Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.
I hope you found our trip through the Lord’s prayer over the last few weeks helpful. That teaching on prayer was provoked by the disciples’ question, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” We read frequently in the Gospels of Jesus withdrawing to pray, both before difficult decisions and after demanding ministry. There was something in the quality of those prayer that inspired imitation. We also have records of the specific word’s Jesus used in these prayers and in some cases the words he received from God the Father in return. I’d like to look at a couple of these as Lent ends, and we turn our attention more fully towards Holy Week and Easter.
There is an interesting exchange in John, Chapter 12 where some people from out of town ask some of the disciples if they could meet with Jesus. When Jesus is informed about this it provokes both a theological reflection and later on in verse 27 this prayer, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name!” It then records a voice came from heaven saying, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” This theme of glory pops up again a chapter later when Judas leaves to betray Jesus to the authorities. You may remember attributing glory to God is one of the themes at the end of the Lord’s prayer as well.
In the Lord’s prayer the idea is more to do with giving God credit. In this prayer it has more to do with revealing God’s character. We believe that Jesus is God’s definitive revelation of himself. Jesus himself said as much when he said, “I and the Father are one.” It gives the lie to the idea that thinking of Jesus as divine was a later invention of the church long after his death. From the context of the various statements he made and the furious reaction of the religious leaders in response, we know they were interpreting his claims as blasphemy. “How can you, a mere man, claim to be God,” they said on one occasion. Jesus knew exactly what he was saying and they knew exactly what he meant.
But we can go deeper and ask, if Jesus is God, when does he most look like God? The miracles of healing would be a good candidate, but Jesus never uses the word glory around those. Similarly, the embracing of the outcast, particularly those defined as religiously unclean, would appeal to modern sensibilities. It might be in the clarity of his moral teaching, based as it mostly is on the laws of the Old Testament, but again, no glory is mentioned here either.
Where glory does come in is where Jesus turns his face towards Jerusalem and imminent execution. For Jesus, the greatest revelation of the nature of God is to be seen in his life ebbing away, nailed to a cross between two criminals. These are not the dynamics of power we are used to. The is not the power dynamics playing out between Vladimir Putin and the President of China in their recent state visit. The supreme glory of God is revealed in self-sacrificial love. Jesus saw his whole life as leading up to this moment. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified says Jesus, just before his prayer to be delivered from it. He had witnessed crucifixions. He knew the real cost. Christians have had long arguments about the mechanism of this event, but what is clear is that Jesus’ death effects something, its not simply an exemplar of sacrifice. Something is to go on here in the moral economy of the universe. Justice and mercy are to be held together in almost unbearable tension. This is a revelation of God that is simply beyond philosophical reasoning. The very creator of the universe is to give himself for the re-creation not just of broken human lives but a universe out of joint as well.
Well might Jesus use the word glory of this event. This is the point from which forgiveness and redemption flow backwards and forwards in time. This is the event through which we can be forgiven and our relationship with God restored. This is supreme power shown in powerlessness.
There is much on our world that causes us to question whether God loves us. It is the glory of the cross that in the midst of the mystery is God’s definitive answer, “Yes!”