Philip Casmer

Glory to God?

by Philip Casmer on May 15th, 2022
John 13:31-35

In his seventh chapter, Daniel the prophet recorded the vision he saw at night, the sea and four devastating beasts, rising up from the deep to bring destruction and ruin. But the vision doesn’t end there…then arrives the Ancient of Days with his thrones – gleaming white, brilliant, his throne blazing with fire on wheels over a river of flowing fire that burns out and swallows up all those terrible beasts. You understand true might – however fearsome the beasts, they’re like stuffed animals before his power. And just when you begin to grasp that… on the clouds of heaven, comes “one like a Son of Man”.  And this one walks right into the presence of the Almighty and receives, not a rebuke, not a rejection, but dominion, glory, and a kingdom where all people serve him. And, this power and rule of his is not for a generation or until he dies but it’s everlasting – won’t die, won’t be destroyed – not ever. If ever there was a thing “glorious”, that’s it. Right? To walk into the presence of the most almighty and deserve affirmation and almighty, endless power? 

And yet, this very one says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified…” He says “now” and I say, “Really?” Because “now” – he’s sitting at the table with his friends in a large, upper room, giving his last will and testament and that seems far from glorious. It seems a question you have to ask, “Now?” – because “when he had gone” in v.31 means “when Judas had gone”, which means we’re in that upper room on Maundy Thursday and Jesus had just concluded with Judas that he had evil business to be about and he ought to get down to it – handing Jesus over to be crucified. And out Judas had gone into that dark night, and the Son of Man, visionary recipient of all divine power, says he is glorified “then”, in this kind of a “now”.

Maybe you caught the feeling as it was read and you thought? “Now, wait a minute, we’re in Easter – with the joy of the resurrection. We’ve run with the women to tell, been in the locked room and with Thomas, we’ve touched Jesus’ side, eaten breakfast with him on the shore… Why make this pitstop back at the night before Jesus died, when he looks to be crucified?” Because it’s absolutely fitting. 

The Episcopal priest, Fleming Rutledge says it in her book The Crucifixion. “The crucifixion is the touchstone of Christian authenticity, the unique feature by which everything else, including the resurrection, is given its true significance…The resurrection is, precisely, the vindication of a man who was crucified… [T]he crucifixion marks out Christianity as something definitively different in the history of religion.  It is in the crucifixion that the nature of God is truly revealed” (p. 44). The nature of God – like, John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that he would give his Son [in this way]…” So that, in a “now” like this one, Jesus says the time has come to show that love. Jesus’ sacrifice will make visible his obedience to God and his love for people. 

And it’s glory all locked up front to back: “the Son of Man has been glorified—God has been glorified” (v. 31)—“If God has been glorified—God will also glorify him (the Son of Man)—will glorify him immediately” (v. 32). He says it in past tense, “has been glorified,” – even though it hasn’t been accomplished yet – it is Jesus’ decision, already made, to be obedient to the Father’s will even to death on a cross. They are one in mission and, in Jesus’ action, his father is glorified. And looking to the future, “[God] will also glorify [Jesus]…immediately” when Jesus, through his resurrection and ascension, takes his rightful place with the Father. But it’s for us…

Notice he doesn’t wander off in fights of glory but grounds it; stays with his “little children”, draws us in to understand. He says that the work he’s doing and the place he’s going to do it is a place for him alone – we can’t follow there. (v.33) Jesus Christ the perfect man – alone gives his life as the sacrifice for sins. On the cross Jesus will open the door to eternity (John 3:14-15). On the cross Jesus will draw all people to himself (John 12:32). And after his cross he promises, “I’ll come back to take you with me…”, and “because I live, you will live also” (14:19). So, it’s good that we are here… “now” – back at the cross. Because “now” in the love of the Son of Man, here is glory to God as his loving will for you is done.

