It is hard to believe that we are but a week away from Easter Sunday, the morning of resurrection. The day that we set as the measure our life of faith, the day of new life. Some five days before that time altering morning, about this time some 2,000 plus years ago, Jesus was entering Jerusalem to shouts of acclaim, “Hosanna!”, “God save us!”, “Salvation is here”! (Jn. 12:12-19). The message of love and peace, of sin and forgiveness, of a Father mighty and intimate, and a way of life with abundance and purpose has been spread like seeds across a tilled field. The miracle acts of power and promise, dominion and care penetrating the soil like rain ready to nourish a harvest for the nations! It seemed that the “whole world was going after [this Jesus]” (12:19), quite literally! Read with John 12:20-26.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.”
Gentiles were coming! Greeks. The whole world was coming to see Jesus! This was the moment they had been waiting for (kind of), the moment in which this budding revolt would take flight to the ends of the earth. Astonished and a bit intimidated by the interest in Jesus, after all, these were not the kinds of people expected to ask about Jesus, Philip snags Andrew to go deliver the apparent good news. The world is about to change as Jesus is revealed to all! And Jesus knows it, but in a different way than his disciples and the Greeks. Keep reading with me in verse 23.
And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified [his grand light beheld]. Truly, truly [listen carefully, don’t miss this], I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life [a cultural hyperbole saying that loss of life is essential for new life]. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also, if anyone serves me, the Father will honor [glorify] him.
Jesus has been for a while now, talking about his death. Especially from the point of his raising of Lazarus in chapter 11, and Jesus’ own interpretation of Mary’s anointing him for the “day of my burial” at the beginning of this chapter 12. Jesus knows what awaits him in just a few evenings. Betrayal, abandonment, agony and death. And yet, when it seems like the message and the miracles are beginning to work, he does what Jesus often does, he confounds us! He says to his disciples and to us,
You are right! It is time for the world to know the glory of God through me. It is time for me die.
Glory and dying. Two terms often linked in history by the Romans, Greeks and Vikings (amongst others) to signify the honor of dying for one’s people in battle. Yet Jesus’ death would be anything but honorable [tragic perhaps with a false trail and religious & political manipulation] and there would be no fight [from Jesus or allowed by his followers]. How then could Jesus death bring about glory?
Glory is a word often used but, forgive me if I am wrong, often without much thought. What does the word glory mean to you? What images pop up in your head and memories in your thoughts when you hear the word “glory”?
Gloryis a big word. “We cannot comprehend glory in bits and pieces”. Not a little bit here and there. Glory is overwhelming. Glory is a word that brings everything into perspective, sheds light, like a light shone into a darkness with such overpowering brightness that it seems like darkness is fleeing from it. Majesty, splendor, some sort of brilliant light, are often the ideas of glory. And what does light do? It illuminates, it provides clarity and exposure. It is a word that brings the beginning and the ending together. A word that says, “THIS IS IT!” A “word that gathers to a greatness all the bits and pieces of our lives into the wholeness and completion of…” God’s life; the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
This is the glory that Jesus speaks of, a magnificent going on, a transforming, enlivening, wonderful coming together that has to do God, and to which we are prayed into by Jesus in just a few days (or chapters!)
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one…so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 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. (Jn. 17:20-22, 23b-24)
Glory is what Jesus was after and what he desired for us; to live an illuminous life, a big life. After all, what is the chief end of human kind? That we should glorify God and enjoy him forever. Glory, “THIS IS IT” life! A life that requires death, burial and resurrection. A big life through death? Not exactly what most of us consider when we think of glory.
Do you “suppose that the Christian life is your biological, intellectual, moral life raised a few degrees above the common stock? Or, do you think that prayer is a kind of mechanism, like a car jack, that you can use to lever yourself to a higher plane where you have better access to God?” What if this life and prayer are an exercise in glory?
I’ll be the first to admit, that a life like Jesus’ is intimidating. As freeing as I know life to be when beginning and ending come together, a dying to rise is not all that alluring. Perhaps that is why some who believed Jesus did not share their belief of their minds in the actions of their lives, loving more the story enlightened by the glory of others rather than the beginning, ending and in-between illuminated by God (Jn. 12:42-43).
Isaiah said these things because he saw [Jesus’] glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man [the light shown on them by others] more than the glory that comes from God.
