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By Jonathan Hunt

Here is a brief summary of the message given on Sunday 26th December at our communion service at Cheltenham Evangelical Free Church. I have expanded the notes a little to make them readable but this is not intended to be a freely flowing piece of prose.

John 17.4: I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

John 17 is the glorious, high priestly prayer of Christ to His Father, for His disciples and all His people. The inclusion of this most intimate prayer in the scripture is itself a great token of God’s love for us. There is so much within it. Gathering around the Lord’s Table tonight centres our attention on the reason for Christ’s coming. The key phrase for our consideration is: ‘I have finished the work which You have given Me to do’.

“Is the work finished- He has not gone to Calvary yet? ” – you might look at the passage and ask. Well, here He is so close to the end that He speaks as though all is fulfilled. All is set in place, and all WILL be fulfilled. This prescience reminds us that He is divine, that we read of a man, but that He was God and Man. This is the Christmas conclusion – a finished work, a perfect life and sacrifice, and a glorious resurrection. God with us, every step of the way. God with us in life, in death, and in eternity.

He says to the Father: “I have glorified you” – well He did, in every thought and word and deed. He not only finished the work, but He finished it well, just as when He created the heavens and the earth, and He saw that everything was very good. There was no holding back in the life of our Saviour! God was glorified in His Son.

Here are several features of this work which the Father gave to the Son, and may they stir up your love and appreciation for Him who is All in All!

1. A sacrificial work. Before Calvary itself, very great sacrifices had already been made. From riches to rags. From everything to nothing. Abraham Kuyper said:

“His self emptying was not a single loss or bereavement, but a growing poorer and poorer, until at last nothing was left him but a piece of ground where he could weep and a cross whereon he could die.”

2. A costly work. Who can tell what He endured at Calvary? Who can estimate what He bore through His life, without reproach? The rejection, the contradiction, the abuse – from utter fools without any decency. His own creation turned against Him. The price was to become absolute, His own blood – but it was being paid from the moment He was born.

3. An unceasing work. He had no moment’s rest from His life’s work. Everything was geared to it. Never wasted a moment, never spared His own personal comforts. We read of His hunger, His exhaustion. Sometimes we feel stressed out and driven by some overriding concern. He was a man – burdened by the task of the salvation of the world. How could He ever lay these things aside? What utter concentration was demanded, what complete exhaustion must have been His!

4. A personal work. It was given to Him, nobody else. He had to do it alone – nobody could share the depths of shame, the extent of the terror. Even the Father turned His face away at the cross.

5. A long-planned work. Not a reaction to events, rather a plan from before the dawn of time. He never wavered, never turned from it. He knew all along what was to come, and set His face towards Jerusalem.

6. A voluntary work. The task is given Him, but He freely accepts it. He could have pulled out at any time. He could have commanded legions of Angels to assist Him. At every trial, every twist and turn of his upbringing, every frustration, He could have turned back. But He did not.

7. A needed work. Never was a task so desperately needed. All of history turns on this life, this death, this resurrection. Because He lives I can face tomorrow, runs the well-known song. What hope is there for any of us without His work? Our sin is too great, we cannot erase it – let alone pay for it.

8. An unique work. It is unrepeatable. It is not replicable. A perfect and sinless Saviour, the God-Man, our substitute – the ‘second Adam’. We simply cannot look to any other person, we cannot depend on any other work. This is the only work in the world which ultimately matters. We may do many good works – none will count for anything.

9. A finished work, as the text says. What a comfort. What assurance is here for the believer. When we struggle against sin, we may turn again to the cross and know there is a work that has been completed on our behalf. A work of grace which cannot be earned, but is an amazing gift, a costly and indeed a priceless thing. Grace has been earned so that it may be bestowed.

Oh, how the Lord Jesus Christ loves His people! This prayer in John 17 contains so many proofs:

v9 I pray for those you have given me

v11 Keep through your name those whom you have given me.

v13 These things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

v14 I have given them your word.

v15 I pray that you should keep them from the evil one.

v17 Sanctify them by your truth

v20 Not just for these alone, but for all who will believe…

v21 That they may be one

v24 I desire that they may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory

v26 I have declared to them your name, and will declare it, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.

How the Saviour loves His people, and what wonderful privileges He has purchased through His wonderful, and finished work, for you, and for me. From eternity past, through the Old Covenant ages, to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, and Glory. This is the Christmas conclusion, a finished work, a Saviour who so loves you.

God with us, and we with Him. What more could He ever do for you? What more could He say to you? He has done it all, so well, to the glory of God, and to the salvation of your never-dying soul. Rejoice, believer, and REST in Immanuel – God WITH us – not just 2000 years ago, but now. Because He did what He came to do.

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