One morning a few days ago, when I got out of bed and went to our kitchen, I saw a cell phone in a bowl of rice. Now, would you like to guess what it means in our house, when there is a cell phone in a bowl of rice? It means that the cell phone got wet, and its future is in serious doubt. There are few things more destructive to cell phones than water. Sometimes they will work after they get wet, but they are a little wonky. And sometimes they turn into a brick. Either way, when they get damaged, they are no longer able to function as the manufacturer originally intended, and the owner is going to end up paying a significant amount to have that phone repaired or replaced.
You, I and every other human being on this planet is just like a water-damaged cell phone. When our first parents decided to go their own way and disobey God, it was as if those prototypical human beings were dropped in a vat of corrosive sin, which corrupted our entire being, including our genetics and our human nature. Except for one exception, every human being ever since has been broken from the time they were conceived, never able to function as God originally intended us to do, never able to radiate the glory that God originally intended for us to display.
What makes our brokenness even worse is that we are all twisted. We are, as Martin Luther said, curved in on ourselves. This shows up in the way that we try to justify ourselves. In our brokenness, we still try to make a case that what we say, think and do is right, even when it is wrong. And we also long for glory, drawing attention to ourselves by lifting ourselves up and saying, “Look how good I am!” or by putting ourselves down and saying, “Look how bad I am!”
The way to begin to unravel our twisted brokenness is by recognizing and turning away from our broken, self-centered ways. So the question that I am asking you to think about as we begin is: What are the ways that you try to justify or glorify yourself?
To help us as we think about this and other questions, we are going to continue in our Essentials series, where we have been thinking about the things that are essential for our soul. We have reflected on how we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, and how adopting the Bible, God’s Word alone, as the blueprint for our life helps us to have God’s power in our life. Today, we are looking at two different essentials for our soul and the Bible passage that will be guiding us John 17:1-12. If you have a Bible or a Bible app, I invite you to turn there now.
The Meaning of “Glory”
As you do that, let me share with you some background information which will help you to better understand what is going on in our passage. The setting is the night in which Jesus was betrayed, right after Jesus took a small portion of the Passover Meal, that is, the third cup, the Cup of Blessing, then he added the promise of his presence to it, and gave it to his followers as a promise of connection and communion with him and with each other, until the day he returns to make us and all things right. The words of our passage are spoken shortly before Jesus is arrested, beaten, falsely accused, whipped, mocked and condemned to die on a cross. This was a night of momentous events. And in between those two key events, we have a third, what is often called “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.”
Another thing that is very important for you to know is that there is a keyword in this passage which we need to understand in order to comprehend this passage, and that word is “glory.” The word “glory” means “honor, splendor or radiance,” so then the word “glorify” usually means, in a human context, “to give honor, respect or praise to another.” However, when it comes to God, the words “glory” and “glorify” mean something quite different.
You see, glory is something that God already has. It is part of his nature. Therefore, to glorify God means to recognize the glory, splendor and divine radiance that he already has. In light of these definitions, Jesus has some very important things to say about glory and what it means to glorify God.
Jesus & Glory
So let’s now turn to our passage to look at the ways that Jesus glorifies his Father. What we see is that Jesus does that:
- In verse 2, by giving eternal life to all the people that his Father gives him
- In verse 4, by completing the work his Father gave to him to do, which is the redemption and renewal of all things,
- And in verse 6, by revealing the Father to the people his Father has given him. This mission of revealing the Father is very important because as Jesus tells us in verse 3, the way to eternal life is knowing the Father and his Son, Jesus, whom he sent to earth.
When the Bible uses the word “to know” in the sense of knowing someone, it is not talking about having an awareness of that person. It is talking about having a close personal relationship with them. It is by knowing God intimately and on a deep personal level that we are saved from our brokenness and saved for the glory of a forever life with God. For example, I know about Wayne Gretzky, but I don’t know him personally. On the other hand, I know about my wife, Susan, but I also know her on a deep personal level. In the same way, it is necessary for us to know God on a deep personal level in order to be saved. We can only trust personally those we know personally. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary for Jesus to reveal the Father to people so that they could have a saving relationship with him.
