I would invite you to turn in the Word of God back to the seventeenth chapter of John as we set our hearts on thoughts of the cross. This great prayer, which I read to you earlier, marks the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry, but it also looks forward to the very reason for which He came, and that is His great work on the cross.
Jesus cold have prayed this prayer silently, but He spoke it allowed so that all His disciples for all ages could hear. This magnificent prayer is certainly an example of the kind of communication that went on between the incarnate Son and the Father. This is, however, the only prayer where we actually have the words. Though Jesus was certainly in unceasing communion with God, while He was baptized Luke 3:21 says He was praying. When He began his public ministry, “He rose up a great while before day and went out and departed into a solitary place, and there He prayed,” says Mark chapter 1. On the eve of selecting the 12 apostles, Luke 6 says, “He went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God.” It was while He was in prayer, according to Luke 9, that He was transfigured. And He even died with a prayer on His lips as Luke tells us in chapter 23.
But there is no record of such a prayer as this of any length at all, other than just a few brief words. Whatever He said was not recorded for us. And so, this prayer takes on monumental significance because the whole prayer is here for us to read.
And here we see Jesus speaking to the Father on three subjects: verses 1 to 5 regarding Himself, verses 6 to 19 regarding His apostles, and verses 20 to 26 regarding all of us who would ever believe because of the words of the apostles laid down in Holy Scripture. It is a comprehensive prayer in that sense.
For us tonight, I want us to just look at the first five verses. Somewhere in the very near future I’m going to go through that entire chapter. It is so monumental, and it needs so much to be taught that soon we’ll look at it in all its rich detail. But for now, just the opening five verses as Jesus speaks to the Father about Himself in anticipation of the cross.
It begins with the words, “These things Jesus spoke” – referring to what has gone before, all that is contained in chapter 14, 15, and 16; all that Jesus said to the disciples in the upper room at that Last Supper, the table talk, if you will, with the 11 – Judas having left early on to do the work of betrayal; we are that near the cross at this point.
But having had that rich time with His apostles, and having made profound and far-reaching and rich promises to them, He immediately follows that with this prayer. He knows that all this of which He has spoken, all the truths that He has given, all the promises that He has made will only come to pass in the power and will of the Father. And so He prays, teaching us a great lesson.
I think that we can do all we can to work for the kingdom, all we can to promote, to minister, to preach, to instruct, to counsel, to evangelize, but at the end of all of it, nothing really happens unless God wills and moves. And so, we are all called to prayer, to bathe our ministries in prayer.
It was Calvin who said, “Truth has no power unless efficacy is imparted to it from above.” Even Jesus models this. Not just sowing the truth, not just watering the truth, but praying that God will give the increase. That’s why ministry is devoting oneself to prayer and the Word.
And so, Jesus speaks to the Father, calling on the Father to fulfill all that He has promised, lifting up His eyes to heaven, a common prayer posture. He identifies God as Father, which also occurs in verse 5, verse 21, and verse 24 – a typical address, common, used by every child to refer to his earthly father. It marks familiarity, a closeness between the Son and the Father, and it is the way that Jesus addressed God every time He prayed to Him in the New Testament gospel records except one, on the cross, when He was separated from God and said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
The first thing He says in this opening part of the prayer is critical. “The hour has come.” An amazing statement. How many times, in the reading of the gospels, do we hear Him say, “My hour has not yet come”? Occasions when they would have killed Him in Nazareth or forced Him to be a king in Judea, and in each case He avoided the inevitable from a human viewpoint because His hour was not yet come.
But now the hour has come. Jesus is conscious, at this moment, that for every event in the mighty drama of redemption, there is an hour. In fact, for every event in history there is a divinely appointed hour, there is a moment, there is a time appointed by the almighty and everlasting God that is attached to His eternal decree. History is His story. History itself, and particularly redemptive history, is a moment by moment materializing of the sovereign plan and will of God. And in that plan, the exact time and the exact hour when each event – in particular each redemptive event - is to take place has been already determined and designated.
This is sovereign, predestined history; the hour of which Jesus speaks has finally come. And we could ask the question, obviously, “What hour is it? What time is it on God’s clock? What time is it in redemptive history?” The hour of which Jesus speaks is the crux of human history. It is the crux of all time; it is the crux of redemptive history. It is, in fact, the cross.
