03 Apr 2022
3 April 2022

03 Apr 2022

Passage: John 17
Service Type:


(John 17)

“Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Glory. What do we understand by glory? On a very mundane level, the word “glory” is often used in sport. With the World Cup draw in the news, I saw a recent newspaper headline that Gareth Southgate, England’s football manager, is plotting the path to World Cup glory. Glory beckons for whichever country wins the World Cup this year.

I suppose, in his warped thinking, that Vladimir Putin though that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would bring glory to Russia. Throughout history dictators and despots have looked for glory in the battlefield, but have only succeeded in bringing death, destruction and misery. And like Adolf Hitler, most of their names have gone done in history in ignominy. So, when Jesus talks about glory, what does he mean? Well, as we shall see, something very different.

Let’s start with a recap of where we are. In some recent sermons we’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ farewell words to his disciples immediately after the Last Supper in Jerusalem, the night before his crucifixion.

So, on the night before his crucifixion, Jesus met in the upper room with his disciples. He had demonstrated in word and deed the humility to which we are called. He washed their feet, as John chapter 13 records. He’d spoken to them of his coming betrayal. He told them that in time to come people would recognise the new family of God by the way they loved each other. He taught them about the future life, the coming of the Holy Spirit when he had gone, and about the need to stay attached to him as branches are to a vine.

Jesus spoke with them about his departure, that is his death and what it was to accomplish. He explained that a time of sorrow was coming, but after the Resurrection they would have a joy. Now they were confused, but later they would know. Now they wouldn’t understand what God was doing; then they would feel themselves to be God’s friends.  Now they’re fearful, then they would be confident and at peace.

And after teaching the disciples all these things, as we see at the start of chapter 17, Jesus looks towards heaven and prays. He moves from teaching, and goes on to pray.

The crisis is approaching, and Jesus begins to pray, to pray within the earshot of some of his friends. And the word ‘glory’ or ‘glorify’ occurs five times in the first five verses of John 17. Jesus changes the concept of glory from that of the world around us, and indeed from that of ancient days. The idea of glory as applied to Jesus is seen again and again in the whole of salvation.

At the start of his prayer, Jesus says, “Father, the hour has come.” We can see from this that Christ’s glory is seen in what has been called Jesus’ “appointed hour”. The appointed hour is the moment that Jesus has been moving towards in his earthly ministry, the time when he confronts the powers of Satan, evil and death on the Cross.

All the way through the Gospels, particularly in John, we’ve been aware of the hour approaching. In John 2:4, near the start of the Gospel, just before turning water into wine at a wedding feast, Jesus said to his mother, “My hour has not yet come.”

In John 7:30, Jesus’ enemies tried to seize him, but they couldn’t “because his hour had not yet come”. But now the hour has come, as Jesus foreshadowed in John 12, recording events early in Holy Week, when Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

And when the betrayal comes, when the authorities arrest Jesus, he says to them, “But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:53)

The moment of crisis has now arrived. Jesus gives himself to prayer, as the appointed hour is right upon him – the time for Jesus to be glorified.

So, how do we see God’s glory manifested? In a blazing incandescent light, an overpowering demonstration of miracles and majesty combined? No: Jesus had refused to choose that way for himself when he refused to throw himself off the temple during the temptation in the wilderness. We see God’s glory in Jesus in his life of humility, voluntarily undertaken in a mission of love to the world. Everything in the Gospel story is moving with tremendous precision to this hour of Christ’s winning of sinful humanity for himself. The glory isn’t locked away somewhere; it’s displayed in the whole of God’s plan for humanity. It finds its focus in a single individual at a critical point of history. One person holds it all together at that moment.

The glory of God is in Christ which is seen amazingly in the history of a dusty capital city in the Middle East at the time of the Roman Empire. Christ’s glory is seen in his appointed hour – his death on the Cross.

Secondly, Christ’s glory is seen in doing the will of his Father. The glory of Christ wasn’t an end in itself as he saw it. All of his life and death was dedicated to working out the will of his Father and glorifying his name. Look at verse four of John 17: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”

This is what satisfied Jesus - to do what God wanted and to get it done. For a long time, his disciples didn’t realise what this entailed. Mark 10 records that James and John asked Jesus if they could sit on his right and left hand in glory. Jesus’ reply indicates that this would involve sharing in his suffering, “Can you drink the cup that I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

James and John replied confidently that they could endure the same suffering and be “baptized with the baptism” that Jesus would be baptised with. It is clear that James and John did not understand that Jesus was referring to his suffering, rejection and death. The other disciples were annoyed with James and John, and so Jesus had to explain to them that he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life (Matthew 10:45).

Service, work, sacrifice: that was the path to glory. The true glory of God was shown on Golgotha – the place of shame and defeat. And that is where Jesus was heading.

Firstly, Christ’s glory is seen in his appointed hour – his death on the Cross. Secondly, Christ’s glory is seen in his doing the will of his Father.

And, thirdly, Christ’s glory is seen in the promise of eternal life. It’s there in the passage, in verse 2; “For you [that is the Father] granted him [that is Jesus] authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”

Eternal life isn’t simply about going to heaven when you die. In verse 3 Jesus declares: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” It is through Jesus that we can know God the Father.

This new life has already started in this world through the death of Jesus. God is bringing heaven and earth together, making creation new. Christ's resurrection is the starting point of this great work of renewal, and we can be part of it now. And this new life is available to everyone – irrespective of colour, gender, sexuality, nationality or disability.

In coming to suffer and die, Jesus divested himself of his glory and humbled himself, but then we learn from Paul’s letter to the Philippians that God has highly exalted him.

With the Cross done and accomplished, God led Jesus to the Ascension and he regained the eternal glory he has always had in his Father’s presence. But the route to glory was through humility and sacrifice.

There are of course plenty of opportunities for service in today’s world. At the Hope Café we’ve been raising money for Operation Mobilisation Moldova, working with local churches to provide support for those fleeing the war in Ukraine. In our parish there are also opportunities for service, whether it’s through Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, Christians Against Poverty, helping at Children’s Church, serving tea and coffee after the service - and many others. Let’s be willing to serve each other and our community.

The world’s concept of glory pails into insignificance besides the glory that Jesus describes in this prayer. It’s glorious when people follow the steps of the crucified Christ. What are we willing to sacrifice to follow Jesus? It is a way of life, taking up the cross. There’s glory in it, but not the glory that this world knows.

And as we look towards the final section of this chapter, headed in some bibles, “Jesus Prays for All believers,” we read that Jesus prays, in verse 22, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” We, too, can share in Christ’s glory.

If you are going through a rough time as a Christian, you can believe that God’s glory is in it. We can’t expect to follow Jesus Christ and find it a doddle. When times are hard, what is happening? We’re taking up our cross, we are following those footsteps where there is blood, but there is glory as well. Without this context colouring and shaping our lives, our achievements and human attainment amount nothing, nothing at all.

Let’s pray.

Write your words, O Lord, on our hearts today. Encourage those of us going through hard times to trust in you and to find you. Help us, as we have been bidden, to follow Christ, whose footsteps take us to glory, a glory the world knows nothing about. For your name’s sake, Amen.

[i] 3 April 2022


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