The Sovereign Sacrifice: Foreknown, Foretold, for Faith

Palm Sunday

So when [Jesus] had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.' 19 "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. 20 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me."

Jesus - a Man with a Purpose

Nobody in the history of the world has foreknown and foretold and carried out his life and death and resurrection the way Jesus did. The overwhelming impact of reading the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus is that here is a man who knows what is coming, describes what is coming, and performs what is coming, according the purpose of God foretold in Scripture, that he was sent to fulfil. He sets his face like flint to do everything written of him, and he will not turn to the right hand or to the left lest one prediction of his Father in the Old Testament should fall to the ground.

Do you recall what Jesus said when Peter struck off Malchus' ear in the garden the night before Jesus was crucified? In Matthew 26:53-54 Jesus says, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" Do you see what he is saying? "I am carrying out predictions of my Father. I am governing my life according to plan. I am sovereignly guiding these affairs so that everything happens according to my Father's plan."

Remember what he said in John 10:17-18: "I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." In other words, it may look to bystanders as though Jesus is the victim of betrayal and conspiracy and mob violence and mock trials and fickle governors. But what Jesus says is: I am in charge here. "Nobody takes my life from me. I lay it down. I take it up." His was a sovereign sacrifice. Jesus was in charge of when he died, how he died, and when he rose from the dead.

Two Ways to Experience the Impact in Your Life

Now there are two ways I want you to experience the personal impact of this in your life this morning. 1) One is to realize that this sovereign, intentional sacrifice of Jesus' life is a sacrifice for sin. 2) And the other is to realize that the saving, eternal-life-giving effect of this sovereign sacrifice for sin becomes yours by faith in Jesus.

1. Jesus' Death Was a Sacrifice for Sins

Jesus' death was not just a model for how to endure unjust suffering. It was a substitutionary sacrifice for sins. When Jesus died, he died as the perfectly innocent Son of God in the place of guilty sinners. This is the heart of the Christian gospel - the good news. Here's the way the apostle Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3: "I make known to you the gospel . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day." Or in another place he says, "While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6).

Here's the way the apostle John says it in 1 John 4:10: "[God] loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." "Propitiation" means that the death of Christ takes away the anger of God - propitiates God's wrath - from those who trust Jesus.

Here's the way the apostle Peter says it in 1 Peter 3:18: "Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God." "[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24).

But how did Jesus himself view his own sovereign sacrifice? In Mark 10:45 he said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." And at the Last Supper he said, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). So Jesus saw his own death not as an accident or a model. He saw it as a ransom that would set sinners free from condemnation and obtain forgiveness for them from God.

That's the first thing to see about this sovereign sacrifice. It is a substitutionary offering for sin. O, that God would help us all see our desperate need for this, above all needs in our lives! And that he would grant us to see how precious this is - to be forgiven and be justified and at peace with God by a sovereign sacrifice.

2. The Effect of Jesus' Sacrifice Becomes Yours by Faith in Him

Now the other thing to see that, I pray, will help you connect with this sovereign sacrifice is this: the saving, eternal-life-giving effect of this sacrifice becomes yours by faith in Jesus. So the rest of my message is aimed to help your faith. Some of you do not have faith in Jesus. Some have faith and it is very weak and wavering. Some have strong faith and can grow even stronger. My prayer is that what I show you now will bring you into faith and make your faith stronger. Because faith honors Christ and satisfies the soul and empowers love and changes the world and brings us home to God.

Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Those who believe in him do not perish. And those who do not believe, perish. Later in John 3, Jesus says, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (verse 36). That is what it means to perish. Believing makes all the difference. You can't buy eternal life. You can't earn it. You can't deal or negotiate for it. You can only trust him for it. It's a gift to those who trust, who believe.

Now what does today's text teach us that will help you believe? I want you to focus on one verse with me, John 13:19: "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He." What I want you to see in this verse is the connection between your faith, and Jesus' foreknowledge. "I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He."

In other words, Jesus is saying, "If you are struggling to believe that I am the promised Messiah, that I am the one who was in the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1), that I am the divine Son of God, who can forgive all your sins and give you eternal life and guide you on the path to heaven, then I want to help you believe. And one of the ways I am going to help you have well-grounded faith (you see it here in John 13:19!) is by telling you what is going to happen to me before it happens, so that when it happens, you will have good reason to believe in me." (See the same structure of thought in John 14:29 and 16:4.)

Now there's the principle. One way that God helps us believe in Jesus - foreknowing things that are going to happen to Jesus and foretelling things that are going to happen to Jesus - is for the purpose of awakening faith in Jesus for who he really is as the divine Son of God who can forgive you and take care of you forever.

Why Isn't Jesus Just Another Great Prophet?

Now an objection rises immediately, a very common one: Why would Jesus' ability to foreknow and foretell the future confirm his deity and not just confirm that he is simply another prophet like other great prophets who could predict the future? What I want to do is spend the rest of this message applying the principle of John 13:19 to Jesus' life in a way that gives you five reasons why Jesus is not just another prophet, but is the fulfillment of the prophecies, the Messiah himself who is more than a mere man, indeed, as the New Testament teaches, was himself God.

1. His Knowledge Was Complete

First, from John 18:4, Jesus' knowledge of the future was not selective but complete, unlike prophets who had occasional insights given by God. Describing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as the mob comes to capture him, John says, "So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?'" "Knowing all things that were coming upon him" - this is not the occasional revelation of an ordinary prophet.

