Sunday 11th March 2018
Today we come to the last section of the prayer of Jesus. He has prayed for himself and his disciples and now he prays for all believers. It seems obvious from the reading that unity is the theme for today – but it’s not.
Throughout the prayer the idea of glory is referred to over and over again and it is what I want to reflect on this morning.
In both testaments the word has two meanings: 1. Excellence and praiseworthiness displayed (glory shown)
2. Honour and adoration expressed in response to God (glory given)
God shows his glory in acts of creation, providence and grace, glorifying himself, Jesus and his people –
Isaiah 44:23 Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this;
shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel.
John 13:31-32 31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
Romans 8:16-17 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Isaiah 43:7 Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth –
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
Uses the idea of honour or excellent reputation. This is also the meaning of the term in
Romans 3:22-24 There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
It is also that meaning earlier in Jesus prayer in chapter 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
In this sense the glory of God is not exactly an attribute of his being but rather a description of the superlative honour that should be given to him by everything in the universe. But there is another sense of the word glory which I want to consider today.
Glory as seen in people takes the form of wealth, position and power but the glory God shows is the reality of his active presence linked with the quality of his acts.
In OT times, this ‘glory’ took the physical form of light, the bright light that surrounds God's presence. Since God is spirit, and not energy or matter, this visible light is not part of God's being but is something that is created. We can understand it like this: God's glory is the created brightness that surrounds God's revelation of himself. It is the creative light or brilliance that surrounds God as he manifests himself in his creation. God's glory is something that belongs to him alone and is the appropriate outward expression of his own excellence.
Ezekiel 1:26-28 high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.
Exodus 16:10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked towards the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.
Exodus 40:34-35 34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,
‘He is good;
his love endures for ever.’
It's mentioned again in the new Testament in connection with the annunciation of Jesus birth to the shepherds: Luke 2:8-9 And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Revelation 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
However, God made Moses realise that the essence of his glory is his holiness and goodness Exodus 33:18-34:8 Moses asks God to go with the Israelites and that he would show Moses his glory. God tells him it would be too much for him to see, but that he would reveal something of his glory 34:5-8 5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshipped.
We’re told that when Moses came down from this meeting his face was shining from having been in the presence of God.
In the NT ‘glory’ is regularly liked with God’s display of power, wisdom and love in the life, death, resurrection and enthronement of Jesus. Over the last weeks we have seen how the Father glorified Jesus for being obedient, and Jesus glorifies the Father by being obedient. John 17:4-5 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
Amazingly, God made us to reflect his glory. Paul recounts the incident with Moses, who had to put a veil over his face after being with God. Paul says that the Israelites still have a spiritual veil between them and God which only Christ can remove but 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
There is a brightness, a splendour, or a beauty about the manner of life of a person who deeply loves God, and it is often evident to those around such a person. In the life to come, such brightness will be intensified, so that as we reign with Christ, it seems that we also will receive an outward appearance that is appropriate to that reign and to our status as image bearers of God servants of the Lord Jesus Daniel 12:3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
Matthew 13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
John 17:24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
As we come to this meal today it speaks to us of the glory of God. John 17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.
That work was to deal with sin through his death and resurrection. This meal is a physical reminder of what it cost, but also of the great blessings available to us as a result. It is a reminder of the glory of God found in Christ. It is also a reminder of our unity as believers – a unity that must mirror nothing less than the unity of Father and Son that so much of John’s gospel has been about.