Scripture: John 13:31-35
In our culture driven by success how do we obtain glory? This week many witnessed one of the signs of success in the world of football, while players sat waiting in anticipation to hear their names called by a team. It is like professional red rover. Send that player right over. We also saw signs of success when we witnessed the grand opening of a presidential library.
Both of these symbols of success are a witness to the accomplishments of the ones being honored. Those accomplishments are how many yards are thrown, the greatness of the blocking skills, and the leadership in and outside of the white house. These are monumental times in the lives of those involved, but are these true signs of success?
What is glorification, honor, or respect? What does one have to do to gain true honor? Today’s passage speaks of honor. “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him…” This is almost a confusing passage because it uses glorify and its derivatives several times making it a near tongue twister. There is a ton of glory being spoken about. The odd thing is Jesus is not being drafted to the Chiefs or having a library dedicated in his honor, because to God those things are not really that important. The glory being spoken of here comes immediately after He sends Judas out to betray Him to the authorities.
What is glory? What is honor? If we were to read the full chapter we would see that Jesus does not really care about the type of glory we consider. At this moment Jesus was a household name in the province of Israel, everyone was talking about Him. They were wondering if He was the messiah that they were hoping for or if they should possibly rethink their theology, or look for someone else. For the disciples, Jesus was their king. They would follow Him to the very gates of hell. They praised and honored him like a conquering hero, laying their coats on the ground before Him. This pomp did not drive Jesus. They rented a room to eat the sacred feast and Jesus removed his clothes and wrapped a towel around His waist, poured some water into a bowl and began to wash feet. Could you imagine this happening among the celebrities our culture follow?
This act of servitude was just a symbol to the true glory. The actual glory sought by Jesus was total loss, to fall from the very top to the very bottom. After he washed the feet of his disciples, the feet of the very one to sell Him out, the true glory comes. That glory is the loss of every bit of glory and honor of the world, to the benefit of others.
Have we ever really thought about that? Have we thought of the actual total loss that Jesus faced, the loss of friends, the betrayal, the giving of His life? Jesus wrapped the towel around him and looked into the eyes of his disciples knowing full well that within 24 hours each one of them would betray Him in some way. Each one would fail to live up to the words that they were professing. The glory of God comes through losing and giving.
Jesus lost everything because He loved people that could not fully understand or love Him. We confess this with our mouths, we believe it in our minds but do we fully grasp that Jesus gave everything, that He lost everything in the world for us a people that takes all that He has given for granted? I am not trying push us to guilt, but to encourage thought. Jesus gave, He invested His life knowing that in the short term He would lose. “Now the Son of Man has been glorified.” This glory began before the cross. It came at the time of betrayal. It was in the selfless giving; the total commitment to serve the people who were incapable of adequately responding that the Son of Man was glorified.
The shocked disciples were not able to understand the gravity of the situation. Jesus then gives them a command, “…love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” There is a lot of love in this passage.
Just as with glory, the world has a different understanding of love. To many, love is an emotion that can enter and exit at any time. The Apostle Paul explains it like this, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a)
To Jesus, to God, love is not an emotion but it is a sacrifice. Love is always a sacrifice. To love means that you must invest your life and risk losing everything. Love is a risky business, to reveal the secrets of our hearts to someone opens our lives up to betrayal. To engage in the ongoing creation of life, we run the risk of bearing our soul and giving our lives only to have our children turn from all that is important to us. Even though the risk is so great the return is greater.
The glory of Jesus began in the betrayal of his disciples, but was magnified in the resurrection. He invested every ounce of life into the people that would reject him and the end result was that through that great love humanity is restored. Through Christ through his life, death and resurrection God can again walk with us in Friendship.
To gain that Friendship we must follow Christ, not in word but in life and in love. Again Love is patient, kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, its not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. This is invested into people. People that may or may not respond, invested in the lives of people that may honor or betray. But it does not matter what they do in response to the love bestowed onto them what matters is if those that claim the name of Christ are obedient in extending love to them.
Our hope is found in the assurance that in the investing and losing of ourselves in the obedience of loving humanity we can receive glory. This is contrary to our culture. One side consumes and the other gives. One side benefits the other sacrifices. One side has grace offered and one side extends grace.
The point, purpose, and glory of the church is to love as Jesus loved. What would happen if we were to actually do this? What would happen if we threw off all thoughts of worldly honor and respect and instead dove deeper into the type of love exemplified in Christ and spoken about by Paul? What would happen if we were patient, kind, and humble? What would happen if we did not insist on having things our own way and instead looked at how we could bless the lives of someone that may never return it? History proves what happens. It has proven it many times over. At first we will be betrayed but eventually we will receive Godly Glory.
This has been shown in the lives of the ancient saints of the Church, it has been shown in the lives of the early Friends. As I have been reading through the Journal of George Fox I ran across a testimony of the honest business dealing of the Quakers. At first the business owners lost a great deal by their conversion but eventually other business were fearful that the Quakers would take over the economy. This is because through their honest dealings, due to their sacrificing their short-term comfort for the benefit of others resulted in something beyond their imagination. This is just one example among many; in many cases those that made the initial sacrifices did not see the extent of their influence.
They will know that we follow Christ by our love. It is not our theology or our biblical knowledge that set us apart from every other religion and the world. It is our love. It is the sacrificial love even when the beneficiaries of that love betray our love and take us for granted. It is the love that sheds the clothing and honor of the world to bend down to wash the feet. It is the sacrificial love that makes no demand but freely shares the hope that we have through Christ who died for us even when we were enemies of his cause. Love is loss and in that loss we can join Christ in His glory. The glory of a restored humanity living in friendship with God. The glory and hope of life now amd forevermore.