The event of the ages, the crossroads of two eternities are about to meet. The hour has come in which the Son of Man, the Son of God would end His humiliation and yet be more humble than ever; in which He would terminate His labors and yet suffer more than ever; in which He would end forever the sacrificial system and, at the same time, be the final sacrifice. It is the time, the hour for fulfilling all prophesies, all types, all symbols, all pictures. It is the hour of which every prophet spoke. It is the hour for which every man of God longed. It is the hour upon which the salvation of every person who will ever enter heaven depends. It is the hour of triumph over sin. It is the hour of triumph over justice and wrath. It is the hour of triumph over the prince of this world. It is the hour of dismissing the old and ushering in the new. This is the hour for which He came. And He knew exactly when it was.
Back in chapter 12, verse 23, He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” This just before the triumphal entry. In the same chapter, John 12, verse 27, He said, “Now My soul has become troubled.” He began to anticipate even then the horror of sin-bearing and separation from God. And He said, “What shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name.’
“And there came therefore a voice out of heaven, ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’” The hour indeed has come. Here it is: the all, the everything, the climax, the coup de grâce, the glory hour to blot out the curse, to reconcile sinners to God, to illuminate the obscured spiritual kingdom to make everything clear.
And it would all be accomplished on a cross as the King of Glory was nailed by some Roman soldiers, at the behest of the Jews, nailed to wood as by God. He was made sin for His own beloved elect people and for the wrath of a sin-hating God, on behalf of His own, and bore it in full.
It was an hour when the sun refused to shine, an hour when the earth rocked and reeled, an hour when graves opened and threw their dead out. It was a glory hour, and that is why verse 1 says, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son’” Glorify Thy Son. Put the full display of the Son before everyone.
Jesus is saying, “Father, grant that by means of this event about to happen, the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, the coronation. Grant that by means of this event, I may be glorified. Put the full glory on display. Put My majesty on display.” He is praying for the Father to accomplish His will through His suffering on the cross, to bring Him through the cross, having finished the sin-bearing work, through the grave, all the way to setting Him at the Father’s right hand.
And this is not independently selfish for Him to say, “Glorify Thy Son,” because He says, “Glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee.” When the Son is glorified, the Father is glorified. John 5:23, “Whoever honors the Son honors the Father. Whoever honors the Father honors the Son.” They’re inseparable. If the Son receives honor, the Father shares in the honor. Christ’s prayer is unselfish. He is wanting to be glorified in order that it may reflect the Father’s glory.
The cross will, along with the crown, reveal not only the glory of the Son but the Father’s glory as well. And what does that mean? Well, God’s glory is the sum of all of His attributes, and Christ’s glory is the sum of all of His attributes, and they are the same, for they bear and share the same glory. And when you look at the cross, and you look at the resurrection and the ascension and the coronation, what you see is a display – an unequal display of the love of God, the mercy of God, the power of God, the righteousness of God, the holiness of God, the goodness of God, the grace of God, the wrath of God, the justice of God, the judgment of God, the wisdom of God, the knowledge of God, and all the rest you can add to it.
And the glories of the Son and the glories of the Father, the glory of God the Son and God the Father is the same glory displayed in that hour. And so, Christ looks to the cross so that He and His Father, who are inseparable, can display Their glory. He sees past the suffering, past the pain to the reality of this display of all the glorious attributes of God.
That’s why, as I read you earlier in John 12:28, He said, “Father, glorify Thy name.” Unleash the full display of glory. All the attributes of God come together in a panoply of glory at the cross.
If we were to ask a simple question at this juncture, it might be this, “How, in the cross, is Christ’s glory uniquely manifest?” How, in the cross, is Christ’s glory uniquely manifest? Well, He mentions three ways here, and I’ll just share them with you briefly.
First of all, by providing eternal life. Notice verses 2 and 3, “Even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him” – speaking of Himself – “He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hasn’t sent.” The first manifest revelation of the glory of God that comes in the death of Christ is the provision of eternal life.
Here is the first and most obvious glory in the cross for which Christ is to be honored, for which God is to be honored: They provide eternal life. They provide everlasting life, the greatest, most magnanimous, most undeserved gift ever given by God to anyone is given to unworthy sinners. And what is this eternal life? It’s not a duration of life; it’s a kind of life. It is a life, verse 3 says, that is defined as knowing God, knowing Him in the fullest sense, knowing Him - the only true God – and knowing, in the fullest sense, Jesus Christ whom He has sent. It is entering in to full, saving, intimate, complete communion with God. This is the first glory in the cross and eternal life is the greatest glory as far as the sinner is concerned.
