Glory

Glory

TEXT: John 17:1-3,6-11,22-26

Have you ever known that someone was praying for you? How did that make you feel? What if that someone was Jesus? Wouldn’t that be even more amazing? That’s just what John 17 describes: Jesus praying for his disciples and “those also who believe in me through their word.” (v.20) That’s you and me! Today as we continue moving toward Easter in the Gospel of John we are going to look at this special prayer Jesus prayed. His prayer included prayers for himself: “Father, glorify your Son” (v.1) But we are going to focus on his prayers for his followers, including us.

Glory

Before we look at Jesus’ prayer for us I want to talk about the word ‘glory’ or the verb form ‘glorify’. I wonder what you think of when you hear that word here. Maybe a bright and shining aura – “I want to see Jesus in all his glory” – that’s kind of what I picture, a glowing Jesus. But that’s not really what it is. Light is a good metaphor for glory and in some cases glory can be bright. But glory is not just visual; that’s just the easiest part to understand. But music can be glorious. It can extend beyond the senses; love can be glorious. It is somewhat related to fame or good reputation: we talk about an athlete or rock star attaining “fame and glory.” The idea behind the earthly and godly version of the word is that something or someone is great and the knowledge of that greatness spreads far and wide. The sun is not glorious just because it is bright, but because its brightness on a clear day covers the land as far as the eye can see. An athlete has achieved ‘glory’ when everyone knows his or her name. We can sometimes think of glory with some negative connotations. There’s an old word, ‘vainglory,’ which recognizes that sometimes vanity or self-preoccupation comes with glory or the pursuit of glory. But that is the warped human version of it. God cannot be vain any more than the sun can be. God IS truly great and holy and just and loving and compassionate and wise. That’s why you read in Revelation that God (and Jesus) are worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.

So, that’s a bit of what is meant by glory. How is it used in this prayer?

Jesus begins the prayer asking the Father to “glorify the Son, that the Son may glorify [the Father].” (v.1) Jesus is praying that the world may come to see and know the Father through his life, ministry, and death. If Jesus is glorified, God will be glorified. And that becomes the basis of the prayers for us that follow.

 “I have been glorified in them” (v.10)

In verse 6 Jesus says, “I have manifested Your name to those you gave me out of the world.” Jesus has taught them, lived life among them, demonstrated the power of God through miracles, and is about to give his life. And they have followed and believed. He goes on to say in verse 10, “I have been glorified in them.”

Jesus has been glorified in them and in the lives of all who follow and believe. Remember where Jesus started? Jesus prayed for himself that God would be glorified in him. Now that prayer is extended to his followers… that God would be glorified in them so that they might glorify the Father, too. Again, Jesus isn’t praying that you and I will take on a Heavenly glow. He is praying that our lives would be a living witness to who God is and what God has done.

In verse 11, he also prays for God’s protection and for unity: “Holy Father, keep them in your name… that they may be one even as we are one.” That’s proven to be one of our greatest challenges, with Christians fragmenting and fighting. Jesus must have known this would be one of our greatest struggles.

Glory = Spreading the Word

In the past when I’ve preached or taught on this chapter, I often focus on verses 12-21. It describes where we are to locate ourselves as followers of Christ. We are not to remove ourselves from the world, barricading ourselves into religious enclaves and with those outside described as the enemy. We are not to become so enmeshed in the world that we are indistinguishable from it. Rather, we are sent INTO the world to live lives distinct and honoring to God. Jesus prays in verse 18, “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them [my followers] into the world.” He goes on to pray that his followers be ‘sanctified’ – not holier-than-thou, but distinct and honoring to God. He goes on to pray again for unity in v.21, then gets to the purpose at the end of that same verse: “…so that the world may believe that you sent me.”

In verse 25-26 he prays, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known you…. I have made your name known to them, and will make it known…” This is essentially what it means that Jesus be glorified. Jesus came into the world so that God might be made known. And he shared this truth and this Good News with his followers and all who believed. Now we carry that same Good News – that same GLORY – to the whole world “so that the world may believe.” (v.21) Glory isn’t about us; it is about God.

And it’s not just that the world might believe; it is also that the world might know “the love with which [the Father] loved.” (v.26)

This Little Light

Now I said that glory was not just light. It is the greatness of God revealed particularly to us through the Son. And we serve as witnesses to that same glory, spreading it through word and action, through truth and acts of love.

However, light IS a helpful metaphor to understand glory. That is one reason John describes Jesus in the first chapter of his gospel as “The Light of the World.” Jesus came into the world to reveal the glory of God: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

All this is capture in an amazingly simple and understandable way in a song many of us learned as children.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

The song goes on to say “Hide it under a bushel/basket… no! I’m gonna let it shine.” That’s just what Jesus prayed for you and me, that we would not hide the glory of God passed on to us through Christ, but that we’d shine brightly with the glory of God out in the world that God loves. That’s our mission; that’s our calling; that’s Jesus’ prayer for us. Amen.

Some Music Used

  • Preludes
    • Jesus, Name Above All Names – GSPC Worship Team, 2013
    • To God Be the Glory – GSPC Choir, 2013
    • What a Beautiful Name – GSPC Choir, 2019
    • Glory to God (Bean/Gray) – GSPC Choir, 2019
    • The Steadfast Love of the Lord – Linda Jenkins, piano (live)
  • He Saved Us to Show His Glory (Tommy Walker)
  • OFFERTORY: Lord of Peace, choir
  • In My Life (Be Glorified)
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