So here is a question to consider: If Jesus glorified his Father by redeeming people, by giving them eternal life and by showing them what the Father is really like, when did Jesus do those things? Because if we can determine when Jesus did that, we will discover the moment when the Father glorified Jesus. And the answer to the question of “When did the Father glorify Jesus and Jesus glorify his Father?” is when Jesus hung from the cross, broken and bleeding and suffering in excruciating pain. That, dear friends, is when Jesus brought justice to the nations by paying the full cost of forgiveness for all sin for all people throughout all time. That is when Jesus revealed the unconditional love and grace of the Father who gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. That is when Jesus revealed the merciful lovingkindness of a God who took our place in dying a condemned sinner’s death so that we could have his place in living life as a beloved child of God. And this Great Exchange that Jesus gives to us is not dependent on our worthiness or performance in any way. The divine goodness, love and splendor of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all revealed and glorified as Jesus saved us by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Humans & Glory
So what about us humans, how do we have anything to do with glory? Because we are broken, we know that trying to glorify ourselves invariably ends up being toxic to ourselves and others. Is there a way that we can find our proper place with respect to glory? We find a clue in a passage from Ephesians 5 which reads: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:25-27)
Dear friends, Jesus knows the depths of our sin and brokenness better than we do, and yet he chose to give himself for us so that we could be cleansed by his forgiveness and made beautiful by his love and thus be transformed into the radiant bride whom he adores. Jesus glorified us when he saved us. Not only did Jesus glorify us by transforming who we are, he also glorified us by transforming what we do. Because Jesus has saved us, we no longer live for ourselves. He has restored us to the role God originally intended for us to fulfill. Jesus has transformed us into being God’s beloved caretakers of his wonderful creation who reflect his image, his love, and his compassionate care into the world around us.
With Jesus, our glory has not yet been made complete. Though our life in this world will end in weakness, frailty and death, that is only the end of the first chapter of our life with Jesus. Chapter two will begin when we open our eyes to the new heaven and earth which Jesus will recreate at the end of time. Then we will behold Jesus in all his glory, and we will live forever in the glory which Jesus has given to us. Our salvation will be complete, we will be fully human and fully alive like we have never been before and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things will have passed away (cf. Rev. 21:4). That’s when we will fully enter into our proper place with respect to glory. We will be glorified fully by Jesus and we will fully glorify him forever.
What does this mean for us?
But what about our life in this world? Is there any way for us broken, sinful people to glorify Jesus in a broken, hurting world? There is. Jesus tells us in verse 10 of his prayer to his Father, All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. (John 17:10) Jesus isn’t praying about possessions, he is praying about people. And Jesus is telling us that we bring him glory when we know him and trust him as the One sent by God to forgive us, cleanse us, redeem us and restore us. We glorify Jesus when we live by grace alone through faith alone in him alone, and when we look to God’s Word alone for the purpose and direction that we need for life. And we also glorify Jesus as we reveal him to more and more people and teach them how to follow him forever. That is how Jesus is glorified among us.
Imagine what it would look like if all of us were able to fully embrace the new identity Jesus gives us as beloved, forgiven children of God? We would not be concerned for ourselves when the brokenness of this word or our body threatens to turn our life upside down. We know that Jesus alone has saved us, and our solitary, most passionate desire is to live for the glory of God alone.
This is not something that we can do on our own. Therefore, the challenge that I am setting before you today is this: Fully trust in Jesus, not only for salvation, but for all things in life. This is what it means to glorify God. And as we trust in Jesus, we know and make known God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is what the Lord’s people do. And as we read in Colossians, To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27). Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on November 21, 2021. For more info, please go to wglc.org.)