Martin Luther once said: “Glory belongs to no one but God alone. It is impossible for God to share it with anyone and to make it common property. Through the evil spirit, Adam stole the glory and appropriated it to himself. In consequence, all human beings are in dis-favour together with him; nor has any vice sunk its roots so deeply into all men as has the vicious passion for glory. No one wants to be nothing or to be able to do nothing; everyone is well pleased with himself. Thence come all the trouble, unrest, and war on earth.”
The poet Thomas Campbell had his own way of summarizing the same idea. He wrote: “The combat deepens. On, ye brave, Who rush to glory, or the grave!” Glory is a trap into which we all fall, in our own way. The quest for glory, whether large or small, is to our eternal shame. Glory is something we all crave but no one understands. How important it is for us to hear not more of the world’s platitudes and assumptions about what is really glorious (like win or die), but rather the words of one who truly IS glorious.
As our text opens Jesus had just finished the words of His last great charge to His disciples. Now He lifts up His eyes to His heavenly Father and pours forth His soul in a most wonderful and inspiring prayer. It has justly been called the great sacerdotal prayer, for here Jesus appears in His work as Mediator, beseeching His heavenly Father first for Himself, then for His little band of disciples, and finally for all those that would be gathered by the proclamation of the Gospel. There is so much beauty, comfort, and power in this simple prayer and it all comes from … and goes back to … glory.
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. The Glory that Father and Son share is that we should have eternal life with them. And further, the glory of each is found squarely upon the cross!
To have eternal life is to know God by what He has done in Christ. And what Christ did, first and foremost, was die on the cross. For this is where, when the hour had finally come, the Son glorified the Father by giving up His life according to the Father’s will. Offering Himself even unto death, so that we might have eternal life in Him! The poet was wrong. It is not glory OR the grave. It is glory through the grave! But the grave is not the end, nor is it glory in itself.
4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. The glory of Christ is to give glory to the Father by the works He does on His behalf. By taking on human flesh, by dying our death and resting in our grave. By coming back to life and ascending once again to His rightful place in the heavenly realms. Here, Jesus asks to return to His previous position of glory now that the state of humiliation is nearly done. We celebrated this very thing on Thursday when this return to glory was accomplished in the Resurrection and Ascension.
Yet Jesus is not the only one who is brought glory by being called out of this world. It is now also our glory to have been called out of this world and into Christ’s truth. 6 I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
People become Christians only because the Father gives them to Jesus. Even in our calling the glory is His and never our own. We, with the disciples before us, are the Father’s, by His grace and mercy. This is the Christian’s great comfort. The Christian is the Father’s gift to Christ. And Christ’s gift in return is to keep us safe, and present us once again before the Father. He does this by giving freely of His Holy Spirit. You can see the proof in that the disciples (unlike the Pharisees) accepted Jesus’ teaching; knew His divine origin; and most importantly, believed!
9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. The glory of Christ is found in each of us. It is a giddy thought that would go straight to one’s head, except that as we have already seen, it is not by our work but His. We are His glory in that He has called us out of this world to follow Him through the glory of the cross. We are His glory in that He calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps us in the true faith, where our own desires and convictions would fail us and leave us in despair.
Jesus prays for those who know and believe that the Father gave them to the Son as a gift. These are very simple but they are profound words. Do we really believe that Jesus prays for us? Do we really believe that we became Christians only because the Father gave us to Jesus as a gift? Do we seek His glory before the world, or cling to our own? As you wrestle with these know that your Lord prays for you. The only prayer for the world (and those wrapped up in its shallow pursuit of glory) is that it (they) would stop being worldly! To pray that it would be saved through the Word that His witnesses would share.
Since we started with a word from Luther, let us go back and end the same way. “This is the reason why we so greatly extol faith: It brings me divine works, yea, the works of the Lord Christ, namely, His suffering and dying, and makes them my own. Our works are nothing in comparison. We owe Him the glory that He is everything and we are nothing.” The career of Jesus in the world is now coming to its end; He is leaving the world to return to His Father. But the disciples are still in the world, in the midst of unbelievers and enemies of the Gospel. Therefore Jesus earnestly prays (then as now) that His Father, would keep all believers in the confession of His name and in true faith to the end. God must keep the believers in the one true faith by the Word of His truth. To Him the believers of all times must look to keep them steadfast in His Word and faith, unto the end, as is His gracious and glorious will.