Passion Sunday: The Glory Of God
From our gospel readings today in John 8:46-59 we read:
“Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me.”
Initially, many of the Jews who heard Jesus proclaim Himself the light of the world seemed to respond positively. “Many believed in him,” John tells us (John 8:12–30). But as our Lord continued speaking to them, it soon became clear that they did not have true saving faith but a fleeting trust based on their own ideas of what Jesus meant and not on His actual teaching. They did not understand the depth of their sin. Believing themselves to be children of Abraham and children of God, they could not accept their bondage to sin and that their true father was the devil (vss. 31–47).
In today’s passage, we see how these same Jews accused Jesus of being a Samaritan and of having a devil Himself (v. 48). The reason behind their calling Him a Samaritan seems to be the common Jewish view that the Samaritans were unclean and ignorant of true religion. Their thought would be something like this: “Only a demon-possessed Samaritan would have the nerve to accuse Jews, the true children of God, of not being the children of God.” In any case, Jesus rejected their accusation, saying that He could not have a demon because He honored God. And in honoring God, He was not seeking His own glory.
Jesus was not seeking to advance Himself. He was concerned only for the truth and for His Father’s will, and His Father’s will is to glorify the Son (vss. 49–50). The Jews were rejecting Him at their peril.
In the prayer that the Lord taught His disciples to pray, the very first request is, "Hallowed be Thy Name." This was the primary longing in the heart of the Lord Jesus. He prayed "Father, glorify Thy Name," and chose the way of the Cross since that was to the Father's glory (Jn. 12:27-28). One supreme passion governed the life of the Lord Jesus - the Father's glory. Everything He did was for the Father's glory. There were no separate sacred and secular compartments in His life. Everything was sacred. He made stools and benches for the glory of God as much as He preached and healed the sick for the glory of God. Every day was equally sacred to Him; and money spent on the necessities of daily living was as sacred as money given to God's work or to the poor. Jesus lived in perfect rest of heart at all times, because He sought only the Father's glory and cared only for His Father's approval. He lived before the face of His Father and did not care for the honour or praise of men. Jesus said that "The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of Him who sent him is true, and in Him there is no falsehood. " (Jn. 7:18).
The soulish Christian, that is the one who lives a soul life, however much he may appear or pretend to be seeking the glory of God, is really, deep down, interested in his own honour.
Man comprises of spirit, soul and body. It is in the spirit that a tremendous glory dwells when Christ comes in. But a soul life hinders that glory from shining forth.
What is meant by the soulish Christian?
Soulish Christians may be good people who are eager to witness and serve the Lord. But their way of doing all of this is very human. They don't understand God's ways. God says, "My ways are not your ways. As the heaven is higher than the earth, so My ways are above your ways" (Isa.55:8-9). There are human methods by which we can try and reach lost souls, and human methods of serving God.
David once transported the ark of God on a bullock cart - the way the Philistines once did it (2 Sam.6:3; 1 Sam.6:11). That was a good idea - to save the Kohathites from the burden of carrying it on their shoulders for that long journey. But that was not God's way - and that was why God brought judgment on the way. As the ark was being transported, the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, and a man named Uzzah took hold of the ark. God’s anger burned against Uzzah and He struck him down and he died.
Whenever Christians adopt a human way of doing God's work, there will be confusion and some times even severe consequences. Why? Because the glory of God will be absent.
The soulish life also refers to human power - where we depend on human resources. We can imagine that we can do God's work better.
Abraham is an example of this, as we saw last week.
In Genesis 15:1–6 Abraham is discouraged because he and Sarah have no children, no heir to fulfill the promises of becoming a great nation (12:2). There is only Eliezer the slave. But God says in verse 4, "This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir." God's intention was to give Abraham a son and an heir when it looked humanly impossible so that God would be glorified by it.
But in Genesis 16 Abraham and Sarah weaken in their faith for a time, they devise a plan by which they will use their own resources to help God fulfill his promise. Sarah gives Hagar, her handmaid, to Abraham so she can bear him a son (16:2). And in Genesis 16:15 it says, "Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bore to him Ishmael."
So when Paul says in Galatians 4:23 that Ishmael was born "according to the flesh," it means that he was the product of self-reliance. Abraham ceased to rely on God's power to fulfill his word and instead relied on his own power and ingenuity to get a son. In other words God was not glorified. God rejected what Abraham was able to produce on his own.
Jesus on the other hand, never sought any honour for Himself. The glory of God was seen in Jesus' love for all men. Jesus never despised anyone for his poverty, ignorance, ugliness or lack of culture. He specifically stated that the whole world and all that it contained was not as valuable as one human soul (Mk. 8:36). That was how He valued men.
Consider the glory of God seen in Jesus' speech. Jesus never belittled others or passed remarks or jokes about them that hurt them. He never made any subtle wounding statements. He never discussed the shortcomings of His disciples behind their backs. Jesus used His tongue to encourage and admonish others, thereby making His tongue an instrument of life in God's Hand. He used His tongue to speak soothing words to the weary (Isa. 50:4), and also as a sword to cut down the proud and the haughty (Isa. 49:2). How greatly encouraged the Roman centurion and the Syrophenician woman must have felt when they heard Jesus praise them for their faith, publicly (Mt. 8:10; 15:28). The sinful woman who was praised for her love (Lk. 7:47) and Mary of Bethany who was praised for her sacrificial offering (Mk. 14:6) would never have forgotten the words of Jesus. How strengthened Peter must have been through Jesus' assurance that He would pray for him (Lk. 22:32). Just a few words, but what strength and encouragement they conveyed.
Many others must have heard words from Jesus' lips that lifted their weary spirits, for it says in Isaiah 50:4 that Jesus listened daily to His Father's voice so that He might have an appropriate word for the weary souls that came across His path each day. And because he only said what the Father wanted said, and because he only did what the Father willed, The Father was glorified through Jesus, and Jesus was glorified by the Father.
That which originates in man's cleverness and is carried out through human ingenuity and talents, will always end in glorifying man. That which begins in the soul will only glorify the creature. But there will be nothing in heaven or in earth in the ages of eternity that will bring honour or glory to any man. Everything that survives time and enters the portals of eternity will be what was from God, through God and to God.
In conclusion let me say:
All things were created by God to bring glory to Him. This is not because God selfishly desires our glory. He is completely self-sufficient in Himself, and there is nothing that we can offer Him that can add to His sufficiency. When He calls us to seek His glory, it is because that is the way for our own highest good.