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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Born to Glorify God

John 17:1-5

            A woman went to a pet store and purchased a parrot to keep her company. She took her new pet home but returned the next day to report, “That parrot hasn't said a word yet.” The storekeeper asked, “Does it have a mirror? Parrots like to be able to look at their reflection in a mirror.” So, she bought the mirror and returned home.

            The next day she was back because the bird still wasn't speaking. The storekeeper said, “What about a ladder? Parrots enjoy walking up and down a ladder.” So, she bought the ladder and returned home.

            Sure enough, the next day she was back with the same story - still no talk. “Does the parrot have a swing? Birds enjoy relaxing on a swing.” She bought the swing and went home.

            The next day she returned to the store to return the bird. The storekeeper, unwilling to surrender a refund, said to the bird, “Come on, little birdie, don’t you have anything to say to the nice lady?” To their mutual surprise, the bird replied, “Yeah. Don't you sell any BIRD FOOD in this store?”

            We can feel this way during the holidays.  We get ourselves turned around chasing trivial things, forgetting the life-giving things, the truly important spiritual aspects of the season. For a Christian, the most important thing all year ‘round is God's glory.Everything we do should result in people thanking, praising, and glorifying God.  (Steve Jones, To God be the Glory)

            Jesus set the example for is in this way as well.  His biggest concern just before His arrest was for the glory of God to be manifest in His disciples.  As we examine part of Jesus’ final prayer at the Last Supper, we will see how glorifying God is one of the reasons Jesus came to Earth.

Jesus was born to glorify God the Father on Earth, as He did in Heaven.

CONTEXT = This is a prayer in which Jesus consecrates Himself for sacrifice and His disciples for continued service after His resurrection.  But it is also a teaching, and that is why this lengthy prayer has been recorded, where Jesus’ other prayers are much briefer.  (Except for the part where we ask God to forgive our sins, this prayer contains all the parts of the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s as if Jesus has adapted His model prayer to this final prayer.)  There is a lot of theology at work here.  For our purpose, we’re going to stress verse four as another place where Jesus explains God’s purpose in the Incarnation.  The preceding chapters have been Jesus’ teaching at the Last Supper; the following chapters will detail His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection.

1. Jesus’ final prayer with His disciples. (1)

            He said, “THE HOUR HAS COME.”  HOUR is not sixty minutes, but the appointed time (Jesus used this expression twice already in John, 12:23 and 13:1), the moment when the plan of God was set into motion.  This was Jesus’ longest and last prayer with His disciples.

            John wrote, JESUS LOOKED UP TO HEAVEN.  This was a typical prayer posture as practiced in Judaism.  (Psalms 123 begins, “I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.”  This was an even more appropriate posture for Jesus, given the close fellowship he had with God, that Heaven was His true home, and that He would soon express His eagerness to return there.

            The purpose of this prayer is to give His disciples final instructions and to prepare them for life after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It looks beyond the immediate events of the HOUR to all that will occur in their lifetimes afterward.  It encompasses us in the future.

2. The cycle of glory. (1-5)

            Glory flowed from the Father to the Son and back again. (1)  To GLORIFY God is to worship Him, to make Him known.  What did it mean, this exchange of glory?  Jesus asked for GLORY in the form of the Father’s assistance, enabling Him to cause others to worship the Father.

            GLORY includes every visible manifestation of God, who is Spirit.  God becomes visible in extraordinary things like miracles, and in ordinary things, like worship or teaching. Jesus asked God for His power to be manifest in Him in a way that proves the Father’s presence with Him.  When people sense that, worship of the Father will be the result.

            Like glory, authority flowed from the Father to the Son. (2-3) YOU HAVE GIVEN [Me] AUTHORITY OVER EVERYONE.  This includes, presumably, authority over Judas and the people he would be leading to arrest Jesus. This fits with Matthew 26:53, where Jesus, at His arrest, said, “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” This statement shows Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested and surrendered His life on the cross; no one forced Him to do so.  Jesus would repeat this claim to AUTHORITY after His resurrection in Matthew 28:19, where He said, “ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN ME.”

            The use of His authority specified in v. 2 was the most important act: giving ETERNAL LIFE to His people.  While doing the WORK the Father sent Him to do, Jesus did not stray from the Father’s will.  He did only as instructed.  In the matter of salvation, this means that ETERNAL LIFE is given only to the EACH ONE the Father had GIVEN HIM (10:27-28). 

