasted arrogantly, “Since I believe in Jesus and my faith is so great I will not die,” but they indeed died in the end. Many early Christians perished due to this lie. But we know that this is not the true faith.
Matthew chapter 4 records the temptation our Lord faced when He fasted in the wilderness for 40 days after receiving His baptism. Satan said to Him, “Throw yourself down from the top of the Temple. Surely angles will lift You up and protect You, after all is it not written like this in the Scriptures?” To this Jesus rebuked him by saying, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God’” God fulfills everything with His Word.
Of course God protects us, but the Word also teaches us that we should not tempt Him. Only those whose faith is weak try to tempt God by thinking, “The Lord will protect me no matter what I do.” So if you should say, “Well, since I believe in the Lord, I can do whatever I want,” this would mean nothing more than a reckless act by testing God.
Let me illustrate this with a driver. Will it be okay for any driver to think that he can drive in whatever way he wants, just because he believes in God? No, of course not! The right thing to do is to obey all the traffic rules and drive safely—that is, one should do everything to ensure his safety and others on the road and then pray to the Lord to protect him. If anyone drives recklessly and crashes head-on into a huge truck rather than trying to evade it by thinking, “I will not die because I believe in God,” then no one I tell you not even a Christian will be able to escape death. In all likelihood this person would not even understand his own death by wondering at the last moment. “Is it because I don’t have enough faith? Why am I dying when I believe in God?” My fellow believers, is this really what sincere faith in God is all about? No, absolutely not!
Although there is no doubt about the fact that God has indeed granted us salvation, but to think that He will always protect us even when we don’t do everything we should do to ensure our safety, is nothing more than testing God. Accidents will happen even when one is careful enough taking all the necessary precautions; so how can anyone expect God to come to the rescue when he has not done what he is supposed to do?
Therefore, whenever we ask God for anything we should first do everything that’s within our abilities, and then only ask God for help for the things that lay beyond our means. If one walks blindly into his own death even as he knows this, then it’s not God who is taking him away, but it is a man-made disaster. Although God will accept such souls that perish from human errors, He will never be pleased by such stupid accidents.
Our Lord prayed to God the Father after diligently fulfilling and finishing all the work commanded by Him. He prayed to the Father before His impending crucifixion lest He should be marred by the weaknesses of the flesh. And when He was eventually crucified, He indeed endured tremendous suffering as was expected. Hanging on the Cross, Jesus said He was thirsty. He felt thirsty because He was dehydrated from all the blood that was drained out from His body. After wetting His lips with a little bit of sour wine, Jesus passed away on the Cross, saying, “It is finished!”
One recent movie portrays Jesus’ life by depicting this scene and showing Jesus coming down from the Cross and living with some woman, and then being crucified again. But this is nothing more than the imagination of the movie producer. While artists should not be censored from expressing their interpretations, what’s wrong is wrong. But for us, we should believe according to how it is written in the Bible—that the Lord our Savior, in order to pay off the wages of the sins of mankind, He accepted all these sins through His baptism, was indeed crucified and shed His blood just as He had prophesied.
Before being crucified to death, our Lord prayed to God the Father to help Him fulfill the Father’s work to its completion. He also prayed that just as God the Father had glorified the Son, the Son would also carry out the task that was entrusted to Him. He said in John 17:2, “You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” This passage means that once Jesus was crucified to death and was resurrected, thus completing the salvation of mankind to perfection, He would have the authority to rule over the whole universe and all its hosts.
When we turn to the Book of Revelation, we see Jesus Christ sitting on a white throne as the Judge. Chapter 5 in Revelation tells us that there will be a scroll sealed with seven seals. Who will then break this seal and judge mankind according to what’s written therein, saving some and condemning others? It is none other than Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was crucified to death. It is Christ who has the right to accept the scroll from the Father’s hand, break the seal, open the scroll and judge everyone accordingly.
But until Jesus Christ our Savior had completed our salvation by coming to this earth, and being baptized, dying on the Cross and rising up from the dead, He did not have the authority to rule over all His people. That’s because God the Father had as yet not given Him such authority. To save mankind, God the Father sent His Son to this earth incarnated in the flesh, made Him bear the sins of mankind by being baptized—and had Him die on the Cross. Having then being resurrected—the Father sat Him down at the right hand of His throne. After thus completing our salvation, God the Father gave His Son the authority to reign over all flesh. That is why Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also 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).”
Jesus Christ has now attained the authority to rule over everyone, and He is truly the Son of God and our Savior. By accepting all our sins in the Jordan River through His baptism, He took away all the sins we commit throughout our entire lifetime all at once. He bore not only your sins but also all the sins of both your ancestors and your descendants, and having died on the Cross and risen up from the dead, has saved us perfectly. If you believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior, then you will be saved from sin and also receive eternal life.
Who grants us everlasting life? It is Jesus Christ who grants it. God the Father has granted to us eternal life, and so if anyone believes in Jesus Christ, he will be saved from sin, receive everlasting life and become God’s own child. In other words, Jesus gives the right to attain everlasting life to any genuine believer. God has given today’s Scripture passage to us so that we would realize all these things.
Have You Thought about the God-Given Everlasting Life?
