Jesus Prays for the Church (6)
“Praying for Glory” John 17:1-5; 20-24
A headline earlier this year in the NZ Herald said, “2015: The year we aim for triple World Cup glory.” The article explained, “Rugby, cricket & netball each have their world cups this year & under the towering presences of captains Richie McCaw, Brendon McCullum & Casey Kopua, each has a real chance for glory.” Well, we just missed out on winning glory in the cricket, but maybe NZ has a chance to win glory in the other two sports. What does “winning glory” mean? I guess in the sporting context we are thinking about a team or an athlete winning the top prize & becoming famous, becoming sporting heroes.
The word “glory” is found all through the Bible & in Jesus’ prayer in John 17 the word “glory” or “glorify” comes 9 times. Clearly, as used in the Bible, the word “glory” means a lot more than winning sporting glory.
1. What Is Glory?
In the Old Testament the word for glory (“kabod”) carries with it the idea “being heavy” – heavy with honour, riches, power, & majesty. In Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, the word used is “doxa” & this carries the sense of giving praise, recognition & honour.
Let us look at just a few places in the Old Testament to get a better idea of what glory means. Exodus, for example, tells the story of how God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt & how they were formed into a nation under the leadership of Moses. On one occasion, in Exodus 33:18, Moses says to God “Show me your glory.” He wanted the assurance of God’s presence with him & the people. God answered Moses right away. In Exodus 33:19 He says, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, & I will proclaim my Name, the Lord, in your presence.” God equated His glory with His goodness. Moses asked to see His glory & God said He would show Moses His goodness. In other words, when the Bible speaks of God’s glory it is not only referring to His dazzling splendour or overwhelming awesomeness, it is referring to Who He is, to His character. It is speaking of His goodness. Glory is who God is. Glory is the shining of His radiant, holy character.
Responding to Moses’ request, God proclaims His Name from the cloud saying, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate & gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love & faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, & forgiving wickedness, rebellion & sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Exodus 34:6 & 7)
What is God’s glory? It is His character, His nature, the way He relates to us, men & women. God did not give Moses a vision of His power & majesty, but rather of His love. He shows His glory in His mercy, grace, compassion, faithfulness, forgiveness & justice.
Let me give one other example from the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 16 records King David’s prayer of praise to God on the occasion the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God’s presence with His people, was brought back to Jerusalem. David prayed, “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvellous deeds among all peoples.” (v.24) Then in vrs 28 & 29 he goes on, “Ascribe [or give] to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory & strength, ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering & come before Him; worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness.”
From these verses we can get a sense of what glory is & what it means to give glory to God. His character is glorious & He is full of goodness. He is worthy of honour & praise & worship. He is holy. He alone should be worshipped & praised, for He alone is worthy.
Today as we think about the theme of glory, we discover that Jesus is the One who most perfectly displays what glory is all about. As we look at Him, we discover even more about the meaning of this word.
2. The Glory We See In Jesus
Jesus made some incredible, almost unbelievable claims. People knew He had grown up in Nazareth in the home of Joseph the carpenter. Nothing special about that! But then He had started His public ministry. In a brief 3 years His fame spread far & wide. He performed amazing miracles, healed the sick, cast out demons, & He even raised the dead. And His teaching was also amazing.
But the fact is Jesus was not simply a miracle-worker or a great teacher. He was not just a prophet telling people about God & urging them to live an upright moral life. He made incredible, unbelievable claims about Himself. He claimed He had come to earth from heaven, sent by His Father, God.
Now as His disciples listen with bated breath to Him praying to the Father the night before His crucifixion, they hear Him say, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him.” (John 17:1 & 2) And He continues in vrs 4 & 5, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
Do you see what Jesus is saying? He is saying that He shared glory with God the Father before the world began. The disciples already believed Jesus was the Messiah, the One sent to be Saviour & Deliverer. That is what the word “Christ” means. But not only is Jesus the Messiah, He is God. He existed in eternity before time began, before the creation of the universe.
John speaks about this right in the beginning of his Gospel. In John 1:1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God.” John is referring to Jesus. Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God. He existed in the beginning. He was with God & He is God.
John continues in 1:2 to speak of Jesus, “He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” So the claim of the Bible & the claim of Jesus is that He, the Son of God, was involved in creation. He never had a beginning for He existed from all eternity.
On a dark night away from the lights of the city when we look up into sky & see the myriads of stars splashed across the heavens, do we not marvel & wonder at the beauty & splendour of the universe God has made? Words like “glorious” or “glory” come into our minds. It is the same when we stand admiring a magnificent sunset or some natural wonder like the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, the Himalayas in Nepal, Mt Fuji in Japan, or the Heavenly Lake in Xinjiang. It is the same when we admire a beautiful garden full of flowers. We say, “What a glorious sight!”
But as we admire such beauty, we are reminded of the One who made all these things. He is far more glorious, far more worthy of praise. As Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Yes, the heavens are telling us something about God – who He is, His character & His power – all of which reflect His glory. John & the other disciples had come to see that Jesus was God. He was involved in that glorious creation. He is worthy of our praise & worship for glory belongs to Him.