Nothing was taking Jesus by surprise. He saw it all coming and he chose to endure it all for our sakes. This is not the description of a ordinary prophet. This is John's testimony that the Jesus he knew on earth was more than a prophet, much more (see also Matthew 12:41; John 16:30; 21:17; Matthew 11:27). He knew all that was coming upon him. The reason, John would say, is that he and the Father were one (John 10:30), and "all things that the Father has are Mine" (John 16:15). Jesus shared the knowlede of the Father as a divine Son.

2. Details of Jesus' Life Were Foretold by God in the Old Testament

Many details in Jesus' life are foreknown and foretold by God in the Old Testament. The point here is that this Jesus is not just another prophet but the goal of prophecy, and that he is true (and thus believable), because what was predicted hundreds of years before has come true in his life. This is the Old Testament application of the principle of John 13:19. Consider a partial list of the details of his life that were foreknown and foretold for your faith:

Jesus' birth Matthew 1:21-23 - She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us" [Isaiah 7:14].

Jesus' stay in Egypt Matthew 2:15 - He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my Son" [Hosea 11:1].

Jesus' living in Nazareth Matthew 2:23 - [He] came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene" [Possibly a reference to nezer - branch - in Isaiah 11:1; or simply because "Nazarene was a term of reproach, Isaiah 53:2-4; see also Psalm 22:6-8; 69:11-19].

Jesus' settling in Capernaum Matthew 4:13-16 - Leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles - the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned" [Isaiah 9:1-2].

Jesus' preaching in the synagogue Luke 4:21 - And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" [Isaiah 61:1-2].

Jesus' many healings Matthew 8:16-17 - When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases" [Isaiah 53:4].

Jesus' speaking in parables Matthew 13:34-35 - All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world" [Psalm 19:2; 78:2].

The unbelief of the people in response to Jesus John 12:37-38 - But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" [Isaiah 53:1].

The hatred of the people for Jesus John 15:24-25 - If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sinned; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, "They hated me without a cause" [Psalm 69:4].

Jesus' riding a donkey into Jerusalem Matthew 21:2-5 - [Jesus said] to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them." This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden'" [Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9].

The circumstances in general around the arrest Matthew 26:55-56 - At that time Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets."

Judas' betrayal of Jesus John 13:18 - "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'" John 17:12 - "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled" [Psalm 41:9].

The use of Judas' money to buy a field Matthew 27:7-10 - And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the Potter's Field, as the Lord directed me" [Jeremiah 18:18; 32:6ff; Zechariah 11:13].

The casting lots for Jesus' garment at the cross John 19:24 - So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be;' this was to fulfill the Scripture:, "They divided my outer garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots" [Psalm 22:18].

Piercing Jesus's side and not breaking bones John 19:34-36 - But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "Not a bone of Him shall be broken" [Exodus 12:46].

In other words, the life and death of Jesus is foreknown and foretold in much detail in the Old Testament, for your faith.

3. Jesus Taught that His Life Fulfilled all the Prophecies

Jesus himself taught that all the prophecies about him would be fulfilled. In other words, we have a testimony not only that the writers themselves saw Jesus' life as fulfillment of prophecy but Jesus did too. For example, in Luke 22:37 Jesus says, "I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'And He was numbered with transgressors,' for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment" [Isaiah 53:12]. Jesus saw the predictions of the Messiah and his sufferings being fulfilled in himself.

4. Jesus Himself Foretold Details

Jesus took up the principle of John 13:19 and foretold numerous details of what was going to happen to him so that we might believe when they happened.

For example, in Mark 8:31 he said,

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again (see also Matthew 16:21).

He foresaw that his death would be by crucifixion: John 3:14 - "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." John 12:32 - "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.

He predicted that the disciples would find an unridden colt tied when they entered the town: Luke 19:30 - "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat."

When the disciples entered Jerusalem that last Thursday he predicted they would meet a man with the water pitcher who would have a room for them to meet in: Luke 22:10 - He said to them, "When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters."

After three years of waiting, he knew the exact hour of his departure out the world: John 13:1 - Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

Jesus knew that he would be betrayed and who would betray him and when it would happen: John 6:64 Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. Matthew 26:2 - "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion" (see also John 13:1; Matthew 26:21).

He knew and predicted the fact and the time of Peter's three denials: Matthew 26:34 - Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times."

Jesus predicted that the disciples would all fall away and be scattered: Matthew 26:31 - Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I will strike down the shpeherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered'" (Zechariah 13:7; see John 16:32).

And all of this he predicts, according to John 13:19, so that we would believe he is God, that what he says about himself is true.

5. The Gospel Writers Treat Jesus' Predictions as Fulfilled Scripture

Jesus' predictions about what others would do to him were fulfilled and treated by the gospel writers in the same language as fulfilled Scripture. One example: In John 18:31, Pilate says to the Jews, "'Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.' The Jews said to him, 'We are not permitted to put anyone to death,' [this was] to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die." He had prophesied in John 12:32 that he would be "lifted up from the earth." That is, he would not be stoned but crucified - not by Jews but by Romans. So the decisions of Pilate and the Jews how to dispose of him were a fulfillment of his prediction.

So that You May Believe

I return in closing to the principle of John 13:19. Jesus says, "I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He." My prayer as we close is that God will fulfill this purpose in your life. He calls you who are not yet believers to faith in Jesus this morning, for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. Believer, be strong. There is good reason to stand with Jesus and to live for him this week. Amen.

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