Today is Good Friday, the day on which Jesus was crucified. Prior to this, as Jesus sat with his disciples in the upper room, he said something in his prayer to the Father that calls for our serious and joyful consideration – “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Continue reading . . .
Today is Good Friday, the day on which Jesus was crucified. Prior to this, as Jesus sat with his disciples in the upper room, he said something in his prayer to the Father that calls for our serious and joyful consideration – “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
The disciples had already seen the glory of Jesus in one sense. In John 1:14 the apostle said, “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” But this “glory” was the glory of his lowly service, his humble suffering, his willingness to stoop down and touch lepers and heal them, his willingness to endure mockery and spitting and ultimately crucifixion. They had also seen his glory in the signs and wonders he performed. But the “glory” spoken of here in John 17:24 is that of his exalted grandeur, his majestic power and beauty and authority.
Three of them, Peter, James, and John, were witnesses of his “glory” in a way that none of the others were. They were with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration. Peter described it this way in his second epistle:
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).
And John was given a glimpse of his glory while he was on the island of Patmos. In Revelation 1:12-16 the risen and glorified Christ appears to John who, when he saw him, “fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17a).
All of us today, in a certain sense, “behold” the “glory” of Jesus Christ as we see him in Scripture and in his actions in the world. This is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18a).
But none of these experiences comes close to what Jesus is talking about here in John 17. John is describing for us the unmediated, unqualified splendor of Christ Jesus, the direct sight of the immeasurable and exalted beauty and grandeur of who Jesus really is. And that is something that Jesus wants to show us. He wants us to be “with him” so that we might “see” him and his glory.
Don’t be misled by this. Jesus isn’t saying that all we will do is “see” his glory. When you see something glorious, when you encounter and are stunned by something beautiful, two things happen instantly. First, you feel a deep and abiding and overwhelming joy and satisfaction in your soul, indeed, throughout your whole being. This is what David was talking about in Psalm 16:11 when he said that being in God’s presence brings “fullness of joy” and being at God’s right hand produces in us “pleasures forevermore.”
Nothing we have experienced thus far in this life can compare with the sort of ecstatic exhilaration that Jesus is talking about in John 17:24. I’ve seen some beautiful things: paintings, human faces, sunsets, colors, expansive night skies filled with innumerable stars. But not all of these sights can collectively produce in my heart the incomparable joy and delight and fascination that will be mine (and yours) when we finally set our eyes on the glory of Jesus!
We can come pretty close to it in this life. The Apostle Peter, who saw Jesus with his own eyes, who actually saw a preview of the glory of Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration, nevertheless said this in his first epistle:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
But this “inexpressible” and “glory-filled” joy that we experience now, in this life, is a mere pittance, a drop in an infinite ocean, of the joy that we will experience when we actually “see” the glory of Jesus in the new heavens and new earth.
This is the same thing John had in mind when he said this in 1 John 3:2-3,
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
The possession of such hope is the strongest imaginable incentive to purity of life. It is no passing fancy; it is a hope securely fixed upon him. Simply stated: the Christian hope is incompatible with moral indifference.
The words purify and pure stress the personal, internal aspect of purification. The emphasis is on one's sensitivity to sin, the tendency to shrink away from all contamination. It is an intense, inner purification from sin because of a deep sensibility to it.
In Revelation 22:3-4 we are told that when we finally find ourselves in the new heavens and new earth that we “will see his face” (Rev. 22:4a).
So, that is the first thing that happens when you see something glorious or beautiful. You are filled with delight and your soul soars and your heart beats rapidly and your mind feels as if it’s about to explode. But there is something else that happens.
This joy invariably overflows into praise. I emphasize the word “invariably”. It is impossible not to praise whatever it is that brings you this sort of joy. When we finally “see” Jesus and are “with” him, we will explode with praise. We will come unglued and unraveled with worship and celebration and adoration.
So, when Jesus prays that one day all his followers, his disciples, those who have come to know and trust him for eternal life and forgiveness of sin, when all these finally are “with” him and “see” his glory, they won’t sit silently or passively or indifferently. They will explode with praise. All the excuses that Christians make today to restrain themselves when they worship, all the reasons they give why they won’t raise their hands or dance or kneel or weep or shout aloud or fall prostrate on the ground, all such reasons and excuses will disappear in the presence of so glorious a Savior as Jesus is.
Please don’t misunderstand what Jesus is saying. Many think of God as needy. Many distort God by conceiving of him as lacking something that you and I can supply. Please resist any temptation to think of God in this way. When Jesus says I “desire that they also . . . may be with me,” it isn’t so that he can receive something we can give, but in order that he might give something that we desperately need. Jesus lacks nothing. His desire for us to be “with” him is so that he can show us his “glory” and in doing so fill up what is lacking in us, not something that is lacking in him. What you and I need most and what Jesus will supply us with forever is the sight and the savoring of his eternal glory.
But there’s more. In v. 26 Jesus prays that “the love with which you have loved me may be in them.” I think there are two things here. One is that God’s love would be “in” us in the sense that we would experience his love “for” us, the same love with which he loves Jesus. But second, the love that God the Father has for Jesus is “in” us in the sense that our love for one another is nothing less than the same sort and kind of love that the persons of the Godhead have for one another. As God the Father loves God the Son and the Spirit, and as God the Son loves the Father and Spirit, and as the Spirit loves the Father and the Son, so we have in us the same love and with it we love one another.
I can’t leave this without making one more observation. I’ve often heard people say, “Well, that all sounds ok, at least for a while. But after a few hours of praise and adoration, won’t we get bored? Will I get to withdraw from the worship service long enough to play golf? I mean, we’re talking about eternity. What’s to keep all of us from growing weary of worship and losing our excitement in being there?”
To be brief, if you were ever to grow bored with gazing on the glory of the Son of God, it would mean that it isn’t the Son of God at whom you are gazing. If the object of your sight and delight brings only a temporary satisfaction and joy, the object is not God. God is infinite. Among other things this means that because he is God there is an eternally endless supply of reasons to find him irresistibly attractive and appealing and enthralling. Boredom and indifference are impossible when the object of your gaze is the infinitely glorious, infinitely beautiful, infinitely majestic God of the universe!
How is God’s love for us most perfectly and greatly expressed? In other words, of all the things that God might do for us to show his love, what is the highest and greatest expression? I think the answer is stated clearly in v. 24. There is no greater manifestation of God’s love for hell-deserving men and women than to do whatever is necessary to make it possible for them to “see” his glory. If you think there is something greater and more blessed than that, then I suggest you have a very low and inadequate view of who God is and what seeing his “glory” entails.
This is why the Apostle Paul prays as he does in Ephesians 3:14-21. There he speaks of the love of God for us in Christ as being something “that surpasses knowledge” (v. 19). It is a love, “the breadth and length and height and depth” (v. 18) of which we can’t begin to fathom. So Paul prays that the Holy Spirit would “strengthen” you and me “with power” so that we might have the capacity to “comprehend” the reality and life-changing power of this love.