Last week I stumbled on something I’d not noticed before in John 17. My local church small group spent an evening studying this passage by working through an unmarked manuscript with colored pencils (which is a delightful way to notice things about a passage in a group setting) and I found something that encouraged me more than many things have encouraged me recently.

This chapter is Jesus’ prayer that concludes what’s commonly called the Upper Room Discourse. It is a strategic and weighty pause in John’s narrative that shifts the focus into Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and crucifixion; John presents these things as Jesus coming fully into his glory.

As I was reading the passage closely, I noticed that the theme of “giving” is extremely prominent. Various forms of this verb occur about seventeen times, and there are other implicit references to things people have as a result of being given. I decided to make a chart describing the various things that are “given,” and from / to whom they are given.

Those results are as a whole very interesting, but here’s the thing that took me back: In John 17, the most common thing that’s given is believers – you and I, the people of God. We are given by the Father to the Son. This is mentioned five times, which is more than twice as often as any other ‘giving’ is mentioned.

In John 17, the most prominent act of giving is that act by which the Father eternally sets apart a people as a gift to his Son. You and I are actually gifts given by a perfect Father to a perfect Son as a perfect expression of eternally perfect, triune love.

Next time you wonder whether God is good, or whether your life is meaningful, or whether you are worth having the Spirit work in you, or whether God really does accept and value and love you – chew on that statistic for a while, and then swallow it, and then do it again.