The God-given everlasting life refers to immortal life. It brings so much encouragement to those who believe in the Word of God. My fellow believers, what greater blessing is there than to believe in Jesus Christ, receive the remission of sins and obtain everlasting life? If we believe that we will never die but live forever once our Lord returns, there can be no greater blessing or peace in this world. The Lord said that He overcame this world to give peace to us. I admonish you therefore to remember that it is by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit which the Lord fulfilled for us by overcoming the world, that eternal life is granted.
When someone dies, he is cut off completely from the world. No matter how rich and opulent he may have been on this earth, nothing belongs to him anymore once he is dead. That’s why the Lord told us not to labor for food that perishes, but to save souls. He told us to labor to lead souls to receive the remission of sins, and to enable them to become God’s own people and to receive everlasting life.
We are too preoccupied with our own carnal affairs right now, and so we may not understand what is meant by the work of saving souls. What did our Lord say about this issue? Let’s turn to John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The Bible says here that the way for us to attain everlasting life is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom God the Father sent. The phrase “the only true God” here means that there is no other divine being than our God. Even though people believe in different deities each on his own, only God the Father is the true God. That is why the Apostles said that the way to receive everlasting life is realizing who the real God is and knowing Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.
Jesus Christ came to this earth with three offices that is, the King, the High Priest and the Prophet, and He knew all about us as God, as well as the High Priest of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Prophet. In other words, the Lord knew that we as mankind were born as piles of sins destined for hell because of these sins. That is why Jesus had to bear all our sins on His own body and be condemned to death on the Cross in our place. We must take this Truth of how Jesus saved us to the depths of our hearts. We must realize that Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Prophet who knows all about us.
Like this, the Bible says that eternal life is about knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ who was sent by Him. The way for us as mankind to attain everlasting life is to know God, and to know Jesus Christ who was sent by God the Father, and to know and believe that when Christ came to this earth He shouldered all our sins by being baptized for our sake, died on the Cross, and rose up from the dead. By truly believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit we will received the remission of our sins from Jesus, and receive a blessedly attained eternal life.
Those Who Truly Have Eternal Life
The Bible says that it is appointed by God for everyone to be born once and die once, and then to face judgment. So we see that human beings are so feeble that their existence is insignificant. Yet even though you are such weak beings, if you should come to know and believe in God and Jesus Christ while still living on this earth, and thus receive the remission of your sins, you will then obtain this blessed eternal life. All the riches, glory and happiness of Heaven will then be yours. This is not a fictitious story from some fairy tale or movie, but it is a completely biblical fact.
Just as the Old Testament tells us that everyone is made in the likeness of the image of God. This implies that it is possible for human beings to live with God. Although man is a creation, he is clearly different from animals or anything else in the world. Every human being can live forever enjoying glory and splendor with God, and everyone is an honorable being that can rule over all creatures created by God. Therefore, we ought to think about whether we ourselves really have eternal life or not, and if not we must seek to obtain this everlasting life by first understanding and then believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
How about you then? Have you received eternal life through the gospel of the water and the Spirit? If your answer is yes, then the next thing you need to think about is how you should live from now on. Having attained everlasting life, we must preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to everyone so that others may also receive this eternal life. We need to know that all our human effort to try to live virtuously on this earth is of the flesh. To live virtuously is only elementary. If you have indeed received the remission of sins, then you must preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit so that others would also receive the remission of sins. This is the most virtuous deed. You and I were born again to do this good work (Ephesians 2:10). You and I must carry out this work without fail. Teaching others what Jesus has done for us is what is meant by bearing witness of the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We have the calling to devote all our lives to this work of spreading the gospel of the water and the Spirit to the entire world.
When we look outside we can hear the sounds of the approaching spring. Forsythias, azaleas and magnolias are all in full blossom, boasting their beauty. One thing that makes Chuncheon City such an attractive place is that every house has roses blossoming and you see flowers everywhere, from magnolias to forsythias. When spring comes to the City which is surrounded by so many flowering trees, every alley and lane is filled with sweet aromas. I am particularly fond of lilacs; it’s said that you can smell its aroma miles away. I love lilacs so much that whenever I come across them in someone else’s garden, I remember how in the past I could not resist but sneak around and cut them to take them to my home. But every flower is so pretty and beautiful. The wonderful spring filled with blossoming flowers is now upon us. I therefore ask you to also open your eyes and heart, and to submerge yourself in the God-given beauty of nature.
My fellow believers, as well as giving us such natural surroundings, the Lord has also given us blessed eternal life. So until the day the Lord returns, we will continue to live as those who have already attained everlasting life. It’s in human nature to be impatient, and so we sometimes struggle with what’s right in front of our eyes, but if we want to achieve great things, we must look far into the future and act with long-term goals in mind. What would happen if a marathon runner ran fast and furious like a short sprinter? He would collapse in the middle of the race without even completing the run.
Life is like a marathon runner. If one has begun the race as a marathon runner, then he must complete the race even if he comes in last. Just like this example of a marathon runner, those of us who have attained everlasting life must fulfill and carry out the work of spreading the gospel of the water and the Spirit until the very end, so that many others would also receive everlasting life.