The God Who Kneels – Day 32

Humble Glory

“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.”

                                                                     John 13:31

The whole passion narrative is about the glory of God from foot-washing to the cross. The upper room may seem like an unlikely place to bring up glory, but this heavenly theme has been on Jesus’ mind throughout the ordeal. Earlier in the week, when he predicted his death, he said,

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. . . . Now, my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:23-27

These words invoke an immediate response from heaven. A voice declares, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” To the crowd the voice sounded like thunder, but to Jesus it was the Father’s confirmation. Between the Father and the Son there is no separation other than that which will be assumed on the cross—our sin. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are together in this mission.

With Judas gone, Jesus speaks of glory. The beginning of the end has been set in motion and true to form Jesus understands this critical turning-point theologically.

“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.”

There is no lingering battle in Jesus’ mind over Judas. Judas is gone and Jesus moves on.  Remorse and resentment are not allowed to control what comes next. May Christ’s example embolden us to move on when we have been betrayed. Jesus doesn’t even allow Judas to ruin the evening. His bold statement, “Now is the Son of Man glorified. . .” is another “get-behind-me-Satan” moment. The devil’s machinations are no match for the Divine momentum of grace that triumphs over sin and death.

This declaration underscores the mutuality and immediacy of God’s glory. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are working together as one. It is this Divine partnership, this harmony of purpose, mission and accomplishment, that is truly glorious. A theology of the cross and a theology of glory are inseparable. There is no glory apart from the cross and no cross apart from God’s glory. John says as much in his prologue: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“Full of grace and truth,” is the best way to capture the glory of God in Christ. This glory extends from the upper room when Jesus was on his knees washing the disciples’ feet to heaven’s throne when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. His glory is manifest when he was laid in a manger and when he was seated at the right hand of God the Father. The glory of God is manifest whenever and wherever the will of God is realized. Paradoxically, Judas’ departure from the upper room triggered in Jesus’ praying imagination the very real sensation of being in the center of the Father’s will.

The glory of God is what obedience feels like, even when it lands you in the middle of a difficult situation. God’s glory is far from being incompatible with suffering and tribulation. On the contrary, the glory of God often shines brightest in times of greatest pain and anguish. This glory is found in the humility that ranges from foot-washing to the cross, because in the midst of this passion, God looks upon the disciple with favor. The Aaronic benediction captures the meaning of God’s glory: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

In some theologies, the glory of God comes only at the end. God’s glory is found in the realized eschatology of our new, glorified and resurrected bodies and in the final judgment. This division between a theology of the cross and a theology of glory came about as a reaction to ecclesial triumphalism, when “the glory of God” became an excuse for lavish displays of material wealth and grand cathedrals. Luther defended the theology of the cross against a church enraptured by worldly power and glory. A modern variation on this abuse of God’s glory is evident in a prosperity gospel that claims that Jesus died on the cross so that Christians can realize their dreams of financial success. When the glory of God is co-opted by visions of worldly power and personal success it is yanked from its biblical roots and severed from its tie to the humility of the cross.

Jesus spoke too much of glory in the midst of suffering for us to ignore God’s glory’s deep roots in humility. His words capture the immediacy of God’s glory. “Now” is the Son glorified. The glory of God is not reserved for the future, but is experienced in the present as an immediate sign of God’s favor. And then we read, that the Son will be glorified “at once.” This is the glory associated with humility and obedience. God’s glory shines in the crowning of the King of kings and in the cross of Christ. The immediacy of God’s favor and the blessing of God’s glory in the midst of a life marked by the cross is the new way to follow Jesus. The God who kneels inspires a fresh look at the glory of God.


Upper Room Reflection

When you have been dealt a blow are you able to bounce back and stay focused?

Why is the power of resentment so destructive in the life of a follower of Jesus?

How is the prosperity gospel a distortion of the glory of God?

How does God’s glory rooted in humility impact discipleship?