The second thing that we see here, just looking at them briefly, is not only that the cross shows the glory of God in the gift of eternal life, but secondly, in the work of perfect obedience. The work of perfect obedience. In verse 4, Jesus says, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou has given Me to do.”
He said He came to do His Father’s work. He said He came to do His Father’s will. He said, “I only do what the Father shows Me; I only do what the Father tells Me; I only do what the Father desires Me to do. I do nothing unless the Father shows Me to do it.”
And so, He is saying, “Not only do I see Myself glorified in the coming cross, because there We are providing eternal life, but there I culminate a life of submissive obedience.” Looking past the cross almost, for a moment, He says, “I glorified Thee on the earth as if it’s all over, as if He’s looking back.” And He is saying, in essence, “I have been totally obedient, right down to the very last, even there in the garden, agonizing, sweating great drops of blood, agonizing over the anticipation of separation and sin-bearing, yet He says, “Not My will but Thine be done.”
The cross comes to an end with the words of Jesus, “It is finished.” A life of perfect obedience from birth to death, perfect righteousness, perfect submission, perfect compliance, perfect obedience. And it had to be that way. If Jesus had obeyed God all the way to the very garden experience and failed to obey to the cross, if He had stopped short of the cross, it would have proven that there are some lengths to which the love of God and the love of Christ will not go. And therefore, the love of God and the love of Christ would be imperfect. It is the glory of the cross that therein is the provision of everlasting life, and it is the glory of the cross that therein is the evidence that the love of God, along with the wrath of God, have no limits.
By going to the cross, Jesus showed there was nothing the love of God would not do for His own to redeem them and bring them to glory.
There’s a third glory in the cross to which Jesus makes reference in verse 5. The cross was a glory to Him because in it He provided eternal life, and in it He demonstrated perfect obedience. And thirdly, through it He returned to the Father. Verse 5, “And now glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” This is the desire for vindication. This is the desire on our Lord’s part for acceptance. This is the desire, for the Father’s verification, for the Father to say, “Yes, You have done the work that provides eternal life. Yes, You have offered the perfect obedience and now You come home to the glory that You had with Me before this all began.”
The cross is the way home for Him. He yearns to go home to the Father. He yearns to be restored to the full, blazing glory that He knew before He humbled Himself. This is the joy of a return. This is a joy of a mission accomplished. This is the joy of restored fellowship with the Father, salvation provided, Satan defeated, sin destroyed, death killed, and now home to the Father.
Is He asking for glory that’s something He didn’t possess? Is He asking for more glory than He had before? No, He says in verse 5, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” He isn’t going back to any greater glory; He could have no greater glory. He is fully glorious as God, a very God. There are no degrees of being God. There are no degrees of glory. He is God; He will always be God. He asks no more glory than He had eternally and will have eternally because there isn’t any more glory. It is just a wonderful completion of His redemptive work, and the restoration to the glory that He had at the very beginning.
All that was answered. He died; He rose; He ascended. And when He went back to heaven, this is the scene, Philippians 2:9, “Therefore also, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I suppose, in one sense, Jesus was like a knight who left the king’s court to perform some perilous deed, and having performed it, came home in triumph to enjoy the victor’s glory. He came from God on a mission; He returned to God. For Him, the cross was the gateway to glory. Glory for the Father who sent Him, glory for the sinners He came to redeem, and glory for Himself.
As we think about Good Friday, think about it in these terms – not the agony, not the scourgings so dramatized, not even the execution so painful, not even the vilification and hatred of His own and of the Romans – think of the cross this time for its glory, because that’s how our Lord Jesus saw it. And remember the words of Paul which I quoted earlier, “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of Christ.”
And the words of John Bowring, “In the cross of Christ I glory/Towering o’er the wrecks of time/All the light of Sacred story/Gathers round its head sublime.” Everything collects around the glory of the cross. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, we thank You for this wonderful time tonight to think about the cross, and on an evening that we can come and set aside time and not be in a hurry but just let our minds be flooded with the glories of this transforming event. Historical in time and space; it happened. But its implications are eternal.
We thank You for the glory of the cross, and now, as we come to the foot of the cross to remember the sacrifice of Christ, may we glory in it, rejoicing in it, expressing our heartfelt gratitude for this gift which has come to us by Your great grace.
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