But, as you saw, that glorification is meant for something. There is glory to God also now when you love.  Jesus calls it a new command in v.34. But we might argue this isn’t a new idea. After all, Jesus had affirmed it earlier, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your [everything]’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” And Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:27-28) A command. 

And that is the same, “That you should love one another…hold love toward one another,” literally. Then, like the man who spoke those words to Jesus, we assess whether we are, all it means, and this is hard, to love one another – there are things we love. Even if we delimit it. Let’s toss out the hardest one – like “Love your enemies” because sometimes terrible; or even all Lutherans because there are some I don’t think deserve to actually wear that name. Let’s just go here – WELSy people – right here in my own church. Except…I don’t like all of you all the time – you know? Love – the people with B.O. – you ever been in a grade school classroom in the hot afternoon… Love – the people who say things that are offensive a little or who demand this or that or who question everything you do? Love – the people who make choices I think are dumb or who think what I choose is “dangerous”? I don’t know…to me, sometimes, all that doesn’t sound that great.

And I probably should use the word “glorious”, because that’s really the question in my sin, isn’t it? Just like I might think Jesus’ characterization of the “now” where he’s going to die is not the most glorious thing, so I do think all the time about all the situations where the best and the greatest, the choicest of my desires is not present and I say, “That’s not glory…” And, “That’s not for me…” and maybe, “I’m not going to love her…”

But, that’s why this command is different. It’s actually not about me. It actually starts in a place regardless of me – in the will of God from eternity. But theologically/technically it’s not regardless of me – actually, it’s regardless of my poor desires and rotten sins, that I was an enemy – but regarding me and about me, “God so loved the world…” And his Son came and he died – he died particularly for my sins and my attitudes and my selfishness – to draw me into the glory of God. 

In Easter, we dare not run from the inglorious cross, but cling to it, for here is true glory as Jesus shows God’s undeserved love to us. By which the risen Jesus can frame life as it is when he says, Just as I have loved you, so also you should love one another.”

Now that…that’s a whole new thing. That is like this… The word Jesus uses for love is αγαπη – it’s the undeserved love of God, the love of will – God chooses to love regardless of who you are. It’s different than the word φιλια – like Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. That word is more like the affections you have – where over time I grew into love with my wife so that I actually like her and I don’t have those feelings for all of you – appropriately. I think it’s interesting and fitting – you know, Jesus doesn’t say, “Have affection for one another…” As in, “Really like Bob – like his personality and his teeth and his choices and just feel it.” Because that would be weird and I couldn’t do it in some cases. But that’s not what Jesus commands you – to have affections toward others, that you generate feelings/approval/. No – he says, “Love one another…hold onto love for one another – just as I have loved you.” That is, knowing that, by sacrificing everything himself, he chose to make you his own. Now you choose to love likewise – to sacrifice for one another, even and especially for those unloveable. 

And that won’t be for my glory, not usually now. Most often it might feel inglorious in the moments. To hold my tongue when my sarcastic words will not serve – and so to love. To give help when not every aspect of so and so’s life meets my approval – and so to love. To let the honor go or the winning pass to another – and so to love. And, actually, probably a thousand other ways that will differ if you live in Oconomowoc or Africa, if you’re rich or poor, if you’re a mom or a friend. So it’s not most useful to list them; Jesus doesn’t. And maybe we’d rather translate it, “A new principle I give you”, the sign under which we live. By his cross he reset life: we have been loved – in the same way let us do…

And that will be very different from the world around. In fact, empowered by God’s Spirit, filled with Jesus’ love, that will be the kind of thing the self-glorifying world just doesn’t do itself – and so, sees. And it’ll make them ask, “Why do you? And how…” And, having loved much, maybe you’ll have the opportunity – to acquaint them with the one who loved most: the Son of Man who exercised love in the “now” so that you and I – now, later, tomorrow, always – in his victory might just freely choose to love one another. And, because of him, now or later, in you and me, it will all be glory to God

 

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

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