The words and actions of Jesus tell a different story than the words and actions that our culture often tells us. “I become less. Instead of grasping for what I value more tightly, I let it go. ‘Blessed are the poor in sprit’ (Matt. 5:3) is one way Jesus said it. ‘Those who want to save their life will lose it: and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25) is yet another.” Add to that the exhortation to take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23), and you have a daunting invitation. How can we accept it? How will we persevere? Through prayer.
With the weight of world upon his shoulders and the anguish of his death looming immediately around the next turn, Jesus prays in verses 27-28,
Now my soul is troubled
Quite literally, Jesus is overcome with “revulsion, horror, anxiety, agitation” at his impending crucifixion. Wouldn’t you be? The desire of Jesus to glorify his Father in life and death does not remove the real emotions and pangs of such loving obedience. Jesus is not stoic. He is not disconnected from his emotions. He is not boastfully heroic in his sacrifice. He confesses his un-sinnful reservations at the weight of glory. Unashamed before his Father, he is exposed and continues to process in prayer…
And what shall I say? Father, save me from this?
Jesus knows beyond any doubt that his death will save the world, but is nonetheless overcome by the cost. What should he do? Should he pray for rescue, for deliverance from the cost of glory?
Jesus ask himself a question and gives himself a hypothetical answer, demonstrating his genuine humanity and at the same time his driving love for humanity, for no sooner has he voiced the hypothetical prayer than he utters the actual prayer…
But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
Jesus knows why he has come, why he has served and sacrificed and loved. “To pray for rescue would be to reject his basic identity, his life as a gift for others, his life sacrificed in love so that all could live saved. It would be a prayer that violates the very nature of prayer” as a response to God’s glory as he concludes…
Father, glorify your name.
Father do what you will do. Show yourself through me. Let light shine forth in death so that there might be new life and more light.
One pastor notes,
“The prayer that Jesus did not pray is as important as the prayer he did pray. That Jesus who ‘in every respect has been tempted as we are’ (Heb. 4:15), did not pray ‘Father, save me from this hour,’ makes it possible for me also not to pray it, to reject the me-first prayer, to reject the self-serving prayer, to refuse to use prayer as a way to avoid God[‘s]” glory though us.
There are a thousand little deaths required to love God and neighbors as ourselves, to live for someone other than ourselves, to want something for others more than ourselves. Jesus is not experiencing agony and anxiousness because of generally difficult life circumstances, he is suffering because he is being obedient, even to the point of death on the cross. To admit the unsettled stomach in the midst of such sure death to come in obedience—a death we are expected to join in on “If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also”—such angst is neither wrong nor unexpected. The expectation is to pray the anxiousness and agony with Jesus and like Jesus, pray a recognition that this is what you were made for—destined and formed for good works such as this (Eph. 2:8-10) as lives lived as gifts for others—praying that Father be glorified in your obedience.
Jesus’ prayer was answered, did you know that. We read in verse 29,
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
God’s grace was to respond to Jesus’ prayer for our sake. To know that his life lived (‘have glorified’) and death to come (‘will glorify again’) is indeed the beginning and end, the THIS IS IT life. A glory that will now overwhelm that which attempts to steal God’s glory, so that all might feel their way to God, through Jesus and you and I.
This praying glory, a constant dying in obedience so new life be received for the sake of others is followed up with this invitation to live gloriously (seeing the beginning and the end) in verse 35,
The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons and daughters of light.
Will you, will we, be ones who pray glory, not rescue? Recognizing the beginning and the ending in Jesus for the sake of others? Rejecting the me-first prayer, rejecting the self-serving prayer, refusing to use prayer as a way to avoid God’s glory; rather than beholding glory. Walking in glorious light as children of glory. Two questions to reflect back to God in prayer:
- What do you need to stop praying rescue from, and begin praying glory in?
- What do you need to believe to walk in the light as you pray glory?
 Peterson, Tell it Slant: a conversation on the language of Jesus in his stories and prayers, 207
 Ibid. 208
 Ibid, 209.
 D. A. Carson, D. A., The Gospel according to John, 440.
 Andreas Köstenberger, in his commentary John, 381, claims “The deliberative subjunctive εἴπω (eipō, shall I say) and the strong adversative ἀλλά (alla, but) both point “to a hypothetical rather than an actual prayer” that Jesus considers praying but rejects, expressing the “natural human shrinking from death” (Morris 1995: 528–29). The saying underscores the genuineness of Jesus’ humanity and points to his substitutionary sacrifice (2 Cor. 5:21).”
 Peterson, 210.