Now, let us go back to the prayer of Jesus. In John 17:5, Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Yes, glory belongs to Jesus. Before the world was created He existed & glory belongs to Him by right.
Jesus also shows us God’s glory through His life & death & resurrection. In John 17:4 Jesus says to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” By coming to earth & by finishing the work of salvation, making a way for men & women, boys & girls, to be saved, Jesus has brought glory to God the Father. This was His life purpose, the mission for which He had come to earth. His death on the Cross for the sins of the world is perhaps the greatest display of God’s glory for it displays God’s character more than anything else. It displays God’s incredible love.
No wonder John writes, “The Word became flesh & made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One & Only, who came from the Father, full of grace & truth.” (John 1:14) We have seen His glory, says John, for He is full of grace & truth. Jesus shows God’s glory for He shows us what God is like.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6 that God “…made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” We might ask, “Where do we see the glory of God displayed?” Paul tells us, we see His glory most clearly in the face of Jesus Christ – in the wonderful magnificent Person & character of Jesus.
Jesus prays in John 17:1, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Through who He is, & through what He has done, Jesus shows us God’s glory.
So then, we come to our third point:
3. The Glory We Bring To Jesus
Not only does Jesus show us God’s glory, He wants His followers to do the same. He wants us to show God’s glory. He wants us to bring glory, honour & praise to God. Let us read again John 17:10. Jesus says to His Father, “All I have is yours, & all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.” The fact His disciples believed Him & were committed to obeying Him & serving Him brought Jesus glory.
God wants us to glorify Jesus. How is this possible? Well, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What is the chief end (or purpose) of man?” The answer is given: “to glorify God, & enjoy Him forever.” How do we glorify God? We glorify God by allowing the beauty & character of Jesus to shine through us – & in doing this we enjoy Him too, for life becomes full of meaning & purpose & joy.
Paul says, “…whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) We can ask ourselves, “Is what I am doing or saying glorifying to God?” Make it your chief purpose in life to glorify God. This is the only way to be truly happy. Honour Him with your body, your mind, your voice, your talents, your money, your time. Nothing could be more worthwhile or more fulfilling!
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told His followers, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds & praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) We bring glory to God by letting our light shine & by doing good deeds.
Another way we can bring glory to the Lord is by the way we face the trials & difficulties of life. I knew an older couple in Hong Kong – the husband was a famous conductor & his wife a concert pianist. They were not Christians & did not go to church. However, one day in a large church on Hong Kong island I was surprised to see the husband conducting the choir. His wife too was happily worshipping in the church. When I caught up with them after the service, I asked how they had come to faith. They told me it was the witness of his sister. She had lost her husband & not long after that one of her sons also died tragically. However, her incredible peace & faith in the midst of such tragedy moved them deeply. They could see her faith was real & God was real. They turned from their pride & unbelief & accepted Jesus as their Saviour. Yes, even in times of great trial, we can by God’s grace, bring glory to His name.
Let me mention one other way we bring glory to God. It is, as we were thinking last week, by living in unity as brothers & sisters in the family of God. In John 17:22 Jesus says to the Father, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”
Now for our final point:
4. The Glory Promised By Jesus
In v.24 Jesus prays, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, & to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
Earlier the same evening, Jesus made a wonderful promise to His disciples. He said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go & prepare a place for you, I will come back again & take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2 & 3) What an awesome promise! Our Lord is preparing a place for His children. Yes, heaven is a real place & there is room for all who believe. Even so, it is impossible for us to even partly appreciate how wonderful heaven really is. As another Scripture says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Not long after Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them, they heard Him praying to the Father, “I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, & to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” What He had promised to His disciples, He was telling the Father, making the promise doubly sure. This wonderful promise is for all who belong to the Lord Jesus. Heaven is our true home.
The Lord wants us to live in His presence & see His glory. What joy, what love, what peace will be ours! As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “...our light & momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” For the believer, the best is yet to be. Even death cannot separate us from the love & the purposes of God. Paul says in Colossians 3:4, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Jesus gives us the power to live a life that brings glory to Him here & now, but He also gives us hope for the future. One day we will join with all the hosts in heaven saying, “Salvation & glory & power belong to our God.” (Revelation 19:1)
I had a dear friend in Taiwan, the elder in the church where we were helping. His name was Zhi Shi-rong (支世荣). Shi-rong means, literally, “worldly glory” or “the glory of the world”. I guess when elder Zhi’s parents gave him that name, they hoped he would be successful in life & be famous or rich. However, elder Zhi became a follower of Jesus. He loved serving the Lord & was not at all interested in worldly glory. He was, instead, passionate about God’s glory. How about you? Are you aiming for sporting glory, or some other kind of worldly glory? Don’t waste your time striving for the glory this world may have on offer. Set your heart on heavenly glory & on bringing honour & praise to the Lord Jesus. Make it your aim to live for His glory, a glory that will never fade or disappoint.