            Verse three explains verse two: THE WAY to obtain ETERNAL LIFE is to KNOW God the Father and God the Son, whom the Father has SENT TO EARTH.  Jesus never sought GLORY for Himself.  Instead, He worked in every way to glorify the Father.  He did this so people could receive ETERNAL LIFE as a gift from God the Father.

            The word KNOW here is not only abstract knowledge or a belief or anything secondhand.  It is personal experience, a personal relationship with God.  You cannot know God the Sender without knowing Jesus, whom He has sent.

            The cycle of GLORY completed; glory flowed from the Son to the Father. (4)  Jesus was sent to Earth with a job to do; it is the matter of ETERNAL LIFE in vs. 2-3.  Jesus glorified the Father by doing that work.  This is what Jesus said in John 5:14, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”  The primary work of Jesus on Earth was about to take place: His death and resurrection.  His other works were teaching and doing miracles.

            Jesus prayed the Father would restore the Son to His former glory. (5)  Knowing that He had but a few hours of life in this world left, Jesus expressed an eagerness here to return to Heaven.  This is exactly what happened, as explained in Hebrews 12:2, “We [endure hardship] by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

            Jesus referred here to His preincarnate glory, the glory of Heaven which He gave up being born into this world.  This is a great big theological concept, hard to wrap our heads around, but an essential part of our beliefs.

Jesus was born to glorify God the Father on Earth, as He did in Heaven.

            In the latter part of 1971, an American astronaut names James Irwin wrote a book entitled, Moon Walk, which described how he had once left a beautiful and hospitable planet called Earth (on July 26, 1971), and by way of a special vehicle (Apollo 15), had, thirteen days later, touched down upon a dangerous and totally inhospitable planet known as the moon. For three days he walked its rough surface and then returned home.

            If rightly understood, the incarnation could well be entitled, God’s Earth Walk, for it relates the amazing story of how Jesus Christ once left a beautiful and blessed place known as Heaven, where He had constantly enjoyed being worshipped by all the angels (Heb. 1:6), and by way of a special vehicle (the body being prepared for Him in Mary’s womb), had touched down upon a sin-loving and God-hating planet called Earth. For the next thirty-three-plus years He traveled its dusty roads, agreeing to eat our food, to drink our water, to breathe our air, to go to the cross and have His face covered with our spittle, and His ears filed with our curses in order to save us from our sins! THIS IS THE STORY AND GLORY OF THE INCARNATION!

            In a December, 2021 podcast, Jerry Hendrix offered this explanation of the Incarnation, “Humans have both a material and an immaterial nature, but they are not thereby two persons.  My brain weighs a certain amount, but my mind weighs nothing. This is not a contradiction, because I am speaking of two different aspects of my personhood. This analogy is not perfect, since the incarnation is a singular and unparalleled fact that differs from the merely human relationship of body and mind.

            ‘Both my body and mind are finite. There is no union of the divine and the human in my person, as in the case of the incarnation since I am entirely human. Nevertheless, this helps explain how Jesus’ deity and humanity can coexist in the same person without contradiction. I am two substances (mind and body) that nevertheless make up my one person.”

            The Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). “But [Christ] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:7–8).

            While a student at the Moody Bible Institute my Christian service assignment one semester was to conduct a Bible class for a group of junior boys and girls in the south side of Chicago. In those days I was totally inexperienced in teaching (especially children) and was somewhat nervous as I prepared (for the first time) to tell them the Christmas story. How could I make them understand what really happened at Bethlehem? What illustration could I use? As it turned out I had little need to worry, for one of the little girls in that group offered one of the most precious and profound bottom line statements ever heard on planet earth regarding the incarnation. With incredible simplicity she said: “At Bethlehem, Mary was God’s envelope, and Jesus was God’s letter!” It turns out the letter was a love letter.

RESOURCES:

            Parrot story and comment adapted from https://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-outlines/46950/to-god-be-the-glory-7-of-7/, retrieved on 6 December 2023.

            Grant R. Osborne, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 13, The Gospel of John, 2007, pp. 239-243.

            Raymond E. Brown, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 29A, The Gospel According to John, 1970, pp. 739-754.

            Apollo 15 and little girl illustrations from https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1019&context=second_person, retrieved on 8 December 2023.

            Terry Hendrix quote from https://www.harmonycc.org/podcast/the-incarnation-was-necessary-for-a-complete-salvation/, retrieved on 8 December 2023.

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