5th Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016
“Now is the Son of Man glorifying, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him once.”
John 13:31 33
This passage always reminds me of an account of a near-death experience in a small book entitled Return from Tomorrow by George Ritchie. He gives a wealth of insights from the gospels in his account of a meeting with Jesus when, while still a young man, he nearly died. He thought God would be impressed by such achievements as being honored for becoming an Eagle Scout (I am impressed with this!) but the Lord allegedly said to him, “No, that glorified you; what did you do with your life that glorified me?”
When most of us think of “being glorified” we imagine having honors bestowed on us, of being the center of attention, of being acknowledged for a job well done, and most of all, of being a success. Yet look at what Jesus says: how is he being glorified? In this passage, Judas has just gone out to betray the Lord, the disciples are all about to abandon him, and Jesus has just consented to being tortured to death, willingly. Not exactly a worldly success!
Jesus is willing to go to any lengths to glorify the Father, even to the point of dying a cruel death to save and love us. Jesus is setting an example for us: precisely because the Lord did not in any way glorify himself (even though he certainly was entitled to do so), God raised him from the dead and glorified him forever.
What glorifies God are those things that we do in which we sacrifice ourselves for others. The awards that we receive on earth are not meaningless, of course, but the real award ceremony will occur when we are all gathered together at the last judgment at the end of the world, and that time is coming a lot sooner than most of us think. We would live a lot differently if we understood that eternity is forever, that we are headed there very quickly and that every moment of our lives is an opportunity to glorify God by dying to ourselves, and thus giving God an opportunity to glorify us.
While so many people on earth desire the obvious things such as fame, recognition for our deeds, applause, wealth, power, leisure time, travel and every material thing, all of these are temporary and must be passed on to others the moment that we leave this earth. Jesus encourages us to accumulate possessions that last forever – our small acts of kindness – our sacrifices that are difficult for us – our financial contributions to charity and to our church, our struggles against sin and injustice in the world and ourselves. Very few people on earth will glorify us for these kind of sacrifices, but it is God alone, we in the end, must please, everything else is passing away.