The Explorer’s Way
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and called out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who is coming after me has proved to be my superior because He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-18, NASB)
The Gospel of John is a book with the stated purpose of inspiring faith and trust (belief) in Jesus (John 20:31). As an eyewitness himself, John can say that he “saw His glory,” and then share the highlights of what he saw with us. And while we derive some almost tangible idea of the depths of God’s love for us in Jesus, John wants to give us the largest possible picture window to view the glory of Jesus most clearly.
What is Glory?
Unlike so many of the attributes of God (holiness, omnipotence, omniscience, etc.) that we can describe to some extent, “glory” is more like a term like “beauty.”
The Hebrew word is kābôd, which accompanied God’s Self-manifestations and carries with it the notion of great “weightiness” or “heaviness.”
You may recall the story in Exodus where Moses asks God: “Show me your glory!” But the Lord warns that to see Him face to face would mean death. So God sets Moses in the cleft of the rock and covers him with His hand as all His glory – “all my goodness” – has passed by. Moses may then see God’s glory after it has passed (Ex. 33:18-23).
The glory of God was of such radiance from all God’s attributes, beauty, and goodness that it would kill any sinful being to see. Study in the Old Testament the times and places where the glory of God is manifest, and you will see His “weightiness” in a tectonic, utterly displacing way.
Seeing God’s glory even now, safely in Jesus, still displaces us. It can cause both societal and personal tremors, as any heavy object does when placed on something lighter. The more the glory of Christ shines in our hearts and minds, the more it changes us. This is the result of the true Center of reality, the King of God’s heavenly kingdom, becoming our center.
The Glory of God in Christ
As we saw in our opening passage, God in Christ Jesus is the Word made flesh. He “pitched His tent among us” (literal reading of v. 18). The glory of God looked, spoke, and interacted directly with men and women as the God-Man. Now fallen humanity could see God and live there, finding life beyond death.
Just after Moses’s incident with God in the cleft of the rock, God commanded him to bring two new stone tablets up Mount Sinai to receive the Law again. It is this Law that John contrasts with the new covenant: “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, NASB).
In his gospel, John takes us on a ride through seven signs (miracles that point beyond themselves to who Jesus is). He recounts how Jesus revealed Himself through the Jewish festivals, which had a rich messianic backdrop. He captures Jesus’s heartfelt desire for all believers in his prayer (ch. 17), where He also reveals much about the glory He has shared with the Father from all eternity.
Each week of this blog series we will see how in revealing Jesus’s glory John uncovers God the Father’s true nature. It is Jesus alone who “explains” who God is (John 1:18).
Why is this so Important?
These truths deal with the very nature of reality and our destiny – actually, the destiny of the cosmos. To put it plainly and practically, but also in the most crucial terms, we must know these truths because they explain how (or if) we can see God, what we can perceive, and how knowing this changes our destiny.
G.K. Chesterton had it right when he said:
Once people stop believing in God, the problem is not that they will believe in nothing; rather, the problem is that they will believe anything.
And believe just about anything, they do. But one truth persists: we are always the center of concern, trying to produce our glory one way or another. Author Paul Tripp says that we are both “hard-wired for glory” and that we are “glory-thieves.” Let’s discuss that below, okay?
In Jesus, we do not have someone who came to enlightenment and wants to share their wisdom. Instead, we have the One who was eternal with the Father and the Spirit, who has come down into the midst of our riot to rescue us and to explain who God is in both word and actions.
“If you have seen Me you have seen the Father,” says Jesus (John 14:9).
The whole message of the Gospel of John is an answer to Moses’s request: “Show me your glory!” In Jesus, we see “all of God’s goodness” pass before us…and we live!
In my inaugural blog (What is Transformation?), I open with a quote from St. Paul’s second letter to Corinth:
But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18, NASB)
It can seem a mysterious passage, but St. John, in his first letter adds some clarifying verses about our future destiny in Christ:
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:2-3, NASB)
When we see Jesus face to face, we shall be made like Him. But even now as we behold, contemplate, and “see” His glory as we walk with and in Him, we are becoming more like Him.
This is why maturing in Christ is always on St. Paul’s mind as he writes and prays for the infant churches. As we grow as disciples of Jesus, we will become more like Him and the contrast of heaven will be less of a shock.
What do you think of when you think of the glory of God?
In what ways (for good or ill) do you think we are “hard-wired” for glory? How can this be used in a good way?
How do you think your views of God might be modified by re-seeing them through the words and actions of Jesus as the true “explanation” of who God is?
As always, feel free to leave responses to this blog post and any of its questions down below in our open forum section!
Next Week – St. John, The Gospel of Glory - Sign One: Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12)