“The Hour of Glorification!” John 17:1-11
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St John, the 17th Chapter.
“1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Glory always has an object. The glory which people seek therefore, can take on many different forms. One person may seek glory in accumulating the wealth of nations. Some have been quite successful. Consider Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey or even President Trump. These three people and many others throughout recent history have accumulated much worldly wealth. Some more than once.
Other people have as their object more humanitarian ideas. They seek glory in being benevolent and caring for their neighbors who are less fortunate. Here in Evansville, there was a pastor who established Tri-State Food Bank to be a resource to feed the hungry in this city. The food bank serves three states, Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana. The food bank provides food to community food pantries and backpacks with food for children in need.
The common factor in all earthly glory is that such glory is not inherent in the individual. It must be sought, chased, garnered, given or even taken. There is needed some form of recognition in order for the glory to be bestowed.
As we hear His prayer, we may think Jesus is pursuing the same kind of glory. We may think that Jesus wants to be praised by men in an earthly manner. We may think that Jesus is seeking the place of honor as would a politician, a king or some other self-important person. Such thinking would be in great error.
Looking again at the words of Jesus’ prayer, we read that there is something quite different between our sinful human desire for glory and Jesus request for glory. Jesus glory is not found in the gathering of the wealth of nations. Jesus glory is not found in the praise of men. Jesus’ glory is not given by men, but is revealed in the work which Jesus came to fulfill. Jesus’ glory is revealed in the authority which Jesus has to give eternal life.
Now, I say that Jesus’ glory is revealed glory. Glory revealed in the work Jesus came to fulfill. We confess Jesus’ work fulfilled in the Creeds of the church. We learn in the study of the catechism, concerning the two states of Jesus in His ministry on earth. There is the state of humiliation. This we confess when we speak the words:
“I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”
By humiliation is meant that Jesus hid His divine nature from the eyes of men. We see the beginning of this humiliation in the incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. What glory is in this conceiving and birth of Jesus? God condescends to take on the form of a servant, which we are before God. In this incarnation, God comes to dwell with His creatures. He comes to reveal His will and to work salvation. He comes to redeem and cleanse His creatures. He comes to give them life and to give the abundance of God’s mercy and grace to those who are bowed down under the weight of sin and the fear of death.
Jesus is clearly revealing the glory of God in the salvation fulfilled in His final act of self-giving. These words of Jesus which we hear are the words of His High Priestly prayer. Jesus prayed this prayer the night he was betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He is kneeling before His father in heaven and recounting that the time has come for the act of redemption to be displayed before the world.
Jesus alluded to this act when He spoke to His disciples shortly after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be gloried. Amen, Amen, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. … Father glorify your name. … And I, when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”
The glorification and the glory of God is revealed in the suffering and death of Jesus. There is more to this suffering and death than we might think or understand. We indeed know and believe that Jesus’ suffering and death is for the sin of the world. We indeed know and believe that Jesus suffering and death brings us peace with God and enables us to live in peace with one another. Such truths are to be held in faith.
Yet, there is also the fulfillment of promises made to the whole of creation. Such promises were given by God from before the foundation of the world. God planned for them in eternity and brought them to pass in time. God knew that His perfect creation would become marred by sin. He determined this world shall not continue in endless suffering, sin and death. He determined this world would be redeemed by the blood of His one and only begotten Son. Jesus is the seed that would fall to the earth from heaven. His life would be planted in the world to bring healing and hope to those who were lost in the darkness and despair of sin’s maze.
Such is the work which Jesus came to fulfill. Jesus was lifted up, nailed to the cross of suffering. Upon that cross, Jesus gave up His life into the hands of His Father in heaven. His lifeless body was planted, if you will, in the tomb. There Jesus lay for three days and was lifted up from death. He took to himself His body and walked unhindered from the tomb. Thereby glorifying God and revealing the glory of God who has power over life and even death. Thereby revealing the God who alone keeps His Word, reveals His Word and gives eternal life to His people.
As we continue with the creed, we confess the exaltation or “lifting up” of Jesus. In this lifting up is the great revelation of Jesus’ glory with His Father in heaven.
“He descended into hell. The third day he rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”
This past Thursday marked the celebration of the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of his Father. What does this ascension mean? Jesus is returning to the place of His inherent glory. As Jesus says in this passage from John’s Gospel account:
“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
Jesus did not need glory bestowed upon himself. He already enjoyed the glory of the Godhead. It was hidden for a short time incarnate in human flesh and blood. Jesus glory is eternal and now with His ascension to the right hand of His Father, He enjoys and takes up again this glory.
Is the glory of our Lord still visible today? Yes, even though Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, His glory is visible, but not to human eyes. The glory of God is visible only to the eyes of faith. The glory of Jesus is seen by faith where Jesus tells us it is. The glory is nothing less than where the Gospel of salvation is given. It is again enshrouded in earthly gifts from God. As Jesus hid his glory in human flesh, so now he cloaks it in water and bread and wine.
The water of the Gospel touches the sin weakened bodies of those who are redeemed of God. The word of the Gospel washes the heart and a mind of the redeemed of God and gives sight to see and believe what takes place in that washing. In that washing the sinner is immersed in the sacrifice for sin. They are crucified with Jesus Christ. They are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. The glory of the cross of Jesus is poured out upon the sinner and they rise with Jesus to new life.
Likewise in the Supper of salvation, we eat nothing less than the very glory of Jesus sacrifice for sin. God grants us to taste in this sweet meal the very glory of the suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The leaven of sin is removed from those who eat the bread of the New Covenant. The cup of salvation is poured out upon those who drink the wine of joy and salvation. Such gifts of grace bring us the very body and blood of Jesus Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.
We might think that Jesus is not present, as he promised His disciples. We may wonder where the right hand of God is. We may struggle against hope when the trials of life surround us. Yet, we must remember the right hand of God is His Word. That Word is sure and certain. That Word of God is effective, it gives what has been fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ. The glory of God is truly embodied in the earthly elements of water, bread and wine. It is a foretaste of what awaits us when Jesus returns in glory.
Yes, we are awaiting the final revelation of the glory of Jesus. That final revelation will be upon the return of Jesus when He returns in judgment. As the angel told the disciples on the mount of Jesus’ Ascension, so also we must hear as well.
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Indeed, our hearts are set heavenward. Our eyes of faith are set upon the visible means of salvation and eternal life. We look in faith upon the hidden glory of Jesus now in expectation of standing with Jesus in glory in the Day yet to come.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen