John 13:31 “When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”
Jesus’ glory is not like the glory our world lusts for. When I was in high school, we called the quarterback, the running backs, and the receivers–the people who handled the ball–the “glory boys.” They were the ones who got their names in the papers. CEO’s of corporations, presidents and prime ministers of nations are showered with recognition and glory because of the power that they wield.
It’s not necessarily an evil thing if some of that kind of glory should happen to come our way. Prestige, power, and pleasure were experienced by some of the believers in the Bible, and they survived. But it is tempting to let that kind of glory reign as god in our lives. One man summed it up this way, “One of the saddest pages kept by the recording angel is the record of souls damned by success.”
Being surrounded by such worldly glory can alter our understanding of God’s glory. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him”? God has prestige, power, and pleasures, this is true. He has more of these things than any human being who ever lived.
But is that what Jesus was seeking? During Jesus’ earthly ministry many tempted him to find his glory that way. His brothers encouraged him to go up to Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Tabernacles to perform some miracles (John 7:3-5). They figured that he wanted to be a famous public figure. Jesus refused. Many of Jesus’ followers wanted him to become the political King of Israel. They wanted him to return it to the good old days when Israel was the envy of the world. Jesus refused. Satan even came to Jesus and offered, “Here, I will make you an instant celebrity, if you will just jump off the temple, or I will make you the King of the world, if you will just bow down and worship me.” Jesus refused.
Religious people toy with similar ideas about bringing God glory today. “If God’s people could only get control of the power, then what a paradise of safety, morality, and plenty for all we could make of this world. What glory we would bring to God.” That thinking distracts churches from centering their ministries on the gospel of forgiveness of sins. I am in favor of ending abortion, strengthening the family, defending religious freedoms, and promoting good morals. We all need to be. But too much of Christian activism is still infected by a fascination with power. If the glory of his power were God’s main concern, then all of these world problems–and they are problems–would have been taken care of long ago.
Jesus was looking for his glory in another place. “NOW is the Son of Man glorified,” we read. What was happening now? “When he was gone…” and that “he” was Judas. Now is the Son of Man glorified, when my betrayer goes to spring his trap and sets the events of my horrible suffering in motion. Now is the Son of Man glorified, as I am abandoned by my disciples, humiliated by my people, and crucified by my rulers. Now is the Son of Man glorified, as I carry the sins of the world to my cross, and give up my life, my soul, my all in the most shameful death imaginable.
Do you understand why this is his glory? It is not because Jesus did something very brave, self-less, or even hard to do. To all the world his death looked like a huge mistake. What good could he do, how could he change things, if he were dead? But “this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). Jesus is glorified by his death because God himself, dying to save you from your sins, is the ultimate expression of God’s love for you.
And God is glorified in him. Nowhere does God identify himself by saying “God is power.” But he does say “God is love.” It is part of his very essence. Jesus reveals this most clearly when he dies for us. Such self-sacrificing love leads our hearts back to God. We can come to this God, and glorify him, for reasons unlike the worshipers of all the other gods in the world. Such love fills us with sincere trust and heartfelt love for him who loved us, and gave himself up for us.